Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (22 May 1859 – 7 July 1930) – Scottish writer, physician and spiritualist – best known for his Sherlock Holmes stories.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Picardy Place, Edinburgh, Scotland in 1859. At school, he developed a talent for storytelling in the dormitories after lights. He nursed ambitions to become a well-established writer – especially in the historical novel field. However, from 1876 to 1881, he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh; he trained as a doctor and later set up a medical practice in Plymouth and later Portsmouth.
After his father’s death, the burden of supporting a large family fell on Arthur Conan Doyle. To supplement his income he began writing short stories. His first story of note was A Study in Scarlet published in the Beeton’s Christmas Annual 1887 (featuring the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes. This later led to a contract writing more Sherlock Holmes stories for the Strand magazine. It was in these early stories that he developed the character of Sherlock Holmes. It was a character that fascinated the reading public and he soon became one of the best-loved fictional characters. Sherlock Holmes always had an element of mystery – the sharpest mind and his unbelievable powers of observation.
“…when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth…”
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, (Sherlock Holmes)
Sherlock Holmes also had his share of human weaknesses such as smoking and drug addiction. His partner, the sensible loyal Watson proved the ideal counterbalance to the highly strung genius of Holmes.
The success of Sherlock Holmes enabled Conan Doyle to retire from his medical profession and become a full-time writer. But, it was not the popular Sherlock Holmes stories which inspired him the most. He was more interested in writing serious historical novels and becoming known as a famous writer in this genre. However, his historical novels never brought him the same financial remuneration or fame as his Sherlock Holmes stories did. After a while, Doyle became increasingly frustrated with the public’s obsession with Holmes, at a time when he was growing weary of the stories. Therefore, he decided to retire Holmes in 1893 by having him plunge into a ravine with his arch-enemy Professor Moriarty. Holmes hoped this would give him more time to write his ‘serious novels’ – but, much to his frustration, he struggled to escape the public’s perception of him as the creator of Holmes. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for members of the public to equate Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes – much to his annoyance.
In 1900, Conan Doyle served in a field hospital in the Boer war. He also later published a pamphlet The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct, which sought to justify British actions in the unpopular Boer war. For his services in the war, he was knighted, though undoubtedly his fame as the creator of Sherlock Holmes was also a factor.
In, 1906, his first wife, Louisa Hawkins, died after a long battle with Tuberculosis. It was a big blow to Conan Doyle who had moved to Switzerland to help her health.
After getting married to his second wife, Denise Steward a year later, he again was in the need for more money to finance a lavish new family home. Again, Doyle turned to his ever-profitable Holmes, securing a great deal with an American publisher for more Holmes stories. Thus, Holmes was resurrected, Conan Doyle cleverly wrote that Holmes had never died in the fall but cunningly escaped Moriarty and had gone into hiding from his enemies.
Conan Doyle’s most famous character was a man of great reason and science, so it was perhaps ironical that Conan Doyle was to become greatly interested in the new religion of spiritualism. A large part of spiritualism was the contacting of deceased relatives through seances. For many years, Conan Doyle had toyed with the ideas, but the traumatic years of the First World War (where he lost a brother and son) changed his outlook to that of a fervent believer. Conan Doyle became one of the chief proponents and public faces for spiritualism. Conan Doyle felt that this proof of life beyond death could give fresh impetus to religion.
“Religions are mostly petrified and decayed, overgrown with forms and choked with mysteries. We can prove that there is no need for this. All that is essential is both very simple and very sure.” (The New Revelation 1918)
The success of Conan Doyle’s Holmes enabled him to pursue many different interests. As well, as researching spiritualism, Conan Doyle found time to fight miscarriages of justice such as the George Edalji case.
“I should dearly love that the world should be ever so little better for my presence. Even on this small stage, we have our two sides, and something might be done by throwing all one’s weight on the scale of breadth, tolerance, charity, temperance, peace, and kindliness to man and beast. We can’t all strike very big blows, and even the little ones count for something.”
Arthur Conan Doyle, Stark Munro Letters (1894)
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle“, Oxford, UK. www.biographyonline.net. Published 25th June 2009. Last updated 15 February 2018.
The Doctor and the Detective: A Biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Doctor and the Detective: A Biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at Amazon
The Complete Sherlock Holmes
The Complete Sherlock Holmes at Amazon
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Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), Scottish author and creator of the oft-quoted detective-hero Sherlock Holmes wrote The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1891);
It was on a bitterly cold and frosty morning, towards the end of the winter of '97, that I was awakened by a tugging at my shoulder. It was Holmes. The candle in his hand shone upon his eager, stooping face, and told me at a glance that something was amiss.
