Conan DoyleSir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle (May 22, 1859 – July
7, 1930) is the British author most famously known for his stories about
the detective Sherlock Holmes, which are generally considered a major
innovation in the field of crime fiction. He was a prolific writer whose
other works include science fiction stories, historical novels, plays
and romances, poetry, and non-fiction.
He is sometimes
called Conan Doyle—Conan was originally a middle name but he used
it as part of his surname in his later years.
He was born in 1859 in Edinburgh to Irish parents who had emigrated
to Scotland. He was sent to the Jesuit preparatory school Stonyhurst
at the age of nine, and by the time he left the school in 1875 he rejected
Christianity to become an agnostic. From 1876 to 1881 he studied medicine
at Edinburgh University, including a period working in the town of Aston
(now a district of Birmingham). Following his term at University he
served as a ship's doctor on a voyage to the West African coast, and
then in 1882 he set up a practice in Plymouth. He won his doctorate
in 1885. His medical practice was unsuccessful; while waiting for patients
he began writing stories. His first literary experience came in Chambers's
Edinburgh Journal before he was 20.
It was only after
he subsequently moved his practice to Southsea that he began to indulge
more extensively in literature. His first significant work was A Study
in Scarlet which appeared in Beeton's Christmas Annual for 1887 and
featured the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes who was modeled after
Doyle's former University professor, Joseph Bell.
In 1885 he married
Louise Hawkins, who suffered from tuberculosis and eventually died in
1906. He married Miss Jean Leckie in 1907, whom he had first met and
fallen in love with in 1897 but had maintained a platonic relationship
with out of loyalty to his first wife. Doyle had five children, two
with his first wife (Mary and Kingsley), and three with his second wife
(Jean, Denis, and Adrian).
In 1890 Doyle studied
the eye in Vienna, and in 1891 moved to London to set up a practice
as an oculist. This also gave him more time for writing, and in November
1891 he wrote to his mother: "I think of slaying Holmes... and
winding him up for good and all. He takes my mind from better things."
In December 1893 he did so, with Holmes and his arch-nemesis Professor
Moriarty apparently plunging to their deaths together over a waterfall
in the story "The Final Problem". Public outcry led him to
bring the character back—Doyle returned to the story in "The
Adventure of the Empty House", saying that only Moriarty had fallen,
but, since Holmes had other dangerous enemies, he had arranged to be
temporarily "dead" also. Holmes eventually appeared in 56
short stories and four of Doyle's novels (he has since appeared in many
novels and stories by other authors, as well).
Following the Boer
War in South Africa at the turn of the century and the condemnation
from around the world over Britain's conduct, Doyle wrote a short pamphlet
titled The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct which was widely
translated. Doyle believed that it was this pamphlet that resulted in
his being knighted and appointed as Deputy-Lieutenant of Surrey in 1902.
He also wrote the longer book The Great Boer War in 1900. During the
early years of the twentieth century Sir Arthur twice ran for Parliament
as a Liberal Unionist, once in Edinburgh and once in the Border Burghs,
but although he received a respectable vote he was not elected. He did,
however, become one of the first Honorary Members of the Ski Club of
Conan Doyle was
involved even in the campaign for the reform of the Congo Free State,
led by the journalist Edmund Dene Morel and the diplomat Roger Casement.
He wrote The Crime of the Congo in 1909, a long pamphlet in which he
denounced the horrors in Congo. He become acquainted with Morel and
Casement, taking even inspiration by them for two of the main character
of the novel The Lost World (1912). He broke with both, however, with
the first world war, when Morel (who was rather left-wing) became one
of the leaders of the pacifist movement and Casement betrayed England
for his Irish nationalistic views. He, however, tried to save Casement
from death penalty, arguing that he had been driven mad and was not
responsible of his act.
Doyle also caused
two cases to be reopened. The first case, in 1906, involved a shy half-British,
half-Indian lawyer named George Edalji, who had allegedly penned threatening
letters and mutilated animals. Police were dead set on Edalji's guilt,
even though the mutilations continued even after their suspect was jailed.
It was partially as a result of this case that the Court of Criminal
Appeal was established in 1907, so not only did Conan Doyle help George
Edalji, his work helped to establish a way to correct other miscarriages
of justice. The second case—that of Oscar Slater, a German Jew
and gambling-den operator convicted of bludgeoning an 82-year-old woman
in 1908—excited Doyle's curiosity because of inconsistencies in
the prosecution case and a general sense that Slater was framed. It
is not known whether either enjoyed the same resolution as Holmes' clients.
In his later years,
Doyle became involved with Spiritualism, to the extent that he wrote
a Professor Challenger novel on the subject, The Land of Mist. One of
the odder aspects of this period of his life was his book The Coming
of the Fairies (1921): He was apparently totally convinced of the veracity
of the Cottingley fairy photographs, which he reproduced in the book,
together with theories about the nature and existence of fairies and
spirits. His work on this topic was one of the reasons that one of his
short story collections, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, was banned
in the Soviet Union in 1929 under the pretense of occultism. However,
later this ban was cancelled.
