Battle of the Books
“Truth exists. Only falsehood has to be invented.”Georges Braque
Since 1956 no fewer than eight authors have published books defending the Black Diaries as authentic and a list of the twenty various editions shows that published support for authenticity has been consistently renewed every three years on average. (see full list below) This is extraordinary by any standards and it seems strange that authenticity should need such consistent defence over the generations and through a period of such radical social and political changes. It is difficult to imagine a numerous readership for so many books about a figure from a century ago. In the sixty years since the first was published, the pop-cultural revolution of the 60s and 70s ran its course, The Troubles exploded, the Falklands War took place, the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union imploded, the Cold War ended, the digital generation arrived, 9/11 happened, the Peace Process began, the Iraq War began followed by Wikileaks – and much else occurred.
The works of five of these eight authors have enjoyed sixteen editions in Britain and the US. These are probably the most influential and accordingly they will be examined here to discover how they each deal with some of the central questions in the Casement controversy. The questions selected are:
1 – provenance, 2 – the Oslo memo, 3 – the Findlay Affair, 4 – diary materials.
Provenance relates to various accounts of how and when the bound volumes allegedly came into police possession. The Oslo memo refers to a secret document of 29th October, 1914 containing the seed of the scandal allegation of 1916. The much disputed Findlay Affair concerns events in Oslo during and after Casement’s brief stay en route to Berlin. From May to August 1916, diary materials were shown but there is no evidence that the bound volume diaries were shown.
René MacColl’s 1956 book, the most hostile to Casement, went to four editions with two of those being mass market paperbacks. MacColl was a star journalist with the Beaverbrook press group and a name of some authority.
Provenance: MacColl accepts without question the official version of provenance and ignores the conflicting versions published by CID chief Basil Thomson.
The Oslo memo: he says nothing about this document which was probably not available to him in 1956.
The Findlay Affair: he accepts Casement’s version that Christensen was taken by British agents to the Legation where Findlay proposed the assassination of Casement and later offered a written bribe for information leading to his capture.
Diary materials: since he fails to distinguish between the bound volume diaries and the police typescripts, MacColl does not examine this aspect and fails to cite any instance of the volumes being shown to anyone in 1916.
Popular broadcaster, prolific author and editor of The Spectator, Inglis was another authoritative voice. His 1973 book, probably the most influential and subtle, enjoyed five editions between 1973 and 2002. His 1973 edition contains no source references whatsoever, these being deposited separately in The National Library of Ireland.
Provenance: he accepts the official version without question.
The Oslo memo: Inglis refers to this crucial document but he cites only the 57 words of the scandal innuendo and fails to reveal the anomalies and contradictions in the remainder which reveal it as the invention of Findlay.
The Findlay Affair: Inglis creates his own subtle version which contrasts totally with MacColl’s. The Inglis version portrays a treacherous Christensen playing a double game, deceiving both Casement and Findlay. To dispose of the earlier MacColl version, Inglis claims that the PRO files declassified in the late 60s “told a different story”. Scrutiny of those files shows that they do not tell any story at all and contain nothing to contradict Casement’s account of Christensen being first contacted by British agents from the Legation. The Inglis revisionist version is now treated as fact although the PRO files do not support it.
Diary materials: since he fails to distinguish between the bound volume diaries and the police typescripts, he does not examine this aspect and fails to cite any instance of the volumes being shown to anyone during Casement’s lifetime.
Reid was an American professor of literature. His The Lives of Roger Casement was published by Yale University in 1976.
Provenance: Reid seems undecided as to how and when the trunks and diary/ies came into police possession.
The Oslo Memo: Reid was certainly aware of this document from Inglis’ book published three years earlier but he does not mention it.
The Findlay Affair: Reid summarises both versions and favours the Inglis version of the double game. He does not mention that no betrayal took place in spite of Findlay’s £5,000 written bribe which document Christensen at once passed to Meyer in Berlin.
Diary materials: Reid creates confusion between the volumes and the typescripts but fails to cite any instance of the volumes being shown to anyone before the execution.
