May 22, 1859: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is born
For those of us who love a good mystery story, few authors are more beloved than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. His characters, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, would become some of the most recognizable and popular literary figures in the world. On this day in 1859, the creator of Sherlock Holmes was born.
Birth and early life
Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland to Charles Altamont Doyle and Mary Doyle. Doyle’s early life was full of ups and downs: his family separated due to his father’s alcoholism when he was five years old, only to be reunited two years later. He was then sent, with the backing of wealthy uncles, to Hodder Place, a Jesuit preparatory school.
Doyle criticized the education he received at Hodder Place rather harshly, but it did set the foundation for his later studies. From 1876 to 1881, he attended the University of Edinburgh Medical School, during which time he also studied botany and began writing short stories. The first of his stories, “The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe” fell short of success, but Doyle was undaunted.
The creation of a legend
“A Study in Scarlet” the first Sherlock Holmes story written by Doyle was published in 1887. He was given £25 by Ward Lock & Co for all rights to the story, roughly equivalent to $3,500 today. He partially based the character of Holmes on one of his university teachers: Joseph Bell. Doyle wrote to Bell, saying, “It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes … round the centre of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate I have tried to build up a man.”
A sequel to “A Study in Scarlet” was commissioned in 1890 and the next several years saw Doyle write more stories featuring Sherlock Holmes. Doyle himself, however, didn’t really enjoy writing these novels and somewhat resented the popularity of the Holmes stories. He even raised the price of his works to a ridiculous level to try to discourage publishers, but they were willing to pay any price for more of the madly popular detective novels, for which we can all be grateful today.