Louisa Hawkins

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Louisa Hawkins

Louisa Hawkins aka Louise aka Touie (10 april 1857 - 4 july 1906) was the first wife of Arthur Conan Doyle. They married on 6 august 1885. She gave him 2 children: Mary in 1889 and Kingsley in 1892.

Arthur Conan Doyle about Louisa

In his autobiography Memories and Adventures (1923), Arthur Conan Doyle wrote how he met Louisa :

« In the year 1885 my brother left me to go to a public school in Yorkshire. Shortly afterwards I was married. A lady named Mrs. Hawkins, a widow of a Gloucestershire family, had come to Southsea with her son and daughter, the latter a very gentle and amiable girl. I was brought into contact with them through the illness of the son, which was of a sudden and violent nature, arising from cerebral meningitis. As the mother was very awkwardly situated in lodgings, I volunteered to furnish an extra bedroom in my house and give the poor lad, who was in the utmost danger, my personal attention. His case was a mortal one, and in spite of all I could do he passed away a few days later. Such a death under my own roof naturally involved me in a good deal of anxiety and trouble — indeed, if I had not had the foresight to ask a medical friend to see him with me on the day before he passed away, I should have been in a difficult position. The funeral was from my house. The family were naturally grieved at the worry to which they had quite innocently exposed me, and so our relations became intimate and sympathetic, which ended in the daughter consenting to share my fortunes. »

And about his life with Louisa :

« We were married on August 6, 1885, and no man could have had a more gentle and amiable life's companion. Our union was marred by the sad ailment which came after a very few years to cast its shadow over our lives (note: Louisa suffered tuberculosis), but it comforts me to think that during the time when we were together there was no single occasion when our affection was disturbed by any serious breach or division, the credit of which lies entirely with her own quiet philosophy, which enabled her to bear with smiling patience not only her own sad illness, which lasted so long, but all those other vicissitudes which life brings with it. I rejoice to think that though she married a penniless doctor, she was spared long enough to fully appreciate the pleasure and the material comforts which worldly success was able to bring us. She had some small income of her own which enabled me to expand my simple housekeeping in a way which gave her from the first the decencies, if not the luxuries, of life. »

In The Stark Munro Letters (1894), which is the story of Conan Doyle debut in medicine, he gave a description of Louisa :

« ... a quiet, gentle-looking girl of twenty or so [...] with a very sweet and soothing voice. »

Photos of Louisa

Certificate of marriage of Arthur and Louisa (6 august 1885).

1904: Standing from left to right: Innes Doyle with young Oscar Hornung, Constance Doyle (Connie), Ernest W. Hornung, Mary and Kingsley, Arthur Conan Doyle, Caroline Doyle (Lottie) and Leslie Oldham, Bryan Mary Doyle (Dodo) and Cyril Angell. Seated from left to right: Nelson Foley, Louisa, Mary Doyle (The Ma'am), Ida Foley with Innes Foley. Seated on floor: Percy Foley and Branford Angell.