Sawyer reports that he originally believed the diaries were forgeries but around 1976 he converted to authenticity. His original interest in Casement stemmed from his study of anti-slavery movements. He was a council member of Anti-Slavery International and has written extensively on the subject.
Provenance: Sawyer disputes the official version and disagrees with the other authors; he claims that the trunk/s and the diaries were found either in late 1914 or early 1915 and refers to evidence found in 1959 by Richard Crossman MP. Sawyer claims that Thomson’s contradictory accounts were due to carelessness.
The Oslo Memo: Sawyer mentions this document in his 1984 study but, like Inglis, cites only the allegation of scandal.
The Findlay Affair: Sawyer accepts the version invented by Inglis which claims that Christensen intended to sell Casement to Findlay. He does not mention that no betrayal took place in spite of Findlay’s £5,000 written bribe which document Christensen at once passed to Meyer in Berlin.
Diary materials: Sawyer exploits confusion between the volumes and the typescripts but in his 1984 book he claims that Clement Shorter was shown “the originals by Basil Thomson”. He fails to cite any source reference or date for this event which is unmentioned by any other author. This unverifiable claim is followed immediately by a claim that the rolled manuscript pages reported by US journalist Ben Allen were the twenty-two pages torn from the 1903 bound volume diary. However, the pages shown to Allen were five times larger than the 1903 pages; this falsehood appears to come from the Inglis book of 1973.
Ó Siochain is a professor of Anthropology at Maynooth University. His 2008 book is the most detailed and he has enjoyed access to more Casement files that the other authors. He accepts The Giles Report as a definitive verification of authenticity.
Provenance: Ó Siochain accepts the official government version without question.
The Oslo Memo: he was certainly aware of this document from Inglis’ book of 1973 but he does not mention it.
The Findlay Affair: he cites Casement’s version but favours the version invented by Inglis in his 1973 book. Like the other authors he fails to inform his readers that no betrayal took place despite the written bribe which Christensen surrendered at once to Meyer in Berlin.
Diary materials: Ó Siochain exploits confusion between the volumes and the typescripts but fails to cite any verifiable instance of the volumes being shown to anyone before Casement’s execution.
In the Inglis book there is a subtle process of transformation of conjecture and innuendo into facts which are accepted by later authors to establish a standard version. Since all authors are guilty of misinformation, distortion and innuendo, it is legitimate to ask why they resort to duplicity when, as they claim, they are convinced of the authenticity of the diaries. Such deceptions ought not to be necessary if their convictions are sincere. It is unthinkable that these deceptions are unintentional because in that case, they would be self-deceptions or simple mistakes. And if mistakes, that these authors should make so many mistakes in common is not credible. Since the misinformation, omissions and innuendo appear to follow a design, it is legitimate to ask if the authenticity the authors wish to sustain can be sustained only by means of systematic duplicity. Such duplicity therefore betrays that their declared convictions are not sincere and that they are aware of the falsity of the diaries. Five random examples of duplicity will illustrate the point. MacColl: he offers two anecdotes intended to corroborate the authenticity of the diaries. The first comes from an anonymous source in Cork and the second from Sullivan, Casement’s defence lawyer, both of whom he interviewed in 1954. The anonymous Cork source refers to an earlier named source who in turn refers to an even earlier named source, both dead in 1954 hence no verification was possible. MacColl recounts a hearsay story of other black diaries being found after the execution and destroyed by a friend in Belfast. The Cork source of 1954 died in 1967 and was then identified by MacColl; once again no verification was possible. The statements attributed by MacColl to Sullivan were soon after denied by Sullivan. Sawyer also relies on MacColl’s Cork anecdote.
