Author Spotlight: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a writer credited for creating arguably one of the most famous literary characters in history—Sherlock Holmes. Even though his relationship with the character wasn’t swell up to the end, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is still remembered as a great author, whose fame matches his creation.
The second of seven children, Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on May 22, 1859. At nine, he entered a Jesuit college in Lancashire in preparation for his admission to Stonyhurst College, which he achieved two years later. There, he founded a small magazine, the Stonyhurst Figaro. In 1875, he left school, finding that Jesuit education did not suit him, and rejected Christianity, opting to be agnostic. He began medical studies in Edinburgh in 1876, where he met two men that eventually influenced his protagonist. Dr. Joseph Bell is a surgery professor who uses deductive methods on his patients and their diseases.
Doyle earned money while studying by being a medical assistant in Sheffield, Birmingham, and Shropshire. In 1879, The Mystery of Sasassa Valley and The American’s Tale, two of his first short stories, were published anonymously. He finished his studies in 1881 and enlisted as a doctor aboard a steamer to western Africa. He left after getting seriously ill and had a brief partnership in 1882 with a colleague. After the partnership failed, he opened his ophthalmology practice in Southsea, where he had plenty of time to read and write.
In 1885, he married Louisa Hawkins, who strongly encouraged him to become a writer. In 1886, he finished his first novel, The Firm of Girdlestone, but was unable to find publishers.
In 1887, he wrote A Study in Scarlet, the first story featuring Sherlock Holmes. Several publishers rejected it, but it was bought by Ward, Lock & Co. for only £25 to be published in the Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887.
In 1889, Doyle and Oscar Wilde were hired to write stories for the Lippincott Magazine. Wilde wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Sign of Four, again featuring Holmes.
In 1891, he proposed new stories featuring Holmes for the first issue of the Strand Magazine. These stories were A Scandal in Bohemia and The Red-Headed League. He wrote five more stories and renewed his contract for six months, having published one story per month. The success was so great that he abandoned medicine and devoted himself to writing. Later that year, he had intended to kill Holmes in order to create other stories. His mother, however, supplied him with more plots which delayed this plan.
He and his family moved to Davos, Switzerland, in 1892 to aid his wife suffering from tuberculosis. There he was inspired by the Reichenbach Falls to write Sherlock Holmes’s demise. After twelve new stories, Holmes died in a fall by Professor Moriarty in The Final Problem. The public, and even his mother, greatly opposed this, but he did not bring Holmes back to life.
Doyle took a break from Holmes by doing lectures in the States and introducing skiing in the Alps. While in Davos, he wrote The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard and Rodney Stone. He also became a war correspondent for the Westminster Gazette during the conflict between the British and the dervishes. The events of the conflict inspired yet another novel, The Tragedy in Korosko. Doyle also engaged in the war between England and South Africa in 1899.
Sherlock Holmes returns after The Hounds of the Baskervilles, with 33 new stories published between September 1903 (The Adventure of the Empty House) and March 1927 (The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place).
In 1912, Doyle created another memorable character, Professor Challenger, from his novel The Lost World. This featured the main character stranded somewhere in South America, discovering prehistoric flora and fauna. Four novels followed Professor Challenger.
Sherlock Holmes returned again in a second full-length novel, The Valley of Fear (1914). This did not satisfy his readers as Holmes is mostly absent in a great part of the novel. Later that year, he published His Last Bow, in which Sherlock Holmes defeats a German spy ring.
In 1928, the last twelve stories were compiled in The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes.
Arthur Conan Doyle died on July 7, 1930, leaving behind dozens of stories, two memorable fictional characters, and a literary legacy which will be remembered by many generations.
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