Doyle, Arthur Conan (1859-1930) by Belk, Patrick Scott

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) was a Scottish physician, historian, best-selling novelist, controversial spiritualist, and an outspoken critic of the Belgian Congo. He was born in Edinburgh on May 22, 1859, and he attended medical school in the city from 1876 to 1881. Following his term at university, Doyle signed on as a ship’s surgeon aboard the , bound for the west coast of Africa. He practiced medicine in Plymouth and then Southsea for two years (1882-1884), but with limited success. In his spare time, Doyle wrote his first novel, , which remained unpublished until 2011. appeared in for 1887, and literary recognition came with , a historical novel published the following year. After a brief period studying ophthalmology in Vienna in 1890, and moving to London to set up practice in 1891, Doyle finally gave up medicine and settled down to pursue writing professionally. He was knighted in 1902. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle S.S. Mayumba The Narrative of John Smith A Study in Scarlet Beeton’s Christmas Annual Micah Clarke Doyle is now best remembered for the fifty-six short stories and four novels featuring his fictional Sherlock Holmes, but he was a terrifically prolific writer besides. His interests ranged freely across multiple subjects, genres, and disciplines, and he wrote his first book at the age of six. The complete bibliography of his writings features over 200 titles that include science-fiction, historical novels, plays, romances, poetry, essays, political pamphlets, and even a six-volume history of the First World War. Because nearly all of his Holmes and Professor Challenger stories were first published in ’s , Doyle’s name will be forever associated with that journal, but the majority of his fiction and non-fiction appeared across a broad range of British and American magazines. Some of Doyle’s major venues included American titles like (where appeared in 1890), (, 1893), (, 1894), (, 1903-1905), and (, 1910-1911). One of Doyle’s first publications in was the poem illustrated by , which appeared in the January 1895 issue alongside a poem by . Doyle’s , which appeared in three consecutive issues of , was a series of historical romances that vividly recalled three of the great invasions of world history: the coming of the Huns to Rome, the Saxons’ arrival in Britain, and the Muslim conquest of North Africa and Asia Minor. Each installment of the series— (November 1910; 548-53), (December 1910; 655-59), and (January 1911; 24-28)—was beautifully illustrated by , whose color plate for —which featured armored Saxons carrying shields and horned helmets—served as the for the magazine’s November 1910 issue. consulting detective George Newnes Strand Magazine Lippincott’s Monthly The Sign of the Four Harper’s The Refugees McClure’s The Clamor of the Arctic Collier’s Weekly The Return of Sherlock Holmes Scribner’s Magazine Through the Mists Scribner’s A Forgotten Tale, Howard Pyle Bret Harte Through the Mists Scribner’s The Coming of the Huns The First Cargo The Red Star N. C. Wyeth The First Cargo dramatic frontispiece By that time, Doyle had become one of the most recognizable forces in modern fiction writing. He was also likely the most highly-paid novelist the world over. In 1903, offered him the phenomenal sum of $45,000 for the first North American serial rights to the thirteen short stories in (which ran in the magazine between September 1903 and January 1905). Only three years earlier, had claimed that title when purchased first North American serial rights to for just $25,000. Collier’s Weekly The Return of Sherlock Holmes Rudyard Kipling McClure’s Magazine Kim Arthur Conan Doyle died of a heart attack on July 7, 1930, at his home in Crowborough, East Sussex, England, at the age of 71. Despite his long and terrifically multi-dimensional career, many obituaries—including the one in —focused almost entirely on the author’s high-profile spiritualist activities. Doyle’s controversial public campaign in support of spiritualism and ‘psychic exploration’ had dominated his time, fortune, and public persona throughout the final decade of his life. The New York Times —Patrick Scott Belk, The University of Tulsa Further Reading . . New York: St. Martin’s, 2000. Booth, Marvin The Doctor and the Detective: A Biography of Arthur Conan Doyle . . New York: Harper and Brothers, 1949. Carr, John Dickson The Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle , , and , eds. . New York: The Penguin Press, 2007. Lellenberg, Jon Daniel Stashower Charles Foley Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters . . New York: Free Press, 2007. Lycett, Andrew The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes: The Life and Times of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle . New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2008. Miller, Russell The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle: A Biography

Back to top

Back to Top