Death of the Creator of Sherlock Holmes
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Death of the Creator of Sherlock Holmes is an article published in The Lancashire Daily Post on 7 july 1930.
Obituary of Arthur Conan Doyle.
Death of the Creator of Sherlock Holmes
SIR A. CONAN DOYLE'S END
FATAL ILLNESS FOLLOWS SCANDINAVIAN LECTURING TOUR.
Novelist, Playwright, & Spiritualist.
SON'S REMARKABLE TRIBUTE:
"A GREAT MAN AND SPLENDID FATHER."
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died at Crowborough this morning. He had been ill since November last, and his illness is attributed to his work in Scandinavia in October, when he gave a series of lectures on Spiritualism.
Lady Conan Doyle, his two sons and one daughter were at the bedside.
Sir Arthur had lived at Crowborough for the last 22 years.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, in 1859, and was educated at Stonyhurst and Edinburgh University. He comes of a distinguished stock, being the eldest son of Charles Doyle, the artist; nephew of Richard Doyle, of "Punch"; and grandson of the famous caricaturist, John Doyle.
Sir Arthur is, of course, chiefly known to fame through his literary work, "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," published in 1891, creating widespread interest. It may be doubted if there are half a dozen characters in English fiction which have so much unpressed the popular mind as Sherlock Holmes. There is a story of a Society lady who was heard to say that Sherlock Holmes's "Autocrat of the Breakfast Table" was her favourite book, and a year or two ago the president of a New York club, which was entertaining Sir Arthur Doyle, introduced the guest of the evening as Canon Doyle.
Sherlock Holmes, it may not be generally known, was drawn from life. Sir Arthur's original was an Edinburgh professor of medicine. Sir Arthur studied under him. "Gentlemen," this wonderful professor would say to the students, "I am not quite sure whether this man is a cork-cutter or a slater. I observe a slight hardening on one side of his forefinger, and a little thickening on one side of his thumb, and that is a sure sign that he is one or the other." "Ah!" he would say to another patient, "you are a soldier, an you have served in Bermuda as a non-commissioned officer," and then, turning to the students, he would point out that the man came into the room without taking off his hat, as he would enter the orderly room; that his air showed that he was a non-commissioned officer; and that a rash he had on his forehead was known only in Bermuda. It was from this man that Sir Arthur evolved Sherlock Holmes, the man who saw a clue to a murder in a broken twig, and scented a criminal from a tear in a piece of paper.
- The first noteworthy event in the life of Conan Doyle was a literary achievement at this early age of six, a story of adventure, of terrible adventure, written in a bold hand on foolscap paper, four words to the line, and accompanied by original pen and ink illustrations.
"There was a man in it, and there was a tiger," he wrote of this youthful production. "I forget which was the hero, but it didn't matter much, for they became blended into one about the time when the tiger met the man. I was a realist in the age of the Romanticists. I described at some length, both verbally and pictorially, the untimely end of that wayfarer. But when the tiger had absorbed him, I found myself slightly embarrassed as to how the story was to go on. 'It is very easy to get people into scrapes, and very hard to get them out again,' I remarked, and I have often had cause to repeat the precocious aphorism of my childhood. On this occasion the situation was beyond me, and my book, like my man, was engulfed in my tiger."
In his tenth year Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was sent to Stonyhurst, where he developed remarkable powers as a raconteur, a gift he turned to profitable account among his schoolfellows. Elevated on a desk, before an audience of small comrades, he grew grievously hoarse with much description of blood-curdling adventure. He has humorously remarked that he stipulated for "Tar's down and strict business," and paused suddenly at the most thrilling crisis solely that apples or more pastry should be offered as an inducement to continue. This, too, was the scene of early editorial effort, in which, as has already been told, he persevered when he left Stonyhurst for Feldkirch, in Germany. At the age of 17 Sir A. Conan Doyle entered Edinburgh University as a medical student, and obtained the diplomas five years later. But an intense longing to devote his time to literature remained always with him
In 1873, two years after the commencement of his medical studies, his first accepted work was published in "Chambers's Journal," a periodical for which he has always retained a kindly feeling. He received three guineas for this story, which was entitled, "The Mystery of Sassassa Valley," and was based on an old Kaffir superstition concerning a "gloomy, boulder-studded passage" notoriously haunted by a demon "with glowing eyes under the shadow of the cliff." In the development, the glowing eyes are found to consist of diamonds embedded in rock-salts, and the youthful searchers after demons are rewarded finally by a capture of far greater intrinsic value.
- In 1880 Sir Arthur Doyle quitted the University and paid a seven months' visit to the Arctic Seas in the capacity of surgeon en board the whaler Hope, then under the command of Captain John Gray.
The inducement was "two pound ten a month and three shillings a ton oil money," inclusive of an Arctic kit. There was no great demand of surgery aboard the Hope, and Doyle's chief occupations were keeping the captain in cut tobacco, working in the boats after fish, and coaching the crew to box. Four whales and four thousand seals were the fruits of the voyage, and the Hope reached nearly the 81st degree of longitude. From the unexpected occurrence of suddenly shooting off a thin sheet of ice and searching into the sea between two ice-blocks, Conan Doyle earned from the genial captain the nickname of "The Great Northern Diver."
