Stranger Fruit

On fairies

In November 1920, the celebrated author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle announced the beginning of a new “epoch in human thought.” He believed that he was presenting “a strong prima-facie case” for the existence of fairies, based on photographs taken by two pseudonymous young girls in July and September 1917. Noting that “in a matter involving so tremendous a new departure one needs overpowering evidence before one can say that there is no conceivable loophole for error,” he laid out the case for the existence of fairies in the village of Cottingley, Yorkshire. Some have seen this announcement in The Strand Magazine and Doyle’s subsequent book, The Coming of the Fairies, as the writings of a sixty-one year old who was losing his ability to think rationally. But to truly understand why the creator of Sherlock Holmes, one of the most unsentimental and logical characters in literature, would believe in fairies requires an understanding of Doyle’s life, his general acceptance of Spiritualism, and what he felt would be the result of widespread recognition of the Cottingley photos.

The above is a good part of the first paragraph of an introduction that I wrote for a new edition of Doyle’s The Coming of the Fairies to appear in October published by Bison Books (University of Nebraska Press). While it is clear – despite the protestations of some supporters even to this day – that the photographs were indeed faked by the young protagonists, the introduction aims to provide the reader with sufficient background to appreciate Doyle’s claims and, while not to support the existence of fairies, to understand why Doyle wanted them to exist.

My previous books on Amazon (see here, here, here, and here) were a little pricey. This one is a steal at $9.95!

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  1. #1 Bruce Thompson
    July 4, 2006

    Vestiges and the Debate before Darwin (Thoemmes Press – Evolution and Anti-Evolution: Debates Before and After Darwin)
    Price: $720.00

    Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection : British Responses, 1859-1871
    Price: $525.00

    Creationism and Scriptural Geology, 1814-1857 (Thoemmes Press – Evolution and Anti-Evolution: Debates Before and After Darwin)
    Price: $895.00

    Agassiz on Evolution (Hardcover)
    by Louis Agassiz, John M. Lynch (Editor)
    2 used & new available from $459.56

    $2599.56 for the set. Is this how you financed your trip to Europe? Yes, yes, yes, I realize it was a team effort and you were the editor, so potential profits were spread around. Hmmmm, presumably this wasn’t a group trip to Europe.

    Unfortunately the audience for academic books is small and sales tend to be commensurate, but how many academics can afford your books? It would seem that libraries would be the only ones who could afford to buy these works.

    Not to give you ideas, but I can read your writing for free on Stranger Fruit.

    Welcome back.

  2. #2 John Lynch
    July 4, 2006


    Actually they are intended as library editions – they are multivolume facsimile reprints of works from the 19th Century, and I provide the only new material (introductions). They have actually sold quite well … at least the publisher thinks so. Unfortunately, I get no royalties.

  3. #3 Bruce Thompson
    July 4, 2006

    Ah ha, a scam Bruce foolishly accuses. A short introduction with long voluminous Dembskiesque quotes. You don’t get off that easily, you’ve taken quote mining to a new level, have you no shame? John, have you become the strip miner of quotations, not content to mine a little vein here or there but rather strip the whole mountain. If no money exchanged hands then what? Surely not all that work just for your CV?

  4. #4 Sean Storrs
    July 4, 2006

    There’s a movie that deals with the same subject called Photographing Fairies. It’s out of print on VHS and only crops up on The Sundance Channel from time to time, so it might be a challenge to seek out.

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