Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), British writer and doctor, famous as the creator of the most celebrated detective in the history of fiction, Sherlock Holmes.
Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh and educated at Stonyhurst College and the University of Edinburgh. During his studies he took various minor assistantships, and served as ship's doctor on a Greenland whaling boat. From 1882 to 1890 he practised medicine in Southsea, England, where he met and married his first wife, Louise Hawkins. In 1885 he was awarded a doctorate from Edinburgh for his dissertation on syphilis. While at Southsea, he began to send short stories to magazine editors, and his first published story, “The Mystery of Sasassa Valley” (1879), was accepted by Chambers's Journal. In 1887 his novel A Study in Scarlet appeared in Beeton's Christmas Annual, and introduced readers to Sherlock Holmes, a detective who, with his ingenious skill of deductive reasoning, was based on Dr Joseph Bell, one of Conan Doyle's university professors. Narrated by Holmes's companion, Dr John Watson, it is a tale of a transatlantic revenge-killing. A sequel, The Sign of the Four, was published in 1890. The following year, Conan Doyle began a cycle of Holmes tales in the Strand magazine, the first time that any writer had used a pair of recurring characters to link a series of stories. He moved to London, intending to practise as an eye specialist, but soon opted to pursue his literary career full time.
Despite the success of the Sherlock Holmes adventures, Conan Doyle was never comfortable with the popularity of his hero. While he wanted to devote his time to writing historical romances such as Micah Clarke (1889), The White Company (1891), and his play, The Story of Waterloo (1894), the public clamoured for more detective fiction. In 1893 he attempted to resolve this problem by sending Holmes plunging to his death at the Reichenbach Falls, locked in the arms of his arch-enemy, Professor Moriarty. Conan Doyle was persuaded to revive Holmes for a novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles which was first published in serial form in the Strand magazine in 1901-1902, and then, in a further series of short stories, revealed that the encounter at Reichenbach had been fatal only for Moriarty. Between 1908 and 1927 he continued to produce occasional Holmes adventures, and another novel, The Valley of Fear (1915). The final collection of stories was prefaced by his remark: “I fear that Mr Sherlock Holmes may become like one of those popular tenors, who, having outlived their time, are still tempted to make repeated farewell bows to their indulgent audiences.” Conan Doyle was proud that Holmes's methods had influenced contemporary police practice and, in 1907, turned detective himself to clear the name of George Edalji, who in 1903 had been wrongly convicted of cattle-maiming.
Conan Doyle's prolific output of magazine fiction produced some other memorable characters. A cycle of stories involving a Napoleonic adventurer, Brigadier Gerard, appeared in the Strand from 1895. The Lost World (1912) introduced the irascible Professor Edward Challenger, and told of his encounter with dinosaurs and primitive humans on a South American plateau. Four more Challenger stories followed.
Conan Doyle served in the South African War (Boer War) as a doctor, and on his return to England wrote The Great Boer War (1900) and The War in South Africa: Its Causes and Conduct (1902), justifying England's participation. For these works he was knighted in 1902. In 1906 he was defeated as the parliamentary candidate for Hawick District, standing as a Unionist (Conservative). During World War I he wrote the History of the British Campaign in France and Flanders (6 vols., 1916-1920) as a tribute to British bravery. Conan Doyle had long been an advocate of spiritualism, but the death of his eldest son in the war intensified his interest in such matters. He lectured and published extensively on the subject, became a leading member of the Psychical Research Society, and in The Land of Mist (1926), converted Professor Challenger to its doctrines. He was a victim of a famous hoax involving photographs of fairies, produced in 1921 by two young girls from Cottingley, England. His autobiography, Memories and Adventures (1924), relates his military exploits, his psychic beliefs, and his meetings with literary figures of the period, including Oscar Wilde and George Meredith.
In 1885, he married Louisa (or Louise) Hawkins, known as "Touie", who suffered from tuberculosis and died on 4 July 1906. He married Jean Elizabeth Leckie in 1907, whom he had first met and fallen in love with in 1897, but had maintained a platonic relationship with her while his first wife Louisa was still alive, out of loyalty to her. Jean died in London on 27 June 1940. Conan Doyle had five children, two with his first wife and three with his second wife.
Conan Doyle was found clutching his chest in the hall of "Windlesham", his house in Crowborough, East Sussex, on 7 July 1930. He soon died of his heart attack, aged 71. His last words were directed toward his wife: "You are wonderful."
Questions & Answers:
Q: Who was the criminal that inspired the character of Moriarty? How often does Moriarty appear in the Sherlock Holmes stories?
A: Professor James Moriarty: The character of Professor James Moriarty makes quite an impression. For all his notoriety he appears in surprisingly few Sherlock Holmes stories.
Moriarty only directly appears in two stories, The Final Problem and The Valley of Fear. He's mentioned in five other stories, The Empty House, The Norwood Builder, The Missing Three-Quarter, The Illustrious Client, and His Last Bow.
Q: 221B Baker Street, London
A: Within the timeline of the stories, Holmes lived in London at 221B Baker Street from approximately 1881 to 1903. During this time, the later part of the Victorian period, the British Empire was at its zenith and London was the center of all things.
At the beginning of the Victorian era in 1837 the population of London was 2 million. The city's population at the time of Queen Victoria's death in 1901 was estimated to be 6.5 million.
