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    22 May 1859 : Birth of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Edinburgh

    22 May 2019

    Today is the 160th birth anniversary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but not everybody knows that the father of Sherlock Holmes was born in Edinburgh. A beautiful bronze statue of the detective stands in Picardy Place at the top of Edinburgh’s Leith Walk just opposite the birthplace (demolished c. 1970) of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is a literary landmark not to be missed in Edinburgh, especially if you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes.

    It is undeniable that the years spent by Sir Conan Doyle in Scotland and the people he met there deeply influenced him and his writings.  Apart from the famous Doctor Joseph Bell I’ve discovered that, as a young medical student, Conan Doyle had met J.M. Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson, the great Scottish authors, who were attending the same university as him.

    The Literary Traveller in Edinburgh Allan Foster Mainstream Publishing 2005

    The Literary Traveller in Edinburgh Allan Foster Mainstream Publishing 2005

    In 2009, I wrote in Scotiana:

    “In  2004, Edinburgh won the title of the “1st UNESCO City of Literature” and since then it has launched three great reading campaigns in the city, under the motto of “One Book One Edinburgh”.

    The three books successively chosen to be freely distributed everywhere in the town were Kidnapped, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and The Lost World.”

    The first two books by Robert Louis Stevenson and the third one by Conan Doyle!

    J.M. Barrie was born on 9 May 1860 in Kirriemuir. If I had more time to devote to writing I would have written a page about him for I am also a great admirer of  this Scottish author.  Born in Edinburgh, in November 1850, Robert Louis Stevenson was ten years older than Conan Doyle and J. M. Barrie.

    Statue of Sherlock Holmes on Picardy Place in Edinburgh © 2007 Scotiana

    Statue of Sherlock Holmes on Picardy Place in Edinburgh © 2007 Scotiana

    “In his early career, in order to pass the considerable time between infrequent patients and earn a little extra mone, [Conan Doyle ] began writing… His main interests were in historical fiction and the supernatural. He didn’t set out to be a mystery or detective fiction writer. When Doyle wrote the first Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, he had no idea he had created the defining character of his career. In medical school, Doyle was influenced and inspired by his professors, especially Dr. Joseph Bell. Bell was a master of diagnosis using observation and deduction. It was from Bell that Doyle learned the Sherlock Holmes method.”

    (Sherlock Holmes for Dummies)

    Plaque Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Edinburgh © 2007 Scotiana

    Plaque Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Edinburgh © 2007 Scotiana

    Sherlock Holmes Statue – Picardy Place – Edinburgh

     

    Perhaps the greatest of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries is this: that when we talk of him we invariably fall into the fancy of his existence. Collins, after all, is more real to his readers than Cuf; Poe is more real than Dupin; but Sir A. Conan Doyle, the eminent spiritualist of whom we read in Sunday papers, the author of a number of exciting stories which we read years ago and have forgotten, what has he to do with Holmes?

    (T.S. Eliot)

    A lot of people still think Sherlock Holmes really existed !

     

    Le chien des Baskerville Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Gallimard Jeunesse 1997

    Le chien des Baskerville Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Gallimard Jeunesse 1997

    I’ve been a fan of Sherlock Holmes for years. I remember pretty well my first reading of Le chien des Baskerville. I had borrowed the book from our local library and read it straight through, d’une traite as we say in France, completely immersed in the gloomy atmosphere of the story.  The above Folio Book, with its beautiful cover is a very interesting edition of Le chien des Baskerville. The book is full of illustrations and there are even little games at the end of the book which can be a good incentive to reading for children. The book I read when I was a child was much more austere than this one but the story itself was enough to trigger imagination then and I have read many books by Conan Doyle since and not only stories of Sherlock Holmes. The author was a very prolific writer in very different genres. I think Conan Doyle would have been pleased to hear me say that for, at one time, he got so tired with the successful career of his hero that he decided to “kill” him. Fortunately for us and for Watson, his poor disconsolate friend, Sherlock Holmes was finally revived by his creator…

     

    Arthur Conan Doyle met Bell in 1877, and served as his clerk at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Doyle later went on to write a series of popular stories featuring the fictional character Sherlock Holmes, who Doyle stated was loosely based on Bell and his observant ways. Bell was aware of this inspiration. According to Irving Wallace (in an essay originally in his book The Fabulous Originals but later republished and updated in his collection The Sunday Gentleman), Bell was involved in several police investigations, mostly in Scotland, such as the Ardlamont Mystery of 1893, usually with forensic expert Professor Henry Littlejohn. Bell also gave his analysis of the Ripper murders to Scotland Yard.

