Conan Doyle Speaking

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Conan Doyle Speaking (1930)
Conan Doyle Speaking (78 rpm vinyle disc)
Conan Doyle Speaking (sleeve)
Conan Doyle Speaking (other sleeve)
Conan Doyle Speaking (Godfrey de Solla)

On 14 may 1930 [1], Arthur Conan Doyle recorded 2 speeches (3:48 min. and 4:02 min.) about Sherlock Holmes and Spiritualism.

The recording took place at Small Queen's Hall in London and was printed on 78 rpm vinyl by The Gramophone Company, Ltd.

Audio record

Conan Doyle Speaking: Part 1 & 2


There are two questions which my friends continuously ask me, one is how I came to write Sherlock Holmes, and the other is, why I became a spiritualist, and about spiritualism generally.

With regard to Sherlock Holmes, I was, when I wrote it, a young doctor, and had been educated in a very severe and critical medical school of thought. Especially coming under the influence of Doctor Bell, of Edinburgh, who had most remarkable powers of observation. He prided himself that when he looked at a patient, he could tell not only their disease, but very often their occupation, and place of residence. Reading some detective stories, I was struck by the fact that the re is also depending in nearly every case, by chance. I except of course Edgar Allan Poe's splendid stories, which though only three in number, are a model for all time. I thought I would try my hand at writing a story, where the hero would treat crime as doctor Bell treated disease, and where science would take the place of chance. The result for Sherlock Holmes, and I confess that the result did surprise me very much, for I learned that many schools of detection working in France, in Egypt, in China and elsewhere, have admittedly founded their system upon that of Holmes. To many he seems to be a real person, and I have had numerous letters from time to time addressed to him from all parts of the world. And the most quaint requests, including what was virtually an offer of marriage. His autograph also is much in demand.

Now as to the more serious subject, as a result of my medical education in the days of Huxley and Eccl. used to make me agnostic in matters of religion, and certainly I had no belief that we survive death. I of course kept my mind open to new ideas, for the day a man's mind shuts is the day of his mental death.

In 1887, some curious psychic experiences came my way, and especially I was impressed by the fact of telepathy, which I proved for myself by experiments with a friend. The question then arose: "if two incarnate minds could communicate, is it possible for a discarnate one to communicate with one that is still in their body?" For more than twenty years I examined the evidence, and came finally to the conclusion beyond all that, that such communication was possible. I could give hundreds of illustrations to prove my point, but I can only refer you to the literature of the subject. I took my proofs from actual personal experiments, as well as from the work of such great men, as Sir William Crookes, Meyers, Dr. Russell Wallace and others.

The full importance of the matter did not come home to me until the war, when all the world was asking where are our dead boys, and getting such unsatisfactory answers both from the churches and from science. Then it was that my wife and I felt that our knowledge on the subject was of enormous importance, and that we could answer this universal question.

Twelve years of our lives are now being spent in trying to impart our knowledge to others. In the course of which we have travelled seventy five thousand miles and we have addressed a quarter million of people. The work is now being too much for me, it has weakened my heart and I am temporarily disabled, but perhaps by this record I could say a word to a new and worldwide audience. That word is that there is nothing in this new knowledge to destroy the foundations of your present belief, but on the contrary, that it is a knowledge and a filling of security such as no other system of philosophy has been able to give. The basis of all religions is that we live after death and the proving of the truth of this basis is to my mind the most essential work in this age of perplexity and materialism, where the good and earnest man honestly doubt that the death is not the end.

People ask, "What do you get from spiritualism?" The First thing you get is that it absolutely removes all fear of death. Secondly, it bridges death for those dear ones whom we may lose. We need have no fear that we are calling them back for all what we do is to make such conditions, as experience has taught us, we'll enable them to come if they wish. And the initiative lies always with them. They have many times told us that they could not come back if that were not god's will. And it did make them intensely happy to be able to help and to comfort us. To tell us about their happy life and that world to which we are in our turn destined to come.

People say that only triviality has come through, in effecting recognition this has some truth. If for example, some dear one return to me, he could not prove his identity to me by discussing high matters. But he could do so by reminding me of past private experiences known only to himself and to me. When being in contact with higher spirit people, who do get lofty religious teaching and most inspiring knowledge.

The press unfortunately usually only notices spiritualism when fraud or folly is in question. Fraud and folly do exist, as in everything. But the press does not mention, as a rule, that thousands of cases where consolation and proof have been brought to suffering hearts. We bring important facts, new facts, which will revolutionise the all thought of the human race, both in religion and in science. It is the great question of the future, and it will end by making religion a real living thing so that all doubt of god's goodness or of the destiny of mankind will be forever banished. Since we shall each be in actual touch with what is higher than ourselves. And the communion of Saints will at last be an established fact.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Annotated Typescript

The script was amended with handwritten annotations by Arthur Conan Doyle himself :

  1. According to the British Library and published on disc as The Spoken Word: British Writers.