Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Biography

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Frank Wiles' study of Sherlock Holmes for The Valley of Fear serialisation in the September 1914 issue of the Strand

He decided the time had come to leave Portsmouth, and go to Vienna, where he wanted to specialize in Ophthalmology. A foreign language turned that trip into somewhat of a fiasco and after a visit to Paris, Conan Doyle hurried back to London followed by the gentle Louisa. Conan Doyle opened a practice in elegant Upper Wimpole Street where, if you read his autobiography, not a single patient ever crossed his door. This inactivity gave him a lot of time to think and as a result, he made the most profitable decision of his life, that of writing a series of short stories featuring the same characters. By then, Conan Doyle was represented by A. P. Watt, whose duty was to relieve him of "hateful bargaining." Hence, it was Watt who made the deal with The Strand magazine to publish the Sherlock Holmes stories. The "image" of Holmes was created by Sidney Paget a very talented illustrator who took his strikingly handsome brother Walter as a model for the great detective. This collaboration lasted for many decades and was instrumental in making the author, the magazine and the artist, world famous.

In May of 1891, while writing some of the early Sherlock Holmes short stories, Conan Doyle was struck by a virulent attack of influenza, which left him between life and death for several days. When his health improved, he came to realize how foolish he had been trying to combine a medical career with a literary one. "With a wild rush of joy," he decided to abandon his medical career. He added, "I remember in my delight taking the handkerchief which lay upon the coverlet in my enfeebled hand, and tossing it up to the ceiling in my exultation. I should at last be my own master."

It is refreshing and very endearing that this highly intelligent, talented and amazingly accomplished man, was able to demonstrate enthusiasm or frustration with childish outbursts, such as throwing a hankie or a pen across the room. Other examples of his impish sense of humor were when he would respond to autographs requests, by signing "Dr. John Watson."

In 1892, Louisa gave birth to a son they named Kingsley, which the proud father called "the chief event" of their life. Continued...

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