Today, we are going to dedicate a tribute to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the very famous creator of the detective Sherlock Holmes novels.
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 Conan Doyle was born on May 22, 1859, in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Arthur Conan Doyle was born to an affluent, strict Irish-Catholic family in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Although Doyle’s family was well-respected in the art world, his father, Charles, who was a life-long alcoholic, had few accomplishments to speak of.
Doyle’s mother, Mary, was a lively and well-educated woman who loved to read.
She particularly delighted in telling her young son outlandish stories. Her great enthusiasm and animation while spinning wild tales sparked the child’s imagination. As Doyle would later recall in his biography, “In my early childhood, as far as I can remember anything at all, the vivid stories she would tell me stand out so clearly that they obscure the real facts of my life.”
At the age of 9, Doyle bid a tearful goodbye to his parents and was shipped off to England, where he would attend Hodder Place, Stonyhurst—a Jesuit preparatory school—from 1868 to 1870.
Doyle then went on to study at Stonyhurst College for the next five years. For Doyle, the boarding-school experience was brutal: many of his classmates bullied him, and the school practiced ruthless corporal punishment against its students. Over time, Doyle found solace in his flair for storytelling, and developed an eager audience of younger students.
When Doyle graduated from Stonyhurst College in 1876, his parents expected that he would follow in his family’s footsteps and study art, so they were surprised when he decided to pursue a medical degree at the University of Edinburgh instead.
At med school, Doyle met his mentor, Professor Dr. Joseph Bell, whose keen powers of observation would later inspire Doyle to create his famed fictional detective character, Sherlock Holmes.
At the University of Edinburgh, Doyle also had the good fortune to meet classmates and future fellow authors James Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson.
While a medical student, Doyle took his own first stab at writing, with a short story called The Mystery of Sasassa Valley. That was followed by a second story, The American Tale, which was published in London Society.
During Doyle’s third year of medical school, he took a ship surgeon’s post on a whaling ship sailing for the Arctic Circle. The voyage awakened Doyle’s sense of adventure, a feeling that he incorporated into a story, Captain of the Pole Star.
In 1880, Doyle returned to medical school. Back at the University of Edinburgh, Doyle became increasingly invested in Spiritualism or “Psychic religion,” a belief system that he would later attempt to spread through a series of his written works.
By the time he received his Bachelor of Medicine degree in 1881, Doyle had denounced his Roman Catholic faith.
Doyle’s first paying job as a doctor took the form of a medical officer’s position aboard the steamship Mayumba, travelling from Liverpool to Africa.
After his stint on the Mayumba, Doyle settled in Plymouth, England for a time. When his funds were nearly tapped out, he relocated to Portsmouth and opened his first practice.
He spent the next few years struggling to balance his burgeoning medical career with his efforts to gain recognition as an author. Doyle would later give up medicine altogether, in order to devote all of his attention to his writing and his faith.
In 1886, Doyle started writing the mystery novel “A Tangled Skein”. Two years later, the novel was renamed “A Study in Scarlet” and published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual.
“A Study in Scarlet”, which first introduced the wildly popular characters Detective Sherlock Holmes and his assistant, Watson, finally earned Doyle the recognition he had so desired.
It was the first of 60 stories that Doyle would pen about Sherlock Holmes over the course of his writing career. Also, in 1887, Doyle submitted two letters about his conversion to Spiritualism to a weekly periodical called Light.
Doyle continued to actively participate in the Spiritualist movement from 1887 to 1916, during which time he wrote three books that experts consider largely autobiographical.
“These include Beyond the City” (1893), “The Stark Munro Letters” (1895) and “A Duet with an Occasional Chorus” (1899). Upon achieving success as a writer, Doyle decided to retire from medicine.
Throughout this period, he additionally produced a handful of historical novels including one about the Napoleonic Era called “The Great Shadow” in 1892, and his most famous historical novel, “Rodney Stone”, in 1896.
The prolific author also composed four of his most popular Sherlock Holmes books during the 1890s and early 1900s: “The Sign of Four” (1890), “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” (1892), “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes” (1894) and “The Hounds of Baskervilles”, published in 1901.
In 1893, to Doyle’s readers’ disdain, he had attempted to kill off his Sherlock Holmes character in order to focus more on writing about Spiritualism. In 1901, however, Doyle reintroduced Sherlock Holmes as a ghost in “The Hounds of Baskervilles” and later brought him back to life in “The Adventure of the Empty House” so the lucrative character could earn Doyle the money to fund his missionary work.
In 1928, Doyle’s final twelve stories about Sherlock Holmes were published in a compilation entitled The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes.
Arthur Conan Doyle died in Crowborough, England on July 7, 1930.
Some interesting Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Trivia:
Arthur Conan Doyle had also a sporting career. While living in Southsea, Doyle played football as a goalkeeper for Portsmouth Association Football Club, an amateur side, under the pseudonym A. C. Smith. (This club, disbanded in 1896, had no connection with the present-day Portsmouth F.C., which was founded in 1898.)
Conan Doyle was also a keen cricketer, and between 1899 and 1907 he played 10 first-class matches for the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).
His highest score, in 1902 against London County, was 43. He was an occasional bowler who took just one first-class wicket (although one of high pedigree—it was W. G. Grace).
Also a keen golfer, Conan Doyle was elected captain of the Crowborough Beacon Golf Club, East Sussex for 1910.
Thank you to “Biography” and “Wikipedia”!