Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Wikis


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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Born 22 May 1859(1859-05-22)
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died 7 July 1930 (aged 71)
Crowborough, East Sussex, England
Occupation Novelist, short story writer, poet, doctor of medicine
Nationality Scottish
Citizenship United Kingdom
Genres Detective fiction, historical novels, non-fiction
Notable work(s) Stories of Sherlock Holmes
The Lost World

Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle, DL (22 May 1859 – 7 July 1930) was a Scottish[1] physician and writer, most noted for his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes, which are generally considered a major innovation in the field of crime fiction, and for the adventures of Professor Challenger. He was a prolific writer whose other works include science fiction stories, historical novels, plays and romances, poetry, and non-fiction.




Early life

Arthur Conan Doyle was born on 22 May 1859 in Edinburgh, Scotland, to father of Irish descent, Charles Altamont Doyle, and an Irish mother, née Mary Foley. His parents were married in 1855.[2]

Although he is now referred to as "Conan Doyle", the origin of this compound surname (if that is how he meant it to be understood) is uncertain. The entry in which his baptism is recorded in the register of St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh gives 'Arthur Ignatius Conan' as his Christian name, and the simple 'Doyle' as his surname. It also names Michael Conan as his godfather.[3]

Conan Doyle was sent to the Roman Catholic Jesuit preparatory school Hodder Place, Stonyhurst, at the age of nine. He then went on to Stonyhurst College, but by the time he left the school in 1875, he had rejected Christianity to become an agnostic.[citation needed]

From 1876 to 1881, he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, including a period working in the town of Aston (now a district of Birmingham) and in Sheffield.[4] While studying, he also began writing short stories; his first published story appeared in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal before he was 20.[5] Following his term at university, he was employed as a ship's doctor on the SS Mayumba during a voyage to the West African coast. He completed his doctorate on the subject of tabes dorsalis in 1885.[6]

Employment and the origins of Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes (right) and Dr Watson, by Sidney Paget.

In 1882, he joined former classmate George Budd as his partner at a medical practice in Plymouth,[7] but their relationship proved difficult, and Conan Doyle soon left to set up an independent practice.[8] Arriving in Portsmouth in June of that year with less than £10 to his name, he set up a medical practice at 1 Bush Villas in Elm Grove, Southsea.[9] The practice was initially not very successful; while waiting for patients, he again began writing stories. 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 partially modelled after his former university professor Joseph Bell, to whom Conan Doyle wrote "It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes. ... [R]ound the centre of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate I have tried to build up a man."[10] Future short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes were published in the English Strand Magazine. Interestingly enough, Robert Louis Stevenson was able, even in faraway Samoa, to recognise the strong similarity between Joseph Bell and Sherlock Holmes: "[M]y compliments on your very ingenious and very interesting adventures of Sherlock Holmes. ... [C]an this be my old friend Joe Bell?"[11] Other authors sometimes suggest additional influences—for instance, the famous Edgar Allan Poe character, C. Auguste Dupin.[12]

While living in Southsea, he played football for an amateur side, Portsmouth Association Football Club, as a goalkeeper, under the pseudonym A. C. Smith.[13] (This club disbanded in 1894 and had no connection with the Portsmouth F.C. of today, 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 MCC. His highest score was 43 against London County in 1902. He was an occasional bowler who took just one first-class wicket (although one of high pedigree — it was W.G. Grace).[14] Also a keen golfer, Conan Doyle was elected captain of Crowborough Beacon Golf Club, East Sussex, for the year 1910.

Marriages and family

Portrait of Arthur Conan Doyle by Sidney Paget, 1897

In 1885, he married Louisa (or Louise) Hawkins, known as "Touie", who suffered from tuberculosis and died on 4 July 1906.[15] He married Jean Elizabeth Leckie in 1907, whom he had first met and fallen in love with in 1897. He had maintained a platonic relationship with her while his first wife Louisa was still alive, out of loyalty to her. Jean died in London on 27 June 1940.

Conan Doyle had five children, two with his first wife (1) Mary Louise (28 January 1889 – 12 June 1906) and (2) Arthur Alleyne Kingsley, known as Kingsley (15 November 1892 – 28 October 1918), and three with his second wife, (3) Denis Percy Stewart (17 March 1909 – 9 March 1955), second husband in 1936 of Georgian Princess Nina Mdivani (circa 1910 – 19 February 1987; former sister-in-law of Barbara Hutton), (4) Adrian Malcolm (1910 – 1970) and (5) Jean Lena Annette (1912 – 1997).

Death of Sherlock Holmes

In 1890, Conan Doyle studied the eye in Vienna; he moved to London in 1891 to set up a practice as an ophthalmologist. He wrote in his autobiography that not a single patient crossed his door. This 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." His mother responded, saying, "You may do what you deem fit, but the crowds will not take this lightheartedly." In December 1893, he did so in order to dedicate more of his time to more "important" works—his historical novels.

