Doyle, (Sir) Arthur Conan

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DOYLE, (Sir) Arthur Conan

Nationality: Scottish. Born: Edinburgh, 22 May 1859. Education: The Hodder School, Lancashire, 1868-70; Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, 1870-75; Jesuit School, Feldkirch, Austria (editor, Feldkirchian Gazette), 1875-76; studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, 1877-81, M.B. 1881, M.D. 1885. Military Service: Served as senior physician at a field hospital in South Africa during the Boer War, 1899-1902: knighted, 1902. Family: Married 1) Louise Hawkins in 1885 (died 1906), one daughter and one son; 2) Jean Leckie in 1907, two sons and one daughter. Career: Physician in Southsea, Hampshire, 1882-90; full-time writer from 1891; Unionist candidate for Parliament for Central Edinburgh, 1900; tariff reform candidate for the Hawick Burghs, 1906. Member: Society for Psychical Research, 1893-1930 (resigned). Awards: Honorary degree from LL.D. from University of Edinburgh, 1905; Knight of Grace of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. Died: 7 July 1930.


Short Stories

Mysteries and Adventures. 1889; as The Gully of Bluemansdyke and Other Stories, 1892.

The Captain of the Polestar and Other Tales. 1890.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. 1892.

My Friend the Murderer and Other Mysteries and Adventures. 1893.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. 1893.

The Great Keinplatz Experiment and Other Stories. 1894.

The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard. 1896.

The Man from Archangel and Other Stories. 1898.

The Green Flag with Other Stories of War and Sport. 1900.

Adventures of Gerard. 1903.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes. 1905.

Round the Fire Stories. 1908.

The Last Galley: Impressions and Tales. 1911.

His Last Bow: Some Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes. 1917.

Danger! and Other Stories. 1918.

Tales of the Ring and Camp. 1922; as The Croxley Master and Other Tales of the Ring and Camp, 1925.

Tales of Terror and Mystery. 1922; as The Black Doctor and Other Tales of Terror and Mystery, 1925.

Tales of Twilight and the Unseen. 1922; as The Great Keinplatz Experiment and Other Tales of Twilight and the Unseen, 1925.

Tales of Adventure and Medical Life. 1922; as The Man from Archangel and Other Tales of Adventure, 1925.

Tales of Pirates and Blue Water. 1922; as The Dealings of Captain Sharkey and Other Tales of Pirates, 1925.

Tales of Long Ago. 1922; as The Last of the Legions and Other Tales of Long Ago, 1925.

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes. 1927.

The Maracot Deep and Other Stories. 1929.

Historical Romances. 2 vols., 1931-32.

The Professor Challenger Stories. 1952.

Great Stories, edited by John Dickson Carr. 1959.

The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, edited by William S. Baring-Gould. 2 vols., 1967.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (facsimile of magazine stories). 1976; as The Sherlock Holmes Illustrated Omnibus, 1978.

The Best Supernatural Tales of Doyle, edited by E.F. Bleiler. 1979.

Sherlock Holmes: The Published Apocrypha, with others, edited by Jack Tracy. 1980.

The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, edited by Peter Haining. 1981.

The Edinburgh Stories. 1981.

The Best Science Fiction of Doyle, edited by Charles G. Waugh and Martin H. Greenberg. 1981.

Uncollected Stories, edited by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green. 1982.

The Best Horror Stories of Doyle, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh. 1988.

The Supernatural Tales of Doyle, edited by Peter Haining. 1988.


A Study in Scarlet. 1888.

The Mystery of Cloomber. 1888.

Micah Clarke. 1889.

The Sign of Four. 1890.

The Firm of Girdlestone. 1890.

The White Company. 1891.

The Doings of Raffles Haw. 1892.

The Great Shadow. 1892.

The Great Shadow, and Beyond the City. 1893.

The Refugees. 1893.

Round the Red Lamp, Being Facts and Fancies of Medical Life. 1894.

The Parasite. 1894.

The Stark Munro Letters. 1895.

Rodney Stone. 1896.

Uncle Bernac: A Memory of the Empire. 1897.

The Tragedy of Korosko. 1898; as A Desert Drama, 1898.

A Duet, with an Occasional Chorus. 1899; revised edition, 1910.