1857 10 april Birth of Louisa Hawkins at Rosebrook Cottage, Dixon, Monmouthshire.
1884 october Louisa was living with her mother (Emily Hawkins) and her brother (John aka Jack) at 2 Queens Gate, Osborne Road, Southsea.
1885 march Arthur Conan Doyle took Louisa's brother John as a resident patient in his cabinet because of cerebral meningitis. But John died on 27 march 1885 in Arthur's house. He developed a friendship with Louisa.
april Arthur and Louisa were engaged.
6 august Arthur Conan Doyle and Louisa were married by Rev. S. R. Stable at St. Oswald's Church, Thornton-in-Lonsdale, West Riding Yorkshire. Their witnesses were : Bryan Waller (Arthur's friend) and Julia Waller, Emily Hawkins (Louisa's mother), Innes Doyle (Arthur's brother), Mary Doyle (Arthur's mother), Constance Doyle (Arthur's brother). They travelled to Dublin (Ireland) for their honeymoon.
1889 28 january Birth of Arthur and Louisa's first child, Mary.
1891 january Arthur and Louisa travelled to Vienna (Austria), where Arthur wanted to study ophthalmology. They stayed there only 3 months. They left Vienna in march travelling via Venice, Milan and Paris, and returned to London on 24 march.
march Arthur and Louisa lived at 23 Montague Place, Russell Square, London.
june Arthur left medicine to write full time and they moved to 12 Tennison Road, South Norwood.
1892 15 november Birth of Arthur and Louisa's second child, Kingsley.
1893 august Arthur and Louisa travelled to Lucerne and Zermatt (Switzerland). At their return to England, she was diagnosed as suffering tuberculosis.
1894 winter Arthur Conan Doyle knew that the healthy climate of Switzerland could improve Louisa's health. He arranged a move to Davos (Switzerland), and she spent the winter there with her children.
1895 january Louisa lived in Switzerland until november. Her health improved, but she found it difficult to live so far away from her family and friends in England. Arthur learnt that the air of Hindhead (Surrey, UK) was just as beneficial as that of Davos, so he decided to build a house for her in that area. It will be Undershaw, and they will live there from october 1897.
november Arthur and Louisa travelled in Egypt for 6 months (via Lucerne, Milan, Florence, Rome and Naples).
1896 april-may Arthur and Louisa had to live temporarily at Grayswood Beeches near Haslemere, as Undershaw was not yet finished.
may-june Arthur and Louisa stayed 6 weeks at 4 Southsea Terrace, Southsea.
1897 january Arthur, Louisa and children stayed at The Moorlands Hotel, Hindhead, while Undershaw was to be completed.
october Arthur, Louisa and children moved into Undershaw.
1898 23 december Louisa was dressed as poudre at the grand fancy-dress ball held by Arthur at the Hindhead Beacon Hotel. Arthur was dressed as a Viking.
1906 4 july Death of Louisa Conan Doyle at 49 because of the chronic tuberculosis final stage.
6 july Funeral at St. Luke's Church, Grayshott. The service was conducted by Rev. J. M. Jenkes and Rev. Charles Cyril Angell (Louisa's brother-in-law). Chief mourner was Arthur Conan Doyle, and was accompanied by Miss Hawkins (Louisa's sister) Captain Innes Doyle (Arthur's brother), Ernest W. Hornung (Arthur's brother-in-law) and Alfred H. Wood (Arthur's secretary).

Interview of Louisa

In may 1895, the Ladies' Home Journal published in the section "The Wives of Three Authors", an interview of Louisa by Ethel Mackenzie McKenna under the article : Mrs. Conan Doyle and Her Children :

Mary, Kingsley and Louisa in may 1895.

Mrs. Conan Doyle and her Children
By Ethel Mackenzie McKenna

It was a very bitter disappointment to Mrs. Conan Doyle that the delicate state of her health prevented her from accompanying her clever husband across the Atlantic last fall. To visit the United States has for many years been one of Mrs. Doyle's keenest desires, as she has a warm admiration for the Americans and the kindest remembrance of many American friends. But, alas, she is but slowly recovering from a very severe illness, which necessitated a winter at Davos Platz last year, and although she is gradually regaining her health, a repetition of the cure is strongly advocated. However, it is probable that she will soon have her desire, for it is authoritatively given out that the creator of "Sherlock Holmes" will shortly be in America again for a visit to Colorado, where he will go solely for the benefit of the health of the bright little woman who felt his absence from home so keenly, but who bore it, as she has borne her long and wearisome illness, with cheerfulness and patience.

The pretty little house in South Norwood — a suburb of London, sufficiently remote to escape the noise and smoke of the great city, yet within a few minutes' train journey from its very centre — has seen but little of Dr. Conan Doyle and his wife until this year. Mrs. Doyle was very sad at being compelled to leave her home so often, and eagerly looked forward to the time when they might return there for good, for although a woman's home is wherever her husband and children may be, there is no doubt that the feminine heart clings to the surroundings, the four walls, the countless inanimate objects which have been the witness of her sorrows and her joys. The drawing-room where Mrs. Doyle sits, though she very often takes up her place in the cozy armchair in the study where "Sherlock" was created, is a bright, cheerful room — indeed, all the rooms in the house are full of light. The walls are ornamented with many pictures and sketches by Dr. Doyle's artist father — indeed, the whole house is full of pictures and sketches by Dr. Doyle's grandfather, father and uncles, for the artistic gift has been very strongly developed in the Doyle family. Mrs. Doyle, too, can boast of a brother who has fine talent in this direction, and who promised to be a really great artist had not ill-health brought his studies to an end. Several of his oil paintings adorn the dining-room walls. But it is an ill wind that blows nobody good, for though her brother was fated never to bring his gifts to perfection, it was owing to his severe illness that Dr. and Mrs. Conan Doyle first became acquainted. Mrs. Doyle, or Miss Louise Hawkins, as she then was, was staying with her family at Southsea, where Dr. Conan Doyle was in practice, and he was called in to attend her brother. The result was the same as it often has been and often will be: the Doctor learned to love the young nurse who so faithfully and untiringly fulfilled his directions and ministered to his patient's wants; the sister found her gratitude toward the man to whose skill she felt she largely owed her brother's life develop into a warmer feeling, and they were married in 1885. They continued to live at Southsea, where Dr. Doyle remained in practice for five years after their marriage, at the end of which time the Doctor decided to take up the eye as a specialty, and he and his wife went to Vienna in order that he might study for work to which he intended to devote himself. Their child, Mary Louise, then little more than a year old, was left in England under the care of Mrs. Doyle's mother. The parting was a bitter one for both parents, but it was not long before Dr. and Mrs. Doyle returned to England. The Doctor started his new work in Tennyson's long, unlovely street, a few doors from the house where Arthur Hallam once lived. All this while Conan Doyle's literary work had been steadily growing, and the demand for his stories was ever larger than the supply. His literary labors began to occupy so much time that he soon found it quite impossible to run literature and medicine in double harness. In the former his name was already made, while years of work and waiting might lie in the future before he could hope to succeed in establishing his reputation as an eye specialist. So medicine went to the wall, Dr. Doyle having been largely influenced in his decision by his wife's advice, and he gave up all his time to writing.

