From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Arthur Conan Doyle in Paris (France) for the International Spirit Congress (september 1925). In front of Hotel Regina.

Arthur Conan Doyle was very fond of France. He spoke and wrote French, he studied the French History for his historical novels (such as The White Company, Sir Nigel, Brigadier Gerard...) and France was the location of his many fictions. He had a great uncle in Paris Michael Edward Conan. He visited France several times, and he transited via France in his numerous travels.

Conan Doyle visits to France

1876 : Paris

In june 1876, Arthur Conan Doyle returning from Feldkirch (Austria) visited his great uncle Michael Edward Conan and his wife Susan in Paris for several weeks. He gave an account of the visit in his auto-biography Memories and Adventures (1923):

« On my way back to England I stopped at Paris. Through all my life up to this point there had been an unseen grand-uncle, named Michael Conan, to whom I must now devote a paragraph. He came into the family from the fact that my father's father ("H. B.") had married a Miss Conan. Michael Conan, her brother, had been editor of "The Art Journal" and was a man of distinction, an intellectual Irishman of the type which originally founded the Sinn Fein movement. He was as keen on heraldry and genealogy as my mother, and he traced his descent in some circuitous way from the Dukes of Brittany, who were all Conans; indeed Arthur Conan was the ill-fated young Duke whose eyes were put out, according to Shakespeare, by King John. This uncle was my godfather, and hence my name Arthur Conan. He lived in Paris and had expressed a wish that his grand-nephew and godson, with whom he had corresponded, should call en passant. I ran my money affairs so closely, after a rather lively supper at Strasburg, that when I reached Paris I had just twopence in my pocket. As I could not well drive up and ask my uncle to pay the cab I left my trunk at the station and set forth on foot. I reached the river, walked along it, came to the foot of the Champs Elysées, saw the Arc de Triomphe in the distance, and then, knowing that the Avenue Wagram, where my uncle lived, was near there, I tramped it on a hot August day and finally found him. I remember that I was exhausted with the heat and the walking, and that when at the last gasp I saw a man buy a drink of what seemed to be porter by handing a penny to a man who had a long tin on his back, I therefore halted the man and spent one of my pennies on a duplicate drink. It proved to be liquorice and water, but it revived me when I badly needed it, and it could not be said that I arrived penniless at my uncle's, for I actually had a penny. So, for some penurious weeks, I was in Paris with this dear old volcanic Irishman, who spent the summer day in his shirt-sleeves, with a little dicky-bird of a wife waiting upon him. I am built rather on his lines of body and mind than on any of the Doyles. We made a true friendship, and then I returned to my home conscious that real life was about to begin. »

1891 : Paris

In march 1891, Arthur Conan Doyle and his wife Louisa arrived in Paris when they returned from Vienna (Austria) where Arthur planned to study and specialize in eye medicine. Conan Doyle told in his memories :

« With the spring my work at Vienna had finished, if it can be said to have ever begun, and we returned via Paris, putting in a few days there with Landolt, who was the most famous French oculist of his time. »

Landolt was Professor Edmond Landolt who was renowned for Optometry and author of The Refraction and Accomodation of the Eye and their Anomalies (1886).

1894 : Paris

In april 1894, Arthur Conan Doyle arrived in Paris when he returned from Davos (Switzerland) and he stayed at Hotel Byron. [1] While he was at the Grand Café of the Louvre, he tried to count the red-ribbon gentlemen as they passed (Legion of Honour decoration).

On his return to London, he published an article giving his views about Paris: Paris in 1894: A Superficial Impression (The Speaker, 21 april 1894).

During the winter 1894, Louisa and his children (Mary and Kingsley) spent the season in Davos (Switzerland). On route they visited Paris (France) and San Remo (Italy) [2]. Arthur Conan Doyle was in America at this time.

1902 : Divonne-les-Bains & Paris

In may 1902, Arthur Conan Doyle returning from a voyage in Italy and crossing Switzerland went to Divonne-les-Bains (a spa town in France, not far from Geneva) for a rest cure. Conan wrote to his mother that Sam McClure told him a cure in this town saved his reason & life. Then he went to Paris and back to London. [3]

1905 : Paris

In may 1905, Louisa and his daughter Mary took a trip to Paris (without Arthur Conan Doyle). [1]

1907 : Paris

On 21 & 22 september 1907, Arthur Conan Doyle and his new wife Jean started their two months honeymoon in Paris at the Hotel Regina, Rue de Rivoli, before visiting Berlin, Venice, Rome and Constantinople. [4]

On their return, from 10 to 14 november, they stayed in Paris at Hotel Regina again. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote two letters to his mother from the hotel. [3]

The Times (20 november 1908, p. 15c)

1908 : South of France

On 25 november 1908, Arthur Conan Doyle and his wife Jean scheduled a short stay in the south of France.

