Full Biography Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Essay Example
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a brilliant mind with a knack for solving crime. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on May 22, 1859, Doyle grew up an avid reader. In school, he entertained his peers and impressed his teachers with mystery and horror stories. Even as his life took him in other directions, Arthur Conan continued to write for the pleasure of composing a story.
Educated in medicine and compelled by crime, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle began writing mystery novels and short stories, which received a vast amount of positive criticism. Due to the failure of his medical practice and his fascination with American crime, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle turned his writing hobby into a career.
Throughout the entirety of his primary education and into his secondary education, Doyle wrote as a pastime. The bright young man began studying medicine at Edinburgh University in 1876. While attending the university, Doyle was instructed by Dr. Joseph Bell. Doyle was awestruck by Bell’s ability to conclude the cause of patients’ death.
Dr. Joseph Bell is the inspiration for Doyle’s famous detective (“Arthur Conan Doyle” Gale 2). After getting his master’s degree in medicine, Doyle moved to South Sea, Hampshire, England, where he opened his own practice with his university friend, Signor Budd. Unfortunately, Signor Budd brought on the medical practice’s failure because of his drug use, gambling, and bankruptcy.
In Conan Doyle: Portrait of an Artist, Julian Symons quotes Doyle as describing Budd as “…having fierce grey eyes looking furtively at me with a strange sullen expression”. This description of Signor Budd is said to have later influenced Doyle’s characters (43-45). Through the eight years that Doyle lived in the South Sea, he continued to write, and in 1884 he wrote stories about the Marie Celeste “ghost ship,” which were anonymously published in the Cornhill Magazine.
Those stories made him seriously consider writing a career because his medical practice was not bringing in sufficient funds, mainly when his ten-year-old brother briefly lived with him so his mother could improve her financial state (“Arthur Conan Doyle” Gale 3). He continued to write during his last years in the South Sea because he needed the money and thoroughly enjoyed writing.
After he began writing full-time, Doyle moved to London, where his works were heavily influenced by the Victorian lifestyle. He thrived in an environment run by scientific reasoning, politics, crime, and fashion. Doyle’s interest in crime took him to America, where he studied famous American crimes, including the Mormon Murders.
However, Americans disliked Doyle due to his thick Scottish accent (Costello 124-125). Doyle was drawn to America because of crime and mystery writer Edgar Allan Poe, Doyle’s most significant influence, and Emile Gaboriau (Symons 19). Doyle’s travel took him to Sweden and Italy, where he learned more about international criminology and political threats.
Using his new knowledge of international crime, Doyle continued to write and became quite wealthy. When the Boer War began, Doyle was a field doctor and kept written records of the war’s happening. The documents were later used to defend the British soldiers against misconduct allegations and to share the truth of the violence (Symons 65-66).
Due to his great deeds as a doctor in the war, Doyle was knighted in 1902, making him Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Joseph A. Kestner 2). Doyle continued to write and travel through his last years and was a well-known name. In July of 1930, Doyle died of a heart attack. His grave has the inscription “Steel True, Blade Straight” (“Arthur Conan Doyle” Authors 90).
His eldest son took over the publication of his father’s works so that his name would not be forgotten. Doyle showed an understanding of criminology and life in Victorian England through his historical novels and the famous stories of Sherlock Holmes. While living in South sea, Doyle began writing full-time to help his financial crisis.
The article “Doyle, Arthur Conan 1859-1930” quotes Doyle on his philosophy when writing Sherlock Holmes. “People often ask me whether I knew the end of a Holmes story before I started writing it. Of course, I do. One could not possibly steer a course if one did not know one’s destination. The first thing to do is your idea. Having got that key idea, one’s next task is to conceal it and emphasize everything which can make for a different explanation” (103).
From this philosophy, Doyle was able to write four Sherlock Holmes novels and dozens of short stories. His first major novel, A Study in Scarlet, was printed in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887 (“Arthur Conan Doyle” Gale 3). A Study in Scarlet saw the birth of the iconic detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his partner, Doctor John Watson. Sherlock Holmes was the world’s first consulting detective. His second most well-known novel, The Hound of Baskerville, was published in 1902.
The Hound of Baskerville follows the story of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson as the duo investigates a ‘curse’ plaguing Charles Baskerville and his estate. This storyline was based on British folklore, specifically the tale of the Black Dog, which was said to bring evilness and imminent death (“The Hound of Baskerville” 128).
Collections of short Holmes stories, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892) and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1893), more thoroughly demonstrated the incredible skills of the detective (“Doyle, Arthur Conan 1859-1930” 89). The Sherlock Holmes stories became known for their use of literary devices. Doyle’s use of Gothicism is shown through horror, romance, and supernatural elements. To challenge the fantastical elements in his works, Doyle implanted a contrasting theme of science and logic versus superstition.
Holmes represents the skeptical mind, and Watson the superstitious mind. These works are believed to be some of the first stories that use cliffhangers. Doyle always wrapped up his stories with a neat resolution. He ensured the details of the crimes were all explained (“The Hound of Baskerville” 129-131). Doyle’s works were often called ‘Locker Room Mysteries’ because the reader only knows as many details as the characters in each scene or ‘room’.