    The Hound of the Baskervilles Arthur Conan Doyle Penguin Classics 2003

     “A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen. Fire burst from its open mouth, its eyes glowed with a smouldering glare, its muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in flickering flame. Never in the delirious dream of a disordered brain could anything more savage, more appalling, more hellish be conceived than that dark form and savage face which broke upon us out of the wall of fog.”

    I’ve never ceased to read this author but Fabien, our son-in-law, is the greatest Sherlockian in our family 😉

    Arthur_Conan_Doyle_by_Walter_Benington,_1914

    Arthur Conan Doyle  was the third child of ten and the elder son. His father, Charles Altamont Doyle was born in England and his mother, Mary Foley,  was from a Catholic Irish family.  His parents married in 1855.

    I’ve found no better source about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s life than his autobiography: Memories and Adventures. I’m reading it with much pleasure, having reached the fascinating pages devoted to the seven months the author spent aboard a whaler. I don’t like at all his description of the killing of whales and seals but that of the Arctic landscapes is absolutely fabulous. What I also like in Sir Conan Doyle’s autobiography is the affectionate tone he uses to describe the character of his parents, and especially of his father, focusing more on his artistic talents than on his alcoolism and epileptic seizures. The efforts of Conan Doyle to collect his father’s paintings  in order to organize an exhibition in London is very touching too.

    Here are some very interesting extracts from Memories and Adventures… in Scotland.

    I WAS born on May 22, 1859, at Picardy Place, Edinburgh, so named because in old days a colony of French Huguenots had settled there. At the time of their coming it was a village outside the City walls, but now it is at the end of Queen Street, abutting upon Leith Walk. When last I visited it, it seemed to have degenerated, but at that time the flats were of good repute. (…)

    When my father was only nineteen a seat was offered him in the Government Office of Works in Edinburgh, whither he went. There he spent his working life, and thus it came about that I, an Irishman by extraction, was born in the Scottish capital.

    The Doyles, Anglo-Norman in origin, were strong Roman Catholics.

    [My mother’s] father was a young doctor of Trinity College, William Foley, who died young and left his family in comparative poverty. He had married one Katherine Pack (…)

    (…) when Katherine Pack, the Irish gentlewoman, came in her widowhood to Edinburgh, she was very poor. I have never been clear why it was Edinburgh for which she made. Having taken a flat she let it be known that a paying-guest would be welcome. Just at this time, 1850 or thereabouts, Charles Doyle was sent from London with a recommendation to the priests that they should guard his young morals and budding faith. How could they do this better than by finding him quarters with a wellborn and orthodox widow? Thus it came about that two separate lines of Irish wanderers came together under one roof.

    I have a little bundle of my father’s letters written in those days, full of appreciation of the kindness which he met with and full, also, of interesting observations on that Scottish society, rough, hard-drinking and kindly, into which he had been precipitated at a dangerously early age, especially for one with his artistic temperament. He had some fine religious instincts, but his environment was a difficult one. In the household was a bright-eyed, very intelligent younger daughter, Mary, who presently went off to France and returned as a very cultivated young woman. The romance is easily understood, and so Charles Doyle in the year 1855 married Mary Foley, my mother, the young couple still residing with my grandmother.

    Their means were limited, for his salary as a Civil Servant was not more than about £240. This he supplemented by his drawings. Thus matters remained for practically all his life, for he was quite unambitious and no great promotion ever came his way. His painting was done spasmodically and the family did not always reap the benefit, for Edinburgh is full of watercolours which he had given away. It is one of my unfulfilled schemes to collect as many as possible and to have a Charles Doyle exhibition in London, for the critics would be surprised to find what a great and original artist he was—far the greatest, in my opinion, of the family. His brush was concerned not only with fairies and delicate themes of the kind, but with wild and fearsome subjects, so that his work had a very peculiar style of its own, mitigated by great natural humour. He was more terrible than Blake and less morbid than Wiertz. His originality is best shown by the fact that one hardly knows with whom to compare him. In prosaic Scotland, however, he excited wonder rather than admiration, and he was only known in the larger world of London by pen and ink book-illustrations which were not his best mode of expression. The prosaic outcome was that including all his earnings my mother could never have averaged more than £300 a year on which to educate a large family. We lived in the hardy and bracing atmosphere of poverty and we each in turn did our best to help those who were younger than ourselves. My noble sister Annette, who died just as the sunshine of better days came into our lives, went out at a very early age as a governess to Portugal and sent all her salary home. My younger sisters, Lottie and Connie, both did the same thing; and I helped as I could. But it was still my dear mother who bore the long, sordid strain. Often I said to her, “When you are old, Mammie, you shall have a velvet dress and gold glasses and sit in comfort by the fire.” Thank God, it so came to pass. My father, I fear, was of little help to her, for his thoughts were always in the clouds and he had no appreciation of the realities of life. The world, not the family, gets the fruits of genius.

