Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


About

Also Known As
Arthur Conan Doyle
Born
May 22, 1859
Died
July 07, 1930
Cause of Death
Heart Attack

Biography

As one of the pioneers of mystery writing, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created one of the most famous crime sleuths of all time with Detective Sherlock Holmes. Alongside his faithful sidekick, Dr. John Watson, Holmes used his powers of deductive reasoning and incredible analytical skills to solve any number of heinous crimes. Covering 56 short stories and four full-length novels, Doyle captiv...

Biography

As one of the pioneers of mystery writing, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created one of the most famous crime sleuths of all time with Detective Sherlock Holmes. Alongside his faithful sidekick, Dr. John Watson, Holmes used his powers of deductive reasoning and incredible analytical skills to solve any number of heinous crimes. Covering 56 short stories and four full-length novels, Doyle captivated the reading public in the 19th century with the many adventures of Sherlock Holmes with A Study in Scarlet (1887) and The Sign of the Four (1888), only to infuriate his readers by supposedly killing him off in the short story "The Final Problem" (1893). Following a detour into historical novels and a growing fascination with the Spiritualism movement, Doyle finally bowed to public pressure and brought Holmes back to life in "The Adventure of the Empty House" (1903), which was actually published after the prequel novel The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902). In the following decade, Sherlock Holmes became one of the most popular characters to play on the screen with film and television adaptations permeating the landscape, and numerous actors from Christopher Plummer and Peter Cushing to Robert Downey, Jr. and Johnny Lee Miller all played the role. Despite being relatively limited to mystery writing, Doyle created one of literature's most lasting and often portrayed characters.

Born on May 22, 1859 in Edinburgh, Scotland, Doyle was raised in poverty by his alcoholic father, Charles, and his mother, Mary, both of whom split temporarily before reuniting in 1867. Luckily, Doyle had a wealthy uncle who paid his way through Jesuit schools Stonyhurst College in Lancaster, England and Stella Matutina in Feldkirch, Austria. From 1876 to 1881, he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, where he also began writing short stories. During that time, he published his first fictional short story "The Mystery of Sasassa Valley (1879) in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, while also publishing non-fiction pieces in the British Medical Journal. But most importantly, it was during his time in medical school that he met and was mentored by Professor Dr. Joseph Bell, whose keen powers of observation served as inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. In 1880, while still a student, Doyle acquired the post of ship surgeon aboard a whaling vessel bound for the Arctic Circle. With his sense of adventure aroused, he later incorporated his journey into the story "The Captain of the Pole Star" (1883), while returning to medical school and earning his degree in 1881.

Now a professional doctor, Doyle took the position of medical officer aboard the steamship Maymba which traveled from Liverpool to Africa. After settling for a time in Plymouth, he moved to Portsmouth where he opened his own practice and struggled to balance medicine with gaining a foothold as an author. It was during this time that he met and married Louisa Hawkins, with whom he had two children. Meanwhile, Doyle's practice faltered and he pursued writing as a fulltime venture, eventually writing his first mystery novel A Tangled Skein, which he changed to A Study in Scarlet. Published in 1887 in Beeton's Christmas Annual, the novel was the world's first introduction to Detective Sherlock Holmes and his assistant, Dr. Watson. Using his astute logical reasoning and skills in forensic science, Holmes sets about solving a difficult murder after meeting the more mundane Watson, who goes on to serve as something of a catalyst to Holmes' often incredible observations. Despite some minor attention in the form of good reviews, Doyle's famed character failed to initially catch on with the reading public. In the following century, the novel was adapted several times for the screen, including a 1914 silent version and a 1933 film starring Reginald Owen and Anna May Wong.