Holmes and Moriarty fighting over the Reichenbach Falls. Art by Sidney Paget.

Holmes and Moriarty apparently plunged to their deaths together down the Reichenbach Falls in the story "The Final Problem". Public outcry led him to bring the character back; Conan Doyle returned to the story in "The Adventure of the Empty House", with the explanation that only Moriarty had fallen but, since Holmes had other dangerous enemies, especially Colonel Sebastian Moran, he had arranged to be temporarily "dead" also. Holmes ultimately appeared in a total of 56 short stories and four Conan Doyle novels (he has since appeared in many novels and stories by other authors).

Political campaigning

Arthur Conan Doyle's house in South Norwood, London

Following the Boer War in South Africa at the turn of the 20th century and the condemnation from around the world over the United Kingdom's conduct, Conan Doyle wrote a short pamphlet titled, The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct, which justified the UK's role in the Boer war and was widely translated. Doyle had served as a volunteer doctor in the Langman Field Hospital at Bloemfontein between March and June 1900 [16].

Conan Doyle believed that it was this pamphlet that resulted in his being knighted in 1902 and appointed Deputy-Lieutenant of Surrey. He also, in 1900, wrote the longer book, The Great Boer War. During the early years of the 20th century, Sir Arthur twice ran for Parliament as a Liberal Unionist, once in Edinburgh and once in the Hawick Burghs, but although he received a respectable vote, he was not elected.

Conan Doyle was involved in the campaign for the reform of the Congo Free State, led by the journalist E.D. Morel and the diplomat Roger Casement. During 1909, he wrote The Crime of the Congo, a long pamphlet in which he denounced the horrors in that country. He became acquainted with Morel and Casement and it is possible that together with Bertram Fletcher Robinson,[17] they inspired several characters in the novel, The Lost World (1912).

He broke with both when Morel became one of the leaders of the pacifist movement during the First World War, and when Casement was convicted of treason against the UK during the Easter Rising. Conan Doyle tried, unsuccessfully, to save Casement from the death penalty, arguing that he had been driven mad and was not responsible for his actions.

Miscarriages of justice

Conan Doyle was also a fervent advocate of justice and personally investigated two closed cases, which led to two men being exonerated of the crimes they were accused of. 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 set on Edalji's conviction, even though the mutilations continued 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 establish a way to correct other miscarriages of justice. The story of Conan Doyle and Edalji is told in fictional form in Julian Barnes' 2005 novel, Arthur & George. In Nicholas Meyer's pastiche "The West End Horror"(1976), Holmes manages to help clear the name of a shy Parsee Indian character wronged by the English justice system. In real life, Edalji was also a Parsee.

The second case, that of Oscar Slater, a German Jew and gambling-den operator convicted of bludgeoning an 82-year-old woman in Glasgow in 1908, excited Conan Doyle's curiosity because of inconsistencies in the prosecution case and a general sense that Slater was framed.


After the death of his wife Louisa in 1906, and the death of his son Kingsley, his brother Innes, his two brothers-in-law (one of whom was E. W. Hornung, the creator of the literary character Raffles), and his two nephews shortly after World War I, Conan Doyle sank into depression. He found solace supporting Spiritualism and its alleged scientific proof of existence beyond the grave. In particular he favoured Christian Spiritualism, and encouraged the Spiritualists' National Union to accept an eighth precept, that of following the teachings and example of Jesus of Nazareth.[18]

Kingsley Doyle died from pneumonia on 28 October 1918, which he contracted during his convalescence after being seriously wounded during the 1916 Battle of the Somme. Brigadier-General Innes Doyle died in February 1919, also from pneumonia. Sir Arthur became involved with Spiritualism to the extent that he wrote a Professor Challenger novel on the subject, The Land of Mist.

Frances Griffiths with the alleged fairies, taken by Elsie Wright in July 1917. One of the five photographs.

His book The Coming of the Fairies (1921) shows he was apparently convinced of the veracity of the Cottingley Fairies photographs (which were exposed as a hoax decades later), which he reproduced in the book, together with theories about the nature and existence of fairies and spirits. In his The History of Spiritualism (1926), Conan Doyle praised the psychic phenomena and spirit materialisations produced by Eusapia Palladino and Mina "Margery" Crandon.[19] 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 for supposed occultism.[citation needed] This ban was later lifted. Russian actor Vasily Livanov later received an Order of the British Empire for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes.