1911 : Rheims

Late june or early july, on the route to Germany for The Prince Henry Tour, Arthur Conan Doyle stayed at the Hôtel du Lion d'Or (Golden Lion) in Rheims. [5]

1912 : Le Touquet

In september 1912, Arthur Conan Doyle and his wife Jean which was pregnant spent some time in Le Touquet (a holiday resort of northern France). [1] [3]

1916 : Paris to War front

Dieppe, Bethune, Loos, Bailleul, (Ypres), Montreuil(-sur-Mer), Vimy, Notre-Dame de Lorette, Acheux(-en-Amiénois), Mailly(-Maillet), Beauquesne, Amiens, Paris, Argonne, Verdun, Soissons, Villers-Cotterêt, Châlons, Forest of Argonne, Sainte Menehould [6]

In may and june 1916, Arthur Conan Doyle visited the Western Front in France :

  • Arthur Conan Doyle crossed the Channel on board the destroyer HMS Zulu from Newhaven to (logically) Dieppe.
  • He wen north and met with the young soldiers from the 20th Royal Fusiliers near the front.
  • He attended a medal presentation in the market square of Bethune (Pas-de-Calais department) where was British Generals Munro, Haking, and Landon and a French General.
  • He then visited the Loos Salient.
  • He had the great pleasure to see his young brother Innes, who had been promoted to Colonel, and was acting as Assistant Adjutant-General of the 24th Division, the Head-quarters of which were at Bailleul (Nord department), where he dined at mess and occupied a small lodging in the town, which was about six miles from the front.
  • He had a view on the Ypres Salient, and in the afternoon his brother drove him to the Square at Ypres (Belgium).
  • He left the front on 1st june as he had been asked (or ordered) to lunch at the General Head-quarters at Montreuil (Pas-de-Calais), the funny old town on a hill which he had learned to know well in days of peace. There he met General Douglas Haig.
  • He visited the front between Vimy Ridge and the long hill of Notre-Dame de Lorette (Pas-de-Calais).
  • The next day he travelled through Acheux and Mailly (Somme) where he met his son Kingsley, captain and Medical officer of the 1st Hampshire Regiment. One hour later he met another member of his household, for his Secretary, Alfred H. Wood of the 5th Sussex Territorials, was Town Major of Beauquesne (a few kilometers west from Mailly).
  • Then he went on to Amiens with Major Wood and his friend packed him into the train to Paris, where he stayed two days at Hotel Crillon.
  • In Paris, he met Mr. Robert Donald, editor of the "Daily Chronicle", which introduced him to the French politician George Clémenceau.
  • Conan Doyle and Robert Donald decided to visit the French lines in the Argonne. From Paris they passed in Villers-Cotterêt before arriving at Soissons, where they met Leo Maxse, editor of the "National Review," and M. Chevillon, who had written a book on British co-operation in the war.
  • Their expedition carried them to Châlons and from Châlons they drove some twenty miles East entering the Forest of Argonne to Sainte Menehould where they met General Hennoque of the 10th Division, and a Colonel that Conan Doyle called Cyrano due to his resemblance with Cyrano de Bergerac (see photos below). They dined with General Antoine and General Humbert. The latter asked to Conan Doyle "Sherlock Holmes, est-ce qu'il est un soldat dans l'armée Anglaise?" (Is Sherlock Holmes a soldier in the British Army?) and Conan Doyle replied "Mais, mon général, il est trop vieux pour le service" (He is too old to be on duty). There was general laughter.
  • They visited the front lines and could see Verdun and some cotes like The Observatory and Fille Morte.
  • After three days visit, they went back to Paris.

Conan Doyle wrote an account of his visit to the French Front: A Glimpse of the French Line which was collected in A Visit to Three Fronts (British, French and Italian), and he started to write accounts of the battles: The British Campaign in France (21 articles).