Hilda Wade (completion of story by Grant Allen). 1900.

The Hound of the Baskervilles. 1902.

Sir Nigel. 1906.

The Case of Oscar Slater. 1912.

The Lost World. 1912.

The Poison Belt. 1913.

The Valley of Fear. 1915.

The Land of Mist. 1925.

The Field Bazaar. Privately printed, 1934.


Jane Annie; or, The Good Conduct Prize, with J.M. Barrie, music by Ernest Ford (produced 1893). 1893.

Foreign Policy, from his story "A Question of Diplomacy" (produced 1893).

Waterloo, from his story "A Straggler of 15" (as A Story of Waterloo, produced 1894; as Waterloo, produced 1899). 1907.

Halves, from the story by James Payn (produced 1899).

Sherlock Holmes, with William Gillette, from works by Doyle (produced 1899).

A Duet (A Duologue) (produced 1902). 1903.

Brigadier Gerard, from his own stories (produced 1906).

The Fires of Fate: A Modern Morality, from his novel The Tragedy of Korosko (produced 1909).

The House of Temperley, from his novel Rodney Stone (produced London, 1910).

The Pot of Caviare, from his own story (produced 1910).

The Speckled Band: An Adventure of Sherlock Holmes (produced 1910). 1912.

The Crown Diamond (produced 1921). 1958.

It's Time Something Happened. 1925.


Songs of Action. 1898.

Songs of the Road. 1911.

The Guards Came Through and Other Poems. 1919.

The Poems: Collected Edition (includes play The Journey). 1922.


The Great Boer War. 1900.

The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct. 1902.

Works (Author's Edition). 12 vols., 1903.

The Fiscal Question. 1905.

An Incursion into Diplomacy. 1906.

The Story of Mr. George Edalji. 1907.

Through the Magic Door (essays). 1907.

The Crime of the Congo. 1909.

Divorce Law Reform: An Essay. 1909.

Doyle: Why He Is Now in Favour of Home Rule. 1911.

The Case of Oscar Slater. 1912.

Divorce and the Church, with Lord Hugh Cecil. 1913.

Great Britain and the Next War. 1914.

In Quest of Truth, Being a Correspondence Between Doyle and Captain H. Stansbury. 1914.

To Arms! 1914.

The German War. 1914.

Western Wanderings (travel in Canada). 1915.

The Outlook on the War. 1915.

An Appreciation of Sir John French. 1916.

A Petition to the Prime Minister on Behalf of Sir Roger Casement. 1916.

A Visit to Three Fronts: Glimpses of British, Italian, and French Lines. 1916.

The British Campaign in France and Flanders. 6 vols., 1916-20; revised edition, as The British Campaigns in Europe 1914-1918, 1 vol., 1928.

The New Revelation. 1918.

The Vital Message (on spiritualism). 1919.

Our Reply to the Cleric. 1920.

A Public Debate on the Truth of Spiritualism, with Joseph McCabe. 1920; as Debate on Spiritualism, 1922.

Spiritualism and Rationalism. 1920.

The Wanderings of a Spiritualist. 1921.

Spiritualism: Some Straight Questions and Direct Answers. 1922.

The Case for Spirit Photography, with others. 1922.

The Coming of the Fairies. 1922.

Three of Them: A Reminiscence. 1923.

Our American Adventure. 1923.

Our Second American Adventure. 1924.

Memories and Adventures. 1924.

Psychic Experiences. 1925.

The Early Christian Church and Modern Spiritualism. 1925.

The History of Spiritualism. 2 vols., 1926.

Pheneas Speaks: Direct Spirit Communications. 1927.

What Does Spiritualism Actually Teach and Stand For? 1928.

A Word of Warning. 1928.

An Open Letter to Those of My Generation. 1929.

Our African Winter. 1929.

The Roman Catholic Church: A Rejoinder. 1929.

The Edge of the Unknown. 1930.

Works (Crowborough edition). 24 vols., 1930.

Strange Studies from Life, edited by Peter Ruber. 1963.

Doyle on Sherlock Holmes. 1981.

Essays on Photography, edited by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green. 1982.

Letters to the Press: The Unknown Doyle, edited by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green. 1986.

The Sherlock Holmes Letters, edited by Richard Lancelyn Green. 1986.

