Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a versatile and complex personality. He is well-known for creating one of the most famous characters in English Literature, Sherlock Holmes, the master detective of all times. There is many more to add to Doyle’s contribution to the world.
He was multi-talented and was a man of many pursuits. He was a physician, creative and excellent storyteller, multi-talented sportsman, strong patriot, and a faithful imperialist. Along with all these, he was a campaigner for lapses of justice.
Doyle had an Irish surname. Although Conan was Doyle’s middle name, after graduating from high school he started using it as his surname. When he was knighted, he was gazetted in the name of Doyle and not Conan Doyle.
Early Life and Education
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born on 22 May 1859 in Edinburgh at 11 Picardy Place. Arthur’s father was a struggling artist, a phobic and was unable to support his family with the inadequate salary of a clerk. He eventually ended in a mental asylum in 1881 after getting into the habit of heavy drinking.
Being a strong woman, his mother held the family together, running the household and bringing up her children. Arthur’s mother was also a masterful storyteller and knew modern English and French finely.
It was due to her inspiration that Doyle developed an interest in History and Literature. Arthur started writing stories from the age of five. Arthur’s formal education began at the age of seven at Newington Academy in Edinberg. He received a good education.
Due to strict discipline and undue religious instructions of the school, Arthur turned agonist by the time he left the school. However, his story writing talent was revealed when he edited a school paper “Wasp” and the “Stonyhurst Figaro”.
Arthur Conan Doyle Books
He became an enthusiastic sportsman and played cricket, football, rugby, and golf as well as he became a cross-country skier later in life. Arthur was an enthusiastic reader and used most of his spare time reading different kinds of books and novels.
In 1876, Doyle started studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh. It was one of the best medical schools of that time. During his medical studies, Arthur tried to earn money and support his family also. Apart from working as a medical assistant in different places, he also wrote short stories.
In 1881, Doyle passed his examinations and in the next year, he began his medical practice. Soon he found that the medical profession did not give him satisfaction and decided to write fiction.
Early Career and Marriage
At the age of 23, Doyle started writing short stories and articles. He wrote his first novel, “The Narrative of John Smith”. Since its manuscript was lost in the mail, it was published in 2011. In 1880s Doyle continued practicing medicine and publishing fiction in different magazines.
Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes
It was in 1886 when he wrote a novella, “A Study in the Scarlet” and introduced the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Sir John Watson. In 1885, Doyle married Louise ‘Toulie’ Hawkins and four years later they had their first child, Mary. Then in 1892 their second child Arthur was born. The year 1890 was the year of great change in Doyle’s life.
While practicing medicine and having almost no patients, he had plenty of time to invest in his writing interest and profession. He finally switched to a full-time writer in August giving up medicine. He then published the first six “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” in 1892 and the Baker Street mania swept the public.
In 1893 when Louise was diagnosed with tuberculosis, he took her to Switzerland hoping that the local climate would help her recover and finally constructed a house named “Undershaw” in 1897 in Hindhead. However, Louise died in 1906 and she was 49.
Shortly after the death of his wife, Doyle married a beautiful daughter of a wealthy Scottish family, Jean Leckie. In fact, he had met her at a party in 1896 and had fallen in love with her when Louise was still alive. Conan had three children from his second wife.
A Professional Writer
Sir Arthur Doyle’s literary contribution is extraordinary. During his writing career, Arthur wrote twenty-one novels and more than 150 short stories. He also published essays, articles, nonfiction, memoirs and three volumes of poetry.
Between 1887 and 1927, Doyle wrote four novels and 56 stories about the character, Sherlock Holmes, portraying him as a brilliant consulting detective living in London. The detective’s shrewd observance, forensic skills, and deductive reasoning to solve difficult cases became very famous.
Holmes was not only a detective but an epitome of Victorian and imperial values. He became one of the most popular and best-known characters in English Literature and holds the same position till date.
Many popular works of historical fiction were also written by Doyle like Micah Clarke (1889), The White Company (1891), Sir Nigel, The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard (1896), Adventures of Gerard (1903) and The Great Shadow and Other Napoleonic Tales (1892).
Doyle also served in the Boer War and after returning home he wrote a long book, “The Great Boer War”. In the later years of his life, Doyle abandoned his literary career and started spreading the spiritual message throughout the world. In 1926, he published “The History of Spiritualism” in two volumes.
Death and Legacy
In his late years, Arthur developed angina and died of heart failure on 7 July 1930. He was 71 years old. He was buried in an upright position in the garden of his home at Crowborough. However, in 1955, he was buried with his wife horizontally at All Saints.