The 160th anniversary of the birth of Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle
1859, Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on May 22 in Edinburgh, Scotland to Charles Altamont Doyle and Mary Doyle. The Doyles were a prosperous Irish-Catholic family. Charles Altamont Doyle, Arthur’s father was a moderately successful artist.
1868-1875, Conan Doyle lived and studied in Stonyhurst College, a Jesuit boarding school in Lanarkshire, England
I passed on to Stonyhurst, that grand medieval dwelling-house which was left some hundred and fifty years ago to the Jesuits, who brought over their whole teaching staff from some college in Holland in order to carry it on as a public school. The general curriculum, like the building, was medieval but sound. <…> There were seven classes—elements, figures, rudiments, grammar, syntax, poetry and rhetoric—and you were allotted a year for each, or seven in all. It was the usual public school routine of Euclid, algebra and the classics, taught in the usual way, which is calculated to leave a lasting abhorrence of these subjects. To give boys a little slab of Virgil or Homer with no general idea as to what it is all about or what the classical age was like, is surely an absurd way of treating the subject. I am sure that an intelligent boy could learn more by reading a good translation of Homer for a week than by a year’s study of the original as it is usually carried out. It was no worse at Stonyhurst than at any other school, and it can only be excused on the plea that any exercise, however stupid in itself, forms a sort of mental dumbbell by which one can improve one’s mind. It is, I think, a thoroughly false theory. I can say with truth that my Latin and Greek, which cost me so many weary hours, have been little use to me in life, and that my mathematics have been no use at all. <…> The life was Spartan, and yet we had all that was needed. Dry bread and hot well-watered milk was our frugal breakfast. There was a «joint» and twice a week a pudding for dinner. Then there was an odd snack called «bread and beer» in the afternoon, a bit of dry bread and the most extraordinary drink, which was brown but had no other characteristic of beer. Finally, there was hot milk again, bread, butter, and often potatoes for supper. We were all very healthy on this régime, with fish, on Fridays. «Memories and Adventures», 1924.
1876 –1881, Conan Doyle attended the University of Edinburgh Medical School where he met Dr. Joseph Bell, the person who inspired the character of Sherlock Holmes.
A tall strongly-framed but half-formed young man, fairly entered upon my five years’ course of medical study. It can be done with diligence in four years, but there came, as I shall show, a glorious interruption which held me back for one year. I entered as a student in October 1876, and I emerged as a Bachelor of Medicine in August 1881. Between these two points lies one long weary grind at botany, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, and a whole list of compulsory subjects, many of which have a very indirect bearing upon the art of curing. «Memories and Adventures», 1924.
In February 1880, Conan Doyle put aside his medical studies to go off to the Arctic for six months on a whaling ship. It was in the Hope, under the command of the well- known whaler, John Gray, that I paid a seven months’ visit to the Arctic Seas in the year 1880. I went in the capacity of surgeon, but as I was only twenty years of age when I started, and as my knowledge of medicine was that of an average third year’s student, I have often thought that it was as well that there was no very serious call upon my services. «Memories and Adventures», 1924.
1889, “Micah Clarke”, was published. «It was the first solid corner-stone laid for some sort of literary reputation» Conan Doyle wrote in his memories. I now determined to test my powers to the full, and I chose a historical novel for this end, because it seemed to me the one way of combining a certain amount of literary dignity with those scenes of action and adventure which were natural to my young and ardent mind. I had always felt great sympathy for the Puritans, who, after all, whatever their little peculiarities, did represent political liberty and earnestness in religion. <…> in «Micah Clarke”, where I fairly let myself go upon the broad highway of adventure. I was well up in history, but I spent some months over details and then wrote the book very rapidly. There are bits of it, the picture of the Puritan household, and the sketch of Judge Jeffreys, which I have never bettered. When it was finished early in 1888 my hopes ran high and out it went on its travels. «Memories and Adventures», 1924.
1894 –Conan Doyle accepted to go to the United States to give a series of lectures. He was booked to give talks in more than thirty cities. The tour was a huge success.
In 1902, Doyle received his knighthood from the British Crown for a pamphlet, The War in South Africa: Its Causes and Conduct and for his service to the nation. ONE of the most pleasing and complete episodes in my life was connected with the pamphlet which I wrote upon the methods and objects of our soldiers in South Africa. It was an attempt to stem the extraordinary outbreak of defamation which had broken out in every country—or nearly every country, in Europe, and which had attained such a height that it really seemed that on this absolutely fictitious basis might be built up a powerful political combination which would involve us in a serious war. «Memories and Adventures», 1924.
1911- Arthur Conan Doyle took part in the Prince Henry Tour. One of my most remarkable pre-war experiences, which influenced my mind deeply, was my participation in the amateur motor race called the Prince Henry Competition. It was rather a reliability test than a race, for the car had to go some 150 miles a day on an average at its own pace, but marks were taken off for all involuntary stoppages, breakdowns, accidents, etc. Each owner had to drive his own car, and I had entered my little 16 horse-power landaulette. There were about forty British cars and fifty German, so that the procession was a very considerable one. Starting from Homburg, the watering-place, our route ran through North Germany, then by steamer to Southampton, up to Edinburgh and back to London by devious ways. «Memories and Adventures», 1924.
1924, Arthur Conan Doyle published his autobiography, Memories and Adventures.
1930 — Arthur Conan Doyle died of a heart attack at his home on Monday, July 7, surrounded by his family.