Inglis: on page 439 (Appendix III) we find the following: “The other [diary] was a copy of his Putumayo diary, which he made for the use of the Select Committee investigating the affair. As he told the chairman, he was sending the copy because ‘naturally there is in it [the original diary] something I should not wish anyone else to see’.” Inglis’ claims that Casement sent a copy rather than the original to the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee Charles Roberts MP; this is false. It is very clear from Casement’s correspondence with Roberts that he sent the original handwritten document of 142,000 words and excused its illegibility in parts and its personal, sometimes intemperate tone; it was not intended for others. The purpose of Inglis’ deception here is to insinuate that Casement did not send the original document because it contained compromising material which he wished to conceal. But Casement did not “tell the chairman, he was sending a copy” as Inglis states. Inglis lied in order to insinuate that the authentic document now in the National Library of Ireland is a ‘cleaned up’ version of an earlier incriminating document. Roberts asked for the document by telegram on 24th January 1913 and Casement sent it on 27th January; it was received on 1st February.
Reid: on page 213 of his 1976 study we find the following: “In his first account of these events, sent to Sir Edward Grey on 31 October 1914, Findlay wrote that Christensen had simply presented himself at the door of the British Legation at 79 Drammensvein in the late afternoon of the twenty-ninth.” (Italics added) Findlay did not write this at any time and Reid’s assertion is false. Findlay’s letter of 31st does not contain this apparently paraphrased written statement attributed by Reid to Findlay. Findlay’s letter states; “The man called at the Legation about 11 a.m. and asked to see me alone. He went over much the same ground as he had covered with Mr. Lindley on Thursday evening.” (Italics added) There is no reference anywhere in this or in any other letter to Christensen’s arrival at the Legation on the afternoon of Thursday 29th. Therefore, Reid misinformed his readers by falsely attributing to Findlay, his [Reid’s] own false account of Christensen’s arrival on 29th. Reid’s motive for this deception comes from his need to support the new Inglis version of Christensen’s alleged treachery.
Sawyer: on page 140 of his 1984 book we find the following: “Within a week, John Harris had read the diaries himself, at Dr Davidson’s request and on his behalf.” This simple sentence can only mean that the diaries now held in the National Archives were shown to and read by Harris. But Sawyer knows very well that this is false. He knows that Harris was shown the police typescripts only and that this fact is verified by PRO HO 144/23481. Since Sawyer knows the facts, his misinformation is intentional duplicity. This instance is replicated many dozens of times throughout the works of all five authors which indicates the adoption of a common strategy aimed at concealing from readers the absence of any evidence for the showing of the bound volumes during Casement’s lifetime.
Ó Siochain: for reasons which remain unclear, Basil Thomson solicited corroboration in July 1916 from Oslo hotel workers, a tax inspector and Christensen’s mother. Ó Siochain describes these statements as the Oslo affidavits and they mainly concern allegations against Christensen. Ó Siochain accepts these as true statements but he ignores Thomson’s written dismissal of them as worthless; he also ignores that the statements are technically not properly sworn affidavits and he does not reproduce them in his book. These spurious documents were not used in 1916 and they remained secret for decades. Sawyer also refers to these statements from Oslo.
The deception is not restricted to specific events or documents. It is uncovered also in narrative strategy, in how the biographical story evolves. Inglis developed a narrative strategy which became the standard model. Inglis alters the chronology of his biographical account so that events which belong to 1916 are brought forward in the narrative sequence in order to condition the reader in advance. Mainly the re-ordered chronology concerns the diaries which entered the story only in 1916 after the arrest and were unknown in 1903, 1910, 1911. But by presenting these in the respective years of the principal chronological narrative, Inglis treats them as real events in Casement’s life on the same level as the ordinary events in his career. Thus he ignores that nothing was heard of them until 1916. This chronological manipulation aims at progressively eroding the reader’s perception of the absence of moral scandal in Casement’s life before 1916. It poisons perception of Casement in advance so that the reader will accept the wholly remarkable ‘coincidence’ between the alleged discovery of the diary/ies in 1916 and the arrest. Biographical narrative sets out verified events and facts in the original chronological sequence; the diaries were not verified facts in 1903, 1910, 1911. The typescripts became alleged facts in 1916 and have remained so. Inglis altered their disputed status by embedding them in the undisputed reality of those earlier years in the same way which the police typescripts mingle compromising behaviour with routine innocuous behaviour so as to cast an aura of reality over both. Inglis’ chronological manipulation of the narrative was essential in order to avoid offering readers a portrait of Casement’s life over 30 years, which is totally free of moral scandal until he becomes a prisoner of the British. For the general reader, unwary and trusting, it has proved an effective strategy of deception and it was adopted and further developed by Ó Siochain.
