Life of Sir Arthur Conan DoyleSir Arthur Conan Doyle, a British physician who later devoted his life to writing,has become one of the most popular and widespread authors and creators of all time.
Doyle’s early childhood years to his later years in life have allowed him to observe manysophisticated yet adventurous paths, in which have inspired him greatly to become aninfluence on spiritualistic views as an author and crusader. His interests andachievements in medicine, politics, and spiritualism have allowed him to create theiridescent master detective of fiction, Sherlock Holmes. His creation of Sherlock Holmesin his mystery novels has brought him fame amongst many people, even so SherlockHolmes may be one of the most popular and recognized characters of English Literature. On May 22nd, 1859, Arthur Conan Doyle was born at Picardy Place, inEdinburgh, Scotland.
His father, Charles, was an architect-clerk at the GovernmentOffice of Works in Edinburgh where he married Mary Foley in1855. Arthur had threesisters and one brother, with quite a large family occasionally times got hard as moneygrew scarce, fortunately his father sold paintings on the side to earn extra money (Jaffe3). When Arthur Doyle was seven years old he was sent to school and for two yearshe was toughened by the schoolmaster and his punishments of lacerations (Pearson 2). The schoolmaster wasn’t the only thing that toughened him, he was also used to getting inquarrels with other children and became quite a fighter, especially if he saw a bullypicking on someone smaller and weaker (Pearson 3). Along with his ruggedcharacteristics, young Arthur loved to read. He found himself caught up in books ofaction and adventure, his favorite one being Scalp Hunters by Mayne Reid which he readnumerous times.
Arthur was also somewhat interested in poetry and he showed it bylearning Macaulay’s Lay of Horatius by heart. At the age of nine, Arthur went to Hodderthe preparatory school for Stonyhurst College, which also was located in Edinburgh(Jaffe 8). On a journey to Preston, in Lancashire, he started to feel lonely andexperienced homesickness. When he arrived at Preston, he joined a group of other kidsand was driven the remaining twelve miles with a Jesuit, a follower of Jesus in RomanCatholicism. He stayed at Hodder for two years, where he was partially happy, then theFranco-German War had arisen and gave him something to dream about during hislessons. He would find himself daydreaming about fascinating adventures to escape hisregular days of studies which constantly bored him (Pearson 4).
He then went on to Stonyhurst College, where he found himself suffering inclasses of Latin, Greek, and Algebra. Near the end of his life Arthur wrote “I can saywith truth that my Latin and Greek . . .
have been little use to me in life, and that mymathematics have been no use at all. “(Carr 10) Doyle may not have enjoyed Latin orAlgebra, on the other hand he seemed to pick up reading and writing skills automatically. The Jesuits who were guarding and keeping Doyle and the boys in order believed that”dry knowledge could only be absorbed with dry food,” so the nourishment they receivedwas quite unappetizing (Jaffe 16). The discipline they received was pretty brutal,because if the demands for religion were unsatisfied, and if the young men’s behavior wasnot well, the Jesuits applied a more encouraging correction.
Doyle remembers thispunishment quite well, through his own experience, he describes it as “the instrument ofcorrection, it was a piece of India-rubber of the shape and size of a thick boot sole. . . .
Oneblow of this instrument, delivered with intent, would cause the palm of the hand to swellup and change color. ” Arthur had wondered if any other boys had endured more of thebrutal punishment than he. Doyle wrote “I went out of my way to do really mischievousand outrageous things simply to show that my spirit was unbroken. ” (Pearson 5) Duringhis stay at the college, Doyle wrote much verse that he thought was nothing but thisshowed to everyone else that he had a literary gift. He was also encouraged to tell storiesto the other boys sitting in a circle, his favorite stories talking about murders andmysteries, and he was able to captivate his audiences with his ability.
