My fascination with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s talent began when my father began renting Sherlock Holme’s videos in the 1980s, the Basil Rathbone version ,where Hollywood proves that Holmes is timeless and can, to some extent, be transported through various times in history. Then, for me, came one or two stories I had read. Next came the TV series version of the Lost World, which I watched regularly. Then I became obsessed with Jeremy Brett’s portrayal of Holmes.
It wasn’t until recently that I started to do research on the man behind Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Before my research began, I knew he was a writer and a physician. I knew he was Scottish. Of course, I knew he wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories and The Lost World. Now, I am going to relay to you, my readers, some more fascinating information on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He really was a jack of all trades.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born May 22, 1859, the third of ten siblings. While going to university, what we would call here undergrad, he wrote short stories and the first short story he published appeared in Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal before he turned 20 years of age.
Sir Arthur studied medicine from 1876-1881 at the University of Edinburgh. He later was employed as a doctor aboard the SS Mayumba during an expedition to the West African Coast. Soon after he came back from the journey he completed his doctorate and did his dissertation on tabes dorsalis . Tabes dorsalis is the slow deterioration of certain sensory neurons that carry information. He finished his dissertation in 1885.
While at university, Sir Arthur, was a student of Joseph Bell. Joseph Bell put emphasis on close observation in the determining of diagnoses. To convey his point, Bell would pick a random person and through observation, deduce what the person’s occupation was and what their recent activities were. Sound familiar? Bell was the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. When Sir Arthur tried to kill off Sherlock Holmes , there was an uproar and protests all over the United Kingdom broke out.
In 1885, he married Louisa Hawkins, who was called Touie. She died of tuberculosis in 1906. The next year he married Jean Eliza beth Leckie, who died in 1940. He had five children. With his first wife, there was Mary Louise and Arthur Alleyne Kingsley. With his second wife there was Denis Pierce Stewart, Adrian Malcolm, and Jean Lena Annette.
Following the Boer War, Sir Arthur, wrote a pamphlet titled The War in South Africa:Its Cause and Conduct , which justified the United Kingdom’s role in the Boer War. During the war, he was a volunteer doctor at the Langham Field Hospital at Blomfontein between March and June 1900. Because of his service and the writing of the pamphlet supporting the United Kingdom’s stance during the Boer War, Sir Arthur was knighted and appointed as the Deputy Lieutenant of Surrey. Around this time be wrote a longer account of the war in South Africa called The Great Boer War.
Sir Arthur was involved heavily in politics. Sometime in the earlier part of the twentieth century, Sir Arthur ran for Parliament as a member of the Liberal-Unionist party. While people did vote for him, he was never elected. He was involved in the campaign for the Congo Free State which was led by Ed Morel and Roger Casement. Sir Arthur wrote the pamphlet, Crime of the Congo . Later he broke ties with Morel and Casement and became a pacifist during World War I.
About the time he became an advocate for the Congo Free State, he wrote The Lost World.
An advocate for justice, Sir Arthur, personally investigated two closed cases. In 1906, a man named George Eadalji, a lawyer, was accused of writing threatening letters and mutilating animals. The police were convinced of Eadalji’s guilt even though the mutilations went on after he was jailed. Sir Arthur was able to get him off. This case was part of the reason the Court of Criminal Appeal was set up in 1907.
The second case involved Oscar Slater,a German Jew who operated a gambling den. He was convicted of bludgeoning and 82 year old woman to death in 1908. Sir Arthur, when going through the case files himself, was able to find numerous inconsistencies; so much so that he payed for Slater’s successful appeal in 1928.
Due to the death of one of his sons, his brother in law, Touie, and other family members, Sir Arthur became quite depressed. He eventually turned to spiritualism. He believed primarily in Christian Spiritualism. He also was a founding member of The Ghost Club. In 1921 he wrote The Coming of Fairies and in 1926 he wrote The History of Spiritualism. An interesting note: Sir Arthur was friends with the incomparable Harry Houdini, who was also a Spiritualist. Houdini,in part, inspired Sir Arthur’s The Edge of the Unknown.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died on July 7, 1930 of a heart attack.
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