Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: biography
Perhaps few people have not seen at least one of the numerous films and television series about the adventures of the legendary Sherlock Holmes and his bosom friend, Dr. Watson. The famous detective, who once was also portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch, came to the cinematic world from the literary lines of the famous English writer and publicist – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Childhood and youth
Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on May 22, 1859, in the capital of Scotland - Edinburgh. This picturesque city is rich in history and cultural heritage, as well as tourist attractions. Therefore, it can be assumed that in his childhood the future doctor and writer watched the columns of the "Mother Church of Presbyterianism" – the St Giles' Cathedral, and also enjoyed the flora and fauna of The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) with a palm greenhouse, lilac heather, and a vast collection of woody plants.
The author of the adventure stories about the life of Sherlock Holmes grew up and was raised in a respected Catholic family; his parents made a positive contribution to Scottish art and literature. His grandfather John Doyle was an Irish artist, political cartoonist, caricaturist, and lithographer. He came from a dynasty of prosperous silk and velvet merchants.
The writer's father, Charles Altamont Doyle, followed in the footsteps of his parents and left "a watercolor mark" on the paintings of the Victorian era. Charles carefully portrayed Gothic scenes with fairy-tale characters, animals and magical fairies on canvas. Besides, Doyle Sr. worked as an Illustrator (manuscripts of Lewis Carroll and Daniel Defoe were illustrated with his paintings), as well as an architect: stained glass windows in Glasgow Cathedral were made based on Charles' sketches.
On July 31, 1855, Charles proposed to 17-year-old Irish Catholic Mary Josephine Elizabeth (née Foley), who later gave her beloved seven children. By the way, Mrs. Foley was an educated woman; she read courtly novels and told children exciting stories about the fearless knights. The heroic epic in the style of Provence troubadours once and for all left a mark on the soul of little Arthur:
"The true love for literature and the urge to write comes from my mother, I think," - the writer recalled in his memories.
However, instead of books about brave knights by Walter Scott, Doyle often flipped through the pages of Thomas Mayne Reid, who stirred the minds of readers with his adventure novels. Only a few people knew that Charles could barely make both ends meet. The fact is that the man dreamed of becoming a famous artist, so that in the future his name was put next to Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Leonardo da Vinci. However, in his life, Doyle did not receive recognition and glory. His paintings were not in high demand, so his bright canvases were often covered with a thin layer of dust, and the money raised from small projects on illustrations was not enough to feed the family.
Charles found salvation in drinking: strong drinks helped the head of the family to escape from the harsh reality of life. However, alcohol only aggravated the situation in the house: every year, to forget the unfulfilled ambitions, Doyle's father drank more and more and triggered the feeling of contempt for his older brothers. In the end, the unknown artist spent his days being clinically depressed, and on October 10, 1893, Charles died.
The future writer attended the elementary school in Edinburgh. When Arthur was nine years old, supported financially by his eminent relatives, Doyle continued his education, this time in the Jesuit preparatory school, Hodder Place, Stonyhurst located in Lancashire. No one can say that Arthur was delighted with the idea of spending his childhood and teen years at this place. He despised class bigotry and religious prejudice and hated physical punishment: the teacher who was always ready to take out a whip only poisoned the existence of the young writer.
The boy did not do very well in mathematics; he did not like algebraic formulas and complicated equations, which could only bring apathy and melancholy to Arthur. For dislike of the subject praised by Aristotle and Descartes, Doyle received regular blows from fellow students, the brothers of Moriarty. The only joy for Arthur was sports: the young man enjoyed playing cricket.
Doyle often wrote letters to his mother, in which he described all the things that had happened during the days of his life as a student. Also, the young man learned the skills of a narrator: his hobby created lines of peers who were willing to hear the invented adventure stories from Arthur and even "paid" him by giving the answers to tests on geometry and algebra.
Doyle chose a literary career for a reason: as a six-year-old child, Arthur wrote his debut short story about a traveler and a tiger. However, the work turned out to be short and did not take even a whole page, because the tiger immediately made dinner out of unfortunate wanderer. The little boy acted on the principle of "brevity is the soul of wit," and when he grew up, Arthur explained that even back then he was a realist and did not see a way out from a difficult situation.
Indeed, this legendary author was not in the habit of using the plot device known as Deus ex machina, when the central character, caught at the wrong place in the wrong time, gets saved by the external or previously non-existent force. The fact that Doyle instead of writing initially chose the noble profession of a doctor is not surprising, because there are many such examples, even Chekhov said, "Medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress; when I get tired of one, I spend the night with the other."
The young man chose a white medical gown over a pen and inkwell because of the influence of a certain Dr. Bryan Charles Waller, who rented a room from Conan Doyle's mother. Therefore, after listening to some stories about his working life as a doctor, the young man without any hesitation submits documents to the University of Edinburgh. As a student, Doyle met other future writers – James M. Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson.
In his spare time, Arthur was doing his favorite thing – poring over the books of Bret Hart and Edgar Allan Poe, whose short story, The Gold-Bug, left a deep impression in the heart of the young man. Inspired by novels and mystical stories, the writer tries his hand in the literary field and creates a book entitled The Mystery of Sasassa Valley, and a short story "The American's Tale."