Upon his last year,he edited the College magazine, and amazed everyone by taking honors in the LondonMatric before he left Stonyhurst at the age of sixteen (Carr 13). When Doyle left Stonyhurst, he realized he had an interest and gift in writing, thatwould later on greatly influence his later career. Arthur enjoyed history and literature,and one day he was completely absorbed in a volume of Macaulay’s Essays, giving him anew aspect of English Literature. Doyle’s last year with the Jesuits was spent at Feldkirchin Austria, and on his way there he stopped in London to visit Westminster Abbey to seeMacaulay’s grave. Feldkirch was much kinder than Stonyhurst, so he eventually stoppedbeing a troublesome youth.
On the average, he enjoyed his years there playing footballand tobogganing. When he left Austria in 1876, he stopped in Paris to visit an uncle,Michael Conan, from which he got his name. He saw many wonders including the Arc deTriomphe and other French landmarks (Wood 23). Arthur Doyle then returned to Edinburgh, the place of his birth, and saw hisfamily.
Soon after his arrival he decided to study medicine at Edinburgh University,which was widely known from its medical expertise. He entered the University inOctober 1876, and began studies in the “long weary grind at botany, chemistry, anatomy,physiology, and a whole list of compulsory subjects, many of which have a very indirectbearing upon the art of curing. “(Pearson 11) Even with his medical studies he still hadtime to enjoy his interest in literature. He purchased and read many novels including;Thackeray’s Esmond, Meredith’s Richard Feverel, and Washington Irving’s Conquest ofGranada, and many others that inquired his taste for learning. Literature was not theonly thing that impressed Doyle while attending the University, but the professors aswell. Two of the professors that appealed to Arthur were Doctor Bell, a surgeon at theEdinburgh infirmary, and Professor Rutherford (Wood 31).
What appeared to Doyle wasthat Doctor Bell could “glance at a corpse on the anatomy table and deduce that theperson had been a left-handed shoemaker. ” (Carr 23) These professors at the Universitywere a sure model for Doyle’s creation of Moriarty, Maracot, Challenger, and Holmes,during his later writing career. Doyle’s medical studies were interrupted twice, once in1880 when he spent seven months as a ship’s surgeon on a whaling ship in the Arctic, andagain in 1881 when he worked as a medical officer on a cargo ship bound for Africa. During his last year at the University, Doyle met a new student by the name of GeorgeBudd. George Budd was a key part in Doyle’s literary career, because he was amazed atBudd’s extraordinary thinking while they were having conversations.
Doyle explains thatBudd could, “at a moments notice take up any subject with intense enthusiasm, weave themost amazing theories, carry his listeners away with him until they were gasping withexcitement, drop the subject suddenly, take up another, and repeat the process. ” (Pearson19) He then earned his Bachelor of Medicine in 1881, and setup a small medical practicein Southsea, England in 1882. His residence in Southsea was a house called Bush Villa,which he could live in and practice medicine. Doyle’s medical practice only had amoderate income, but he did receive a wife from the business. He met Louise Hawkins”a very gentle and amiable girl,” while the girls bother was suffering from cerebralmeningitis and stayed with him at Bush Villa and they were soon engaged (Wood 48) InJuly of 1885, Doyle received his Doctor’s Degree after hard studies through May andJune, and on August 6th, 1885 Louise Hawkins and Arthur Conan Doyle were married. After the marriage he continued his practice at Bush Villa, and also worked on writingstories on the side which he could sell to magazines for a little extra money.
He receivedno fame from his short stories so he decided to write a novel The Narrative of John Smithwhich mistakenly was lost in the mail on its way to the publisher. With the lost of hisfirst novel, he decided to write a second called The Firm of Girdlestone (Wood 53). Arthur Doyle has earned his fame and glory from his creation of Sherlock Holmesand the other characters who modeled from the professors and doctors at EdinburghUniversity. The first Holmes novel being A Study in Scarlet which Doyle wrote in 1886reflected his acquaintance with Dr. Bell. Although A Study in Scarlet was not sure ofpublication because it was being rejected by the publishers, and when it did Doyle didn’treceive much compensation for the novel which first debuted in “Beetons Xmas Annual”in 1887.
