Michael Edward Conan

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Michael and Susan Conan
Carte de service (press card) of Michael Edward Conan (1878)

Michael Edward Conan (ca. 1804 - 5 december 1879) was a barrister, a literary, music, and drama critic and a correspondent for the Morning Herald and The Art Journal. He was the maternal grand-uncle and godfather of Arthur Conan Doyle i.e. the brother of his grand-mother Marianne Conan.

Conan Doyle about his grand-uncle

In 1923, Arthur Conan Doyle published his auto-biography : Memories and Adventures, where he devoted a paragraph to his grand-uncle Michael Edward Conan :

« On my way back to England I stopped at Paris. Through all my life up to this point there had been an unseen grand-uncle, named Michael Conan, to whom I must now devote a paragraph. He came into the family from the fact that my father's father ("H. B.") had married a Miss Conan. Michael Conan, her brother, had been editor of "The Art Journal" and was a man of distinction, an intellectual Irishman of the type which originally founded the Sinn Fein movement. He was as keen on heraldry and genealogy as my mother, and he traced his descent in some circuitous way from the Dukes of Brittany, who were all Conans; indeed Arthur Conan was the ill-fated young Duke whose eyes were put out, according to Shakespeare, by King John. This uncle was my godfather, and hence my name Arthur Conan. He lived in Paris and had expressed a wish that his grand-nephew and godson, with whom he had corresponded, should call en passant. I ran my money affairs so closely, after a rather lively supper at Strasburg, that when I reached Paris I had just twopence in my pocket. As I could not well drive up and ask my uncle to pay the cab I left my trunk at the station and set forth on foot. I reached the river, walked along it, came to the foot of the Champs Elysées, saw the Arc de Triomphe in the distance, and then, knowing that the Avenue Wagram, where my uncle lived, was near there, I tramped it on a hot August day and finally found him. I remember that I was exhausted with the heat and the walking, and that when at the last gasp I saw a man buy a drink of what seemed to be porter by handing a penny to a man who had a long tin on his back, I therefore halted the man and spent one of my pennies on a duplicate drink. It proved to be liquorice and water, but it revived me when I badly needed it, and it could not be said that I arrived penniless at my uncle's, for I actually had a penny. So, for some penurious weeks, I was in Paris with this dear old volcanic Irishman, who spent the summer day in his shirt-sleeves, with a little dicky-bird of a wife waiting upon him. I am built rather on his lines of body and mind than on any of the Doyles. We made a true friendship, and then I returned to my home conscious that real life was about to begin. »

Important dates of his life


  • Birth of Michael Edward Conan, in Dublin, Ireland.


  • B.A. degree in Trinity College.


  • 1 may : Admission to the Middle Temple (London) as barrister-at-law.


  • 12 may : Marriage with Susan Frances Field at St. Pancras.


  • Michael and Susan moved to Paris as a freelance correspondent, residing at 65, avenue de Wagram. When Conan Doyle wrote The Leather Funnel in november 1902, his main character, Lionel Dacre, was living in the Avenue de Wagram, Paris. Probably an hommage to his great uncle.


  • He succeeded to Mr. Berthoud as French correspondent of The Art Journal.


  • June : Arthur Conan Doyle returning from Feldkirch (Austria) visited Michael and Susan in Paris for several weeks.


  • 5 december : Death of Michael Edward Conan at his Paris residence.

Summary death certificate from the Paris Registry Office. Ref. V4E4822 #2416

Obituary in The Art Journal (1880)

Obituary in The Art Journal (1880, vol. 42, p. 107-108)


We regret much to have to announce the death, on the 3rd [1] of December last, of this gentleman, at his residence, 65, Avenue de Wagram, Paris. He was born in Dublin about the year 1804, and after studying at Clongoweswood College, and subsequently in Trinity College, where he took his B.A. degree in 1826, entered the Society of the Middle Temple, London, the same year, but was not called to the bar till Trinity term in 1832. He at first hesitated about continuing his legal studies, and thought seriously of becoming an artist, an idea very naturally arising in his mind from constant association with his brother-in-law, John Doyle, the famous caricaturist, so widely known under the signature of HB, who had established himself in London some five or six years before Mr. Conan. But whatever the intentions of the latter really were, it is certain he did work with the pencil for some time, and acquired a considerable amount of power in the use of it. However, soon after being called to the bar, he, like many other gentlemen in similar circumstances, turned to the public press, was engaged on the staff of the Morning Herald, and went to Belgium as war correspondent of that paper during the siege of Antwerp, but finding it impossible to get access to the field of operations, be retired from that city to the Hague, where he remained about a year as correspondent of the same journal.

On Mr. Conan's return to England he commenced supplying law reports (of the Rolls Court, we believe) for the Morning-Herald, and also became one of its literary, musical, and dramatic critics, if not its principal contributor in these departments, which lie continued to be for about ten years, until, in fact, the paper changed hands and title, and became the Standard. After this he seems to have held no regular engagement, but contributed to various magazines and periodical publications from time to time.

In 1854 Mr. Conan made Paris his residence, and on the death, in 1864, of Mr. H. Berthoud, he succeeded him as French correspondent, in Paris, of the Art journal, and a valuable aid in that capacity we found him. He had a more than average knowledge of Art matters, in which he took intense pleasure ; but he was naturally a quiet, unobtrusive man, rather averse to thrust his opinions upon others, and more dis-posed to listen than to talk. He had acquired considerable classical knowledge, and had an intimate acquaintance with the literature of Great Britain and the Latin races; that of Germany was not among his attainments. He was a good descriptive writer upon such topics, as well as upon literature generally. His great characteristic was thoroughness of devotion to every-thing he took in hand ; whatever he did, he did it with all his energy. He was a man of generous impulses, and a warm and steadfast friend. His last illness was of considerable duration. Mr. Conan has left a widow to lament his decease.

  1. The real date is 5th december as per the French death certificate shown above.