Of her husband's work, Mrs. Conan Doyle finds her favorite in "The White Company," for not only does she consider that it is into this book that he has put his best work, but because, as she laughingly admits, she was allowed a share in the disposal of the heroine. I think, too, Mrs. Doyle must have a special affection for "Micah Clarke," to my mind one of the best things he has done, for in speaking of the troubles of the Great Rebellion the author has much to say of the country around Mrs. Doyle's former home in Gloucestershire. Her father was a landed proprietor at Minsterworth in that county, and it was in the quaint old town of Monmouth that Mrs. Doyle was born.

Dr. Doyle is a great athlete. No exercise comes amiss to him; Alpine climbing, football, tennis, cricket, skating, tobogganing, are all dear to him, and Mrs. Doyle shares his enthusiasm. Before she became ill she and her husband were untiring bicyclists — indeed, Mrs. Doyle speaks of bicycling as her favorite amusement — and they used often to do from thirty to forty miles on their tandem tricycle. It was when crossing the channel on their return from Switzerland one year, where they had done some really hard climbing, that Mrs. Doyle caught the chill, from the effects of which she has suffered so much. To an active, energetic woman the enforced inaction, the long, tedious spell of invalidism has been a great strain, but she has borne it bravely and uncomplainingly, making as good a patient as she did a nurse. Her children have been a great comfort and delight to her. Mary, the eldest, a bright little girl, full of pretty ways and quaint sayings, and the baby, a bonny boy, who rejoices in the name Arthur Alleyne Kingsley, have both been of constant interest and delight to their mother.

Louisa's first name

Louisa was born as "Louisa" (birth certificate), married as "Louisa" (marriage certificate) but died as "Louise" (gravestone). Conan Doyle always referred to her as "Touie" in his letters, but he never used "Louisa" or "Louise" in his autobiography.

  • 03.10.1857 : Louisa (birth certificate)
  • 06.08.1885 : Louisa (marriage certificate)
  • 29.12.1892 : Louise (Kingsley's birth registration)
  • 04.07.1906 : Mary Louise (death certificate)
  • 05.07.1906 : Lady Doyle (The Times, Louisa's obituary)
  • 05.07.1906 : Louisa (The New-York Times, Louisa's obituary)
  • 07.07.1906 : Lady Doyle (The Times, Louisa's funeral)
  • 07.07.1906 : Mary Louise (The Surrey Advertiser, Louisa's funeral)
  • 08.07.1930 : Louisa (The Times, ACD's obituary)
  • 08.07.1930 : Louise (The New-York Times, ACD's obituary)

Louisa and Jean Leckie

12 years after his marriage with Louisa, Arthur Conan Doyle fell (secretly) in love with Jean Leckie. He met her for the first time on 15 march 1897. She was 23 and he was 38. But he decided to keep the relation platonic, during Touie's lifetime, as Conan Doyle was a man of honour. However, between 1897 and 1907, Jean Leckie and Arthur met many times (walks, parties, birthdays, theatre, etc).

So, was Louisa aware of their relationship?

According to Mary, her daughter :

« Some two months before the end, she called me for a talk. She told me that some wives sought to hold their husband to their memory after they had gone — that she considered this very wrong, as the only consideration should be be the loved-one's happiness. To this end she wanted me not to be shocked or surprised if my father married again, but to know that it was with her understanding and blessing. » [1]

Mary also told her cousin John (Innes' son) that :

« her mother (Louisa) actually mentioned the name of Jean Leckie as her future stepmother... » [1]


Radio performers

  1. 1.0 1.1 In "Out of the Shadows", by Georgina Doyle (2004, Calabash Press, CA).