Arthur Conan Doyle's visits to war front in France (may-june 1916)
Read Conan Doyle's account in Memories and Adventures: XXVIII. Experiences on the British front and XXX. Experiences on the French front.

1917 : France

Late january or early february 1917, Arthur Conan Doyle wrote to his mother that he shall go to 'France about 12 february for a day or two as Sir Douglas Haig wanted him over some matter of the history. [3]

1920 : Marseilles

Late august 1920, on his route to Australia and New Zealand, Arthur Conan Doyle and family disembark in Marseilles where he saw some of the Senegal troops in the streets — a whole battalion of them marching down for re-embarkation. [5]

1921 : Marseilles, Paris, Aisne battlefields, Colombes, St. Jean de Luz

Marseilles, Paris, Meaux, Château Thierry, La Ferté Millon, Belleau, Dormans, Bligny, Rheims, Chemin des Dames, Soissons, Paris, Colombes, St. Jean de Luz [5]

In march 1921, returning from his 7-month trip in Australia and New Zealand, Arthur Conan Doyle and family arrived in Marseilles again where they stayed at Hotel du Louvre on the Cannebière.

From Marseilles, they took a long stride to Paris where they stayed "under the friendly and comfortable roof" of the Hôtel du Louvre. The first visit which he paid in Paris was to Dr. Geley, head of the Institut Metaphysique, at 89, Avenue Niel. Conan Doyle volunteered to give an exhibition of his Australian slides, and they invited a distinguished audience of men of science to see them. When Conan Doyle found that his box of slides was in the luggage which Major Wood had taken on with him in the "Naldera" to England, he was horrified. They were rushed over by aeroplane, however, in response to his telegram, and so the situation was saved. He made a one hour and a quarter private lecture in French which was attended by Mr. Charles Richet, Mr. Gabrielle Delanne, and a number of other men of science. After the lecture he attended an exhibition from a medium named Aubert. The next day he had the honour of meeting Camille Flammarion, the famous astronomer, who was deeply engaged in psychic study. He met Madame Bisson and Professor Jules Courtier of the Sorbonne as well.

Arthur Conan Doyle, his wife Jean and his son Denis went for a two days visit of the Aisne battlefields, "paying their respects incidentally to Bossuet at Meaux, Fenelon at Château Thierry, and Racine at La Ferté Millon". They followed on the same route than the taxi cabs of the Marne, passed near Belleau woods, then Dormans, Bligny, Rheims, the Chemin des Dames where Denis found a Prussian helmet and ended at Soissons before they came back to Paris.

During their stay in Paris they went to see the Anglo-French Rugby match at the Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir in Colombes. Conan Doyle said The French have not quite got the sporting spirit, and there was some tendency to hoot whenever a decision was given for the English, but the play of their team was most excellent, and England only won by the narrow margin of 10 to 6. Marshal Foch was present. Result was 10-6 for England.

While in Paris, Conan Doyle heard that his brother-in-law, E. W. Hornung, the author of "Raffles", was dying at St. Jean de Luz in the Pyrenees. He started off at once, but was only in time to be present at his funeral.

1925 : Paris

Early september 1925, Arthur Conan Doyle attended and was chairman at a meeting of the International Spiritualist Congress in Paris.

During his stay, Conan Doyle was interviewed by French journalists : he replied in French in Une interview de Conan Doyle avant le Congrès des esprits (7 september 1925) and A French View of Conan Doyle (12 september 1925).

Arthur Conan Doyle in Paris (France) for the International Spirit Congress (september 1925). In front of Hotel Regina.


Arthur Conan Doyle went several times in Les Andelys (20 km south-east of Rouen) where his sister Annette lived.

Conan Doyle's lectures/interviews related to France




Conan Doyle's writings related to France

Articles, Letters, Books





1954 (posthume)


In the Sherlock Holmes stories

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes, by Andrew Lycett (Free Press, US, 2007)
  2. Out of the Shadows, by Georgina Doyle (Calabash Press, CA, 2004)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters, by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower & Charles Foley (Harper Press, US, 2007)
  4. The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle, by Russell Miller (Harvill Secker, UK, 2008)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 The Wanderings of a Spiritualist, by Arthur Conan Doyle (1921), wrongly dated 1912 by Conan Doyle.
  6. Memories and Adventures chap. 28 and chap. 30, by Arthur Conan Doyle (1923-1924)

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