    Of my boyhood I need say little, save that it was Spartan at home and more Spartan at the Edinburgh school where a tawse-brandishing schoolmaster of the old type made our young lives miserable. From the age of seven to nine I suffered under this pock-marked, one-eyed rascal who might have stepped from the pages of Dickens. In the evenings, home and books were my sole consolation, save for week-end holidays.

    It had been determined that I should be a doctor, chiefly, I think, because Edinburgh was so famous a centre for medical learning. (…)

    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.

    Dr Joseph Bell famous Scottish surgeon and lecturer

    Dr Joseph Bell famous Scottish surgeon and lecturer

    …the most notable of the characters whom I met was one Joseph Bell, surgeon at the Edinburgh Infirmary. Bell was a very remarkable man in body and mind. He was thin, wiry, dark, with a high-nosed acute face, penetrating grey eyes, angular shoulders, and a jerky way of walking. His voice was high and discordant. He was a very skilful surgeon, but his strong point was diagnosis, not only of disease, but of occupation and character. For some reason which I have never understood he singled me out from the drove of students who frequented his wards and made me his outpatient clerk, which meant that I had to array his outpatients, make simple notes of their cases, and then show them in, one by one, to the large room in which Bell sat in state surrounded by his dressers and students. Then I had ample chance of studying his methods and of noticing that he often learned more of the patient by a few quick glances than I had done by my questions.

    Arthur Conan Doyle met Bell in 1877, and served as his clerk at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Doyle later went on to write a series of popular stories featuring the fictional character Sherlock Holmes, who Doyle stated was loosely based on Bell and his observant ways. Bell was aware of this inspiration. According to Irving Wallace (in an essay originally in his book The Fabulous Originals but later republished and updated in his collection The Sunday Gentleman), Bell was involved in several police investigations, mostly in Scotland, such as the Ardlamont Mystery of 1893, usually with forensic expert Professor Henry Littlejohn. Bell also gave his analysis of the Ripper murders to Scotland Yard.

    (Sherlock Holmes for Dummies)

    Sherlock Holmes teddy bear & books © 2019 Scotiana

    Sherlock Holmes teddy bear & books © 2019 Scotiana

    A selection of books from my own library:

    So many essays, periodicals and books have been published over the years that they could fill a whole library and I have a number of them in French and in English, all the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels of course but not only and  also very interesting essays and biographies about the author…

    The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes Leslie S. Klinger 2004-2005

    The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes Leslie S. Klinger 2004-2005

    A must for any Sherlockian: “The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes”: two box sets containing respectively two and one volumes.

    These are very big volumes but you can download them. The many illustrations and notes are very helpful. A golden mine!

    The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes volume I Leslie S. Klinger

    The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes volume I Leslie S. Klinger

    Volume I

    • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
      • A Scandal in Bohemia
      • The Red-Headed League
      • A Case of Identity
      • The Boscombe Valley Mystery
      • The Five Orange Pips
      • The Man with the Twisted Lip
      • The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
      • The Adventure of the Speckled Band
      • The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
      • The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
      • The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
      • The Adventure of the Copper Beeches
    • The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
      • Silver Blaze
      • The Cardboard Box
      • The Yellow Face
      • The Stock-Broker’s Clerk
      • The “Gloria Scott”
      • The Musgrave Ritual
      • The Reigate Squires
      • The Crooked Man
      • The Resident Patient
      • The Greek Interpreter
      • The Naval Treaty
      • The Final Problem
    The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes volume II Leslie S. Klinge

    The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes volume II Leslie S. Klinge

    Volume II

    • The Return of Sherlock Holmes
      • The Adventure of the Empty House
      • The Adventure of the Norwood Builder
      • The Adventure of the Dancing Men
      • The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist
      • The Adventure of the Priory School
      • The Adventure of Black Peter
      • The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton
      • The Adventure of the Six Napoleons
      • The Adventure of the Three Students
      • The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez
    • His Last Bow
    • The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
    The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes volume III Leslie S. Klinger

    The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes volume III Leslie S. Klinger

    Volume III

    The Novels

    • A Study in Scarlet
    • The Sign of Four
    • The Hound of the Baskervilles
    • The Valley of Fear
    On Conan Doyle Michael Dirda Princeton University 2012

    On Conan Doyle Michael Dirda Princeton University 2012

    Michael Dirda’s book on Conan Doyle is one of my favourites ones. Un vrai régal ! Believe me ! It is a small book (it can be downloaded too.)

