Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


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A third novel, written at that time, was a very strange and confusing tale about the afterlife of three vengeful Buddhist monks called The Mystery of Cloomber. This story illustrates the most serious and incomprehensible schism in Conan Doyle's personality. Under one hand, he was capable of writing brilliantly about deduction and pure logic, on the other, he was obviously fascinated by and inexorably drawn to the paranormal and ultimately to spiritualism.

Surprisingly, at this point in time, Conan Doyle was better known as a writer in the United States of America than in England. In August of 1889, Joseph Marshall Stoddart, who published the Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in Philadelphia, came to London to organize a British edition of his magazine. He invited Conan Doyle for dinner in London at the elegant Langham Hotel which was to be mentioned later in a number of Holmesian adventures, and he also asked Oscar Wilde, who by then was already quite well known.

Oscar Wilde appeared to be a languorous dandy, whereas Conan Doyle in spite of his best suit, looked somewhat like a walrus in Sunday clothes. Yet Oscar and Arthur got along like a house on fire. "It was indeed a golden evening for me." Conan Doyle wrote of this meeting. As a result of this literary soirée, Lippincott's commissioned the young doctor to write a short novel, which they published in England and the US in February of 1890. This story was The Sign of Four and was instrumental in establishing Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle once and for all in the annals of literature.

To write The Sign of Four, Conan Doyle had to set aside for a time The White Company, a historical novel he always said was the work he had most enjoyed writing. This is not surprising, for the main characters had the same traits of decency and honor, which guided the author through his life. Thirty years later, he told a journalist, "I was young and full of the first joy of life and action, and I think I got some of it into my pages. When I wrote the last line, I remember that I cried: 'Well, I'll never beat that' and threw the inky pen at the opposite wall."

In spite of his literary success and a flourishing medical practice, a harmonious family life enhanced by the birth his daughter Mary, Conan Doyle was restless. Continued...

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