Arthur Conan Doyle
by Niamh Wood Arthur Conan Doyle is most well known as the inventor of Sherlock Holmes. He had a varied life as a writer, journalist, and public figure.
Arthur Conan Doyle was born on May 22nd, 1859, in Edinburgh, Scotland, into an affluent, Irish-catholic family. At age 9, Doyle was sent to England, away from his parents, to attend Hodder Place in Stonyhurst – a Jesuit Preparatory school). He was educated here from 1868 until 1870. Doyle later went on to study at Stonyhurst college for five years. For Doyle, the boarding school experience was brutal. He recounted being bullied and the ruthless corporal punishment they had in place for students. Despite this, Doyle found comfort in his flair for storytelling and over time developed an enthusiastic audience of younger students.
After graduating from Stonyhurst college in 1876, Doyle began attending the University of Edinburgh working towards a medical degree. Doyle’s mentor, Professor Dr. Joseph Bell, is who inspired Doyle to create his renowned fictional detective character, Sherlock Holmes. While studying as a medical student, Doyle decided to take a proper stab at writing. He first wrote a short story called ‘The mystery of sasassa valley’ and soon after went on to write ‘The American Tale’ which was published in London society.
During Doyle’s third year at university, he worked as a surgeon on a whaling boat sailing for the Arctic circle. The voyage awakened Doyle’s sense of adventure and imagination which he incorporated into a story, ‘Captain of the Pole Star'. Doyle returned to Edinburgh med school in 1880. It was around this time that he became increasingly invested in spiritualism and denounced his Roman Catholic faith. In 1881, Doyle received his Bachelor of Medicine degree.
After graduating, Doyle went on to get his first paying job as a medical officer on board the steamship ‘Mayumba’, traveling from Liverpool to Africa. After his time on the steamer, Doyle settled in Plymouth, England before relocating to Portsmouth and opening his first medical practice. He struggled trying to balance his medical career with his writing career and his attempts to gain recognition as an author. He eventually decided to take a leap of faith and give up medicine altogether to devote all his time and energy to writing and his faith.
In 1885, Doyle met Louisa Hawkins and the couple got married and had two children together, a daughter and a son. In 1893, Louisa was diagnosed with tuberculosis and sadly succumbed to the illness in 1906, dying in Doyle’s arms. The following year Doyle remarried a woman called Jean Leckie, with whom he would have two sons and a daughter.
In 1886 Doyle began to receive some acknowledgment as an author. This started with his mystery novel ‘A Tangled Skein’ which he later renamed ‘A study in scarlet’. This was the book that first introduced the wildly popular character detective Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Watson. These characters finally earned Doyle the recognition that he had worked so hard for. The book was published in Beeton's Christmas annual. In 1893, with the hope of concentrating on more ‘serious’ writing, Doyle attempted to kill off Holmes. However, a public outcry later made him resurrect Holmes which subsequently ended up earning him a lot of money! Although Doyle is predominantly remembered for his Sherlock Holmes tales also wrote a handful of historical novels and some on spirituality. In 1928, Doyle’s final twelve stories about Sherlock Holmes were published in a compilation entitled ‘The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes.
In 1929 Doyle was diagnosed with Angina Pectoris, a heart condition. He stubbornly ignored his doctors’ warnings and embarked on a spiritual tour through the Netherlands. He returned home with severe chest pain and ended up bedridden in his home in Crowborough England. On July 7th, 1930, Doyle passed away from a heart attack.