Doyle went on to publish a second Holmes novel, the densely plotted The Sign of the Four (1888), which was written after he was commissioned by Lippincott's Monthly Magazine managing editor. With a plot that involved the East India Company, the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and a secret pact made among four convicts, the novel was the first to humanize Holmes, particularly with the introduction of his penchant for injecting cocaine when lacking the stimulation of a murder case. The novel sold fairly well, and with the advent of filmed entertainment, was adapted numerous times, mainly in British-made productions that included a 1923 silent version, a 1932 talkie, a 1968 BBC series with Peter Cushing as Holmes, and a 1983 animated film with Peter O'Toole voicing the famed investigator. Meanwhile, Doyle felt exploited by his publisher and left to write short stories for The Strand Magazine, where he published many stories featuring Holmes and illustrations by Sidney Paget. The character finally took off with the public as Holmes became wildly popular with stories like "A Scandal in Bohemia" (1891), "A Case of Identity" (1891), "The Five Orange Pips" (1891) and "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" (1892). Twelve of the stories he wrote in this period were published in the collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892).

From 1892-93, Doyle wrote several more stories featuring Holmes and Watson, including "Silver Blaze" (1892) - which was turned into a 1977 film starring Christopher Lee - "The Adventures of the Gloria Scott" (1893) and "The Adventure of the Crooked Man" (1893) that elevated the character to new heights. But in tiring of writing about Sherlock Holmes and desirous of writing about others subjects like spiritualism and history, Doyle decided to kill off Holmes for good in "The Final Problem" (1893), a story that also first introduced adversary Professor Moriarty. Holmes and Moriarty battle at Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, where both tumble off into the crashing water where they both presumably die. But instead of being able to bury Holmes, Doyle was forced by public outrage to eventually revive him, starting with The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902), which was serialized in The Strand Magazine. In an ironic twist, Moriarty's introduction by Doyle was for the sole purpose of killing Holmes and only appeared once more directly in the story "The Valley of Fear" (1915), which was actually set prior to the events in "The Final Problem." But in many 20th-century screen adaptations, Professor Moriarty was elevated to Holmes' primary antagonist, and was most notably played by Laurence Olivier in "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution" (1976) and Jared Harris in "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" (2011), starring Robert Downey, Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson.

In the interim between Holmes' alleged death and his resurrection in the short story "The Adventure of the Empty House" (1903), Doyle wrote a number of mystery-related short stories as well as historical novels like The Refugees (1893) and Rodney Stone (1896), a gothic mystery set in the world of boxing. He also published his first non-fiction novel, The Great Boer War (1902), and introduced the lesser-known character Captain Sharkey in a series of short stories published in McClure's Magazine in 1897. Holmes made his first official return with "Empty House," where he explained to a shocked Watson that only Moriarty died in the falls and that Holmes faked his death to hide from his other enemy, Colonel Sebastian Moran, whom Doyle dubbed "the second most dangerous man in London." Many of the stories from the 1903-04 period were released in the collection The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905), including "The Adventure of Black Peter" (1904), "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" (1904) and "The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter" (1904).

In 1906, Doyle suffered from personal tragedy when his wife, Louisa, died from tuberculosis, which in part led to his conversion to the growing Spiritualism movement of the early 20th century. At the time, he wrote his last historical novel, Sir Nigel (1906), which was set in during the early portion of the Hundred Years' War spanning the years 1350-56 and featuring a loose adaptation of knight Neil Loring, who served at the pleasure of Kind Edward III. Doyle went on to create Professor Challenger, an investigator who was the polar opposite of Sherlock Holmes; instead of being cool and analytical, Challenger was domineering and aggressive. Professor Challenger made his first appearance in The Lost World (1912), but appeared in only two more novels, The Poison Belt (1913) and later The Land of Mist (1926), which was heavily influenced by his increasing belief in Spiritualism, and finally in only two short stories "When the World Screamed" (1928) and "The Disintegration Machine" (1929). Meanwhile, he published the fourth and final Sherlock Holmes novel, The Valley of Fear (1915), the second and last time Professor Moriarty featured as a direct adversary to Holmes. Doyle next published another collection of Sherlock Holmes short stories, His Last Bow (1917), which featured stories published in The Strand Magazine from 1908-1913 like "The Adventure of The Devil's Foot" (1910 and "The Adventure of the Red Circle" (1911).

