Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was more than just an author. He was a knight, a soldier, a spiritualist, a whaler, a doctor, a journalist, and most of all, he was adventurous. He was not the quiet type of person, so he enjoyed expressing himself.
Arthur Conan Doyle was born on the 22nd of May 1859 in Picardy Place, Edinburgh. The second child of Charles Altamont and Mary Foley, he was thought t have been named after the legendary medieval king, Arthur, of the Round Table.
Doyle was also named after his granduncle, Michael Edward Conan. He was a descendant of the Irish, and was of the Roman Catholic religion. Doyle had a grandfather, John Doyle. He was political cartoonist, who, financially supported the family.1
Doyle had a pretty rough home life because his father was an alcoholic. As he grew up, Doyle had to take more of the responsibilities around the house into his own hands, because his father was either too sick or drunk to fulfill his daily work at home.
Doyle’s mother, Mary Foley, was a homemaker who took care of her son Arthur and his brothers and sisters, and also worked and cleaned the house everyday.2
Doyle’s early education started when he was about seven years old. His mother spent lots of time reading with him and tutoring him, because this is what she thought he needed to become a cultured gentleman. When Doyle was ten years old he left home and went to the Jesuit Preparatory school named Hodder House. This was a boarding school for young boys. Arthur hated this school. Doyle once stated that Hodder House “was a little more pleasant than being confined in a prison.” While attending Hodder House, he studied chemistry, poetry, geometry, arithmetic, and grammar. After his experiences at Jesuit Preparatory school, he left and applied for Stonyhurst Academy. Doyle was accepted for enrollment into Stonyhurst and remained there for about five more years.
While at Stonyhurst, Doyle, who excelled in cricket, demonstrated some very early signs of literary talent. At the academy, he became quite good at telling stories and reading aloud.3 Doyle started reading his old favorite books from his childhood. His favorite childhood writer was Mayne Reid, who wrote The Scalp Hunters. This was his favorite book while he was progressing through life.4
During his last year before attending medical school, Doyle went to Feldkirch, a school in Austria. While attending Feldkirch, he began to question his faith in the Roman Catholic religion.5 Doyle decided finally to become a doctor and went to Edinburgh University. While attending the university Doyle met a Dr. Joseph Bell, upon whom the character Sherlock Holmes was based. Also, he met the anatomist Professor Rutherford, who was eventually made into the model for Professor Challenger in Arthur Conan Doyle’s writings.6 While at Edinburgh University, Doyle took a part-time job helping out another doctor. This was only one of the many jobs that he had while he was a learning pupil during his school time.7 For one of his assignments as a paid student at Edinburgh University, he became the doctor on a whaling ship in the Arctic Ocean during a seven-month voyage. When he returned to the University after his long trip, Doyle received his Bachelor of Medicine degree in 1881. After his graduation, Doyle decided to go back and make a second voyage as a whaling ship’s doctor in the Arctic Ocean. While on the second voyage, he nearly died of a high fever.8
When Doyle left Edinburgh University, he told his family that he had changed his religion, and was no longer of the Catholic faith.9 Doyle began his writing career and the public loved his first professional work. The editor of the Cornhill Magazine approved of the story and the author, accepting the story Habakuk Jephson’s Statement for publication. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels were huge successes in North America.10 The people enjoyed them so much that Doyle wrote even more novels for the United States to publish, such as The Sign of Four. Doyle’s first short story to be published was The Mystery of Sasassa Valley in 1879.11
While he paid more attention to his writing than his medical career, Doyle continued to practice medicine for about two years. It was during this time that he met his soon-to-be wife, Louise Hawkins,12 when her brother was diagnosed with an incurable disease, cerebral meningitis. Jack, Louise’s brother, died a couple of days later. Louise and Doyle were married several months later. Louise’s nickname was “Touie,” one of the names Doyle later used in his famous novel The Hound of the Baskervilles. The marriage lasted from 1885 until Louise’s death from tuberculosis in August of 1906. While Doyle was married to Louise, they had one daughter, Mary Louise, born in 1889, and one son Alleyne Kingsley, born in 1902.13 After Louise’s death, Doyle never talked about his wife or their long lasting marriage.
