Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes is one of the cultural symbols of Britain. In London in Baker Street you can find his statue standing opposite the entrance to the Sherlock Holmes Museum. The Museum of the fictional character! Everybody knows that stories about Holmes were written by Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930). Very few people know that Holmes was Doyle’s greatest achievement and his greatest problem. His gift to the world and his curse…..
Arthur Conan Doyle was born into a prosperous family, who had a prominent position in the fashionable world. His mother was well educated, had a passion for books and was a master storyteller. The future writer’s father, on the other hand, was an alcoholic and managed to ruin his family’s fortune.
After Arthur reached his ninth birthday, his wealthy uncle offered to pay for his studies. It was during these years at school, that Arthur realized he also had a talent for storytelling. He was often found, surrounded by a crowd of totally enraptured younger students, listening to the amazing stories he would make up to amuse them.
After finishing school Arthur decided to follow a medical career and entered the University of Edinburgh. The young medical student met a number of future authors who were also attending the university, such as James Barrie (the author of Peter Pan) and Robert Louis Stevenson (the man behind The Treasure Island). But the man who most impressed and influenced Doyle, was without a doubt, one of his teachers, Dr. Joseph Bell. The good doctor was a master at observation, logic, deduction, and diagnosis. All these qualities were later to be found in the persona of the celebrated detective Sherlock Holmes. Dr. Bell is widely believed to have served as model for Sherlock.
Arthur Conan Doyle was twenty years old and in his third year of medical studies when he succeeded in getting his first employment as ship's surgeon on the Hope, a whaling boat, about to leave for the Arctic Circle. Doyle took the job because he needed money. The Hope stopped near the shores of Greenland, where the crew proceeded to hunt for whales. The young medical student greatly enjoyed the camaraderie on board the ship and the whale hunt fascinated him. "I went on board the whaler a big straggling youth " he said, "I came off a powerful well-grown man".
It is interesting to note that after the Arctic trip, Doyle became quite a Ladies man, boasting about being in love with five women at once… Nevertheless, a year later, he obtained his Bachelor of Medicine and Master of Surgery degree.
Arthur Conan Doyle opened a practice in London where, as he later wrote about it in his autobiography, not a single patient ever crossed his door. This inactivity gave him a lot of time to think and as a result, he started writing the novel which catapulted him to fame. As Doyle put it: “I wanted to write down some things that I’d been turning in my mind for months… and I had so much free time with nothing to do”. The story was published under the title A Study in Scarlet and introduced us to the immortal Sherlock Holmes and his perpetually naïve sidekick Dr. Watson. The editor who accepted the story encouraged Doyle to write a series of short stories featuring the same characters.
Doyle’s next novel was set in the Middle Ages and is by now forgotten. This marked the start of a serious dichotomy in the author's life. There was Sherlock Holmes, who very quickly became world famous, in stories its author considered "commercial" and there were some serious historical novels, poems and plays, based upon which Conan Doyle expected to be recognized as a serious author. But the critics and readers only wanted to read about Holmes’ adventures. These stories brought Doyle fame and money but they could not keep him satisfied. When the editor sent him back one of his historical novel saying: “Have you got anything about Holmes?” Doyle decided to get rid of Sherlock Holmes. In The Final Problem Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty plunged to their deaths at The Reichenbach Falls. As a result, the writer received twenty thousand angry letters from readers!
Today it is hard to imagine to what extent Holmes was popular and to what extent he made his creator famous. Nowadays writers seldom become stars (one of the few examples is J.K.Rowling), but Arthur Conan Doyle was a real star! He could not come out in the street without someone pointing at him and saying: Look! Doyle! The man who writes about Sherlock Holmes!
Liberated from the character, who oppressed him and overshadowed what he considered his finer work, Doyle immersed himself into intensive activity. He was really shocked when practically all his “serious novels” failed and the only two which were well received were science fiction tales The Maracot Deep and The Lost World.
In 1903 Doyle decided to bring Holmes back. It was all about the money. His publisher made him an offer he could not decline. The Return of Sherlock Holmes was an instant success. All in all Sherlock Holmes appeared in 56 short stories and 4 novels.
