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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

(1858-1930)

Introduction

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, British writer, 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.

Just as Andrew Jackson Davis was called the "John the Baptist" of Modern Spiritualism, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was called the "St. Paul" of Spiritualism. He was a prolific writer on the subject and an avid proponent. And, of course, he is renowned for his Sherlock Holmes stories.

Detective stories played an important role of the human literary history. It has got extensive readers in a worldwide because of its particular literary style, wonderful story line, logical consequence and unbelievable ending. A detective story was born by Edgar Allan Poe, the first detective novel < The Murders in the Rue Morgue > in 1841, and then the British developed this literary style, therefore, and Detective stories were become very popular in both of them.

Because of British literature, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created the detective called Sherlock Holmes is a gentleman. He is gentle as a noble.

Born

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. Doyle's mother was interested in literature, and she encouraged his son to take to books. Doyle read voluminously. Doyle had produced his first story, an illustrated tale of a man and a tiger, at the age of six.

Early

At the age of fourteen he had learned French so that he read Jules Verne in the author's original language. As his parents were Roman Catholics, he was raised in the Roman Catholic faith. While Doyle was training to become a doctor he started to read Darwin, Spencer, and Huxley. Their writings and his own disenchantment with religion caused him to become an agnostic.

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 mental development. Later he used his friends and teachers from Stony Hurst College as models for his characters in the Holmes stories, among them two boys named Moriarty. He studied at Edinburgh University and in 1884 he married Louise Hawkins. Doyle qualified as doctor in 1885. After graduation Doyle practiced medicine as an eye specialist at South Sea near Portsmouth in Hampshire until 1891 when he became a full time writer.

Charles Altamont 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 Doyle's mother had a long affair with Bryan Charles Waller, a lodger and a student of pathology, who had a deep impact to Conan Doyle.

Medium

Doyle's first story about Holmes, A STUDY IN SCARLET, was published in 1887 in Breton Christmas Annual. The novel was written in three weeks in 1886. It introduced the detective and his Sancho Panza and Boswell, Dr. Watson, the narrator of the stories. Their major opponent was the evil genius Moriarty, the classic villain and a kind of doppelganger of Holmes. 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. The story collects a colourful 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, became soon the most famous London street in literature. However, already at the end of 1891, Doyle planned to end the series and in 1893 he became so wearied of his detective that he 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."

Doyle's readers 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 hero in 'The Empty House' (1903).

In these following stories Holmes stopped using cocaine, but 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. The later were 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 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.

His later life and death

Doyle supported 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 favourable account of them in 1920. Doyle became president of several important spiritualist organizations. In 1925 he opened the Psychic Bookshop in London. 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.

Dr. Crandon, who, with his wife, Margery, had become very close friends and associates with Sir Arthur and Lady Doyle, gave a touching tribute in the Obituary Note. He wrote:

"On Monday, July 7, 1930, the world of literature, story telling, happy-home living, and the world of Spiritualism lost a leader. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has passed over."

He ended his tribute with the following:

"And so he has passed for a time, serving in a new sphere, we have no doubt, and immortal in our hearts, we are sure."

Postscript

Conan Doyle's other publications include plays, verse, memoirs, short stories, and several historical novels and supernatural and speculative fiction. His stories of Professor George Edward Challenger in THE LOST WORLD (1912) and other adventures blended science fact with fantastic romance, and were very popular. The model for the professor was William Rutherford, Doyle's teacher from Edinburgh. Doyle's practice, and other experiences, expeditions as ship's surgeon to the Arctic and West Coast of Africa, service in the Boer War, defences of George Edalji and Oscar Slater, and two men wrongly imprisoned, provided much material for his writings.

Sherlock Holmes's literary forefather was Edgar Allan Poe's detective C. Auguste Dupin and on the other hand a real life person, Conan Doyle's teacher in the University of Edinburgh, Joseph Bell, master of observation and deduction. Another model for the detective was Eugene Francois Vidoq, a former criminal, who became the first chief of the Sûreté on the principle of 'set a thief to catch a thief.'

Never end

Holmes' character has inspired many later writers to continue his adventures. He has also appeared in many films, some of them rather irreverent, such as "Without a Clue" starring Michael Caine and Benjamin Kingsley.

