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Biography of Arthur Conan Doyle

Portrait of Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle was a writer best known for his character Sherlock Holmes.

When and Where was Arthur Conan Doyle Born?

22nd May 1859, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Family Background:

Athur Conan Doyle was the son of Charles Doyle a Civil Servant from Ireland and an alcoholic and Mary Foley. He was one of ten children. His grandfather was John Doyle a famous caricaturist.

Education:

At home and then a local school in Edinburgh. Jesuit Preparatory School in Hodder, Lancashire. Stonyhurst, a Jesuit Secondary School nearby. University of Edinburgh. Helped fund his course by working as a surgeon on ships such as the “Hope” which was then bound for the Arctic and the “Mayumba” bound for West Africa where he nearly died of Typhoid).

Timeline of Arthur Conan Doyle:

Whilst studying he worked as a medical assistant to Dr Richardson of Sheffield which only lasted three weeks. He then moved to Shropshire working for Dr Elliot and then to Birmingham where he was treated like a son by Dr Reginald Hoare and his family.

1882: Conan-Doyle sets up as a Doctor in Plymouth with a fellow student from Edinburgh, Dr George Budd, but it is unsuccessful and the two did not get on. Doyle then sets up in Elm Grove, Southsea near Portsmouth but has very few patients and therefore little money. He subsidises his income writing detective stories. His first story is accepted by Chambers Journal in Edinburgh.

1885: He marries Louise Hawkins, the sister of one of his patients.

1887: Arthur Conan Doyle publishes the first of his Sherlock Holmes stories “A Study in Scarlet” in Becton’s Christmas Annual and had enough money to give up medicine. Holmes was reputedly based on one of his medical school lecturers, Doctor Joseph Bell. He becomes a member of the Portsmouth Literary and Scientific Society.

1890: He travels to Vienna to study ophthalmology.

Arthur Conan Doyle Statue
Statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place, Edinburgh Donated by the Federation of Master Builders near Conan Doyle’s birthplace (copyright  Anthony Blagg)

1891: Conan-Doyle moves back to London. Holmes stories are published in the Strand Magazine.

1893: Holmes is killed off in “The Final Problem” and the reading public are horrified. His pregnant wife is weak with tuberculosis and so they go to Egypt to effect a cure. Unfortunately war breaks out between the British and the Dervishes but not to be outdone Conan-Doyle becomes a temporary war correspondent for “The Westminster Gazette” newspaper.

1894: Conan-Doyle and Louise move back to England to live in Hindhead in Surrey.

1897: He meets Jean Leckie and continues a platonic relationship during his wife’s illness.

1899-1902: He serves as a doctor in the Boer War with a hospital paid for and organised by John Langman.

1902: He is Knighted for his contribution to the war and is appointed as Deputy-Lieutenant of Surrey.

1903: He is forced to revive Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson due to their popularity.

1906: Death of his first wife.

1907: He marries Jean Leckie.

1912: Conan-Doyle introduces his character Professor Challenger in “The Lost World”.

1913: He begins to talk about the need for a Channel Tunnel.

1914: He attends the meeting of writers called by the Liberal politician Charles Masterman who wants to form a Writer’s Propaganda Bureau at the start of the First World War. Conan-Doyle writes the pamphlet “To Arms!” as his contribution. He also writes many articles about the war for the newspaper the “Daily Chronicle”. Although well into his fifties he serves as a private throughout the war in the Crowborough Company of the Sixth Royal Sussex regiment.

1916: Conan-Doyle becomes a convinced Spiritualist, a cause to which he would spend the rest of his life working on often with his friend Sir Oliver Lodge.

1917: Death of his son Kingsley Conan-Doyle in October who dies after being wounded and contracting pneumonia.

1922: Conan-Doyle declares the “Cottingley Fairy” fake photographs to be genuine and is ridiculed in the press.

1929: He becomes ill after a tour of Scandinavia.

When and Where did he Die?

7th July 1930, Crowborough, Sussex, England of a heart attack.

Age at Death:

70.

Written Works:

1887: “Micah Clarke”.
1890: “The Sign of Four”. “The White Company”.
1896: “Brigadier Gerard”. “Rodney Stone”.
1902: “The Hound of the Baskervilles”. “The War in South Africa”.
1906: “Sir Nigel”

Marriage:

1885 to Louise Hawkins the sister of one of his patients. (died 1906)
1907 to Jean Leckie.

Site of Grave:

All Saint’s Churchyard, Minstead, Hampshire, England.

Places of Interest:

BIRMINGHAM:

Aston, Blue Plaque at the former home of Doctor Hoare.

DEVON:

DARTMOOR (Location for the Hound of the Baskervilles).

EDINBURGH:

Statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place, Edinburgh erected near his birthplace.

HAMPSHIRE:

Member of the Portsmouth Literary and Scientific Society).
Bush Villas, Elm Grove, Southsea. (home).

LONDON:

Sherlock Holmes Pub and Museum, Northumberland Avenue.
Baker Street, (221b now insurance offices) Museum.
Montague Place. (Site of his Rooms).
2 Upper Wimpole Street. (Site of his rooms).

SURREY:

House at Hindhead.

SUSSEX:

Crowborough. (lived with his second wife).

YORKSHIRE:

Masongill Cottage, Mother’s home and site of his marriage.

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