Doyle was friends
for a time with the American magician Harry Houdini, a prominent opponent
of the Spiritualist movement. Although Houdini insisted that Spiritualist
mediums employed trickery (and consistently attempted to expose them
as frauds), Doyle became convinced that Houdini himself possessed supernatural
powers, a view expressed in Doyle's The Edge of the Unknown. Houdini
was apparently unable to convince Doyle that the former's feats were
simply magic tricks.
Arthur Conan Doyle
is buried in the Church Yard at Minstead in the New Forest, Hampshire,
A statue has been
erected in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's honour. It may be seen at Crowborough
Cross in Crowborough, East Sussex, England, where Sir Arthur lived for
Arthur Conan Doyle
was born to a family of Roman Catholics in Edinburgh, in 1859. His father,
Charles, was a civil servant who suffered from epilepsy and alcoholism.
He was educated in Jesuit schools and eventually lost his faith in Catholicism
in favor of his Jesuit training. He would later use his friends and
teachers from Stonyhurst College as inspiration for characters in his
Doyle married Louise
Hawkins in 1884 and then in 1885 he graduated as a doctor from Edinburgh
University. After graduation Doyle practiced medicine and specialized
in eye care in Hampshire. He remained there until 1891 when he became
a full time writer. His first story, a Sherlock Holmes novel called
A Study in Scarlet, had been published in 1887.
Doyle followed his
first novel with The Sign of Four and then in 1891 The Adventures of
Sherlock Holmes was incrementally published by the Strand Magazine.
His works were met with public approval and he soon became quite popular,
in fact he would eventually, in the 1920s, become one of the highest
paid writers in the world. But the massive initial popularity had an
affect on Doyle and by the end of 1891 he had sworn to end the series,
which he thought he achieved by killing Sherlock Holmes in The Final
Problem, which was published in December of 1893.
During the South
African War (1899-1902) Doyle served as a physician in a field hospital,
where he wrote The Great Boer War in which he defended the policy of
his homeland. After the war, in 1902, Doyle returned to England and
was knighted. He then took up the pen again for the revered detective
and published The Hound of the Baskervilles, a prequel, in 1902. He
then resurrected his dead logician in The Empty House and continued
writing short stories about Holmes and Watson.
In 1906 Doyle ran
for Parliament but failed to be elected, the next year his wife, long
ill, died. Shortly after his wife's death Doyle remarried to Jean Leckie.
Then, in WWI, his son died. This was a tragedy for Doyle and it affected
him deeply. As a result he dedicated the rest of his life to spiritual
causes. His last book, a collection of short stories known as The Casebook
of Sherlock Holmes was published in 1927. Doyle died of heart disease
on July 7, 1930.
creator Sherlock Holmes, the best-known detective in literature and
the embodiment of sharp reasoning. Doyle himself was not a good example
of rational personality: he believed in fairies and was interested in
occultism. Sherlock Holmes stories have been translated into more than
fifty languages, and made into plays, films, radio and television series,
a musical comedy, a ballet, cartoons, comic books, and advertisement.
By 1920 Doyle was one of the most highly paid writers in the world.
--'This is indeed
a mystery,' I remarked. 'What do you imagine that it means?'
--'I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorise before one
has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead
of theories to suit facts...'
--(from 'A Scandal in Bohemia', 1891)
Arthur Conan Doyle
was born at Picardy Place, Edinburgh, as the son of Charles Altamont
Doyle, a civil servant in the Edinburgh Office of Works, and Mary (Foley)
Doyle. Both of Doyle's parents were Roman Catholics. To increase his
income Charles Altamont painted, made book illustrations, and also worked
as a sketch artist on criminal trials. Not long after arriving Edinburgh
he started to drink, he suffered from epilepsy and was eventually institutionalized.
Richard Doyle (1824-83), the uncle of A.C. Doyle and the son of the
caricaturist John Doyle, was also an illustrator. He worked for Punch
and illustrated chiefly fairy stories, including Ruskin's The King of
the Golden River, W. Allingham's In Fairyland and some of Dickens's
Mary, whom he called "the Ma'am," was interested in literature,
and she encouraged his son to explore the world of books. Doyle's second
wife, Jean, said: "My husband's mother was a very remarkable and
highly cultured woman. She had a dominant personality, wrapped up on
the most charming womanly exterior." At the age of fourteen Doyle
had learned French so that he could read Jules Verne in the author's
original language. Charles Altamot died in an asylum in 1893; in the
same year Doyle decided to finish permanently the adventures of his
master detective. Because of financial problems, Doyle's mother kept
a boarding house. Dr. Tsukasa Kobayashi has alluded in an article, that
she had a long affair with Bryan Charles Waller, a lodger and a student
of pathology, who had a deep impact to Conan Doyle. He also supported
young Arthur financially. Mary's last child was named Bryan Julia Doyle
- perhaps referring to Waller's mother, who also was Julia.