Editor, D.D. Home: His Life and Mission, by Mrs. Dunglas Home. 1921.

Editor The Spiritualists' Reader. 1924.

Translator, The Mystery of Joan of Arc, by Léon Denis. 1924.



The World Bibliography of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson by Ronald Burt De Waal, 1975; A Bibliography of Doyle by Richard Lancelyn Green and John Michael Gibson, 1983.

Critical Studies:

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes by Vincent Starrett, 1933, revised edition, 1960; Doyle: His Life and Art by Hesketh Pearson, 1943, revised edition, 1977; The Life of Doyle by John Dickson Carr, 1949; In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes, 1958, revised edition, 1971, The World of Sherlock Holmes, 1973, and A Study in Surmise: The Making of Sherlock Holmes, 1984, all by Michael Harrison; The Man Who Was Sherlock Holmes by Michael Hardwick and Mollie Hardwick, 1964; Doyle: A Biography by Pierre Nordon, 1966; Doyle: A Biography of the Creator of Sherlock Holmes by Ivor Brown, 1972; A Sherlock Holmes Commentary by D. Martin Dakin, 1972; Sherlock Holmes in Portrait and Profile by Walter Klinefelter, 1975; The Sherlock Holmes File by Michael Pointer, 1976; Doyle's Sherlock Holmes: The Short Stories: A Critical Commentary by Mary P. De Camara and Stephen Hayes, 1976; The Adventures of Doyle: The Life of the Creator of Sherlock Holmes by Charles Higham, 1976; The Encyclopedia Sherlockiana by Jack Tracy, 1977; Doyle: A Biographical Solution by Ronald Pearsall, 1977; Sherlock Holmes and His Creator by Trevor H. Hall, 1978; Doyle: Portrait of an Artist by Julian Symons, 1979; Sherlock Holmes: The Man and His World by H.R.F. Keating, 1979; Who's Who in Sherlock Holmes by Scott R. Bullard and Michael Collins, 1980; The International Sherlock Holmes by Ronald Burt De Waal, 1980; A Sherlock Holmes Compendium edited by Peter Haining, 1980; Sherlock Holmes in America by Bill Blackbeard, 1981; Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Sources by Donald A. Redmond, 1982; The Quest for Sherlock Holmes: A Biographical Study of the Early Life of Doyle by Owen Dudley Edwards, 1983; The Sign of Three: Dupin, Holmes, Peirce edited by Umberto Eco and Thomas A. Sebeok, 1983; The Baker Street Reader: Cornerstone Writings about Sherlock Holmes edited by Philip A. Shreffler, 1984; The Biographical Sherlock Holmes: An Anthology/Handbook by Arthur Liebman, 1984; Medical Casebook of Doyle: From Practitioner to Sherlock Holmes and Beyond by Alvin E. Rodin and Jack D. Key, 1984; Doyle by Don Richard Cox, 1985; The Complete Guide to Sherlock Holmes by Michael Hardwick, 1986; Sherlock Holmes: A Centenary Celebration by Allen Eyles, 1986; Elementary My Dear Watson: Sherlock Holmes Centenary: His Life and Times by Graham Nown, 1986; The Unrevealed Life of Doyle: A Study in Southsea by Geoffrey Stavert, 1987; Doyle by Jacqueline A. Jaffe, 1987; The Quest for Doyle: Thirteen Biographers in Search of a Life by Jon L. Lellenberg, 1987; Doyle and the Spirits: The Spiritualist Career of Doyle by Kelvin I. Jones, 1989; Conan Doyle by Michael Coren, 1995; Holmes and Watson: A Study in Friendship by June Thomson, 1995; The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes by Vincent Starrett, 1995; The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Detecting Social Order by Rosemary Jann, 1995; Sherlock's Men: Masculinity, Conan Doyle, and Cultural History by Joseph Kestner, 1997; Shades of Sherlock by Patrick Campbell, 1997; The Great Shadow: Arthur Conan Doyle, Brigadier Gerard and Napolean by Clifford S. Goldfarb, 1997.

* * *

Although Arthur Conan Doyle refused to make any great claims for his short fiction and insisted that his work was inferior to Poe or Maupassant, he remains one of the great masters of the modern short story. In scope alone he was certainly one of the most prolific authors of his generation, and his stories embraced a wide range of subjects, from adventure and crime to medicine and sport. And, of course, one short story in particular, "A Study in Scarlet" (1887), gave birth to Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr. Watson.