But Doyle really hated writing about Holmes! At one charitable dinner the writer was approached by some person who addressed him: Oh, you are Doyle, you created Sherlock Holmes! Doyle’s reaction was impulsive and unexpected, he went hysterical and started screaming: I did not create anything! It is all these stupid people, they make me write these stupid books!
This accident was covered in media and made Doyle look ridiculous. Many people found his reaction strange. What did he have to complain about since Holmes really made him rich and famous?
The Punch Magazine published a cartoon showing how Doyle feels taken over by his creation.
Following this accident Doyle retired from making public appearances, left London and went to live in the country. When his son was killed in the First World War, this attributed to the author’s growing depression.
In 1920 the very first film adaptation of Holmes’ adventures was made in America. The film director sent Doyle the telegram: the plotline is not good without a love story. Can we get Holmes a girlfriend?
Doyle wrote back: Get him a girlfriend, get him 3 wives, send him to China, kill him. Do whatever you want. I do not care!
By the end of his life Doyle seemed to have come to terms with his fame. He even started answering fanmail and kindly granted autographs to people who approached him in the street. When someone told him that he would go down in history as the man who wrote about Holmes, Doyle said: I am afraid, you are right.
Rivers of ink have flowed since 1887, when Sherlock Holmes was first introduced to the world. Today in the 21st century Holmes is as strong as ever. His museum in London is visited by about a million visitors a year. Not bad for the museum dedicated to the person who never existed!
According to the Guinnes Book of Records Sherlock Holmes is the most often portrayed movie character. Over the past 90 years there have been lots and lots of films and TV series based on Doyle’s characters. And do not mention comedies and parodies that spoofed Holmes and Watson !
Recently a string of commercially successful films directed by Guy Ritchie with Holmes portrayed by Robert Downey Jr came out. The BBC produced TV series Sherlock, which placed Holmes and Watson in the present day London, enjoyed high ratings and made millions of viewers around the world hold their breath as they watched the intricate plot unfold. The series became the most watched program on BBC and won many awards. Publishers and retailers reported a 180% rise in sales of Sherlock Holmes books during the series' broadcast.
Inspired by this success the American broadcaster CBS produced its own contemporary adaptation of the Holmes stories - the series Elementary in which Holmes resides in New York and has a female assistant Joanna Watson. The show was met with very positive reviews.
Take a loot at this cartoon. Why is it funny? Can you make up a story behind the cartoon?
The British has a strong taste for good detective fiction. From Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone (1868) – officially the first English detective novel, which served as the model for writers such as Arthur Conan Doyle and Chesterton, through the works of Agatha Christie into the 21st century the public enchantment with the detective stories continues. No wonder, the detective stories feed our hunger for mystery and suspense. Since the moment the TV came into our lives, the detective fiction has been successfully adapted as both made-for-TV movies and the TV series. The detective TV series, usually referred to as the detective dramas are very popular in the UK. Practically every TV channel has its own “trademark” detective drama, they are usually aired on Friday or Saturday evening in the 8 pm – 10 pm time slot.
The basic pattern all detective stories follow is simple: there is a murder. The police officers arrive, find lots of clues and suspicion falls on many people. The criminal’s identity is revealed only 5 minutes before the story’s end and the murderer is always the person we never even could suspect !
The most watched detective dramas in the UK
On BBC you can watch Midsomer Murders, which has been made since 1997. The lead character is Inspector Barnaby, the story revolves around Barnaby’s efforts to solve numerous murders that take place in the fictional town of Midsomer.
ITV has broadcast Lewis since 2006. The drama is set in Oxford where Inspector Lewis is assisted by Sergeant Hathaway in investigating numerous murders.
Scottish TV is proud in having one of the most popular detective dramas in the UK – Taggart titled after its principal character Inspector Jim Taggart, is set in Glasgow and famous for featuring grizzly murders and sinister murderers. The series premiered in 1983 and over its first 10 years developed a cult following. When in 1994 Marc McManus, who had been playing Taggart, died, James McPherson replaced him and the series continued for 10 years more. In 2005 McPherson left, saying that he “was tired of the part”. The 3rd Taggart stepped in (actor Alex Norton) and the drama continues up until the present day. Officially Taggart is the longest running detective drama in the British TV history !
