Dr. Conan Doyle's Experiences
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Dr. Conan Doyle's Experiences is an article published in The Leeds Mercury on 7 october 1893.
Dr. Conan Doyle's Experiences
Dr. Conan Doyle was the guest of the Manchester Edinburgh University Club at their annual dinner in Manchester on Thursday night. He gave a humorous account of the way in which he was starved out of medicine into literature. — Dr. Conan Doyle, in responding to the toast of the evening, said he never rose upon such an occasion without thinking of a time-worn story about the prophet Daniel. When Daniel saw the lions approaching he said, "On this occasion at least there will be no after-dinner speaking from me." (Laughter.) He regretted in one sense that he was not in the position of the prophet. When he sat down in the company of medical men he felt something like a deserter who had gone back, and was dining with the old regimental mess. Or, perhaps, in view of his experience as a practitioner, he might claim the position of a soldier Who had served with the colours, and was now in the reserve (Applause.) He had been a ship's surgeon, an assistant in a country practice, and an assistant in the slums of a large town. Then for eight years he had conducted a limited, strictly limited, middle-class practice, and finally evolved so far as to put up a plate as a specialist in a West End street, where he had a very nice little consulting room, no excellent box of testing-glasses, and other apparatus. The only thing, indeed, that he lacked to make the thing complete was a patient (laughter.) It would be admitted that he lad pretty well run through the through the gamut of medical practice. They might very well ask what all this had to do with the subject of the toast. His reply was that Edinburgh University was the starting-point of the circuitous journey which eventually landed him in literature. He had never regretted the ten years — or 15 years counting the years of his education — which he had spent in medicine. It seemed to him that it had tinged his whole view of life, and he believed that the medial view of life was the deepest and the truest. He could conscientiously say that he did not give up medical practice till he had every proof that medical practice. (Laughter.) For some reason or other Edinburgh University had been peculiarly prolific in literature. He questioned if any other educational lady in the United Kingdom could compare with it in that respect. Two first-class ... of letters of the present day had come from Edinburgh University the last twenty years — Mr. R. L. Stevenson and Mr. J. M. Barrie (Applause.) And going farther back in the century, they came upon the names of Walter Scott and Thomas Carlyle (Applause.) He did not know why the connection should exist between Edinburgh University and literature. It was not due, so far as he recollected, to anything they were taught there. (Laughter.) He was inclined sometimes to think that they derived more profit from the keen east wind that used to take them by the throat as they come across the Bridges than from what they heard within the University walls. In any case there the fact was, and the old University deserved every credit for her long record in literature. (Applause.) Perhaps there was something in the system itself — in the very fact that there was so little system. Literature was notoriously a plant that grew better the less it was tended. The wild, free student life, where a man, once has got out outside the iron gates, could think and do what he liked without question, was the vary soil in which one might expect literature to grow. Dr. Doyle concluded by thanking the members of the club for honouring him with an invitation to their dinner.