History of Literature

Arthur Conan Doyle


"The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes"
"Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes"
"The Return of Sherlock Holmes"

"The Hound of the Baskervilles"
"A Study in Scarlet", "The Valley of Fear", "His Last Bow", "The Sign of Four"


Arthur Conan Doyle


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

British author
in full Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle

born May 22, 1859, Edinburgh, Scotland
died July 7, 1930, Crowborough, Sussex, England

Scottish writer best known for his creation of the detective Sherlock Holmes—one of the most vivid and enduring characters in English fiction.

Conan Doyle, the second of Charles Altamont and Mary Foley Doyle’s 10 children, began seven years of Jesuit education in Lancashire, England, in 1868. After an additional year of schooling in Feldkirch, Austria, Conan Doyle returned to Edinburgh. Through the influence of Dr. Bryan Charles Waller, his mother’s lodger, he prepared for entry into the University of Edinburgh’s Medical School. He received his Bachelor of Medicine and Master of Surgery qualifications from Edinburgh in 1881 and an M.D. in 1885, upon completing his thesis, “An Essay upon the Vasomotor Changes in Tabes Dorsalis.”

While a medical student, Conan Doyle was deeply impressed by the skill of his professor, Dr. Joseph Bell, in observing the most minute detail regarding a patient’s condition. This master of diagnostic deduction became the model for Conan Doyle’s literary creation, Sherlock Holmes, who first appeared in A Study in Scarlet in Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887. Other aspects of Conan Doyle’s medical education and experiences appear in his semiautobiographical novels, The Firm of Girdlestone (1890) and The Stark Munro Letters (1895), and in the collection of medical short stories Round the Red Lamp (1894). His creation of the logical, cold, calculating Holmes, the “world’s first and only consulting detective,” sharply contrasted with the paranormal beliefs Conan Doyle addressed in a short novel of this period, The Mystery of Cloomber (1889). Conan Doyle’s early interest in both scientifically supportable evidence and certain paranormal phenomena exemplified the complex diametrically opposing beliefs he struggled with throughout his life.

Although public clamour prompted him to continue writing Sherlock Holmes adventures through 1926, Conan Doyle claimed the success of Holmes overshadowed the merit he believed his other historical fiction deserved, most notably his tale of 14th-century chivalry, The White Company (1891), its companion piece, Sir Nigel (1906), and his adventures of the Napoleonic war hero Brigadier Gerard and the 19th-century skeptical scientist Professor George Edward Challenger.

When his passions ran high, Conan Doyle also turned to nonfiction. His subjects include military writings, The Great Boer War (1900) and The British Campaign in France and Flanders, 6 vol. (1916–20), the Belgian atrocities in the Congo in The Crime of the Congo (1909), as well as his involvement in the actual criminal cases of George Edalji and Oscar Slater.

Conan Doyle married Louisa Hawkins in 1885, and together they had two children, Mary and Kingsley. A year after Louisa’s death in 1906, he married Jean Leckie and with her had three children, Denis, Adrian, and Jean. Conan Doyle was knighted in 1902 for his work with a field hospital in Bloemfontein, South Africa, and other services during the South African (Boer) War.

Conan Doyle himself viewed his most important efforts to be his campaign in support of spiritualism, the religion and psychic research subject based upon the belief that spirits of the departed continued to exist in the hereafter and can be contacted by those still living on earth. He donated the majority of his literary efforts and profits later in his life to this campaign, beginning with The New Revelation (1918) and The Vital Message (1919). He later chronicled his travels in supporting the spiritualist cause in The Wanderings of a Spiritualist (1921), Our American Adventure (1923), Our Second American Adventure (1924), and Our African Winter (1929). He discussed other spiritualist issues in his Case for Spirit Photography (1922), Pheneas Speaks (1927), and a two-volume The History of Spiritualism (1926). Conan Doyle became the world’s most renowned proponent of spiritualism, but he faced considerable opposition for his conviction from the magician Harry Houdini and in a 1920 debate with the humanist Joseph McCabe. Even spiritualists joined in criticizing Conan Doyle’s article “The Evidence for Fairies,” published in The Strand Magazine in 1921, and his subsequent book The Coming of the Fairies (1922), in which he voiced support for the claim that two young girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, had photographed actual fairies that they had seen in the Yorkshire village of Cottingley.

Conan Doyle died in Windlesham, his home in Crowborough, Sussex, and at his funeral, his family and members of the spiritualist community celebrated rather than mourned the occasion of his passing beyond the veil. On July 13, 1930, thousands of people filled London’s Royal Albert Hall for a séance during which Estelle Roberts, the spiritualist medium, claimed to have contacted Sir Arthur.

Conan Doyle detailed what he valued most in life in his autobiography, Memories and Adventures (1924), and the importance that books held for him in Through the Magic Door (1907).