Doyle was educated
in Jesuit schools. During this period Doyle lost his belief in the Roman
Catholic faith, but the training of the Jesuits influenced deeply his
thought. Later he used his friends and teachers from Stonyhurst College
as models for his characters in the Holmes stories, among them two boys
named Moriarty. Doyle studied at Edinburgh University and in 1884 he
married Louise Hawkins.
as doctor in 1885. After graduation Doyle practiced medicine as an eye
specialist at Southsea near Porsmouth in Hampshire until 1891 when he
became a full time writer. His first story, an illustrated tale of a
man and a tiger, Doyle had produced at the age of six. Doyle's first
novel about Holmes, A STUDY IN SCARLET, was published in 1887 in Beeton's
Christmas Annual. The story was written in three weeks in 1886. It introduced
the detective and his Sancho Panza and Boswell, Dr. Watson, the narrator.
Their major opponent, the evil genius Dr. Moriarty, became a kind of
doppelgänger of the detective. Also the intrigues of the beautiful
opera singer Irene Adler caused much trouble to Holmes.
The second Sherlock
Holmes story, The Sign of the Four', was written for the Lippincott's
Magazine. Doyle collected a colorful group of people together, among
them Jonathan Small who has a wooden leg and a dwarf from Tonga islands.
The Strand Magazine started to publish 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes'
from July 1891. Holmes's address at Mrs. Hudson's house, 221B Baker
Street, London, is perhaps the most famous London street in literature.
Already at the end
of 1891, Doyle planned to abandon the series. "I have had such
an overdose of [Holmes] that I feel towards him as I do toward pâté
de foie gras, of which I once ate too much, so that the name of it gives
me a sickly feeling to this day", he confessed. In 1893 Doyle devised
his death in the 'Final Problem,' published in the Strand in the December
issue. Holmes meets Moriarty at the fall of the Reichenbach in Switzerland
and disappears. Watson finds a letter from Homes, stating "I have
already explained to you, however, that my career had in any case reached
its crisis, and that no possible conclusion to it could be more congenial
to me than this."
expressed their disappointment by wearing mourning bands and Strand
lost 20,000 subscriptions. In THE HOUND OF BASKERVILLES (1902) Doyle
narrated an early case of the dead detective. The ingenious murder weapon
in the story is an animal. Because of public demand Doyle resurrected
his popular character in 'The Empty House' (1903). "I moved my
head to look at the cabinet behind me. When I turned again Sherlock
Holmes was standing smiling at me across my study table. I rose to my
feet, stared at him for some seconds in utter amazement, and then it
appears that I must have fainted for the first and last time in my life."
(from 'The Empty House')
In these following
stories Holmes stopped using cocaine. Although Doyle's later works have
been criticized, several of them, including 'The Three Garridebs,' 'The
Adventure of the Illustrious Client,' and 'The Veiled Lodger,' are highly
enjoyable. Sherlock Holmes short stories were collected in five books.
The first appeared in 1892 under the title THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK
HOLMES. It was followed by THE MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1894), THE
RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1904), HIS LAST BOW (1917), and THE CASE-BOOK
OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1927).
During the South
African war (1899-1902) Doyle served for a few months as senior physician
at a field hospital, and wrote THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA, in which he
defended England's policy. The same uncritical attitude toward the British
empire marked his history of World War I, THE BRITISH CAMPAIGN IN FRANCE
AND FLANDERS, 1928 (6 vols.). Doyle was knighted in 1902 and in 1900
and 1906 he also ran unsuccessfully for Parliament. Fourteen months
after his long-invalided wife Louisa died, Conan Doyle married in 1907
his second wife, Jean Leckie. When his son Kingsley died from wounds
incurred in World War I, the author dedicated himself in spiritualistic
studies. An example of these is THE COMING OF FAIRIES (1922). But he
had already showed interest in occult fantasy before publishing Holmes
stories. In his early novel, THE MYSTERY OF CLOOMBER (1888), a retired
general finds himself under assault by Indian magic.
the existence of "little people" and spent more than a million
dollars on their cause. The so-called "fairy photographs"
caused an international sensation when Doyle published a favorable account
of them in 1920. The photographs showed fairies dancing in the air.
A year after, the Star newspaper reported that the fairies were from
a poster. Doyle became president of several important spiritualist organizations.
In 1925 he opened the Psychic Bookshop in London. Among his friends
was the legendary American magician and escape artist Harry Houdini
(1874-1926). He believed that Houdini possessed supernatural powers,
which the magician himself denied. Another friend was D.D. Home. According
to Doyle, he could levitate. Once Doyle claimed that Home "floated
out of the bedroom and into the sitting room window, passing seventy
feet above the street." His own psychic experiences Doyle recorded
in THE EDGE OF UNKNOWN (1930), which was his last book. Doyle died on
July 7, 1930 from heart disease at his home, Windlesham, Sussex.
is that Sherlock Holmes is literature on a humble but not ignoble level,
whereas the mystery writers most in vogue now are not. The old stories
are literature, not because of the conjuring tricks and the puzzles,
not because of the lively melodrama, which they have in common with
many other detective stories, but the virtue of imagination and style.
They are fairy-tales, as Conan Doyle intimated in his preface to his
last collection, and they are among the most amusing of fairy-tales
and not among the least distinguished." (Edmund Wilson in Classics
and Commercials, 1950)