In 1918, Doyle experienced more personal tragedy when his son, Kingsley, died of pneumonia while convalescing from serious injuries sustained in the 1916 Battle of the Somme during World War I. That loss pushed him further into the solace of Spiritualism, and led to his fascination with finding proof of life beyond the grave and other supernatural phenomenon. In fact, Doyle actually believed in many supernatural occurrences as if they were real, such as the famed Cottingley Fairies photographs, which showed a young girl posing with five superimposed fairies that was later revealed to be a hoax. He was even convinced that friend and fellow spiritualist Harry Houdini possessed supernatural powers, despite the latter's consistent refutations that mediums employed trickery. Meanwhile, he wrote a number of books about the supernatural like The Wanderings of a Spiritualist (1921), The Coming of the Fairies (1921), and The Case for Spirit Photography (1925), before releasing his final collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (1927), which contained stories published in The Strand Magazine from 1921-27. Doyle wrote what became his final novel, The Maracot Deep (1929), an adventure about the discovery of the sunken city of Atlantis, before he died on July 7, 1930 after suffering a heart attack at 71 years old. Doyle left behind a legacy for creating one of the most lasting characters in all of literature, who was portrayed onscreen starting in the early silent era all the way through the 21st century via major Hollywood blockbusters and television series like "Elementary" (CBS, 2012- ) starring Johnny Lee Miller and the British-made "Sherlock" (BBC, 2010- ) with Benedict Cumberbatch.

By Shawn Dwyer

Filmography

 

Writer (Feature Film)

Holmes and Watson (2018)
Characters As Source Material
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
Source Material
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Source Material
Hands of a Murderer (2006)
Characters As Source Material
Case of Evil (2002)
Source Material (Based On Characters)
1994 Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes Returns (1993)
Characters As Source Material
Crucifer Of Blood (1991)
Characters As Source Material
Tales From The Darkside: The Movie (1990)
From Story
The Return Of Sherlock Holmes (1987)
From Character
Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
Characters As Source Material
Robbers of the Sacred Mountain (1982)
From Story
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976)
Characters As Source Material
Sherlock Holmes in New York (1976)
Characters As Source Material
Sherlock Holmes in Dressed to Kill (1946)
From Story
Sherlock Holmes in Terror by Night (To Be Deleted) (1946)
Writing Credits
Sherlock Holmes in Dressed to Kill (1946)
Story By
Murder at the Baskervilles (1941)
Writing Credits
The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes (1935)
Writing Credits
Fires of Fate (1923)
Novel As Source Material ("Tragedy Of The Korosko")
The Dying Detective (1921)
Story By

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

The Return to the Lost World (1994)
Source Material (From Novel)
Sherlock Holmes and the Baskerville Curse (1985)
Source Material (From Novel)
Sherlock Holmes and the Valley of Fear (1985)
Source Material (From Novel)
Sherlock Holmes and a Study in Scarlet (1985)
Source Material (From Novel)
Sherlock Holmes and the Sign of Four (1985)
Source Material (From Novel)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1983)
Source Material (From Novel)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978)
Source Material (From Novel)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1972)
Source Material (From Novel)
The Adventures Of Gerard (1970)
Source Material (From Novel)

Writer (Special)

Sherlock Holmes: The Last Vampyre (1994)
From Story
Sherlock Holmes: The Eligible Bachelor (1994)
From Short Story
Sherlock Holmes: The Master Blackmailer (1993)
From Story
The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes: The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax (1992)
From Story
The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes: The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax (1992)
Story By
Sherlock Holmes (1981)
Characters As Source Material
The Adventure of the Three Garridebs (1937)
From Story

Special Thanks (Special)