Across the Atlantic in the United States the crime series are also popular and attract millions of viewers but they are called cop show or police drama.
In the police drama the criminal’s identity is sometimes known to the audience from the start and the drama depicts the activities of a police force as they investigate crimes. A good example of the American police drama is CSI – Crime Scene Investigation (aired since 2000) it is a show about scientists who investigate how and why a person had died and if it is a murder or not. Such police procedures as gathering of evidence and the use of search warrants are shown in detail.
In 2012 CSI was the most watched TV series in USA.
TASK 1. Complete the sentences using the information from the text
TASK 2. Put the words in the correct form
A Study in Scarlet –этюд в багровых тонах
dichotomy –дихотомия (противоречие)
The Maracot Deep –Маракотова бездна
Web site to visit: http://countrystudying.narod.ru
Author of the text: indicated on the source document of the above text
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
By Judy Gardner
“Doctor, whaler, athlete, writer, speculator, dramatist, historian, war correspondent,
spiritualist,…helper of the underdog” 1
Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh on May 22, 1859. His
mother, Mary Foley Doyle, was Irish, and his father, Charles Doyle, came from an
Anglo-Norman line. They settled in Edinburgh where his father had obtained a job in the
civil service as a clerk in the Office of Works. Charles Doyle’s real desire, however, was
to be an artist, and his frustration at having to work at something else to support his large
family – he and his wife had seven children – may have contributed to his drinking
problems. Late in life he was institutionalized for mental instability. Fortunately for the
children, Conan Doyle’s mother was a strong woman, devoutly religious, and she
remained an important influence on her son, giving him advice on many areas of his life,
including his writing. It was she who forbad him to kill off Sherlock Holmes the first
time he considered doing so because the character had become a burden to him, insisting,
“You won’t! You can’t. You mustn’t.” 2
Arthur was the couple’s first son, and they added Conan to his name to honor his
godfather and great uncle, Michael Conan. As a young boy, he loved books but also
loved getting into scrapes with the friends he later admitted were “rough boys.” 3 In
1868, when his parents felt his education as a Roman Catholic was being neglected,
Conan Doyle was sent to a Jesuit school in Lancashire. Perhaps they also wished to get
him away from his friends. His new school’s rules proved very strict; order was kept by
threats and intimidation. Conan Doyle later wrote, “I went out of my way to do really
mischievous and outrageous things simply to show that my spirit was unbroken. An
appeal to my better nature and not to my fears would have found an answer at once.” 4
Conan Doyle was not an outstanding student, though he continued to do a great
deal of private reading and writing, and he became the editor of the school’s magazine.
A large and strong child, he also enjoyed sports of all kinds throughout his life.
When it came time to choose a profession, he settled on medicine and enrolled at
Edinburgh University so that he could save money by living at home. Here he met Dr.
Joseph Bell, who later served as the model for Sherlock Holmes. But Conan Doyle
craved adventure, and he interrupted his studies to sail as a ship’s surgeon on a whaler
bound for the Arctic. During this voyage he wrote adventure stories and historical
romances in his free time. When the trip ended, he returned to school, obtained his MD,
and then signed on for another voyage, this time to Africa, where he enjoyed swimming
in waters full of sharks and alligators and hiking though dangerous jungles.
His return from Africa in 1882 led him to a more settled life, and by 1885 he had
married Louise Hawkins and was established in his medical practice. Conan Doyle was
never particularly successful as a doctor, even after he decided to specialize in eyes, but
his small practice allowed him time to write, and write he did. A fan of stories involving
crime and investigation, including those of Edgar Allan Poe, the plots of these tales,
especially the endings, often frustrated Conan Doyle. He decided to use his medical
training to apply scientific methods to crime, and Sherlock Holmes was born. The great
success of this detective allowed his creator to abandon his medical practice forever.7
Conan Doyle’s personal life was less happy. His wife, whom he called “Touie,”
fell ill in 1893 of what turned out to be consumption. Although she lived thirteen more
years, far longer than expected, she remained an invalid for the rest of her life. During
her long illness, Conan Doyle stayed a devoted nurse and faithful husband, even after he
met Jean Leckie in 1897 and fell deeply in love. She swore to wait for him, and they both swore to keep their relationship platonic as long as his wife lived. Louise died in
1906, and in 1907, Jean Leckie became his second wife.
