Interview of Adrian Conan Doyle on CBC Show Telescope
In the first part he talked about the spiritual crusade of his father, and in the second part the similarities between Sherlock Holmes and his creator.
Part 1 : Conan Doyle and Spiritualism
Part 2 : Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes
There is certain things that we discuss in the world and certain we do not. I never ask a woman's age, and I never ask a man a proof of his religious feelings. And now my father was an agnostic. He was as an enquiring brain as a medical man. He was drowned in this a question of: Is it conceivable that life does go on beyond the grave? Is there a life after death? He investigated the matter... proceeding progressively over a period of thirty-five years. Get that figure. Thirty-five years. From extreme cold, a decade, to hot. He read what have been written on the subject by famous scientists like Abraham (T.N.: Alfred) Russel Wallace, Mary Hall, Lumbroso, Geley and other great scientists. And his only reaction was so extraordinary that so brilliant a brain can have a weak fissure. This was his reaction. He went to sail seas and came away less convinced enough. But bit by bit, as he read this immense literature and he investigated more and more deep. And he came up against things that which he was not able to explain. Either by fraud, or by telepathy, he realized the possibility that there might be truth in this tremendous subject. If religion agreed of life continued, I don't go in the question of the Christian or Mahometan case may be, but with a single exception with the Buddhists, every religion agree that there is a higher life. The great quarrel was to his mind: was it possible to communicate with that life? At the end of thirty-five years, he got his proof. And he got a lot. A lot of proving to the brain of a man like Sherlock Holmes. Thirty-five years of close investigation. Once my father had received into his own scientific mind, his own scientific sense of action, complete proof of this life after death. And when he found himself in harness with such men as Sir Oliver Lodge, Sir William Crookes, other great men who sacrificed so much in order to save the truth. He realized either he was faced with devoting his life to this or remaining silent. Just taking it for his own benefit. And he being a man as he was decided to give the rest of his life to it. And he did at what a cost. He lost his peerage to it. The government decided that his peerage was long overdue. It should not be rewarded to a man who brings light onto death. As it might look as a British throne on the British government when approving the message. He devoted his fortune, to go all over the world, lecture to be telling the bereaved. He never thought of himself and my mother, bless her heart, supported him though she knew what the sacrifice would be and these two people made every sacrifice it was possible. Worst of all to my father was his great friends, men of his own mental caliber, the big men, the men of the Churchillian stamp, they didn't understand how Conan Doyle a sportsman, a military prophet, the writer, could devote is life going preaching of that it was possible to communicate with the dead.
Now the character of Sherlock Holmes is very largely a self-portrait of my father himself. Indeed, there are only two marked characteristics of Holmes which my father may indulge. He did not play the violin, and he did not take drugs. He created Sherlock Holmes as the first detective who should work against crime by the use of a system invented by himself. The result overnight was absolutely astounding. The police forces of the world were the first to recognize that a new system had been invented. And they reorganized their own forces to adopt that system. For instance, after the time of my father using the puppet of Sherlock Holmes, after the time of my father invested these methods, such things as the examination of dust in a man's clothing, relying on a man's hat, and things like that, to find out his locality, to find out his profession, etc unheard of. The use of plaster of Paris was preserving delicate traces in crime. The differentiation between tobacco ashes. All these kind of things were unknown to the police forces of the world. He invented them through the puppet Sherlock Holmes.
It has been said, quite roughly, that he hated Holmes. He didn't hate Holmes. He tried to kill Holmes at once days of his career because he took the view, and I think rightly, that Holmes was obscuring his finer writings. Such as his great historical novels, and his whole histories and so on. There was a riot when he killed Holmes in The Adventure of the Final Problem. Young men in the city of London, went to their work, next morning after The Strand Magazine had appeared and carried the story, they went to their work, believe it or not, with a... They wore in those days for death a mourning band right on their top hats. They did the same when Queen Victoria died.
If you are devotee of Holmes, then you must really know a great deal about Conan Doyle because one man is more or less with the other. They belong to each other. Sherlock Holmes is very largely a reflexion of a personal portrait of my father. Not in all ways, but in many ways. Shortly before he died, when he knew he was dying, my father granted an interview to a wellknown American journalist in that period, called (Edwin Church), and he actually made a statement, « I confess now, that if anyone is Sherlock Holmes, it is myself. » So there we had it straight.