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Biography Of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Creator of a brilliant, intellectual and consulting detective Sherlock Holmes

Tina S
Tina S
Apr 30, 2010
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British writer, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, who is 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.

He was born on May 22, 1859, in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Doyles were a prosperous Irish-Catholic family, who had a prominent position in the world of Art. Charles Altamont Doyle, Arthur's father, a chronic alcoholic, was the only member of his family, who apart from fathering a brilliant son, never accomplished anything of note. At the age of twenty-two, Charles had married Mary Foley, a vivacious and very well educated young woman of seventeen.

Mary Doyle had a passion for books and was a master storyteller. Her son Arthur wrote of his mother's gift of "sinking her voice to a horror-stricken whisper" when she reached the culminating point of a story. There was little money in the family and even less harmony on account of his father's excesses and erratic behavior.

Arthur's touching description of his mother's beneficial influence is also poignantly described in his biography, "In my early childhood, as far as I can remember anything at all, the vivid stories she would tell me stand out so clearly that they obscure the real facts of my life."

Doyle's second wife, Jean, said: "My husband's mother was a very remarkable and highly cultured woman. She had a dominant personality, wrapped up on the most charming womanly exterior." 

At the age of fourteen Doyle had learned French so that he could read Jules Verne in the author's original language. Charles Altamot 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. 

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 thought. Later he used his friends and teachers from Stonyhurst College as models for his characters in the Holmes stories, among them two boys named Moriarty. Doyle 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 Southsea near Porsmouth in Hampshire until 1891 when he became a full time writer. He 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. 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?" Other authors sometimes suggest additional influences—for instance, the famous Edgar Allan Poe character, C. Auguste Dupin.

Already at the end of 1891, Doyle planned to abandon the series. "I have had such an overdose of [Holmes] that I feel towards him as I do toward pâté de foie gras, of which I once ate too much, so that the name of it gives me a sickly feeling to this day", he confessed.

In 1893 Doyle 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." In his diary Doyle wrote simply, "Killed Holmes", without understanding that his creation was already indestructible.

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 character in 'The Empty House' (1903). "I moved my head to look at the cabinet behind me. When I turned again Sherlock Holmes was standing smiling at me across my study table. I rose to my feet, stared at him for some seconds in utter amazement, and then it appears that I must have fainted for the first and last time in my life." (from 'The Empty House')

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, a legend at the medical school. Another model for the detective was Eugène Francois Vidoq, a former criminal, who became the first chief of the Sûreté on the principle of 'set a thief to catch a thief.' Holmes's character have inspired many later writers to continue his adventures.

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 attempts to find proof of existence beyond the grave. In particular, according to some, 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. He also was a member of the renowned paranormal organisation The Ghost Club, that focused – and focuses – on the scientific study of alleged paranormal activities in order to prove (or refute) the existence of paranormal phenomena.

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." The epitaph on his gravestone in the churchyard at Minstead in the New Forest, Hampshire, reads:

STEEL TRUE

BLADE STRAIGHT

ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE

KNIGHT

PATRIOT, PHYSICIAN & MAN OF LETTERS


 

Keywords: Biography Of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ,sherlock Holmes,Scotland,Mary Doyle,Roman Catholic faith,Louise Hawkins,Edgar Allan Poe,A Study in Scarlet,'The Empty House',Death of Sherlock Holmes.



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