"Come, Watson, come!" he cried. "The game is afoot. Not a word! Into your clothes and come!"--from "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange"
Inspired by Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Edgar Allan Poe, Guy de Maupassant, and Emile Gaboriau, Arthur Conan Doyle's now-iconic mastermind sleuth and his companion Dr. John H. Watson redefined the detective genre. Conan Doyle's medical training under Dr. Joseph Bell and practical experience as a doctor in several locales and as ship's doctor are the foundation for Holmes's methods of deductive reasoning. "It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."--from "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet". The Edwardian and Victorian era stories are set in London, England, and places abroad. Sherlock Holmes first appeared in A Study in Scarlet in 1887 and Conan Doyle would write fifty-five more stories and four novels starring Holmes. He wrote many other notable fiction and non-fiction works including The Stark Munro Letters (1895), The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard (1896), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902), The Lost World (1912), The Coming of the Fairies (1922), and Memories and Adventures (1924-30), many which have been translated to dozens of languages and are still in print today.
Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on 22 May 1859 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the eldest son born to Roman Catholic parents Mary née Foley (1838-1921) and artist Charles Altamont Doyle (1832-1893). Charles would lead a life troubled by alcoholism and depression; after spending much time in mental institutions, he died in Scotland in 1893. Supported by an uncle, young Arthur's education started in 1868 at the Jesuit preparatory school Hodder in the Ribble Valley of Lancashire, England. He then attended Stonyhurst College, graduating in 1875; next he travelled to the town of Feldkirch in Austria to study at the Jesuit college. At Edinburgh University he studied medicine and met his mentor, professor and doctor Joseph Bell. Conan Doyle worked as doctor's assistant and ship's doctor, travelling to Africa on the steamer Mayumba. He graduated in 1885, publishing his thesis "An Essay Upon the Vasomotor Changes in Tabes Dorsalis". During his years of studies and afterwards he wrote numerous articles and stories for such publications as the Edinburgh Journal, The Lancet, The Pall Mall Gazette, London Society, William Makepeace Thackeray's The Cornhill, and Charles Dickens's All The Year Round. They include "The Captain of the Pole-Star", "The Five Orange Pips", "The Heiress of Glenmahowley", "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement", and "The Man From Archangel".
In June of 1882 Conan Doyle settled in Southsea, Portsmouth, England, where he opened his own successful medical practice. He continued to write and travelled often to London. In August of 1885 he married Louise Hawkins (1856-1906), with whom he would have two children: daughter Mary Louise (b.1889) and son Alleyne Kingsley (1892-1918). Arthur and Louise honeymooned in Ireland and while Conan Doyle continued to practice medicine he also kept up his prodigious output of fiction. First published in Beeton's Christmas Annual in 1887 and favourably reviewed, A Study in Scarlet was published in book form in 1888. The same year, his first novel The Mystery of Cloomber (1888) was released. Based on the Monmouth Rebellion of 1865, Micah Clark was next published in 1889. It was followed by The Sign of the Four (1890) and The Firm of Girdlestone (1890). The same year that The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1891) was published, the Conan Doyles moved to London, settling in South Norwood. In 1892 Louise contracted tuberculosis and the Conan Doyles moved to Hindhead, Haslemere, Surrey where the air was healthier for her. In 1894 Conan Doyle embarked on a lecture tour of the United States and Canada.
In 1900 Conan Doyle served as a doctor at the Longman Hospital during the South African War. His first of many war-related works, The Great Boer War (1900), was followed by The War in South Africa: its Cause and Conduct (1902), which earned him the title Knight bachelor in 1902 from King Edward VII. After serving as military correspondent during the First World War he wrote British Campaign in France and Flanders (1920). He also continued to write fiction including and The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905). The same year Sir Nigel (1906) was published, Louise died of tuberculosis. A year later, on 18 September 1907 Conan Doyle married Jean Blyth Leckie (1872-1940) with whom he would have three children: Denis (b.1909), Adrian (b.1910), and Jean Lena Annette (b.1912).
For many years Conan Doyle had strayed from his religious upbringing and by the 1920's was profoundly interested in Spiritualism, begun by Swedish mystic and philosopher Emmanuel Swedenborg. Proponents including Elizabeth Barrett Browning believed that the living could communicate with the dead. Conan Doyles's' spiritualist writings include The Wanderings of a Spiritualist (1921), The History of Spiritualism (1926), and Pheneas Speaks: Direct Spirit Communications in the Family Circle (1927). One of his last works, The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes was published in 1927.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died at his home "Windlesham" in Crowborough, Sussex, on 7 July 1930. He was first buried in the rose garden of Windlesham. When "His Beloved, His Wife" Jean died in 1940 he was reinterred to rest with her, "reunited", in the Minstead churchyard of Hampshire, England. His grave memorial in part reads "Steel True, Blade Straight, Arthur Conan Doyle, Knight, Patriot, Physician, & Man of Letters."
Biography written by C. D. Merriman for Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc. 2007. All Rights Reserved.
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