Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


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That same year, Conan Doyle's second story The American Tale was published in London Society, making him write much later, "It was in this year that I first learned that shillings might be earned in other ways than by filling phials."

Arthur Conan Doyle's was twenty years old and in his third year of medical studies, when for the first time, Adventure knocked on his door. He was offered the post of ship's surgeon on the Hope, a whaling boat, about to leave for the Arctic Circle. The Hope first stopped near the shores of Greenland, where the crew proceeded to hunt for seals. The young medical student was appalled by the brutality of the exercise. But apart from that, he greatly enjoyed the camaraderie on board the ship and the subsequent whale hunt fascinated him. "I went on board the whaler a big straggling youth " he said, "I came off a powerful well-grown man". The Arctic had "awakened the soul of a born wanderer" he concluded many years later. This adventure found its way into his first story about the sea, a chilling tale called Captain of the Pole-Star.

Without much enthusiasm, Conan Doyle returned to his studies in the autumn of 1880. It is interesting to note that after the Arctic trip, the struggling student became quite a Ladies man, boasting about being in love with five women at once… Nevertheless, a year later, he obtained his "Bachelor of Medicine and Master of Surgery degree. On this occasion, he drew a humorous sketch of himself receiving his diploma, with the caption: "Licensed to Kill."

Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle's first gainful employment after his graduation was as a medical officer on the steamer Mayumba, a battered old vessel navigating between Liverpool and the west coast of Africa.

Unfortunately he found Africa as detestable as he had found the Arctic seductive, so he gave-up that position as soon as the boat landed back in England. Then came a short but quite dramatic stint with an unscrupulous doctor in Plymouth of which Conan Doyle gave a vivid account of forty years later in The Stark Munro Letters. After that debacle, and on the verge of bankruptcy, Conan Doyle left for Portsmouth, to open his first practice. Continued...

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