Although his detective stories brought fame and financial security, Conan Doyle
wished to kill off Sherlock Holmes almost as soon as he invented him. Doyle felt
chained to Holmes’ popularity, and public demand for more stories prevented him from
pursuing his many other interests. In his memoirs he wrote, “I saw that I was in danger
of having my hand forced, and of being entirely identified with what I regarded as a
lower stratum of literary achievement.”5 His wished to write other kinds of fiction,
including historical fiction and drama, and the interval he gained while Holmes was
“dead” allowed him to do so.
Conan Doyle was always willing to employ his considerable energy to fight for
his beliefs. He wrote letters and pamphlets and gave lectures in support of the many
causes he espoused, including changing English divorce laws, which, he felt, were unfair
to women. His reputation as Sherlock Holmes’ creator led to his being consulted
regarding many real life criminal cases, the most famous of which involved George
Edalji. This young lawyer, the son of an Indian minister of the Church of England, had
been convicted of killing and mutilating farm animals in 1903, and he was serving a
seven-year sentence. Conan Doyle was convinced that he was innocent. He believed that his conviction in this bizarre case, which, according to some local papers, involved pagan
sacrifice, was due in part to British racism. Although Edalji had been suddenly and
without explanation released from prison halfway through his term, his reputation and
career had been destroyed. Conan Doyle wrote a series of articles in his defense and
began lecturing about what he saw as a serious miscarriage of justice. Thanks to his
efforts, the Law Society readmitted Edalji, an implicit statement that his name had been
Although Conan Doyle was not blind to his country’s faults, as this case proved,
he was a deeply patriotic man, committed to serving his nation when the opportunity
arose. In 1899 he went to South Africa to work in a field hospital during the Boer War,
and his experiences there inspired him to write a pamphlet defending the British view of
the conflict. His effort was so well received that it earned him a knighthood. Later in his
life he predicted a conflict with Germany, and when World War I broke out, he attempted
to enlist as a private soldier in spite of his age and experience. During this war the
ingenuity so obvious in Sherlock Holmes came to the aid of his government. Conan
Doyle devised a method of communicating with British prisoners of war by using needle
pricks under letters of words in books he sent them. Figuring German censors would
examine at least the first two chapters of any book, however, he always began the
messages at the third.
Conan Doyle staunchly supported Britain in World War I, but his romantic view
of war, formed by his fascination with stories of medieval chivalry, may have left him
unprepared for the reality of machine guns and trenches. He lost both his younger
brother and his son Kingsley before the conflict ended, and the second tragedy caused him to redirect his literary energy into a new realm, spiritualism, during the last ten years
of his life. His desire to contact the spirits of the dead became an obsession; he consulted
mediums and magicians, including Harry Houdini, gave lectures, wrote pamphlets,
debated his beliefs in public, and attended a number of séances. At one he believed he
did communicate with the spirit of his son. He came to see spreading an understanding
of spiritualism as his life’s great mission.
Late in 1929, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle suffered a heart attack from which he never
fully recovered. On July 7, 1930, he died. His epitaph reads simply, “Steel true, blade
straight,” but perhaps the best summary of his life is his own, in his memoirs: “I have had a life which, for variety and romance, could, I think, hardly be exceeded.” 6
1. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Complete Sherlock Holmes (from the Preface by
Christopher Morley, New York: Doubleday, 1927), p. 8.
2. Michael Hardwick, The Complete Guide to Sherlock Holmes (New York: St.
Martin’s Press, 1986), p. 51.