Selected works

  • A STUDY IN SCARLET, 1887
  • THE MYSTERY OF CLOOMBER, 1889
  • MICAH CLARCE, 1889
  • THE FIRM OF GIRDLESTONE, 1889
  • THE CAPTAIN OF THE POLESTAR AND OTHER TALES, 1890
  • THE SIGN OF FOUR, 1890
  • THE WHITE COMPANY, 1891
  • THE DOINGS OF RAFLES HAW, 1891
  • BEYOND THE CITY, 1892
  • THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, 1892
  • THE REFUGEES, 1893
  • JANE ANNIE, 1893 (with J.M. Barrie)
  • MYSTERIES AND ADVENTURES, 1893
  • THE GREAT SHADOW, 1893
  • THE PARASITE, 1894
  • THE MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, 1894
  • MY FRIEND THE MURDERER, 1894
  • ROUND THE RED LAMP, 1894
  • THE SURGEON OF GASTER FELL, 1895
  • THE STARK MUNRO LETTERS, 1895
  • RODNEY STONE, 1896
  • UNCLE BERNAC, 1896
  • THE EXPLOITS OF BRIGADIER GERALD, 1896
  • THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO, 1898
  • SONGS OF ACTION, 1898
  • A DUET: WITH AN OCCASIONAL CHORUS, 1899
  • THE MAN FROM ARCHANGEL, 1899
  • THE GREEN FLAG, 1900
  • THE GREAT BOER WAR, 1900
  • THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA: ITS CAUSE AND CONDUCT, 1902
  • THE HOUND OF BASKERVILLES, 1902
  • THE ADVENTURES OF GERALD, 1903
  • THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, 1905
  • SIR NIGEL, 1906
  • BRIGADIER GERALD, 1906
  • THE STORY OF MR. GEORGE EDALJI, 1907
  • THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR, 1907
  • WATERLOO, 1907 (with W. Gillette)
  • ROUND THE FIRE STORIES, 1908
  • THE CROXLEY MASTER, 1909
  • THE CRIME OF THE CONGO, 1909
  • THE LAST GALLEY, 1910
  • ONE CROWDED HOUR, 1911
  • SONGS OF THE ROAD, 1911
  • THE LOST WORLD, 1912
  • THE CASE OF OSCAR SLATER, 1912
  • THE SPECKLED BAND, 1912
  • THE POISON BELT, 1913
  • GREAT BRITAIN AND THE NEXT WAR, 1914
  • TO ARMS!, 1914
  • THE GERMAN WAR, 1914
  • WESTERN WANDERINGS, 1915
  • THE VALLEY OF FEAR, 1915
  • A VISIT TO THREE FRONTS, 1916
  • THE ORIGIN AND OUTBREAK OF THE WAR, 1916
  • HIS LAST BOW, 1917
  • DANGER! AND OTHER STORIES, 1918
  • THE DEALINGS OF CAPTAIN SHARKEY, 1918
  • THE NEW REVELATION, 1918
  • THE VITAL MESSAGE, 1919
  • OUR REPLY TO THE CLERIC, 1920
  • A PUBLIC DEBATE ON THE TRUTH OF SPIRITUALISM, 1920 (with Joseph McCabe)
  • THE GODS CAME THROUGH, 1920
  • SPIRITUALISM AND RATIONALISM, 1920
  • THE WANDERINGS OF A SPIRITUALIST, 1921
  • THE EVIDENCE FOR FAIRIES, 1921
  • FAIRIES PHOTOGRAPHED, 1921
  • OUR AMERICAN ADVENTURE, 1921
  • THE POEMS OF ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE, 1922
  • THE COMING OF THE FAIRIES, 1922 (with others)
  • THE CASE FOR SPIRIT PHOTOGRAPHY, 1922
  • OUR SECOND AMERICAN ADVENTURE, 1923
  • THE LAST OF THE LEGIONS AND OTHER TALES OF LONG AGO, 1923
  • THE THREE OF THEM, 1923
  • TALES OF TERROR AND MYSTERY, 1923
  • TALES OF THE RING AND CAMP, 1923
  • THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR, 1923
  • TALES OF PIRATES AND BLUE WATERS, 1924
  • TALES OF ADVENTURE AND MEDICAL LIFE, 1924
  • TALES OF TWILIGHT AND THE UNSEEN, 1924
  • MEMORIES AND ADVENTURES, 1924
  • THE SPIRITUALISTS' READER, 1924
  • translation: THE MYSTERY OF JOAN OF ARC, 1924 (by D. Leon and J. Murray)
  • PSYCHIC EXPERIENCES, 1925
  • THE EARLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH AND MODERN SPIRITUALISM, 1925
  • TALES OF LONG AGO, 1925
  • IT'S TIME SOMETHING HAPPENED, 1925
  • EXILE, 1925
  • THE LAND OF THE MIST, 1926
  • THE HISTORY OF SPIRITUALISM, 1926 (2 vols.)
  • PHENEAS SPEAKS, 1927
  • THE BRITISH CAMPAIGN IN FRANCE AND FLANDERS, 1928 (6 vols.)
  • THE CASE-BOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, 1927
  • THE COMPLETE SHERLOCK HOLMES, 1927
  • WHAT DOES SPIRITUALISM ACTUALLY TEACH AND STAND FOR, 1929
  • THE MARACOT DEEP AND OTHER STORIES, 1929
  • THE CONAN DOYLE STORIES, 1929
  • AN OPEN LETTER TO THOSE OF MY GENERATION, 1929
  • OUR AFRICAN WINTER, 1929
  • THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, 1929
  • WORKS, 1930 (24 vols.)
  • THE EDGE OF THE UNKNOWN, 1930

This photograph shows Douglas
Wilmer, who played Sherlock
Holmes in the 1964 BBC1 series.

References

The pictures came from www.fst.org.