Also, the ideas of challenging the justice system, the privilege of men, and the poor treatment of women appeared in Doyle’s works. He once wrote that “lawfulness does not equal justice because the law does not always bring justice” (Kestner 2). Other Sherlock Holmes novels include The Sign of Four (1890), His Last Bow (1917), and The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1903). Doyle’s lesser-known works included The White Company and many other experimental results. Published in 1891, The White Company is a historical novel set during the hundred-year war.
This novel was heavily inspired by historical works by Sir Walter Scott, a fellow Scottish author (Kestner 2). Other jobs came from his time serving in the Boer War, such as The Great Boer War (1900) and a pamphlet discussing the conflict called “The War in South Africa: Its Causes and Conduct”.
Along with historical and political novels, Doyle dabbled in poetry and playwriting in the 1900s. Some of Doyle’s works were adapted into films and stage plays, a famous collection of plays titled “The Game’s Afoot: Sherlock Holmes Plays”, which was published in 1969 (“Doyle, Arthur Conan 1859-1930” 93-97).
During his life, Doyle wrote over sixty novels, short stories, and various other works. While the Sherlock Holmes stories were an immediate success for critics and readers alike for the unique characters and suspenseful action, Doyle’s different other results did not reach the same level of fame. Donald J. Watt claims that The Hound of Baskerville is one of his favorite novels and says the novel is “A good ripping yarn, which is related using some absolutely manipulated conventional literary devices” (“The Hound of Baskerville” 135).
Critics James Kissane and John M. Kissane praise The Hound of Baskerville for its use of mystery and horror and the theme of the power of logic. The Kissane can be quoted saying, “Most of its elements have since become virtual requirements for a satisfactory detective novel, and nowhere else do these characteristic features appear in such distinguished, one might say quintessential, form” (“The Hound of Baskerville” 142).
Doyle himself claims that his favorite book that he wrote was The Speckled Band. Critical magazine, “The Athenaeum,” says The Speckled Band is” excellent; there is little literary pretension about it, and there is hardly any waste of time about subtle character drawing. Still, incident succeeds incident with the most businesslike rapidity, and the unexpected constantly occurs with appropriate regularity” (“Arthur Conan Doyle” Gale 5).
The most negative criticism came from Doyle, who claims some puzzles are not puzzling enough and that there are many timeline inconsistencies in some works. Some critics dislike The Valley of Fear for its political aspects, claiming that “Left-Wing writers cannot construct a plot for beans” (Dickson 234).
However, critic Ivor Brown notes that “there was far more in Doyle’s literary life than the invention of his fascinating and volatile detective” (“Arthur Conan Doyle” Gale 1). This statement is too true, as Doyle prided himself on his historical works. The White Company and other non-Holmes results were not as famous but still enjoyed by critics. James Payn says The White Company “was the best historical novel since Ivanhoe” (Dickson 60).
However, Doyle claims that although The White Company was praised, the critics did not ‘treat it properly’. Julian Symons wrote that Doyle himself claimed that the novel was treated “too much as if it were a mere book of adventure… whereas I have striven to draw the exact types of character of the folk then living, which seems so far to be quite unappreciated by the critics,” (86).
Doyle’s historical and science fiction novels never reached the fame he hoped for. Instead, he always lived in the shadow of Sherlock Holmes. Throughout the years, the Sherlock Holmes stories built a fanbase of fanatics of the stories. The self-proclaimed ‘Sherlockians’ and ‘Holmesians’ are devoted to uncovering all of the secrets of Holmes and Watson.
A long-running debate among the two groups is whether or not Sherlock Holmes was a natural person and if the locations mentioned in the novels are real. Baskerville Hall is a famous location from the novel that fans are interested in. James Branch Cabell, a Sherlock superfan, claims that his ancestor, who was a lord, owns the property.
Another idea from Howard Brody says that Hayford Hall in South Devon is actually Baskerville Hall. Doyle expert William S. Baring-Gould claims Lew Hall in Devon is the model for Baskerville Hall because its architecture is similar to that described in the novel (“The Hound of Baskerville” 135). Of course, no single theory regarding Baskerville Hall has been proven factual.
Some Sherlockians and Holmesians claim that 221b Baker Street, one of London’s major tourist attractions, is, in fact, where Sherlock Holmes actually lived (“The Hound of Baskerville” 127). These fans continue to search for evidence that Sherlock Holmes was a natural person and that the places from the stories are not imaginary.
After the failure of his medical practice, Arthur Conan Doyle devoted himself to writing. He was praised by most who read his stories, his most negative criticism coming from himself. On July 7, 1930, Doyle died of a heart attack. Following his death, Doyle’s eldest son, Adrian Conan Doyle, had his father’s works reprinted so the stories would not be outdated and forgotten. Decades after his death, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has a legacy as one of the world’s great and most influential writers.