The East End of London contained the neighborhoods where the poor and working class lived. The more affluent people lived in the West End. Neighborhoods in the West End included Mayfair, Kensington and Regent's Park. Baker Street was also located in the West End.
ad Baker Street: While there really is a Baker Street, there was no 221 Baker Street during the years of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Baker Street was very short, less than a mile long. The street ran north to south with numbered addresses ranging from 1 to 85. In 1930 some of the surrounding streets were renamed, buildings were renumbered and Baker Street became much longer. At that point 221 Baker Street was a real address.
Soon after this the building at 221 Baker Street was demolished. A new structure, Abbey House, took its place. Abbey House served as the head office for the Abbey Road Building Society from 1932 until 2002. Today the building is still one of the London offices of Abbey.
Because of the unique relationship between the company and Sherlock Holmes, Abbey commissioned a statue of Holmes. That statue now stands at the entrance of the Baker Street Tube Station. Abbey also has a person who deals with the cards and letters, as many as 30 a month, that come addressed to Sherlock Holmes.
Q: The Death of Sherlock Holmes
A: While Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is best known for his Sherlock Holmes stories, that was not the work he valued the most. In fact Conan Doyle once referred to them as "an elementary form of fiction". He was very proud of his historical novels and considered them some of his finest work.
While his Sherlock Holmes stories were hugely successful Conan Doyle was concerned that they were keeping him from more important work. As early as 1891 he shared with his mother his concerns about Holmes. "He takes my mind from better things."
As time went on Conan Doyle found himself more closely identified with Sherlock Holmes to the exclusion of his other works. "I weary of his name," he told his mother.
In his own mind the matter was settled. Holmes must die. The only question was how? Conan Doyle wanted a dramatic finish for the great Sherlock Holmes.
Q: Dr. Joseph Bell: Was Sherlock Holmes a real person?
A: Not exactly, but Dr. Joseph Bell, the man who inspired the character of Sherlock Holmes shared many qualities with the famous detective. Conan Doyle met Dr. Bell (pictured here) in 1877 at the University of Edinburgh Medical School. Conan Doyle was studying to be a doctor and Bell was one of his professors.
Bell was thirty-nine years old when Conan Doyle first attended one of his lectures. He is said to have walked with a jerky kind of a step that communicated great energy. His nose and chin were angular and his eyes twinkled with shrewdness. In addition to being a brilliant doctor, Bell was also an amateur poet, a sportsman and a bird-watcher.
By the end of Conan Doyle's second year Bell had selected him to serve as an assistant in his ward. This gave Conan Doyle the opportunity to view Dr. Bell's remarkable ability to quickly deduce a great deal about a patient.
Q: A Seven-Percent Solution
A: The notion that Sherlock Holmes used cocaine seems absurd, but it's true. In A Study in Scarlet, the first work featuring Holmes, there were hints that Sherlock Holmes might have been using drugs. Later it became quite clear that Sherlock Holmes was indeed using drugs. A little later in the story Holmes states, "It is cocaine," he said, "a seven-per-cent solution. Would you care to try it?"
The Return of Sherlock Holmes The Return of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of 13 Sherlock Holmes stories, originally published in 1903-1904, by Arthur Conan Doyle.
The book was first published on 7 March 1905 by Georges Newnes, Ltd and in a Colonial edition by Longmans. 30,000 copies were made of the initial print run. The US edition by McClure, Phillips & Co. added another 28,000 copies to the run.
This was the first Holmes collection since 1893, when Holmes had "died" in "The Adventure of the Final Problem". Having published The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1901–1902 (although setting it before Holmes' death) Doyle came under intense pressure to revive his famous character.
This collection contains stories set from 1894, giving Holmes the period from 1891-94 to explain - "The Great Hiatus" has been the subject of intense speculation and analysis by Sherlockian enthusiasts.
Also of note is Watson's statement at the end of the cycle that Holmes has retired, and forbids him to publish any more stories.
The collections contains the following stories:
1. The Adventure of the Empty House (the return of Holmes)
2. The Adventure of the Norwood Builder
3. The Adventure of the Dancing Men
4. The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist
5. The Adventure of the Priory School
6. The Adventure of Black Peter
7. The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton
8. The Adventure of the Six Napoleons
9. The Adventure of the Three Students
10. The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez
11. The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter
12. The Adventure of the Abbey Grange
13. The Adventure of the Second Stain
The best Sherlock Holmes for me has always been Jeremy Brett (3 November 1935 – 12 September 1995), born Peter Jeremy William Huggins, was an English actor famous, among other things, for his portrayal of the detective Sherlock Holmes in four British television series: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.
Peter Jeremy William Huggins was born at Berkswell Grange in Berkswell on 3 November 1935, the son of a Lord Lieutenant of Warwickshire and an heiress of the Cadbury chocolate family. He was educated at the independent school Eton College but later said that he was an "academic disaster", attributing his learning difficulties to dyslexia. However, he excelled at singing and was a member of the college choir. He became a drama student but his father demanded that he change his name for the sake of the family honour. Read more about Jeremy Brett by clicking here
B. MISCELLANEOUS WORKS
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You can listen/download the book (.mp3 file) by clicking here