The Arthur Conan Doyle EncyclopediaThe Arthur Conan Doyle EncyclopediaThe Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, KStJ, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

Conan Doyle Dead From Heart Attack

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Conan Doyle Dead From Heart Attack is an article published in The New-York Times on 8 july 1930.

Obituary of Arthur Conan Doyle.

Conan Doyle Dead From Heart Attack

The New-York Times (8 july 1930, p. 1)
The New-York Times (8 july 1930, p. 9)

Spiritist, Novelist and Creator of Famous Fiction Detective Ill Two Months — Was 71.

Family Awaits 'Message'

Son is Confident Father Will Confirm Spirit Existence, in Which He Believed.

Wireless to The New York Times.

London, July 7. — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes and a noted spiritist, died today at his home, Windlesham, in Crowborough, Sussex. He was 71 years old.

Sir Arthur had been ill from heart trouble for two months, but was making good progress against the malady until last Saturday, when a return of the heart attacks prostrated him.

At his bedside when he died were Lady Doyle, his two sons and one daughter. Sir Arthur's illness was attributed to his work in Scandinavia last October, when he gave a series of lectures on spiritism.

Although Sir Arthur had been in falling health for some time, that did not deter him from his work. Up to the end his enthusiasm for psychic investigation was unflagging. Only last March he caused a sensation by resigning from the Society for Psychical Research, of which he had been a leading member for thirty-six years. His letter of resignation was written from his sickbed.

Told of Spirit Talks.

Sir Arthur claimed to have had conversations with the spirits of many great men, including Cecil Rhodes, Earl Haig, Joseph Conrad and others. Adrian Conan Doyle, the novelist's son, said today the whole family believed Sir Arthur would continue to keep in touch with them.

"I know perfectly well I am going to have conversations with my father," he said.

In his later years Sir Arthur often expressed a wish that he should be remembered for his psychic work rather than for his novels: When he celebrated his seventy-first birthday on May 22 he confessed he was tired of hearing about his celebrated char. aster, Sherlock Holmes.

"Holmes is dead," he said, "I have done with him." Ten of Sir Arthur's sixty books are about spiritism.

For years Lady Doyle was his constant companion, accompanying him on all his travels. It was to her the dying novelist spoke his last words.

"You are wonderful," he said with a smile.

He died peacefully. Lady Doyle had nursed him through his Illness to the end.

Family Awaits a Message.

London, July 7 (AP) — The family of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle today expressed the belief he would communicate with them from the spirit world, as he had promised.

Adrian Conan Doyle, son of the novelist and spiritist, asked if his father had spoken of communicating with his family after his death, said:

"Why, of course, my father fully believed that when he passed over he would continue to keep in touch with us. All his family believe so, too.

"There is no question that my father will often speak to us, just as he did before he passed over. We will always know when he is speaking, but one has to be careful because there are practical jokers on the other side, as there are here.

"It i quite possible that these jokers may attempt to impersonated him. But there are tests which my mother knows, such as little mannerisms of speech which cannot be impersonated and which will tell us it is my father himself who is speaking."

Adrian paid tribute to his celebrated father. He said: "He was a great man and a splendid father and he was loved — and was happy because he knew it — by all of us.

"My mother's and father's devotion to each other at all times was one of the most wonderful things I have ever known. She nursed him right through his illness to the end.

Smiled in His Suffering.

"His last words were to her, and they show just how much he thought of her. He simply smiled up at her and said, 'You are wonderful.' He was in too much pain to say a lot. His breathing was very bad, and what he said was during a brief flash of consciousness. I never have seen any one take anything more gamely in all my life. Even when we all knew he was suffering great pain he always managed during times when he was conscious to keep a smile on his face for us."

Sir Arthur during the latter part of his life presented an heroic and at the same time somewhat tragic figure. For the past few years he had devoted virtually all his time to the propagation of spiritism, and was recognized as one of the great leaders of the world in that belief. Because of his association with this crusade which he himself characterized as an unpopular one, he gradually lost some of his old-time literary friends who saw no virtue in spiritism and were inclined to look upon him as an eccentric.

Sir Arthur was grieved because his friends could not see eye to eye with him, but he never wavered in his pursuit of the cause in which he believed. He even opened a "psychic bookshop" and spiritist museum in Victoria Street in the shadow of Westminster Abbey. Here he created a centre for spiritistic literature and distributed much of it throughout the world.

Spent Thousands on Venture.

Sir Arthur once told the writer that he spent thousands of dollars of his own money to keep the shop and the museum open. Still this adventure did not worry him. "I am in a position to do it," he said with a smile. "I might play with a steam yacht or own race horses. I prefer to do this."

There was no doubt in Sir Arthur's mind about the existence of spirits. One of his proofs that spirits exists was a huge photograph of himself which depicted the face of his dear son looking over his shoulder. He showed this picture to the correspondent and remarked, simply:

"I handled the plate for that picture myself. Nobody else touched it. How can people doubt when they have such proof as that?"

Not long ago Sir Arthur said:

"I pledge my honor that spiritism is true, and I know that spiritism is infinitely more important than literature, art, politics, or in fact anything in the world."