Sherlock Holmes: The Last Vampyre (1994)
From Story
Sherlock Holmes: The Eligible Bachelor (1994)
From Short Story
Sherlock Holmes: The Master Blackmailer (1993)
From Story
The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes: The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax (1992)
From Story
The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes: The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax (1992)
Story By
Sherlock Holmes (1981)
Characters As Source Material
The Adventure of the Three Garridebs (1937)
From Story

Misc. Crew (Special)

The Lost World (1998)
Source Material (From Novel)
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (1991)
Other

Writer (TV Mini-Series)

The Hound of the Baskervilles (2002)
Source Material
The Royal Scandal (2001)
From Short Story ("A Scandal In Bohemia")
The Royal Scandal (2001)
Story By
The Lost World (2001)
Source Material (Based On Novel "The Lost World")
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World (1999)
From Story
Sherlock Holmes: Incident at Victoria Falls (1992)
Characters As Source Material
Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1992)
Characters As Source Material

Misc. Crew (TV Mini-Series)

The Hound of the Baskervilles (2001)
Source Material (From Novel)
The Sign of Four (2001)
Source Material (From Novel)

Life Events

Videos

Movie Clip

Sherlock Holmes (1916) - Holmes' First Move Theatrical star William Gillette, in the title role based on his own play, is visiting incognito in the house where Miss Faulkner (Marjorie Kay) is being held by the evil Larrabees (Mario Majeroni, Grace Reals), but refusing to hand over her valuable letters, in Sherlock Holmes, 1916.
Sherlock Holmes (1916) - Holmes' Confidant No reference to 221-B Baker Street, though the film was sanctioned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, William Gillette in the title role receives his trusted friend Doctor Watson (Edward Fielding), as he embarks on his case, in the Chicago-made 1916 adaptation of Gillette’s own play, Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock Holmes (1916) - An Exact Reproduction An elaborate prologue based on the original release, then actual pyrotechnics in the introduction of William Gillette, the renowned stage performer, in his only film, in his signature role as the hero, opening the TCM restoration of the 1916 Essanay Company production, Sherlock Holmes, 1916.
Sherlock Holmes (1922) - Moriarty, Genius Of Evil Opening and a rarity, though screen depictions of Arthur Conan Doyle's detective were already common, few have begun by introducing the villain Moriarty (Gustav Von Seyffertitz), with impressive London location shots, in the landmark John Barrymore version of Sherlock Holmes, 1922.
Sherlock Holmes (1922) - He's A Fiend John Barrymore in the title role, according to the screen story still a Cambridge student, pursues Wells (one William Powell) who, though a thief, we soon discover is in the thrall of the evil Moriarty (Gustav von Seyffertitz), early in Sherlock Holmes, 1922.
Sherlock Holmes (1922) - The Future Detective Introduction of the star and title character (John Barrymore) in idyllic setting, also his love interest (Carol Dempster), though not by his initiative, in the 1922 version of Sherlock Holmes, from the celebrated play written by and starring William Gillette.
Hound of the Baskervilles, The (1959) - Two Pipe Problem Stuffy Dr. Mortimer (Francis De Wolff) gets upbraided a bit as he explains the problem to Holmes (Peter Cushing) and Watson (Andre Morell) in an early scene from Hammer Films' 1959 The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Hound of the Baskervilles, The (1959) - Open, Know Then... Opening sequence from Hammer Films' spectacular horror-styled 1959 production of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Andre Morrell.
Hound of the Baskervilles, The (1959) - Nothing But A Legend Servant Barrymore (John Le Mesurier) fills in his new boss Sir Henry (Christopher Lee) and his guest-guardian Watson (Andre Morell) on the troublesome family history in The Hound of the Baskervilles, 1959, from Hammer Films.
Hound of the Baskervilles, The (1959) - My Dramatic Entrance Watson (Andre Morell) blunders onto the moors, ignoring the instructions of Holmes (Peter Cushing), whom he does not expect to meet, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, 1959, from Hammer Films.

Bibliography