Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Biography
Aside from Scotsman Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle remains Edinburgh's most famous literary son, though he was not a Scots through genetics but only through birth and breeding.
Born May 22, 1859, young Arthur Conan Doyle was raised in a tumultous, proverty-stricken household. One of ten children in an Irish-Catholic family, he grew up watching his mother hold the family together emotionally and financially through the long stages of alcoholism that eventually destroyed his father.
Though so poor that lodgers were taken into their home, the Doyles were yet from an established and wealthy extended family with much influence and standing. Arthur's wealthy uncles paid for his education at some of the better Catholic boarding schools in England, including a year abroad.
Later, after completing his medical training at Edinburgh's famed School of Medicine, the uncles would again have set Arthur Conan Doyle on a path to financial and social success, but he rejected their help because he had given up Catholicism and did not want his practice based on the narrow confines of the Anglo-Catholic community.
There followed years of stress and vigorous self-promotion, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tried various locations for his medical practice and began publishing his Sherlock Holmes stories, which ultimately would provide his fame and much of his income.
Intelligent, imaginative and inquisitive - quick to love and quick to take up a rightous cause - Conan Doyle led a life of both controversy and great service to his country.
He was knighted for his services in setting up and running a field hospital during the Boer War at the turn of the century. At the same time, he was constantly in the press for taking up unpopular legal causes, once seeking to overturn the conviction of a Anglo-Indian and another time that of a German Jew (he was ultimately successful in both instances).
In his later years, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, by now quite famous, was ridiculed in the press for his beliefs in spiritualism. This was an extremely popular belief in the early part of the 20th century, with many well educated and intelligent people involved - it is no different now with the variety of spiritual belief we see around us today.
What strikes one most in reviewing Arthur Conan Doyle's life is his constant spiritual seeking and quest for what is right, what is true, and his valiant attempts to do the right thing. For example, his first wife died after a long battle with tuberculosis. For the last several years of her life, Doyle had been in love with another woman - yet, he never was unfaithful, in word or deed, even after Louise's death, until the proper time of mourning was complete and he then married Jean, his second love.
Restless spiritual seeking, frequent changes in residence and in occupation - all speak to Doyle's tumultuous upbringing and his lack of a sense of place. An Irish-Catholic, raised in Scotland, living later in England. Rejecting religious heritage followed by years of uncertainty and, finally, latching onto beliefs many viewed as credulous.
We see so much of this restlessness in our rootless and fast-changing American society today. Perhaps that is one reason why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books remain so very popular. As Sherlock Holmes deifies the mind's capacity for reason and logical deduction, Holmes presents us with a worldview that is imminently sane, secure and predictable - the very antithesis of what Doyle found in his own life and what we often find in ours.
In creating Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and the cozy confines of Baker Street, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle performed a wonderful service to readers the world over - all of us armchair adventurers, puzzle lovers, and believers in the ability of the human mind to work out the intricacies of our world and put them in their place.
Along with his Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Doyle also wrote some terrific supernatural tales (he was an Edgar Allen Poe fan), a wildly popular historical novel, The White Company, and adventure stories featuring Professor Challenger - most famously, The Lost World, now delighting a new generation.
Following a heart attack in 1929, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's health failed and he died at home on July 7, 1930, leaving behind a legacy of personal commitment, fortitude in the face of misfortune, good use of extraordinary talent, and, of course, the most famous sleuth in the world.
For Sherlock Holmes did not die with his creator - on the contrary, present-day mystery writers have authored slews of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson stories. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's literary heritage thrives today and, as long as we have comfortable chairs and time on our hands, we shall continue to enter the world of Baker Street and try our own hands at solving the puzzles and making sense of our world.
The Lost World - 2001 BBC miniseries
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Boxed Set DVDs) - the first season in the acclaimed British television series starring Jeremy Brett
Legendary Sherlock Holmes Movies - Fabulous three in one DVD of classic Holmes films - Dressed to Kill, The Woman in Green, and Terror by Night - all starring the incomparable Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce
The Hound of the Baskervilles - Considered by many to be the best mystery story ever written, The Hound of the Baskervilles starring Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes is the best of all film versions - a classic