Conan Doyle was friends for a time with the American magician Harry Houdini, who himself became a prominent opponent of the Spiritualist movement in the 1920s following the death of his beloved mother. Although Houdini insisted that Spiritualist mediums employed trickery (and consistently attempted to expose them as frauds), Conan Doyle became convinced that Houdini himself possessed supernatural powers, a view expressed in Conan Doyle's The Edge of the Unknown. Houdini was apparently unable to convince Conan Doyle that his feats were simply illusions, leading to a bitter public falling out between the two.[19]

Richard Milner, an American historian of science, has presented a case that Conan Doyle may have been the perpetrator of the Piltdown Man hoax of 1912, creating the counterfeit hominid fossil that fooled the scientific world for over 40 years. Milner says that Conan Doyle had a motive, namely revenge on the scientific establishment for debunking one of his favourite psychics, and that The Lost World contains several encrypted clues regarding his involvement in the hoax.[20]

Samuel Rosenberg's 1974 book Naked is the Best Disguise purports to explain how Conan Doyle left, throughout his writings, open clues that related to hidden and suppressed aspects of his mentality.


Grave of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at Minstead, England

Conan Doyle was found clutching his chest in the hall of "Windlesham", his house in Crowborough, East Sussex, on 7 July 1930. He died of a heart attack, aged 71. His last words were directed toward his wife: "You are wonderful."[21] The epitaph on his gravestone in the churchyard at Minstead in the New Forest, Hampshire, reads:


Undershaw, the home Conan Doyle had built near Hindhead, south of London, and lived in for at least a decade, was a hotel and restaurant from 1924 until 2004. It was then bought by a developer, and has been empty since then while conservationists and Conan Doyle fans fight to preserve it.[15]

A statue honours Conan Doyle at Crowborough Cross in Crowborough, where Conan Doyle lived for 23 years. There is also a statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place, Edinburgh, Scotland, close to the house where Conan Doyle was born.


Arthur Conan Doyle statue in Crowborough

Holmes books

Challenger stories

Historical novels

Other works

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ ""Scottish writer best known for his creation of the detective Sherlock Holmes"". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  2. ^ Lellenberg, Jon; Daniel Stashower and Charles Foley (2007). Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters. HarperPress. pp. 8–9. ISBN 978-0-00-724759-2.  Stashower, Daniel (2000). Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle. Penguin Books. pp. 20–21. ISBN 0-8050-5074-4. 
  3. ^ Stashower says that the compound version of his surname originated from his great-uncle Michael Conan, a distinguished journalist, from whom Arthur and his elder sister, Annette, received the compound surname of "Conan Doyle" (Stashower 20–21). The same source points out that in 1885 he was describing himself on the brass nameplate outside his house, and on his doctoral thesis, as "A. Conan Doyle". However, other sources (such as the 1901 census) indicate that Conan Doyle's surname was "Doyle", and that the form "Conan Doyle" was only used as a surname in his later years.[citation needed]
  4. ^ SGMT - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Author of the Sherlock Holmes detective novels.
  5. ^ Stashower 30–31.
  6. ^ Available at the Edinburgh Research Archive.
  7. ^ Arthur Conan Doyle & Plymouth.
  8. ^ Stashower 52–59.
  9. ^ Stashower 55, 58–59.
  10. ^ Independent, 7 August 2006.
  11. ^ Letter from R L Stevenson to Conan Doyle 5 April 1893 The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson Volume 2/Chapter XII.
  12. ^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001. pp. 162-163. ISBN 0-8160-4161-X.
  13. ^ Juson, Dave; Bull, David (2001). Full-Time at The Dell. Hagiology. p. 21. ISBN 0-9534474-2-1. 
  14. ^ "London County v Marylebone Cricket Club at Crystal Palace Park, 23-25 Aug 1900". Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  15. ^ a b Leeman, Sue, "Sherlock Holmes fans hope to save Conan Doyle's house from developers", Associated Press, 28 July 2006.
  16. ^ Miller, Russell. The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2008. pp. 211-217. ISBN 0-312-37897-1.
  17. ^ -
  18. ^ Price, Leslie (2010). "Did Conan Doyle Go Too Far?". Psychic News (4037). 
  19. ^ a b Kalush, William, and Larry Sloman, The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero, Atria Books, 2006. ISBN 0-7432-7207-2.
  20. ^ Highfield, Roger, "The mysterious case of Conan Doyle and Piltdown Man.", The Daily Telegraph, Thursday 20 March 1997.
  21. ^ Stashower, p. 439.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Bibliographic information from: Bleiler, Everett (1948). The Checklist of Fantastic Literature. Chicago: Shasta Publishers. p. 102. 
  23. ^ The War in South Africa by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - Project Gutenberg.
  24. ^ The great Keinplatz experiment, and other tales of twilight and the unseen, [].

External links

1911 encyclopedia

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