Philip K. Wilson


The Adventures of  Sherlock Holmes

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


Between 1891 and 1893 twenty-four Arthur Conan Doyle Holmes stories were published in The Strand, of which the first twelve were published in book form as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
"To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman." So begins "A Scandal in Bohemia," the first story in the collection. Irene Adler is "the" woman because she is the only person ever to have outwitted Holmes. The King of Bohemia fears that he will be blackmailed by Adler, his former lover, who has kept some compromising love letters and a photograph. However, she manages to turn the tables on the detective, retaining the photograph to ensure her own safety. Other highlights in the collection are the eerie "The Red-Headed League" where a red-headed man is offered employment by the League as a ruse to keep him occupied while criminals dig a tunnel from the cellar of his premises to a bank. In "The Man with the Twisted Lip" Holmes' help is enlisted to solve the mystery of the disappearance of Mr. Neville St. Clair. His wife has seen him at a window in a rougher part of town, but the police are unable to find anyone but a beggar. A number of enigmas follow before Holmes is able to reach a conclusion.
The first appearance of Sherlock Holmes in 1887 is particularly interesting in historical terms. For the First time, European cities had proliferated to the point where it was impossible to know more than a small percentage of their inhabitants. Yet the London that features in these stories manages to resist the idea that the city is sublime, that it is too large for any one person to be able to comprehend. Holmes and Watson represent Conan Doyle's bourgeois remedy to the terrifying and seemingly endless late nineteeenth-century expansion of urban and industrial civilization.





The Hound of the Baskervilles

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


Arguably one of the best Sherlock Holmes stories and one of the all-time classical mysteries, the atmosphere of The Hound of the Baskervilles is ghoulish, full of suspense and fear, and Sherlock Holmes is at his most brilliant. When Sir Charles Baskervilie dies suddenly, from heart failure, there are rumors that his death was caused by the gigantic ghostly hound of the title, said to have haunted his family for generations. When the estate's heir, Sir Henry Baskervilie, arrives in London from Canada, Watson accompanies him to Baskervilie Hall, and a skeptical Holmes is called in to investigate. Situated on the edge of Dartmoor, the Baskervilie estate borders a vast, brooding, misty moor, containing features such as Grimpen Mire, a deadly quicksand-like bog. It is the descriptions of the moor and the oppressive Baskervilie Hall, which provide much of the chilling atmosphere that pervades the novel. Into this setting Sir Conan Doyle weaves the sounds of a wailing woman, a mysterious butler, an escaped killer, and the specter of the ghostly, fire-breathing, murderous hound.
The Hound of the Baskervilles draws the reader in, not only to the world of the misty moor and strange goings-on, but also to the works of Conan Doyle. In this novel he displays his own interest in the occult, alongside Sherlock Holmes' talent for keen scientific detection, in a story that is full of atmosphere, suspense, and unexpected turns. It is a novel that keeps the reader fearful and guessing until the very last page, and then leaves them wanting more. Arguably the most popular of all the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, since its original serialization in 1901-1902, The Hound of the Baskervilles has been set to film no fewer than eighteen times, beginning with a German silent production of 1914.



"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

"Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes"    

Silver Blaze
The Yellow Face
The Stock-broker’s Clerk
The “Gloria Scott”
The Musgrave Ritual
The Reigate Puzzle

The Crooked Man
The Resident Patient
The Greek Interpreter
The Naval Treaty
The Final Problem

"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
The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter
The Adventure of the Abbey Grange
The Adventure of the Second Stain

"The Hound of the Baskervilles"     

1. Mr. Sherlock Holmes
2. The Curse of the Baskervilles
3. The Problem
4. Sir Henry Baskerville
5. Three Broken Threads
6. Baskerville Hall
7. The Stapletons of the Merripit House
8. First Report of Dr. Watson

9. Second Report of Dr. Watson
10. Extract from the Diary of Dr. Watson
11. The Man on the Tor
12. Death on the Moor
13. Fixing the Nets
14. The Hound of the Baskervilles
15. A Retrospection

"A Study in Scarlet"

Part 1: Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of John Watson, M.D., Late of the Army Medical Department
1. Mr. Sherlock Holmes
2. The Science of Deduction
3. The Lauriston Garden Mystery
4. What John Rance Had to Tell
5. Our Advertisement Brings a Visitor
6. Tobias Gregson Shows What He Can Do
7. Light in the Darkness

Part 2: The Country of the Saints
1. On the Great Alkali Plain
2. The Flower of Utah
3. John Ferrier Talks with the Prophet
4. A Flight for Life
5. The Avenging Angels
6. A Continuation of the Reminiscences of John Watson, M.D.
7. The Conclusion 83

"The Valley of Fear"

Part 1: The Tragedy of Birlstone
1. The Warning
2. Sherlock Holmes Discourses
3. The Tragedy of Birlstone
4. Darkness
5. The People of the Drama
6. A Dawning Light
7. The Solution

Part 2: The Scowres
1. The Man
2. The Bodymaster
3. Lodge 341, Vermissa
4. The Valley of Fear
5. The Darkest Hour
6. Danger
7. The Trapping of Biry Edwards

"His Last Bow"

The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge
1. The Singular Experience of Mr. John Scott Eccles
2. The Tiger of San Pedro
The Adventure of the Cardboard Box
The Adventure of the Red Circle
The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans
The Adventure of the Dying Detective
The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax
The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot
His Last Bow

"The Sign of Four"

1. The Science of Deduction
2. The Statement of the Case
3. In Quest of a Solution
4. The Story of the Bald-headed Man
5. The Tragedy of Pondicherry Lodge
6. Sherlock Holmes Gives a Demonstartion
7. The Episode of the Barrel
8. The Baker Street Irregulars
9. A Break in the Chain
10. The End of the Islander
11. The Great Agra Treasure
12. The Strange Story of Jonathan Small


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