While waiting for it to be published by itself, Doyle decided to write on ahistorical theme (Jaffe 37). He first started and finished Micah Clarke early in 1888, andduring his writing time A Study in Scarlet had been published and released. A Study inScarlet had great reviews and was cherished in the United States at the time, but Doylecontinued writing historical novels like, The White Company (Jaffe 41). Doyle believedthat Charles Reade’s The Cloister and the Hearth was the greatest novel in the EnglishLanguage, mainly because the author takes the reader by the hand and leads him throughthe Middle Ages, “and not a conventional study-built Middle Ages, but a period quiveringwith life, full of folk who are as human and real as a bus-load in Oxford Street. “(Pearson79) In many of Doyle’s works he tried to incorporate Reade’s talents at writing, and hewrote a lot of short stories, which eventually appeared in The Captain of the Polestar as acollection. In 1890, the birth of his daughter Mary was also in good times for he washappy with his literature, his practice, and his marriage (Wood 67).
In 1890, Doylereturned to his old home in Devonshire Terrace where his character Sherlock Holmesbegan in his tales to earn world wide fame, after he gave up the medical profession forgood. He continued writing about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson’s adventures in TheSign of Four and a collection of short stories gathered together to make The Strand whichmade Holmes a household name (Higham 71). In 1891, Doyle was sickened withinfluenza, and upon his recovery decided to move to South Norwood. This was whereDoyle’s son Kingsley was born in 1892.
Arthur Doyle went traveling from 1893 to 1897,when he went to the United States and gave speeches from Boston toWashington(Higham 89). Doyle learned many new things about the rest of the world. InJune 1897 they moved back to “Undershaw” or so he called it because “it stood under ahanging grove of trees,” in England. He continued his writing and found himselfinvolved in the Boer War as a civilian doctor. After he defended British policy in theBoer War by writing two works, one entitled The Cause and Conduct of the War in SouthAfrica, he was knighted in 1902 and appointed Deputy-Lieutenant of Surrey (Pearson131).
His wife’s health had been failing and in 1906 she died. He remarried inSeptember 1907 to Jean Leckie, whose family he had known for sometime. He thendecided to move again to be near his wife’s people so they moved to Crowborough (Jaffe101). Arthur and his wife lived happily and had three children; Denis, Adrian, and LenaJean.
Doyle realized he would have to support two families so he soon started writing forplays in theaters (Wood 113). Doyle then continued his family life and occasionallytraveled abroad to different countries. When his son died in World War I, Arthur beganto have an interest in spiritualism and life after death. He went on believing and writingfor spiritualism and he soon fell to illness. Arthur Conan Doyle died on July 7th, 1930,but to him it was not death but the start of the grandest adventure ever. Eighteen yearsbefore he died, he wrote his own epitaph without intending it as such:(Pearson 188)I have wrought my simple planIf I give one hour of joyTo the boy who’s half a man,Or the man who’s half a boy.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle literary works have been fully influenced throughout hisentire life. From his early childhood of adventure and wonder, to his schooling atStonyhurst and Edinburgh, to all the people he has met, including the most important Dr. Bell who was later made into Sherlock Holmes in his writing. His unique ability tocreate a living character and also a living author as Dr. John H. Watson from which viewthe mysteries are told will leave him a permanent mark in English Literature.
Works ConsultedCarr, John Dickson. The Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. New York: Harper ; Brothers, 1949. Costello, Peter. The Real World of Sherlock Holmes. New York: Carroll ; Graf Publishers Inc.
, 1991. Harrison, Michael. In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes. New York: Drake Publishers,1972. Higham, Charles. The Aventures of Conan Doyle.
New York, Norton Publishers, 1976. Jaffe, Jacqueline A. Arthur Conan Doyle. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1987. Keating, H. R.
F. Sherlock Holmes/The Man and His World. New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1979. Pearson, Hesketh.
Conan Doyle/His Life and Art. New York: Taplinger Publishing Co. ,1977. Rosenberg, Samuel. Naked is the Best Disguise:The Death and Ressurection of Sherlock Holmes.
London: Arlington Books, 1975. Wood, James Playsted. The Man who Hated Sherlock Holmes; A Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. New York: Pantheon Books, 1965.Category: English