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Dr. Conan Doyle on his Medical Career

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Dr. Conan Doyle on his Medical Career is an article published in The St. James's Gazette on 6 october 1893.

Report of a speech given by Arthur Conan Doyle on 5 october 1893 at the Edinburgh University Club of Manchester.


Dr. Conan Doyle on his Medical Career

The St. James's Gazette (6 october 1893, p. 9)

The annual dinner of the Manchester Edinburgh University Club was held last night at the Queen's Hotel. Dr. James Hardie who presided, proposed the toast of "The University of Edinburgh." They rejoiced, he said, in the abounding prosperity of alma mater, which occupied a position unequalled in the whole world. Still he sometimes fancied that he could detect signs of weakness in the university. How long were the huge classics, particularly on the medical side, going to last? He did not altogether like the attitude of the University Commissioners. Were they right in proposing to cap the salaries of the professors? Some of the professors made £4,000 or £5,000 a year, and the Commissioners proposed, when new appointments were made, to cut these sums down to what they called "normal" salaries. He was afraid this was not a course which would tend to improve the quality of the teaching. Dr. Hardie coupled the toast with the name of Dr. Conan Doyle, a graduate in medicine of the university who had, he said, made an almost world-wide name or himself in literature.

Dr. Conan Doyle, in responding to the toast, 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." 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 a plate as a specialist in a West end street, where glasses, and other apparatus. The only thing, indeed, that he lacked to make the thing complete was a patient. Edinburgh University was the starting point of the circuitous journey which eventually landed him in literature. He had never regretted the ten years — or fifteen years counting the years of its 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 medical view of 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 had given up him. Two first class men of letters of the present day had come from Edinburgh University within the last twenty years — Mr. R. L. Stevenson and Mr. J. M. Barrie. And going further back in the century they came upon the names of Walter Scott and Thomas Carlyle. He did not know why this connection should exist between Edinburgh University and literature. It was not due, so far as he recollected, to anything they were taught there. 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 came across the bridges than from what they heard within the university walls. Literature was notoriously a plant which grew better the less it was tended. The wild, tree student life, where a man, once he got outside the iron gates, could think and do what he liked without question was the very soul 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.






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