On this day, 154 years ago, the famed Scottish author behind some of the most popular and enduring works of literature was born. Let’s take a look back at the life and works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in this installment of Today in History.
On May 22, 1859, Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born at 11 Picardy Place in Edinburgh, Scotland, to a young couple of Irish descent, Victorian artist Charles Altamont Doyle and Mary Foley.
As he grew up, his education was shouldered by his wealthy uncles; at nine years old, he attended the Jesuit preparatory school Hodder Place Stonyhurst, then to Stonyhurst College until 1875. Later, he went to another Jesuit school, Stella Matutina in Feldkirch, Austria. Despite his Catholic upbringing and education, he later on chose to be agnostic.
Perhaps not many know that Doyle went to the University of Edinburugh to study medicine, and wrote short stories on the side. His earliest attempt to get published was for Blackwood’s Magazine, but his fiction, “The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe,” did not make it. Finally, in September 1879, he succeeded in getting his first published piece entitled “The Mystery of Sasassa Valley,” printed in Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal. Shortly after, his first non-fiction piece, “Gelsemium as a Poison,” was published in the British Medical Journal.
His writing career began during the early 1880s, when he started writing stories again at the time his medical practice as an ophthalmologist proved to be unsuccessful. In fact, Doyle said in his autobiography that not even a single patient entered his door. His first novels and portfolio of short stories would not be published until several years later, but finally, in November 1886, he was able to find a publisher for one of his most significant works. “A Study in Scarlet”, a detective mystery novel introducing his iconic character Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson, was picked up by Ward Lock & Co. for £25 and published in 1887.
The publishing company commissioned a sequel and Doyle produced “The Sign of the Four,” which was published in Lippincott’s Magazine in February 1890. However, when he felt that the company gravely exploited him as a novice author, Doyle left Ward Lock and started getting his stories published on his own. He submitted and got published some short stories on Sherlock Holmes to the Strand Magazine. And the rest, as they say, became history.
Today, the world continues to know and celebrate Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as a literary figure whose imagination, writing skills, and knack for riveting sleuthing stories has made him as immortal and legendary as the detective Sherlock Holmes himself.
Happy Birthday, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!
All information for this article were sourced from Arthur Conan Doyle on Wikipedia, A Study in Scarlet on Wikipedia, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate Official Website.