In 1881, Doyle received a bachelor's degree and went to medical training. It took the author of The Hound of the Baskervilles about ten years to give up the profession of an ophthalmologist and plunge into the versatile world of literature. In 1884, under the influence of Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan started working on his novel The Firm of Girdlestone (printed in 1890), a book about the criminal problems of English society. The plot is based on clever scams of people belonging to the underworld: the criminals twist people around their fingers, and then these innocent fools instantly find themselves under control of the dangerous merchants.
In March 1886, Sir Conan Doyle was working on A Study in Scarlet, which was already completed by April. It is in this work that readers first met the famous London detective, Sherlock Holmes. The prototype of the professional detective was a real man, Dr. Joseph Bell, a surgeon, and professor at the University of Edinburgh, who, using logic, was able to see a glaring mistake, as well as even a little white lie.
Joseph was idolized by his student, who diligently watched every movement of the master, famous for coming up with his deductive method. It turns out that cigarette butts, ashes, a clock, a stick bitten by a dog, and dirt under nails can reveal much more facts about man, than his biography.
The character named Sherlock Holmes was something brand new in the literary world, as the author of the detective stories sought to make him an ordinary man, not a mystical book hero, who possesses either only positive or negative qualities. Sherlock, like other mortals, has terrible habits: Holmes is careless in handling things, he regularly smokes strong cigars and cigarettes (his legendary pipe is an invention of illustrators) and in case of the complete absence of exciting crimes takes intravenous cocaine.
The short story A Scandal in Bohemia was the beginning of the famous collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which included 12 short stories about the detective and his friend, Dr. Watson. Also, Conan Doyle created four full-fledged novels, A Study in Scarlet, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Valley of Fear, and The Sign of the Four. Thanks to the popularity of his work, Doyle became almost the most highly paid writer both in England and around the world.
Rumor has it that at one point the creator got tired of Sherlock Holmes, so Arthur decided to kill the witty detective. But after the death of the fictional detective, Doyle began to receive threats and warnings that his fate would be sad if the writer did not revive the hero who was adored by the readers. Arthur did not dare to disobey the will of the dangerous man, so he continued working on numerous stories.
With his appearance, Arthur Conan Doyle, like Theodore Roosevelt, gave the impression of a strong and powerful man, who could be someone's hero. The author of books enjoyed doing sports throughout his whole life, and even in old age could easily beat the young. According to rumors, it was Doyle who taught the Swiss to ski, organized car racing and became the first person who rode a motorbike.
The private life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a storehouse of information enough to create a whole book, which would surely fascinate many readers. For example, he went to sea on a whaling ship, where he served as a ship's doctor. The writer admired the spaces of the deep sea, and also hunted seals. Besides, the genius of literature served on dry cargo ships off the coast of West Africa, where he got acquainted with the life and traditions of other people.
During the First World War, Doyle temporarily suspended literary activity and tried to go to the front as a volunteer to show his contemporaries an example of courage and bravery. But the writer had to cool his heat, as his proposal was rejected. After these events, Arthur began to publish journalistic articles: there were essays on a military theme written by the famous author in the edition of The Times almost every day.
He personally organized groups of volunteers and tried to become the leader of "the redemption raid." Conan Doyle could not remain idle in this troubled time, because every minute he was thinking about terrible tortures that his compatriots had to go through.
As for the love relationships, the first special friend of the legendary author was Louisa Hawkins, who gave him two children and died of consumption in 1906. A year later, Arthur proposed to Jean Leckie, the woman with whom he was secretly in love since 1897. In the second marriage, the writer's family was enriched with three more children: Denis Percy Stewart, Adrian Malcolm, who became the writer's biographer, and Jean Lena Annette.
Although Doyle called himself a realist, he reverently studied occult literature and conducted spiritual sessions. The writer hoped that the spirits of the dead would give answers to his questions; in particular, Arthur worried about whether there was life after death.
In the last years of Doyle's life, nothing foretold troubles, the creator of The Lost World was full of energy and strength, in the 1920s, the writer visited almost all continents of the world. But during a trip to Scandinavia, the health of the literary genius deteriorated, so throughout the spring he stayed in bed surrounded by family and friends.
As soon as Doyle felt better, he went to the capital of Great Britain to make his last attempt to talk to the Home Secretary and demand the repeal of the law which were used by the government to pursue the followers of spiritualism.
Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle died at his home in Sussex of a heart attack in the early morning of July 7, 1930. Initially, the tomb of the creator was located near his house, but later the remains of the writer were reburied in Minstead churchyard in the New Forest, Hampshire.
Sherlock Holmes series
- 1887 - A Study in Scarlet
- 1890 - The Sign of the Four
- 1892 - The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
- 1894 - The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
- 1902 - The Hound of the Baskervilles
- 1905 - The Return of Sherlock Holmes
- 1915 - The Valley of Fear
- 1917 - His Last Bow
- 1927 - The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
Professor Challenger series
- 1902 - The Lost World
- 1913 - The Poison Belt
- 1926 - The Land of Mist
- 1928 - "When the World Screamed"
- 1929 - "The Disintegration Machine"
- 1884 - "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement"
- 1887 - "Uncle Jeremy's Household"
- 1889 - The Mystery of Cloomber
- 1890 - The Firm of Girdlestone
- 1890 - The Captain of the Polestar and Other Tales
- 1921 - The Coming of the Fairies