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Reference MS.8744
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Previous Numbers WMS/ALS: Doyle
Level Item
Extent 1 file (4 items)
Title Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan (1859-1930)
Date Late 19th century - early 20th century
Ordering Instructions This is an Item level record: click on the appropriate options to consult it in the Rare Materials Room, provided it is not Closed, or to order copies. If the Item has been digitised there will also be a link at this level to a digital facsimile.
Name Doyle, Arthur Conan, Sir, 1859-1930.
Description Four letters by Conan Doyle, one dated 1913 and the others undated. One is written from his home in Hindhead, to which he moved in 1892, and two from his last home in Crowborough. The recipients are not noted; the content is administrative, dealing with technicalities of publishing, obtaining an address, and setting up meetings.
Historical Background

Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh in 1859; his father, Charles Doyle, was an artist and draughtsman (and alcoholic), whilst his mother Mary, née Foley, was descended from Irish immigrants who kept a lodging house. The family's circumstances were poor but Doyle was educated at Stoneyhurst through the assistance of wealthier relatives. He entered Edinburgh University Medical School in 1876, where the analytic methods of Joseph Bell made a great impression on him and fed into the later character of Sherlock Holmes. He graduated MB CM in 1881, having interspersed his academic training with work as a doctor's assistant in Birmingham and service as ship's doctor on a Greenland whaler, and added to this an Edinburgh MD in 1885, on aspects of syphilis.

After service as a ship's surgeon and an attempt to settle as a general practitioner in Plymouth, Conan Doyle set up in practice in Southsea. He married Louise Hawkins, sister of one of his patients, in 1885. During these early years he was also writing fiction, both novels and short stories. In 1887 his most famous characters, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, appeared for the first time in the novel A Study in Scarlet.

In 1891 he moved to London, settling at Tenison Road, South Norwood. In his medical career he was attempting to become a specialist in eye conditions, but his writing career took over rapidly: the experiment of transferring Holmes and Watson to the short-story genre was a resounding success and doubled the circulation of the new Strand magazine when they began appearing there. Conan Doyle found Holmes crowding out other activities and attempted to solve the problem by killing him off in 1893.

Louise Doyle contracted tuberculosis at about this time and the family moved to Hindhead in search of health. Conan Doyle also travelled widely, both lecturing and in search of a healthy spot for his wife. In 1900 he spent some months as a volunteer in a South African hospital, in support of the British effort in the Boer War: his defence of the war's policy was probably behind his receiving a knighthood in 1902. At this time he revived Sherlock Holmes, first in a novel purporting to describe an adventure predating his death (The Hound of the Baskervilles) and then, in response to financial incentives from McClure's Magazine in the USA, bringing him back to the short story genre and explaining away his apparent death as a ruse by the master detective.

Louise Doyle died in 1906. A little over a year later Conan Doyle married again: Jean Blyth Leckie, his new wife, had been a close friend for ten years.

One of Conan Doyle's sons, Kingsley, and his brother General Innes Doyle, both died as a result of illness contracted during the First World War. These deaths and a general awareness that the war, which he had supported and for which he had propagandised, had led to millions of deaths, no doubt were a factor in Doyle's move to spiritualism in the 1920s. Evangelising for spiritualism dominated the written output of his final years, though Holmes remained as much a sceptic as ever (the final Holmes collection, The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, appearing in 1927).

Conan Doyle died at his home in Crowborough in 1930; he was buried in the rose garden there, but later reinterred with his wife in the churchyard at Minstead in the New Forest.

Acquisition Details No.1 purchased from Hurcomb, London, February 1931 (acc.56333); no.3 purchased from Hinterberger (or possibly Heck), Vienna, August 1935 (acc.69047). No accession number recorded for nos.2 and 4.
Accession Number 56333
Accession Number 69047
Access Status Open
Access Conditions The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material.
Reproduction Conditions Images are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.
MaterialType Archives - Non-digital
System No. 9a83ef62-2f0b-4886-94e2-4fad0f2b1a2b

Associated entries (click number link for details):


Doyle; Sir; Arthur Ignatius Conan (1859-1930)