    With a dollar clutched in my fist, I pedaled my red Roadmaster bike to Whalen’s drugstore, where I quickly picked out two or three candy bars, a box of Cracker Jack, and a cold bottle of Orange Crush. After my family had driven off in our new 1958 Ford, I dragged a blanket from my bed, spread it on the reclining chair next to the living room’s brass floor lamp, carefully arranged my provisions near to hand, turned of all the other lights, and crawled expectantly under the covers with my paperback of The Hound – just as the heavens began to boom with thunder and the rain to thump against the curtained windows.

    (Michael Dirda – On Conan Doyle)

     

    The Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Sherlock Holmes Dick Riley & Pam McAllister 2001

    The Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Sherlock Holmes Dick Riley & Pam McAllister 2001

     “…adult readers around the world and throughout the twentieth century – whether curled comfortably in armchairs, propped up by pillows in our beds, or cautiously reading as we soak in our tubs – have kept the gaslit world of Holmes and Watson alive in our imaginations. How precious the smoke curling around our detective’s head, how familiar the fog that blankets our Baker Street. Oblivious to the shriek of car alarms or jets passing overhead, we hear only the clop of the horses pulling hansoms or Mrs Hudson’s weary tred on the seventeen steps.” (From Dick Riley & Pam McAllister Preface of The Bedside, Bathtube & Armchair Companion to Sherlock Holmes)

    That is exactly why, though I am not against watching the very last movie and television film of Sherlock Holmes, full of action and special effects,  interpreted by very good actors, but I remain deeply attached to the atmosphere of the original stories of Sherlock Holmes. I also like very much the old films in black and white and the TV series featuring Jeremy Brett.

    I’ve just downloaded the two following books on my kindle :

    Teller of Tales The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle Daniel Stashower Owl Books 2001

    Teller of Tales The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle Daniel Stashower Owl Books 2001

    From the publisher :

    Winner of the 1999 Edgar Award for Best Biographical Work, this is “an excellent biography of the man who created Sherlock Holmes” (David Walton, The New York Times Book Review)

    This fresh, compelling biography examines the extraordinary life and strange contrasts of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the struggling provincial doctor who became the most popular storyteller of his age. From his youthful exploits aboard a whaling ship to his often stormy friendships with such figures as Harry Houdini and George Bernard Shaw, Conan Doyle lived a life as gripping as one of his adventures. Exhaustively researched and elegantly written, Daniel Stashower’s Teller of Tales sets aside many myths and misconceptions to present a vivid portrait of the man behind the legend of Baker Street, with a particular emphasis on the Psychic Crusade that dominated his final years–the work that Conan Doyle himself felt to be “the most important thing in the world.”

    The Sherlock Holmes Book David Stuart Davies

    The Sherlock Holmes Book David Stuart Davies

    From the publisher :

    The Sherlock Holmes Book chronicles every case of the world’s greatest detective and his assistant Dr Watson. The game is afoot and now you can discover every detail of Sherlock Holmes’ world.

    From the first novel A Study in Scarlet, through to the masterpiece that is The Hound of the Baskervilles and the detective’s last story, The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place, The Sherlock Holmes Book explores every facet of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most memorable creation. Discover how Holmes reaches his conclusions through deductive reasoning, plus in-depth biographies of key characters, from Holmes and Watson themselves to Inspector Lestrade, Mrs Hudson, and the detective’s arch-enemy Professor Moriarty.

    Whether you’re a fan of the books, movies or TV shows, The Sherlock Holmes Book offers all you want to know about the world-famous sleuth and his stories.


    Sherlock Holmes for Dummies is an excellent reference book.

    Sherlock Holmes for Dummies Steven Doyle and David A

    Sherlock Holmes for Dummies Steven Doyle and David A

    Quatrième de couverture

    Your comprehensive guide to this important literary figure and his author

    It′s elementary! Sherlock Holmes is a classic character who has fascinated readers for decades, and now this indispensable guide explores the enduring detective′s stories like never before. Discover the rich characters, recurring themes, and social context of Arthur Conan Doyle′s tales; the influence of Holmes on literature and pop culture; and why his stories still offer endless and fascinating new discoveries to readers.

