Death of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Belfast News-Letter)
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Death of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is an article published in the Belfast News-Letter on 8 july 1930.
Obituary of Arthur Conan Doyle.
Death of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
A MASTER OF FICTION.
Creator of the Modern Detective Story.
THE WONDERFUL SHERLOCK.
With the death of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which occurred yesterday at Crowborough, Sussex, Britain has lost one of her most successful novelists.
Born at Edinburgh in 1859, he was the son of Charles Doyle, an artist and a nephew of Richard Doyle, the famous contributor to "Poudi." He was educated at Stonyhurst and at Edinburgh University, where he took his medical degrees with distinction. For eight years he practised as a doctor at Southsea, and then established himself as an eye specialist in Wimpole Street, London. But writing had always attracted him, and in 1887 he published his first book, "A Study in Scarlet," in which Sherlock Holmes was introduced to the public. Strange to say, the story was almost completely ignored. Doyle, however, was not discouraged. Several books came from his pen, and then, when he had mastered the technique of literary craftsmanship, success crowned his efforts. He reintroduced Holmes and Dr. Watson in "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes." The book brought him not only fame, but wealth and he was able to abandon his profession and devote himself entirely to writing. He was a man of many interests, but it is as the creator of the modern detective story that he will be remembered longest.
WHERE HE GOT THE NAME.
As a young man Sir Arthur was an enthusiastic cricketer and once took the wicket of the great W. G. Grace. In those days there was a famous bowler named Sherlock. "I cannot really be certain," the author said some time ago, "but it is possible that the name of the bowler Sherlock stuck in my mind, and Holmes, also, may owe its origin to cricket."
In his student days he attended the lectures of an Edinburgh doctor, Joseph Bell, who possessed a remarkably keen observation and a facility for drawing deductions from little details that he had observed. Doyle himself described how he modelled his detective on Dr. Bell, he wrote— "I thought on my old teacher, Joe Bell, of his eagle face, of his curious ways, of his eerie trick of spotting details. If he were a detective he would surely reduce this fascinating but unorganised business something nearer to an exact science. I would try if I could get this effect. It was surely possible with real life, so why should I not make it plausible in fiction." So Sherlock Holmes was born, and "A Study in Scarlet" was given to the world.
When Holmes had solved innumerable mysteries to the admiration of Dr. Watson and the world at large, Sir Arthur tried to discard him in favour of other heroes. "I'll kill him off at the end of this year," he once said. "If I don't he will kill me." But he was not allowed to let Holmes die so young. The tradition of the detective who could not be beaten had to be perpetuated in many other tales. Yet in the intervals of writing "Memoirs," "Adventures," "Last Adventures," and "The Return" of the immortal detective, the author produced thrilling and romantic full length novels including, "The White Company" and "Rodney Stone, and also created another short story hero, Brigadier Gerard, who figured in a long and exciting series of adventures in the Napoleonic wars.
After winning success as an author, Conan Doyle felt the call of his earlier training, and when the Boer War came he took an ambulance out to South Africa and became a doctor again.
Sir Arthur began to interest himself actively in Spiritualism about 1896. Soon the science of the other world displaced literature as the great passion of his life. Haunted, particularly after the Great War, by the vision of another world catastrophe impending, he threw all his energy into achieving a fuller and wider acceptance of Spiritualism among the masses. In this tie believed lay the world's salvation. "We shall convert the world, not necessarily to a new creed but to an addition to their existing beliefs," he said. He claimed to have had conversations with the spirits of Cecil Rhodes and Earl Haig.
His literary output was extraordinarily prolific and varied. Apart from fiction, his writings included a history of the war (in which he gave great praise to the Ulster Division), the evolution of Spiritualism, and the existence of fairies. The richness of his mind was nurtured by extensive travelling. He visited, among many other places, the Arctic regions and the West Coast of Africa.
In 1885 he married Louise, daughter of Mr. J. Hawkins, of Minsterworth, by whom he had one daughter. He was left a widower, and in 1907 married Jean, daughter of Mr. J. B. Leckie, of Glebe House, Blackheath. There were two sons and one daughter of the second marriage.
For many years Sir Arthur was a leader of the agitation against the life sentence on Oscar Slater, who in 1908 was reprieved after being condemned to death in Glasgow for the murder of a woman. His untiring campaign on Slater's behalf ended in the latter release in 1927 after 18 years' imprisonment. In 1925 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle visited Belfast, and lectured on spiritualism.