A year or so after her death, Doyle met a woman by the name of Jean Leckie, who would soon be his second wife. Jean and Doyle met when they ran into each other on the street. In 1907, they were married.14 His inspiration to write even more in his spare time was brought on by his marriage. Shortly after their marriage, Doyle’s father, Charles, was confined inside a nursing home in London, England because of alcoholism and epilepsy. Jean Leckie and Doyle had three children, a son, Denis Percy Stewart born in 1909, another son, Adrian Malcolm born in 1910, and a daughter, Lena Jean Annette born in 1912.15
In 1883, The Captain of the Pole Star was published, as well as some other minor pieces he had written. Doyle was working on The Mystery of Cloomber. In 1884, Doyle published J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement, The Heiress of Glenmahowley, and The Cabman’s Story.16 After all of these books and stories were published, Doyle began to work on another piece called The Firm of Girdlestone. In 1885, Doyle published another story, The Man from Archangel. He then traveled with Jean to Ireland for their honeymoon.17
After writing all of these stories, he finally became involved in writing all of his Sherlock Holmes novels and other short stories. The first Sherlock Holmes novel was A Study in Scarlet in 1887, which was a great accomplishment in the United States. The second Sherlock Holmes novel was The Sign of the Four. In 1888, the first book edition of A Study in Scarlet was published by Ward Lock. In December, The Mystery of Cloomber was published.18 The Holmes stories became so popular that people actually pictured Sherlock Holmes as an imaginary fairy tale super hero.19 After twelve short stories and two series of Sherlock Holmes novels, Doyle made an important decision to kill off Sherlock Holmes in the novel The Final Problem, published in 1883. About ten years after Sherlock Holmes “died”, Doyle wrote The Return of Sherlock Holmes. This was published in sections at a time in The Strand magazine in 1903.20
Some of Arthur Conan Doyle’s later writings consisted of two medical short story collections, Round the Red Lamp and Round the Fire Stories. In 1894, a fictional autobiography, The Stark Munro Letters, was published in 1894.21 The Parasite and The Medal Brigadier Gerard were published in The Strand magazine in 1894. The very famous Arthur Conan Doyle novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles, was published different sections at a time in The Strand magazine in 1901. Conan Doyle wrote a true autobiography, Memories and Adventures in 1924. Arthur’s last published book; Edge of the Unknown, was published in 1930.22
World travel played a big role in the backgrounds for Doyle’s stories and novels. The Doyle family visited Berlin, Germany in 1890 to investigate bacteriologist Robert Koch’s claim to have possibly have found the cure for tuberculosis. In 1892, the Doyles traveled to Norway, where Conan Doyle went skiing for the first time. Shortly after this trip, Doyle helps introduce the sport of snow skiing in Switzerland.23 In 1895, Doyle and his wife traveled to Egypt for the winter season. A doctor told them that she would benefit from the therapeutic surrey air. Then they traveled up the Nile River to Sudan, an East African country. This trip later provided the background for The Tragedy of Korosko.
They traveled to South Africa during the Boer War in 1900, because Doyle was acting as a war correspondent. While in South Africa, Doyle published a novel called The Great Boer War in 1900. Then other short stories appeared in Cornhill Magazine, such as Some Military Lessons of War, in 1900.24 Following the end of the war, they returned home to Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex. About two years later, Doyle traveled to Buckingham Palace in London to be knighted.25
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took his family to Australia to spread the word about spiritualism.26 In 1926, The Land of Mist was published. Doyle had officially declared himself a spiritualist. He then wrote his first spiritualism book called The New Revelation, and a two-volume history book about spiritualism. In 1927, the death of Mary Foley Doyle, Arthur’s mother, touched the entire family.27
In 1929, The Maracot Deep and other stories were published.28 This was Doyle’s last collection of works and it was published in July, exactly one year before his death.29 On July 7, 1930 at 8:30 A.M. the final tragedy struck. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died of a heart attack at his home in Windlesham, Crowborough, weighing 243 pounds.30 He was survived by Jean Doyle and their three children. His death greatly saddened the world and all of his faithful followers.
Although Doyle was a very clumsy person, he was still a lover of sports, who played rugby and billiards like a paid professional. Doyle was a person everyone had doubted would ever turn out to be someone with a great deal of talent and use it to his ability. Doyle’s life was similar to a mixture of all of his characters, because of his high drama talent, energy by the truckload, and a very creative imagination. Conan Doyle’s own story was also one of personal adventure. He was the kind of man who never had too much fun and excitement. Julian Symons once said in one of her books that Arthur probably died right in the middle of writing another great collection of works. Doyle was one of the world’s most topclass writers in his time. The story of Doyle reminds us that we all have some adventure running through our veins and a distinctive imagination inside our brains.
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