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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Beginnings
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1859. He went on to study medicine at Edinburgh University, and was inspired by the methods of diagnosis of Joseph Bell, professor of anatomy. These methods later became the basis for Sherlock Holmes' powers of deduction. Conan Doyle set up practice as a doctor in Southsea, England in 1882 and began to write.

Family

In 1885 he married Louise Hawkins, who suffered from tuberculosis and eventually died in 1906. He married Miss Jean Leckie in 1907, whom he had first met and fallen in love with in 1897 but had maintained a platonic relationship with out of loyalty to his first wife. Doyle had five children, two with his first wife (Mary and Kingsley), and three with his second wife (Jean, Denis, and Adrian).

The Writings

A Study in Scarlet, first published in 1887, introduced the public to Sherlock Holmes, a brilliant and shrewd detective. Doctor Watson, Holmes' friend and chronicler detailed Holmes' ability to solve virtually any criminal problem presented to him.

Doyle & Holmes

The fictional doctor brought the fictional detective international fame and recognition. Both were treated as living persons, so compelling was Conan Doyle's portrayal. Readers were so impressed by Holmes and his amazing skills of detection that more stories followed. When Conan Doyle tired of the character and brought about what seemed the end of Holmes in The Final Problem, loyal followers were outraged. Conan Doyle finally relented and Holmes was reinstated at 221B Baker Street.

In 1890 Doyle studied the eye in Vienna, and in 1891 moved to London to set up a practice as an oculist. This also gave him more time for writing, and in November 1891 he wrote to his mother: "I think of slaying Holmes... and winding him up for good and all. He takes my mind from better things." In December 1893 he did so, with Holmes and his arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty apparently plunging to their deaths together over a waterfall in the story "The Final Problem". Public outcry led him to bring the character back—Doyle returned to the story in "The Adventure of the Empty House", saying that only Moriarty had fallen, but, since Holmes had other dangerous enemies, he had arranged to be temporarily "dead" also. Holmes eventually appeared in 56 short stories and four of Doyle's novels (he has since appeared in many novels and stories by other authors, as well).

Sherlock in Practice

Doyle also caused two cases to be reopened. The first case, in 1906, involved a shy half-British, half-Indian lawyer named George Edalji, who had allegedly penned threatening letters and mutilated animals. Police were dead set on Edalji's guilt, even though the mutilations continued even after their suspect was jailed. It was partially as a result of this case that the Court of Criminal Appeal was established in 1907, so not only did Conan Doyle help George Edalji, his work helped to establish a way to correct other miscarriages of justice. The second case—that of Oscar Slater, a German Jew and gambling-den operator convicted of bludgeoning an 82-year-old woman in 1908—excited Doyle's curiosity because of inconsistencies in the prosecution case and a general sense that Slater was framed. It is not known whether either enjoyed the same resolution as Holmes' clients.

Knighthood

Following the Boer War in South Africa at the turn of the century and the condemnation from around the world over Britain's conduct, Doyle wrote a short pamphlet titled The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct which was widely translated. Doyle believed that it was this pamphlet that resulted in his being knighted and appointed as Deputy-Lieutenant of Surrey in 1902. He also wrote the longer book The Great Boer War in 1900. During the early years of the twentieth century Sir Arthur twice ran for Parliament as a Liberal Unionist, once in Edinburgh and once in the Border Burghs, but although he received a respectable vote he was not elected. He did, however, become one of the first Honorary Members of the Ski Club of Great Britain.

Mary Doyle

Mary Doyle - Arthur's mother was of Irish descent and had traced her ancestry back to the Plantagenet line. Arthur Conan Doyle was one of the ten strong Doyle family.


The End
Conan Doyle died in 1930, but today, over one hundred years since the first publication of A Study in Scarlet, the public's fascination with Sherlock Holmes has not waned. Sidney Paget's illustrations expertly captures both the mystery and complexity of Holmes' character and the late nineteenth century England of gaslight, horse drawn cabs, dark streets and even darker criminality.

 

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