    • See where it all began meet Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the man who created the world′s greatest detective, and learn about Victorian London, where the Holmes stories take place
    • Gain new insight into Doyle′s tales from the classic Hound of the Baskervilles to the lesser–known short stories, get a closer look at the forensics and detective work that made Sherlock Holmes famous
    • Get to know the characters discover why Holmes and Watson are such beloved characters, and meet other characters such as cops, bad guys, victims, and damsels in distress
    • Experience Holmes today from the ever–expanding network of worldwide fans to story locations that fans can visit, discover how the character continues to resonate with so many devoted followers

    “Move over, Arthur Conan Doyle. Make room for Steve Doyle, whose handy Sherlock Holmes For Dummies will constitute addictive reading for Holmes fans and novices alike. Doyle has merrily put together a compendium of every sort of information regarding The Great Detective, from animal, vegetable, mineral, comical, tragical, and geographical. He even recommends ten Holmes books no aficionado should be without but make that eleven. Sherlock Holmes For Dummies is essential reading.” Nicholas Meyer Author, The Seven–Per–Cent Solution

    Open the book and find:

    • A list of all Sherlock Holmes short stories and novels
    • A detailed picture of Britain during Holmes′s time
    • In–depth analysis of Holmes and Watson as characters
    • Detailed coverage of the four novels in the Sherlockian canon
    • Holmes portrayals in television, movies, onstage, and in fan fiction
    • The most memorable quotes of Holmes
    • Active Sherlockian societies in the United States

    Learn to

    • Identify key themes, settings, and characters
    • See the influence of Holmes stories and their impact on literature, mystery writing, and detective work
    • Discover Holmes through his contemporary fan following, and stage and screen adaptations
    • Appreciate the literary genius of the Sherlock Holmes canon

     


    We’re all great fans of Sherlock Holmes in our family 😉 Fabien and Nathalie enjoyed very much their visit to the Sherlock Holmes Museum  in London and now they’re eager to discover all places associated with Conan Doyle in Scotland ;-). We’ll try to organize a trip with them, certainly not forgetting to follow the guide (Toby ?) in one of Edinburgh Sherlock Holmes guided tours!

    The Sherlock Holmes Museum 221 Baker StreetLondon © 2019 Scotiana

    The Sherlock Holmes Museum 221 Baker StreetLondon © 2019 Scotiana

    The Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221 Baker Street in London © 2019 Scotiana

    The Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221 Baker Street in London © 2019 Scotiana

    The library in the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221 Baker Street in London © 2019 Scotiana

    The library in the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221 Baker Street in London © 2019 Scotiana

     

    The Real Sherlock Holmes Walking Tour of Edinburgh –

    The Real Sherlock Holmes Walking Tour of Edinburgh is delighted to offer both 3 hour and Full Day Tours.
    Whether you are a group of family and friends, a visiting school or college, a travel party, a couple or even an individual wishing to have a one-off experience, we will be happy to arrange a Tour for you at a time and on a date of your choosing.

    Our 3 hour Tour will introduce you to the world of Victorian Edinburgh, a true Jekyll and Hyde city of Enlightenment and Bodysnatchers, as we follow in the footsteps of the young Arthur Conan Doyle as he grows up in a large and turbulent family. We visit the places where Arthur lived and studied such as The University of Edinburgh Medical School and the old Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, and will stand outside his former student home sharing amazing tales of Houdini and Arctic whaling ships. Finally, we finish our investigation into the ‘real’ Sherlock Holmes on the Edinburgh street where the creator of the world’s most famous fictional character was born on 22nd May, 1859 – conveniently, directly opposite The Conan Doyle Pub where you can indulge in a snack, meal or even a wee dram!

    For those wishing to arrange a very special extended experience, we are also able to offer a Full Day Sherlockian itinerary in Edinburgh which, as well as visiting all of the places included in the regular 3 hour Tour, includes time for lunch at The Conan Doyle pub and takes in extra site visits important to the Real Sherlock Holmes story. In particular, the Full Day Tour will include a visit to The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre and ends with us paying our respects at the graveside of the ‘real’ Sherlock Holmes.

    http://realsherlockholmes.com/the-walking-tour/

    I will have occasion to write again about Sir Conan Doyle in Scotiana. In the meantime enjoy your reading of Sherlock Holmes!

    Sherlock Holmes - Playing The Violin

    Sherlock Holmes – Playing The Violin

    We can only imagine Sherlock Holmes playing the violin but to listen to the voice of Conan Doyle is priceless!.

    Á bientôt.

    Mairiuna

    “Three years before his death in 1930, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was filmed talking about his famous detective and his belief in Spiritualism. This is a nicely restored version of that interview, all things considered. (I don’t own any rights to this film.)”  Jay Calloway

     

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