Twice Revived Sherlock Holmes.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gained universal fame as one of the greatest writers of detective stories through the criminological feats of his master sleuth, Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps Holmes himself was even better known than his creator and the fictional address of the former's chambers on Baker Street in London have been sought out by countless visitors to London who were bitterly disappointed when they were informed that Sherlock Holmes had never existed in the flesh.

Twice after his career had been definitely terminated by his author, Sherlock Holmes was brought back to fictional life, so avid was the appetite of the public for the narratives of the solution of crime by minute deductive reasoning. The first time was in 1904, with "The Return of Sherlock Holmes," after he had apparently been killed in the last preceding tale; and the second was with the publication of "The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes," in 1927. On the latter occasion Sir Arthur announced that under no circumstances would the great detective ever appear again.

Although Sherlock Holmes was the source of Sir Arthur's world-wide fame and the name of the detective became a by-word throughout the world, these stories, of which there were a total of sixty-eight, were never considered the most important part of his work by the author himself. Furthermore, they did not win immediate recognition, and although the first Sherlock Holmes volume appeared in 1887, it was through "Micah Clarke," a historical novel which appeared the following year, that he gained his first literary recognition.

Historical novels Sir Arthur always regarded as a more serious part of his work, and he was the author of several others, including "Sir Nigel" and "The White Company," the latter considered his finest work of the kind. He also devoted much energy to work of a journalistic character, including two books explaining England's position in the Boer War, for which he received his knighthood, and a quantity of work of similar character during the World War. But of all his varied labors, Sir Arthur himself regarded his devotion to spiritism, which occupied most of his time after the war, as the most important effort of his life.

Sir Arthur was born in Edinburgh in 1859. His father, grandfather, and uncle were all artists and caricaturists of considerable note. He was interested in writing almost from infancy, despite the fact that he was educated as a physician and practiced for several years.

First Book at Age of Six.

His first book was written at the age of six and illustrated by the author. After that there was apparently less written material, but throughout his school years he was known among his fellows as a great story teller. He would invent a character at the beginning of a term, and keep up a marvelous list of adventures which would hold his character on the stage until vacation arrived. His first published story was during his years as a medical student, and the three guineas he received for gave him the necessary conviction that he could write things which people would pay for.

With such a promising background as a narrator, his youth passed with little more direct development in that direction. It was not until he was a practicing physician at Southsea that he turned seriously and industriously to writing in the unwelcome leisure of a young physician at the outset of his practice. But the half dozen preceding years had produced much experience which was to prove valuable to him as an author.

In the first place, they had brought him into close contact with the man who became the prototype of Sherlock Holmes. This was Dr. Joseph Bell, a distinguished Scotch surgeon and Sir Arthur's professor in the Edinburgh University medical. school. Dr. Bell had remarkable powers of observation and deduction, through which he was able to diagnose almost on sight. It was these same abilities, turned to crime, that later produced Sherlock Holmes.

Sir Arthur's family did not have abundant funds, and the young medical student worked as an assistant during his Summers to help defray the cost of his professional medical education. Work in the slums of large cities brought diversified contacts which all proved fodder for the author's imagination later. A trip as surgeon on a whaling ship during one Summer and a trip to Africa as a ship's surgeon after he had taken his medical degree, contributed further broadening.

Began Writing in Spare Time.

Settled at Southsea, with few patients in his first days of practice, Sir Arthur went at writing seriously. Short stories anonymously published proved no royal road to literary fame, but kept all his leisure well occupied. This period produced the first Sherlock Holmes stories, published in book form as "A Study in Scarlet," in 1887. It culminated the following year with the publication of "Micah Clarke," which was refused by several publishers before Andrew Lang read it as reader for Longmans.

The career of a physician, in which he was gaining some success, was abandoned for the next two years, which were devoted to the writing of "The White Company." After its completion he turned around and abandoned literature for medicine, devoting some time to further study to equip himself as an eye specialist, and establishing himself in London.

Leisure time, however, found him writing again and his health soon began to suffer under the severe regimen of mornings of private practice, afternoons of hospital work, and nights, or a good part of them, devoted to writing. Accordingly, he was again faced with the dilemma of choosing between two promising careers, and he definitely abandoned medicine. His only return thereafter was during the Boer War, when he served as the head of a British hospital.

On two occasions Sir Arthur carried his proclivities for crime detection into the world of realities. In both cases his purpose was to right a miscarriage of justice, and in both instances he succeeded in exonerating a man who had been convicted and sentenced to a long term at hard labor. The beneficiaries were Adolph Beck, a Swede by birth, whose conviction for swindling resulted from mistaken identity, and George Edalji, a young lawyer whose father was an East Indian, whose conviction for maiming animals was apparently brought about through manufactured evidence inspired by the local unpopularity of the victim.

Sir Arthur was first married to Louise Hawkins of Minsterworth in 1885. She died in 1906, leaving a son and a daughter. He was married again to Miss Jean Leckie of Blackheath in 1907 and the couple had three children. His son by his first wife was killed in the World War, and it was this tragedy which was largely responsible for Sir Arthur's almost exclusive interest in spiritism during his later years.