4th Block Green
The Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Novels and stories are written to convey some type of feeling. The author strives to point the reader in a certain direction or for the reader to interpret the text for themselves. The life of the writer can play an important role in their stories as well and can be truly inspiring. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was more than a successful British author as he has inspired many through his hardships of having an impoverished childhood, experiencing rough wartimes, and overcoming all obstacles to achieve his goals until his death.
Starting with his childhood, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s life had many ups and downs. “Born in Edinburgh in 1859, it took many years before the young Conan Doyle threw off the shackles of an impoverished Scottish childhood to become an internationally-renowned writer,” (Matthews 36). He was born into a Roman Catholic family and lacked the artistic ability the rest of his family possessed. Conan Doyle struggled growing up in a household of ten children and an alcoholic father. In contrast, his mother was lively and was well-known in the art community. She was also educated and was one of the first people in Conan Doyle’s life to inspire him. Even though he lacked an artistic ability, his mother would tell him grand stories that sparked an interest in creativity into his mind. One can grasp the obscurity of his impoverished and rough childhood through a single statement made by Conan Doyle himself. He states, “In my early childhood, as far as I can remember anything at all, the vivid stories she would tell me stand out so clearly that they obscure the real facts of my life,” (“Arthur Conan Doyle Biography”). Even from the beginning, Conan Doyle surpassed the obstacles set before him to later become a successful writer.
Before Conan Doyle’s writing career took off, he started on a career path in the medical field. His family was surprised as they thought he would partake in the art field, similar to the rest of the family. Nonetheless, Conan Doyle’s parents sent him away for his studies, and “Between 1876 and 1881, Arthur trained in medicine at Edinburgh University,” (Matthews 36). It was during this time that Conan Doyle started to write. His life as a medical student inspired the beginnings of his writing as he used his time there as subject material. Before introducing Sherlock Holmes to the world, the character that launched Conan Doyle to fame, he utilized his war experiences to write his early pieces. “In his writing he drew on his early experiences as a physician, his time as a soldier during the Boer War and his interest in the spiritual world later in life,” (Sartain 43). With his medical degree and experience, he felt the need to serve his country and volunteered himself during times of war. The pieces written during his time as a surgeon in war gives a visual into the harsh times he encountered. Not only did he channel his physical experiences into his writings, but also his emotions. The first World War was brutal to Conan Doyle. “… the war was cruel to him, taking his only son, his brother, two brother-in-laws and his two nephews,” (Matthews 39). The feelings that resulted from this war, and previous events as well, led Conan Doyle to change his views of the world. His life veered onto a different path as he struggled to maintain his medical career and continue to write at the same time.
Throughout the duration of his medical career, he not only wrote about his war experiences, but also explored the genre of fiction, which would pave the road of fame for him. “During his studies, Conan Doyle met Dr Joseph Bell, who was to influence his future life and, especially, his literary work,” (Matthews 36). The character of Sherlock Holmes stemmed from Dr. Joseph Bell. The first story Conan Doyle wrote about Holmes received recognition shortly after he had written it. A popular magazine published his story and, “In 1890 his novel, A Study in Scarlet, introduced the character of Detective Sherlock Holmes,” (“Arthur Conan Doyle Biography”). Conan Doyle tried to continue to pursue his medical career by opening up his own practice, but this fell through due to his love of writing and the success of Holmes. As his writing career took off, and his medical pursuit faded away, his wife Louise was approaching her death. She fell extremely ill and because of this, Conan Doyle entered into an affair with another woman. His life, as well as his literary style, took a turn as his outlook on life changed. Only three years after the success of Holmes in 1890, Conan Doyle tried to kill off the character that brought him to fame to focus on other topics he felt more strongly about. He enjoyed the rise to fame, “But Doyle seems to have considered these stories a distraction from his more serious writing…” (“Sir Arthur Conan Doyle”). The public, however, failed to see Conan Doyle’s new vision for his literary career. He then wrote another Sherlock Holmes story a while after his attempt to end the character, but he was still searching for a new path. As his wife’s health continued to decline, and his affair persisted on, Conan Doyle entered into a grim period of his life in which he turned to Spiritualism to cope.
As a result of all of the experiences in his life, Conan Doyle had written much more than just his beloved Sherlock Holmes’s adventures. He felt his writing career was being overshadowed by the success of his fictional pieces. At a time of darkness in his life, and even in a literary sense to him, Conan Doyle desired to be enlightened. After his wife passed, he plunged into Spiritualism. An article about Conan Doyle states, “… at his funeral his family and members of the spiritualist community celebrated rather than mourned the occasion of his passing beyond the veil,” (Wilson). He truly delved into this concept and believed this was the light at a time of darkness. He then saw it was his duty to devote his life to using his literary platform, and wealth from his successes, to promote his new found love of Spiritualism. However, this decision would become very unpopular to the public eye and would be his downfall in his later years of life. Conan Doyle’s fame from Holmes seemed to fade away, but in spite of this, he continued to pursue his endeavour of promoting Spiritualism. “Conan Doyle himself viewed his most important efforts to be his campaign in support of spiritualism…” (Wilson). The criticism he received as a result of his efforts did not damper his will to achieve his goal in furthering this belief. He turned to Spiritualism in a time of need and darkness in his life and wanted to share this to the public since he developed such a large platform due to his previous accomplishments. He was trying to convey his strong feelings of enlightenment to his readers because in turn, Spiritualism helped him through his hard times.
Conan Doyle continuously strived to achieve his goals while also appealing to the public. Although his efforts failed later in life as he attempted to promote his spiritualist views, he became one of the most renowned and successful writers of his time. This being due mainly to his Sherlock Holmes stories. He was inspired not only by the individuals he encountered, but the life he encountered as he endured many hardships. Conan Doyle did not let the experiences that came across him veer his vision of his literary career. He used these life experiences to inspire himself and his writings. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s remarkable story from an impoverished childhood and rough wartimes, to an extremely successful author who overcame many life obstacles, has inspired many.
“Arthur Conan Doyle Biography.” The Biography.com, A;E Television Networks, 10 Oct.
2017. Accessed 21 Sept. 2018.
Matthews, Sarah. “A knight for mystery.” Real, August 2003, pages 36-39.
Sartain, Vicky. “The Chronicles of Conan Doyle.” Realm, June 2009, pages 42-45.
“Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.” Encyclopedia of world Biography, Encyclopedia.com. Accessed 19
Wilson, Philip K. “Arthur Conan Doyle.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica,
inc, 3 July 2018. Accessed 21 Sept. 2018.