Readings and Reminiscences (10 october 1894)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Readings and Reminiscences is a lecture given by Arthur Conan Doyle on 10 october 1894 at the Calvary Baptist Church, in West 57-st., New York (USA), organized by the Young People's Association of the church.

Conan Doyle's lecture

Report from the New York Tribune

Dr. A. Conan Doyle last evening made his first appearances in America as a lecturer, and Calvary Baptist Church, in West Fifty-seventh-st., was filled with his admirers. Many of them, doubtless, had for the moment merged their interest for Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes' creator, being full of various speculations as to what that creator might prove to be. One wondered, for instance, which type of the inhabitants of our old home he would exemplify, whether he would speak the British or another dialect of the English language. Dr. Doyle solved all such speculations at first sight. Sturdy and unassuming, and frankly pleased with his reception, he proved to be just no accepted type at all. His enunciation mingles the manner of the Scot, the Briton and the American. His attitude toward the illustrious Holmes was of all attitudes the one to be the most engaging with his initial Yankee audience — ingenuous and utterly without nonsense. He smiled amiably while Mr. Mable, of "The Outlook," who introduced him, was painting grewsome pictures of Sherlock lying dead amid the Alpine heights.

As a reader Dr. Doyle plainly makes no pretensions. Perhaps the extracts which he read from his works were quite as effective so. Having mainly the interest of incident and narrative, they were scarcely of the sort to suffer for lack of elocutionary artifice. If they were also simple one must remember that they came from books for grown-up children after all, and are of the good old school which in them has fresh life.

"Readings and Reminiscences" was the subject of the lecture, chosen in deference to the opinion of friends who had assured the author that people were more interested in him than in his theories. Obviously the Doctor would have liked to talk of his theories, naturally a great part of him. It would have been easy, perhaps to name in advance his literary forbears. Born in Edinburgh, he remembers Thackeray in the household visitor who had an old man's hair, a young man's eyes, a child's laugh, and who used to hold him on his knees. But the book he read in school, surreptitiously, instead of Euclid, was Washington Irving, and many another American was his favorite — Cooper, of course, and later Parkman, of whom he speaks with enthusiasm. Parkman's splendidly pictorial pages were partly the inspiration from which he drew "The Refugees." While writing this latter, he said, he was tempted to come to this country, and would, indeed, have come at that time if he had not been assured that the old things which he loved were passing, and that the color he had delighted in was fading. Such an object lesson in the practical value of the picturesque ought to have a wholesome effect on Americans high and low. When he came to write his detective tales he studied Poe as an original master in the art. In fact, if Dr. Doyle has many readers in this country he comes legitimately by them.

Report from The Chicago Tribune

"To my mother," and he lingered on the word, "I owe the delight to be found in a well told story. I started writing a book at the somewhat immature age of 6. I wrote it in a free, bold hand — four words to the line. In this first book of mine there were a man and tiger. They began separately, but they were blended when the man and the tiger met. The book was illustrated by the author. The tiger looked like a many hooped barrel with a tail to it. Of my first story to appear in the Cornhill magazine it was said it would make Thackeray turn in his grave. About that time a gentleman appeared who had been a very great friend to me — Sherlock Holmes. He was so real to some people that I received letters asking for a lock of his hair, and one letter asked for his photographs at different ages."