He subsequently made a four months' voyage to the West Coast of Africa, and visited other ... he became a military doctor, and ... a general practitioner in both town ... and a Wimpole-street specialist.
... creation of Sherlock Holmes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published many successful novels and earned honour as a playwright.
WROTE OVER 60 BOOKS AND PLAYS.
In all, he wrote over 60 books and plays. Sir Arthur vigorously espoused the cause of Oscar Slater, who was sentenced to imprisonment for life for the alleged murder of Marion Gilchrist. Believing that there had been a grave miscarriage of justice, he conducted a strenuous campaign for the reopening of the case. In this he was ultimately successful, and Slater was acquitted. A little later, however, Sir Arthur sued Slater for part of the costs of his defence, but the matter was eventually settled amicably.
- In a remarkable open letter, written in June last year, 1929, Sir Arthur said : "We are about to die, you and I. My age is just 70 and I suppose an actuary would give me five more years. It may be ten, or it may be only one. Who can tell?"
Perhaps this may have been pre-vision by one who was a firm believer in Spiritualism and the power of the living conversing with the dead. He claimed to have had conversations with the spirits of Cecil Rhodes at his grave in the Matoppo Hills and also with Lord Haig and Joseph Conrad.
"I pledge my honour that spiritualism is true," said Sir Arthur a few months ago, "and I know that spiritualism is infinitely more important than literature, art, or politics, or in fact anything in the world."
In the cause of spiritualism he travelled extensively and lectured in all parts of the world.
In the Psychic Museum, which he established in Victoria-street, London, are shown many photographs and records of the phenomena in which he was so deeply interested.
In 1900 Sir Arthur contested Central Edinburgh as a Liberal Unionist, and Hawick Burghs as a Tariff Reformer in 1906, but he probably exerted greater political influence when he called upon all spiritualists to oppose the Tory Government in the General Election of 1929.
Mr. Adrian Conan Doyle, one of Sir Arthur's sons, paid one of the most remarkable tributes to his father ever made by a son, in an interview today.
"He was a great man and a splendid father," he said, "and he was loved, and was happy because he new it, by all of us. He had had heart trouble for six or eight months, but recently it had been easier and he had suffered less pain. Then two days ago came a sudden turn for the worse and he died peacefully at 9 30 to-day.
- "My mother and father were lovers after 30 years as they were on the day they were married. Their devotion to each other at all times was one of the most wonderful things I have ever known.
"She nursed him right through his illness to the end, just as she, like all of us, had been about the world with him.
"His last words were to her, and they show just how much he thought of her. He simply smiled up at her and said, 'You are wonderful.' He was in much too much pain to say a lot. His breathing was very bad, and what he said was during brief flashes of consciousness. Never have I seen anyone anything more gamely in all my life. Even when we all knew he was suffering great pain he always managed during the time he was conscious to keep a smile on his face for us."
It was in May last on his 71st birthday that Sir Arthur, in an interview, said he was tired of Sherlock Holmes, feared another European war in 26 or 30 years, and that he though modern youth truth," he said, "I am rather tired hearing myself described as the author of Sherlock Holmes. Why not for a change the author of 'Rodney Stone,' or of 'The White Company,' or of 'Brigadier Gerard,' or of 'The Lost World'? One would think I had written nothing but detective stories."
In March this year something of a sensation was caused by the announcement that Sir Arthur had resigned from the Society for Psychical Research, of which he had been a member for 36 years. In a lengthy letter to the chairman of the Council (Sir Lawrence Jones) intimating his resignation, Sir Arthur stated that for a generation the society had done no constructive work of any importance.
THE SPIRITS AND SEGRAVE.
Sir Arthur in January, 1928, had something to say in the nature of a speed record warning. Lecturing at the Kensington Town Hall, he declared that Segrave's life was saved and his world's speed record assured by spiritualistic intervention.
Sir Oliver Lodge, to-day, paid an eloquent tribute to Sir Arthur's work for spiritualism. "I fear the South Africa trip was too much for him" he said to a reporter. "He never spared himself when the cause was at stake. Much more than most of us he regarded himself as an apostle or missionary, and threw himself and all his belongings into the movement. Even Among those impressed with the magnitude of the issue few are willing to sacrifice themselves to the same extent. His period of service is not ended."
- Questioned as to whether Sir Arthur had spoken before his death of communicating with his family after his death, Mr. Adrian Conan Doyle said: "Why, of course. My father fully believed that when he passed over he would continue to keep in touch with us. All his family believe so too.
"There is no question that my father will often speak to us just as he did before he passed over. His death is a great loss, but only in a physical sense. I know perfectly well that I am going to have conversations with him. We shall miss his footsteps and his physical presence, but that is all. Otherwise, he might have only have gone to Australia. We will always know when he is speaking, but one has to be careful because there are practical jokers on the other side as there are here. It is quite possible that they may attempt to impersonate him.
One of Sir Arthur's latest letters appeared in a London morning paper to-day. Writing from Crowborough on Friday with reference to Mr. Churchill's account of the efforts to force the Dardanelles, Sir Arthur said: "It may be that our failure was really more beneficial in the end than success would have been, and that this is one more instance where the wisest plans of man have been set aside by that which is wiser still."