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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Author Biography, Books & Facts

Instructor: Debbie Notari
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is best known for his mystery series 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.' In this lesson, we will learn about the life of this fascinating author.

Doyle

Doyle's Early Days

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in 1859 in Edinburgh, Scotland. His family was fairly well-off, at first, and Doyle grew up as an Irish Catholic. Unfortunately, his father was an alcoholic, and this put a strain on the family's finances. Doyle's father was 22 when he married Mary Foley, Doyle's mother, who was 17. She was educated and outgoing. She loved telling suspenseful stories to her children that seemed so true, Doyle grew up not knowing which of his memories was a true-life event and which was a story his mother told him. No doubt, these stories helped ignite Doyle's own gift for writing mystery and suspense.

His Schooling

When Doyle was just nine, he was shipped off to boarding school in England. After two years, he transferred to another school, Stonyhurst College, where he attended for the next five years. It was a difficult time for Doyle, not only because he was so far from home, but because he was treated harshly by the other boys. The school also punished students severely for any misbehavior - how terrible for a young boy!

However, during this time, Doyle developed his own storytelling gift and the younger students enjoyed listening to him. Later, Doyle wrote about these years, saying, 'Perhaps it was good for me that the times were hard, for I was wild, full blooded and a trifle reckless. But the situation called for energy and application so that one was bound to try to meet it. My mother had been so splendid that I could not fail her.' In 1876, Doyle graduated Stonyhurst College at the age of 17 and decided to give himself the middle name 'Conan.'

His First Career

Surprisingly, this gifted writer started out as a doctor! He received his medical training at Edinburgh University. One of his good friends at the university was another future author, Robert Louis Stevenson. One of Doyle's first medical experiences before he actually graduated included being a doctor on a whaling vessel called Hope; later, after he graduated, he was the physician on a ship named Mayumba that traveled regularly from Liverpool, England to West Africa. When Doyle received his medical degree, he drew a picture of himself and captioned it 'Licensed to Kill.' He had a sense of humor, to be sure!

Spiritual Decisions

It was while he was at the University of Edinburgh that Doyle became involved in a religion that believed in psychics. It was called 'Spiritualism.' Doyle was drawn to the paranormal. He actually wrote about the religion in an attempt to gain followers, and we do know that he completely turned away from his Catholic upbringing during this time.

Early Works

Doyle began writing while he was at the University of Edinburgh. Some of his first short stories were 'The Mystery of Sasassa Valley' and 'Captain of the Pole Star.' He began to see that he could make an income doing something he really loved. He eventually gave up practicing medicine and poured all of his energy into writing and his religion.

Becoming Recognized

After marrying Louisa Hawkins in 1885, Conan became famous for his novel A Tangled Skein. A few years later, having revised the novel, calling the main characters Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, the novel was republished under the name A Study in Scarlet. The world loved Sherlock Holmes, but Doyle didn't think the Holmes stories were his best works. Nonetheless, most everything else he wrote was quickly forgotten.

It was his novel The Sign of Four that made Sherlock Holmes famous for all time. When he finished the novel, Doyle recalls: 'When I wrote the last line, I remember that I cried: 'Well, I'll never beat that' and threw the inky pen at the opposite wall.'

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