The later works resort to a clumsy and amateurish psychology first presented by Inglis; “He was a split personality … his personality was compartmentalised. Sections of it were cut off from each other …”; this reduces a complex conscious organism to little more than a malfunctioning contraption. Inglis then lists four main Casements with others in attendance. Despite its inherent contradiction, this became a mantra repeated as a standard explanation by the other authors. However, the reductio ad absurdum is that these various Casements acted together to knowingly conceal one of the group – ‘a cut-off section’ – from all those who knew the remaining Casements which would demonstrate a remarkable integrity or wholeness of personality over 30 years. In short, no-one noticed Casement had a “split personality” until Inglis detected it in 1973, fifty-seven years after his death.
The Oslo memo is a critical piece of evidence in the Casement story and yet only two authors mention it and then only to present the unsupported scandal allegation. The extensive literature on Casement effectively suppressed this document until 2016 when it was ‘uncovered’ in TNA by the present writer. A study of the four-page handwritten memo reveals that it has received so little attention because it is very clearly the invention of British Minister Findlay in Oslo. About 92% of its content is unverifiable; its improbable innuendo and contradiction explains why it was unused at the time and remained dormant even in 1916. This also explains why Inglis and Sawyer refer only to the scandal allegation – the seed which inspired the police typescripts. This false document is fully analysed for the first time in Anatomy of a Lie.
The publication of so many works in favour of authenticity could be mistaken for propaganda if only because it is difficult to distinguish from propaganda since the results are identical. But it is more important to note that the declared conviction shared by the authors is consistently compromised by their shared deployment of tactics of misinformation, omission, innuendo and confusion which devices flow into one another smoothly. And it is of cardinal importance to note that these tactics are used principally when the authors are dealing with the questioned matters of provenance, the Oslo memo and the diary materials. These tactics play hardly any role when dealing with the verified facts of Casement’s consular career, his growing involvement in Irish political and cultural affairs, his frustration with the Foreign Office, his health problems and the Home Rule crisis. Indeed, in these matters there is often balance, comprehension and sometimes even sympathy which act to persuade the reader of the author’s overall impartiality.
The battle of the books was undertaken in order to guide public understanding of the story by establishing a definitive version for the future which would, in Sawyer’s words, “rebut a diabolical charge” of forgery. That battle, reinforced by a compliant media and by the Giles Report, has largely been successful due to a shared strategy of ‘information management’ based on omission, distortion, deceit and innuendo; it is a strategy which the authors were constrained to adopt in defence of the alleged authenticity of the Black Diaries.
List of twenty editions by eight Casement authors 1956 to 2016. The period covers three generations each being supplied to natural consumer level of market saturation but without flooding the market.
1956 – MacColl – hardback UK
1957 – MacColl – h/b US
1960 – MacColl – mass market p/b UK
1965 – MacColl – mass market p/b UK
1973 – Inglis – h/b UK
1974 – Inglis – p/b UK
1974 – Inglis – h/b US
1976 – Reid – h/b US
1984 – Sawyer h/b UK
1993 – Inglis – p/b reprint
1997 – Sawyer – p/b UK
1999 – Sawyer – p/b UK reprint
2001 – Weale – h/b UK
2002 – Dudgeon – p/b Ireland/UK
2002 – McCormack – h/b Ireland
2002 – Inglis – p/b UK (5th edition)
2008 – Ó Siochain – h/b Ireland
2010 – Sawyer – Kindle, UK
2011 – Ó Siochain – Kindle, Ireland
2016 – Dudgeon – Kindle, Ireland/UK