As a struggling young medical practitioner, Doyle had turned to writing short fiction as a means of supplementing his income, but what started as a prop became an all-consuming passion. His interest in the short story as a literary form had been fired by the publication of "The Mystery of the Sasassa Valley" in September 1879 while he was working as an assistant in Birmingham. Other stories of note include "The Captain of the Pole-Star" for Temple Bar (February 1883) and "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement" for the Cornhill (January 1884), but it was in the pages of Strand Magazine that Doyle was to reach his most enthusiastic public through the creation of Sherlock Holmes.

Starting with the publication in July 1891 of "A Scandal in Bohemia," Doyle followed Holmes's adventures until "The Final Problem" in December 1893, when he killed him off along with his arch enemy Professor Moriarty. Such was the public demand for Holmes's genius for scientific detection, though, that Doyle had to resurrect him and he reappeared in the novel The Hound of the Baskervilles and again in the short story collection The Return of Sherlock Holmes. By then Holmes and Watson had become public property and their success helped to make Doyle one of the most popular authors of his day.

At Doyle's own admission, one of the models for Holmes was Dr. Joseph Bell (1837-1911), one of his Edinburgh teachers and a pioneer of forensic medicine whose deductive abilities had much impressed his students. The name owed its origins to the American poet Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-94), who was much admired by Doyle. Sherlock Holmes became, and remains, a cult figure and the concept of his powers of rapid deduction, allied to Watson's slow-thinking empiricism, was an irresistible literary invention. Moreover, Doyle developed a simple narrative formula that suited the spirit of the late Victorian age, and he had the happy ability of suggesting to his readers that they too were part of the story.

In Holmes, Doyle created a believable and admirable character. Although Holmes is intellectually arrogant and occasionally pompous, he balanced those failings with attributes that made the detective attractive to the average reader. Holmes is financially independent, a thorough patriot, and strong minded, and he possessed a flair for showmanship. Despite being a commoner, he is a confidant of royalty and the aristocracy whom he wins over by the sheer force of his personality. At the same time he has a number of failings that give him a human touch—a liking for black shag tobacco and occasional shots of cocaine. Small wonder that Doyle had difficulties breaking away from him as the subject of his best short fiction.

However, Doyle also made good use of his time away from Holmes's domination. From the 1890s until his death 40 years later, he wrote and published a wide range of stories, all with different backgrounds and styles. Although not a soldier, he wrote a number of stories of army life, enlivened by his powers of observation, not only of the physical background but also of the military type. "A Regimental Scandal" and "The Colonel's Choice" both deal with the sensitive topic of military honor. History, too, was an all-abiding concern, particularly the Regency period. His earliest stories set at that time, "The Great Shadow" and "An Impression of the Regency," prefigure the exploits and adventures of Brigadier Gerard, the cavalry officer whom Napoleon says has "the stoutest heart in my army." In stories like "The Medal of Brigadier Gerard" the soldier leaps out of history's pages to become Doyle's happiest and most amusing fictional creation.

Once he had become financially secure through the Holmes's stories, much of Doyle's short fiction was written for pleasure. The stories collected in The Last Galley: Impressions and Tales betray his interest in archaeology and collecting fossils, concerns that were to lead to his novel The Lost World. Ancient history was another interest and he used it to good effect in stories like "The Centurion" (1922). His last story, "The Last Resource" (1930), is set in the underworld of America during the prohibition era and is remarkable for the way in which Doyle managed to capture the local speech rhythms.

Inevitably, given the scale of his output, some of Doyle's stories were either incorporated into later fiction or look forward to it. "The Cabman's Story" (1884) is set in London and can be read as a precursor to the Holmes's stories; the same is true of "The Winning Shot" (1883), which contains echoes of the nighttime countryside of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

There are other connections. In all his fiction Doyle demonstrated great powers of observation—a consequence of his own medical training—and he showed himself to be at home in a wide variety of backgrounds. Allied to the sheer exuberance of his literary style and the range of his interests, these virtues mark Doyle as the first writer to put the short story on a professional footing.

—Trevor Royle

See the essay on "The Speckled Band."