“The Find” is undoubtedly the weakest of Hodgson’s Carnacki stories. This is for several reasons but the primary one is the fact that it was originally not even a Carnacki story at all!
Originally a detective story called “The Dumpley Acrostics: An Incident in the Career of Sackwell Dank, Mental Analyst”, it featured a different character named Sackwell Dank who was in the Sherlock Holmes vein. When Hodgson was unable to sell the story, he swapped in Carnacki, changed the title and hoped for better results.
They did not come.
Nor did Sackwell Dank ever appear in a Hodgson story again.
This story did not see print until the 1948 collection of Carnacki stories that was published by August Derleth through his Mycroft & Moran imprint of Arkham House. “The Find” and “The Hog” were the two ‘unpublished’ stories in that collection which had never been seen in the earlier editions and weren’t even known about until 1948. Since that time, both stories have been included in every edition of Carnacki published.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the story is that absolutely nothing supernatural happens. It is a straight detective story and, while it does showcase some of Carnacki’s skills, it is entirely out of place with the other stories. Mercifully, however, it is short.
The story begins as usual with Carnacki’s friends arriving for dinner and a story. (This part was added to the original story.) Even Carnacki calls the tale, “’A very simple case’”.
While talking to his friend Jones (of Malbrey and Jones, the editors of the Bibliphile and Book Table which is a publication of some weight dealing with old, rare books), Carnacki is surprised to hear that Jones has found a copy of The Dumpley Acrostics which, to Carnacki’s knowledge, is impossible as only one copy exists in Caylen Museum. Jones states that it was found by a Mr. Ludwig and appears to be quite genuine in Jones’ estimation.
Intrigued, Carnacki asks his old friend, Van Dyll (something of an authority apparently) about the book and gets the entire history of the tome.
‘”The book was written by John Dumpley,” he continued, “and presented to Queen Elizabeth on her fortieth birthday. She had a passion for word-play of that kind – which is merely literary gymnastics but was raised by Dumpley to an extraordinary height of involved and scandalous punning in which those unsavoury tales of those at Court are told with a wit and pretended innocence that is incredible in its malicious skill.
‘”The type was distributed and the manuscript burnt immediately after printing that one copy which was for the Queen. The book was presented to her by Lord Welbeck who paid John Dumpley twenty English guineas and twelve sheep each year with twelve firkins of Miller Abbott’s ale to hold his tongue. Lord Welbeck wished to be thought the author of the book, and undoubtedly he had supplied Dumpley with the very scandalous and intimate details of famous Court personages about whom the book is written.
‘”He had his own name put in the place of Dumpley’s; for though it was not a matter for much pride for a well born man to write well in those days, still a good wit such as the Acrostics was deemed to be was a thing for high praise at the Court.”
Upon hearing that a second copy has been found, Van Dyll is shocked. Carnacki has apparently been hired by Jones to investigate the book and tells Van Dyll that Malbrey & Jones have “pronounced it unmistakably genuine” and that Ludwig’s account of finding the book at a ‘dump’ sale “quite straight and above-board”.
Excited, Van Dyll demands that they go straight to Malbrey & Jones’ office where he can examine the copy himself. At the bibliophile’s office, Van Dyll examines the copy for nearly an hour and believes that it “appears to be genuine”. But he asks to make a comparison between the copy and the volume held in the Caylen Museum.
All three men march over to the museum where the librarian examines the copy and believes it to be genuine. Then, all three made a laborious comparison to the original copy while Carnacki makes notes. After more than an hour, they announce (one and all) that it is undoubtedly genuine and printed at the same time and from the same type.
The librarian testifies to Carnacki that the book has never left the building. When asked why they were all so convinced that there was only one copy in existence, they point to Lord Welbeck’s private Memoirs that detailed the lengths he went to in order to make sure that there were no other copies. Although they cannot fathom how, the three experts are willing to accept that the other copy is genuine but Carnacki is not convinced.
If Carnacki accepts one fact (that Lord Welbeck made sure there was only one copy) it disputes the second fact that there is another copy that is authenticated. If he accepts the authentication of the second copy, it refutes the first fact. Over the following days, Carnacki follows the course of his investigation and calls the librarian, Ludwig and a detective from Scotland Yard to meet him at the offices of Malbrey and Jones. Eventually, Carnacki reveals that Ludwig had found a printer’s proof of the book with blank pages. Realizing what he had, Ludwig visited the library in disguise three times to copy the manuscript. On his last visit, Ludwig left the copy at the library and took the original away. Because of this, the copy that Ludwig presented was, of course, authenticated and no one bothered to look very closely at the other copy which was though to be genuine.
And that’s the story.
It is not surprising that “The Find” is not highly regarded. It is not a bad story but it is a bad CARNACKI story. Ironically, this story would lead into what is probably the best Carnacki story of all: “The Hog”. We will discuss “The Hog” in depth in upcoming posts including the examination of whether it was actually written by Hodgson at all!