3. Michael Coren, Conan Doyle (London: Bloomsbury, 1995), p. 12.
4. Coren, p. 16.
5. Coren, p. 81.
6. Coren, p. 5.
Web site to visit: http://www.westbranch.k12.oh.us
Author of the text: indicated on the source document of the above text
Biography of Arthur Conan Doyle
(Adapted from “Arthur Conan Doyle: A Brief Biographical Study” by Christopher Roden)
Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on May 22, 1859, to his mother Mary and his father Charles, a civil servant. He was one of ten children. Charles Doyle was an epileptic who became an alcoholic and was institutionalized for the final years of his life. Arthur Conan Doyle was educated at home and in a local school until he was nine. Then he was sent to a Jesuit school. He later studied medicine from 1876 to 1881 at Edinburgh University. Here he studied under Dr. Joseph Bell, whose deductive powers later became the model for Sherlock Holmes.
When he left the university, Conan Doyle worked as a ship’s doctor on a voyage to the West African coast. In 1882 an acquaintance from the university Dr. George Budd invited Doyle to become his medical partner in Plymouth. Eventually, Doyle moved to Southsea to set up his own medical practice. Here he expanded his literary talents and wrote his first Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet. When this short story was accepted for publication, Doyle decided to write a full-length novel Micah Clarke. He was then commissioned to write another Sherlock Holmes story The Sign of the Four.
Conan Doyle married Louise Hawkins in 1885, a woman who suffered chronically from poor health. He also became involved in spiritualism in 1886. In 1890, Doyle studied to become an oculist, but this did not pan out for him. When he returned to London a year later, he tried to set up a practice in London. The financial failure of his practice allowed him to concentrate on his writing. He wrote “A Scandal in Bohemia” in 1891, and it was published in the new Strand Magazine in July of that year.
As Doyle continued to write Sherlock Holmes stories, he began to worry that he was not going to build a legacy as a serious novelist. He took a trip to Switzerland in 1893, and there he found the setting to kill off Sherlock Holmes. In “The Final Problem,” published in 1893, Holmes engages in a fatal struggle with his archenemy Professor Moriarty, falling to his apparent death as a result. Due to public outcry, however, Doyle later resurrected Holmes and continued writing this wildly popular series.
In the meantime, Doyle’s wife was suffering from tuberculosis. The couple traveled to Egypt in hopes that the desert environment might offer a cure. While in Cairo, Doyle conceived the plot for his desert drama The Tragedy of the Korosko. During the time they spent in Cairo, fighting began between the British and the Dervishes. Doyle used this as an opportunity to become a war correspondent for The Westminster Gazette.
When he returned to England, Doyle wrote three more novels. When war broke out in South Africa, Doyle was invited to work unofficially for John Langman’s hospital. He sailed for Cape Town in February 1900 and arrived there on March 21. Afterwards Doyle ran for Parliament twice, losing both times, and his wife passed away in 1906. In 1907 he married Jean Leckie and the couple settled in Sussex.
In 1912, Doyle published The Lost World, a prehistoric tale featuring Professor Challenger, another of this author’s famous characters. When World War I broke out, Doyle helped form a local volunteer force. He then decided to devote the final years of his life to spiritualism. He wrote on the subject and traveled with his family to promote his beliefs. In 1929 he suffered a heart attack and died.
Web site to visit: http://users.bloomfield.edu
Author of the text: indicated on the source document of the above text
If you are the author of the text above and you not agree to share your knowledge for teaching, research, scholarship (for fair use as indicated in the United States copyrigh low) please send us an e-mail and we will remove your text quickly. Fair use is a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work. In United States copyright law, fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, search engines, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship. It provides for the legal, unlicensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author's work under a four-factor balancing test. (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use)
The information of medicine and health contained in the site are of a general nature and purpose which is purely informative and for this reason may not replace in any case, the council of a doctor or a qualified entity legally to the profession.
The texts are the property of their respective authors and we thank them for giving us the opportunity to share for free to students, teachers and users of the Web their texts will used only for illustrative educational and scientific purposes only.
All the information in our site are given for nonprofit educational purposes