Blog Post #1009, February 21st, 2018, Author Spotlight: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Novelist Jeff W. Horton
Blog Post #1009
February 21st, 2018
Author Spotlight: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Author Name: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Birthdate: May 22, 1859
Where: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: July 7, 1930
First Novel : A Study in Scarlet 1887
Some other novels by Conan Doyle:
Micah Clarke 1889
The Mystery of Cloomber 1889
The Sign of the Four 1890
The Firm of Girdlestone 1890
The White Company 1891
The Doings of Raffles Haw 1891
The Great Shadow 1892
The Refugees 1893
The Parasite 1894
The Stark Munro Letters 1895
Rodney Stone 1896
Uncle Bernac 1897
The Tragedy of the Korosko 1898
A Duet, with an Occasional Chorus 1899
The Hound of the Baskervilles 1902
Sir Nigel 1906
The Lost World 1912
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is a name the world is unlikely to ever forget, for it is the name of the man who gave us exciting, thrilling stories about three very memorable characters; Sherlock Holmes, Dr. John Watson, and Professor Challenger, among many others, some were very well-known, some not so much.
I recall reading so many stories about the world’s most famous detective, and his many adventures together with his faithful and trusted companion, Doctor John Watson. The detective’s incredible ability to deduce where a person had been, how long they’d been there, and what they been doing while there, never failed to leave the rest of us amazed, scratching our heads, nodding, and saying, yeah, “I could have done that”, when of course, we never could! Those stories were, after the stories of the Bible, unquestionably among my favorite.
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland the son of Charles Doyle, a moderately successful artist and an alcoholic, and Mary Doyle, a well-educated, well-read woman at the age of seventeen, the birth of the brilliant child was to be one of Charles’ biggest accomplishments.
As Charles was not financially wealthy himself, more wealthy members of the family took it upon themselves to pay for young Arthur’s education so at the age of nine he was sent away to London to be educated. When he returned to his home in Scotland at the age of eighteen, his father’s health, afflicted as it was by alcoholism, had deteriorated to the point that Arthur and his mother had to have Charles committed to an asylum.
Traditionally, Arthur would have followed in his father’s footsteps and gone on to become an artist, but he had other ideas. Influenced by a boarder his mother had taken on to help cover expenses, a young doctor who had recently graduated from Edinburgh University, Conan Doyle ended up attending the same university in pursuit of a medical degree. While at the university, he met several students who would, one day, become famous authors themselves, including James Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson. It was most fortuitous, perhaps, that he met a very unique doctor there, an instructor, named Doctor Joseph Bell. Dr. Bell had renowned powers of deduction, observation, and logic, with many witnesses claiming he was able to determine what was ailing a patient by merely giving them a quick look-over when they’d walk into his office, before ever examining them. It was said he could noticed the smallest details on the clothing, the face, the shoes, the skin, and determine where a person had been, what they’d eaten that day, etc., much like the fictional character. Following is an example offered by Conan Doyle himself.
He recounted this celebrated example of Bell’s abilities when a patient whom Bell had never seen or talked to before came forward:
“Well, my man,” Bell said, after a quick glance at the patient, “you’ve served in the army.”
“Aye, sir,” the patient replied.
“Not long discharged?”
“A Highland regiment?”
“A non-com officer?”
“Stationed at Barbados?”
Bell turned to his bewildered students. “You see, gentlemen,” he explained, “the man was a respectful man but did not remove his hat. They do not in the army, but he would have learned civilians ways had he been long discharged. He has an air of authority and he is obviously Scottish. As to Barbados, his complaint is elephantiasis, which is West Indian and not British, and the Scottish regiments are at present in that particular island.”
For Bell, observation skills are integral to become a great doctor. “In teaching the treatment of disease and accident,” he said, “all careful teachers have first to show the students how to recognize accurately the case. The recognition depends in great measure on the accurate and rapid appreciation of small points in which the diseased differs from the healthy state. In fact, the student must be taught to observe.”
After three years at the university Conan Doyle left for a year to serve as ship’s surgeon on board the Hope, a whaling vessel sailing to the arctic. The following year he completed his studies and earned his degree. After serving aboard another ship, this time to Africa, for a year, he left it upon returning to port and eventually opened up his own practice.
It was while practicing as a physician that he did most of his writing. Although he’d written a couple of short stories while at the university, it was while practicing as a physician, in 1886, that he wrote his first novel, the work that would bring him fame and fortune the world over for centuries; A Study in Scarlet, the world’s introduction to Sherlock Holmes, Dr. John Watson, and 221B Baker Street.
Many tales of the adventures of the great detective followed of course, much to the delight of readers all over the world. (How many other authors are jealous out there about now, lol!)
Of course, the world was just as excited to greet Professor Challenger on his trip to a mysterious location in South America, and his amazing discovery of prehistoric life there.
I’ve often wondered about Conan Doyle’s knighting. I’d always assumed it had been on account of his significant achievement. In researching for this post, I found that when the Boer War started around the turn of the 20th Century, Conan Doyle had attempted to join the war effort. Turned down because he was forty-years-old and overweight, he was able to serve as a medical doctor. It was later, for these efforts, that King Edward VII knighted him. There were rumors, however, that the king had been a huge Sherlock Holmes fan and hoped that adding Conan Doyle to his Honors list would encourage him to write more, but who knows? Certainly the former seems more likely when combined with his literary contributions.
While Sir Arthur Conan Doyle later developed an interest in things mystical and the occult, most likely born out of the passing of so many family members (mother, father, brother, son, nephews, wife), it is without doubt for his great literary accomplishments that the world will remember will remember this great author.
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