Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Writer created Sherlock Holmes, killed him off, then brought him back again

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, pictured in 1914, aged 55
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, pictured
in 1914, aged 55
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the writer who invented Sherlock Holmes, the most famous detective in the history of crime fiction, died 91 years ago today at his home in Crowborough in Sussex.

Conan Doyle left a legacy of 22 novels, including four featuring Sherlock Holmes, and more than 200 short stories, of which 56 told of the exploits of his brilliant detective. In addition, he wrote many non-fiction books, poems, plays and pamphlets.

He had studied medicine and, like his future character Dr Watson, he became a physician. While at the University of Edinburgh medical school, Conan Doyle had been a pupil of the surgeon Joseph Bell, whose deductive processes impressed him so much that he later used him as a model for Holmes.

In 1887, Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, was published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual, a compendium published each year from 1860 to 1898. He followed this with a historical novel and an adventure novel. Then in 1890, Spencer Blackett published Conan Doyle’s second Sherlock Holmes novel, The Sign of the Four.

The following year, Conan Doyle began to practice as an oculist - a physician specialising in eye health - in Wimpole Street, just off Harley Street in London. Fortunately for his devoted readers, he had so few patients he decided to write some short stories about Sherlock Holmes for a new monthly magazine, The Strand. These proved so successful he decided to give up medicine and concentrate on writing full time.

Holmes became the world’s most famous fictional detective and inspired the fictional detectives created by hundreds of crime writers who came after Conan Doyle.

The edition of Beeton's Christmas Annual featuring A Study in Scarlet
The edition of Beeton's Christmas
Annual featuring A Study in Scarlet
The brilliant detective and his partner in investigation, Dr John Watson, have fascinated millions of readers all over the world. His famous phrase, ‘Elementary, my dear Watson,’ has delighted the audiences of the many theatre, film, television and radio productions made from the stories.

At one stage Conan Doyle became unhappy about the enormous success of his Sherlock Holmes stories eclipsing his more serious historical and romantic novels. He tried to wipe out the great detective at Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland in The Adventure of the Final Problem in 1893, but he was forced to bring Holmes back, following strong public demand, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, published in 1901.

In his later years, Conan Doyle campaigned and wrote about miscarriages of justice and also helped the Government before the First World War by writing recruitment pamphlets.

He also became interested in Spiritualism and wrote about it and lectured about it all over the world. Following a lecture tour of Scandinavia and Holland, he suffered a heart attack in 1929.

Conan Doyle died on 7 July 1930, aged 71. His last book, The Edge of the Unknown, had been published a week earlier. He was buried at Crowborough in East Sussex but his remains were later moved to Minstead Church in the New Forest in Hampshire.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s grave is under a large tree behind the 13th century church of All Saints. The inscription on his tombstone reads:

Steel True

Blade Straight

Arthur Conan Doyle


Patriot, Physician & Man of Letters

A handy book for anyone wanting to learn more about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Sherlock Holmes stories is The Pocket Essentials: Sherlock Holmes, by Mark Campbell 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books are available fromor


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