J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement

"J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement" is an 1884 short story by young Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is in the form of a first-person testimony by a survivor of the Marie Celeste, a fictionalised version of the Mary Celeste, a ship found mysteriously abandoned and adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872. Conan Doyle's story was published anonymously in the January 1884 issue of the respected Cornhill Magazine.


The story popularised the mystery of the Mary Celeste. Doyle drew heavily on the original incident, but some of the fictional elements that he introduced have come to replace the real events in the popular imagination. Doyle changes a number of details, including the names of the captain, crew, and passengers, and also the name of the vessel from Mary Celeste to Marie Celeste.[1][2] In the story, the ship is in an almost perfect state when discovered (the Mary Celeste had been in heavy weather and was waterlogged) and the boats are still present (the Mary Celeste's one boat was actually missing).

The fictional story reached a much wider audience than the original story of the Mary Celeste, which has led to the widespread belief that Marie Celeste was the name of the real ship.[3] It is possible that the change to the ship's name was accidental, since Doyle does not change the name of the Dei Gratia, the ship that salvaged the Mary Celeste.[4]


The story was first printed anonymously in Cornhill Magazine in January 1884 under the title "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement," illustrated by William Small. It has been reprinted a number of times. The Boston Herald reprinted it on 3 April 1885,[5] and it was anthologised in Dreamland and Ghostland (1887),[6] The Captain of the Polestar and Other Tales (1890)[7] and Tales of Pirates and Blue Water (1922).[8]


The story was first published anonymously, and one reviewer attributed it to Robert Louis Stevenson, while critics compared it to Edgar Allan Poe. Though fiction, it was presented as an eye-witness account of the end met by those on the mysterious "ghost ship". Some took the story as a true account, including the Boston Herald which reprinted the tale, much to Doyle's astonishment.

See also



  1. Jones, Thomas (17 February 2005). "Short Cuts". London Review of Books. 27 (4): 22. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  2. Macdonald Hastings, Mary Celeste, (1971) ISBN 0-7181-1024-2
  3. "Mary Celeste". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  4. Kent, Christobel. "The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  5. Boston Herald (3 April 1885) "Strange Tale of the Sea. Remarkable Voyage of the Brig Marie Celeste. A Missing Crew and What Became of Them. A Mystery Explained After Many Years"
  6. George Redway (1887) Dreamland and Ghostland vol. 2: Strange Stories of Coincidence and Ghostly Adventure
  7. A collection of Doyle's short stories.
  8. Another collection of Doyle's short stories, also called The Dealings of Captain Sharkey and Other Tales of Pirates.


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