To celebrate the anniversary of Arthur Conan Doyle’s birthday, we share 17 interesting pieces of trivia about the creator of the world’s most famous detective.
Conan Doyle’s four novels and 56 stories about Sherlock Holmes have never been out of print. They have inspired more than 500 movies and television episodes.
(Arthur Conan Doyle was born 22 May 1859, and died 7 July 1930. Last year, I marked the day by writing a post about what fiction writers could learn from Conan Doyle’s famous detective. You can read it here: 10 Elementary Tips For Writers From Sherlock Holmes)
17 Things You Probably Never Knew About Arthur Conan Doyle
- Conan is not part of his surname. He name is Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle. After he left high school he started to use Conan as part of his surname.
- He was a medical doctor, having studied medicine from 1876 to 1881 at the University of Edinburgh Medical School.
- Doyle had five children – a daughter and a son with his first wife, Louisa and two sons and a daughter with second wife, Jean.
- Six men in his family died in Word War 1 – his first son, brother, two brothers-in-law, and two nephews.
- Conan Doyle was not the first writer to feature a cerebral detective. Edgar Allan Poe and Wilkie Collins both had characters solve mysteries with reason. But Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is the one who has captured the world’s imagination.
- There is a statue of Sherlock Holmes in Edinburgh, close to the house in which he was born.
- The author single-handedly created a new genre of writing by developing the formula for the true detective story. With the basis of logic and extreme detail, Conan Doyle changed the mould for storytelling of the genre.
- Sherlock Holmes never says ‘Elementary, Watson’ in any of the works by Conan Doyle.
- Sherlock Holmes was not Conan Doyle’s favourite character and he killed him off in 1893. He told a friend: ‘I couldn’t revive him if I would, at least not for years, for I have had such an overdose of him that I feel towards him as I do towards pâté de foie gras, of which I once ate too much, so that the name of it gives me a sickly feeling to this day.’ Doyle resurrected him 10 years later due to public demand and monetary persuasion.
- Doyle was ahead of his time. When read alongside other writer’s stories of the 1880s and 1890s, you will see how advanced Doyle’s writing style was for his times. It is closer to the more readable, stripped-down style of 20th century writers.
- In 1902, he was made a knight for his work on a non-fiction pamphlet about the Anglo-Boer War.
- Doyle was on the same cricket team as JM Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. The two also worked together on a comic opera, Jane Annie.
- He was friends with famous authors. Doyle was friends with Bram Stoker, and Robert Louis Stevenson was a classmate at the University of Edinburgh.
- Doyle and George Bernard Shaw had a public disagreement about the sinking of The Titanic. Doyle was outraged by the dismissive comments made by the playwright regarding the many acts of heroics that took place aboard the ship as it went down.
- There’s a square named after him in Meiringen, Switzerland. The town was the setting of The Adventure of the Final Problem. In 1988, a statue of Sherlock Holmes was placed in the village square, now named Conan Doyle Place.
- Conan Doyle solved a few mysteries. One was The Curious Case of Oscar Slater – for the murder of Marion Gilchrist, a wealthy 82-year-old woman from Glasgow. Doyle applied the ‘Holmes method’, in which he uncovered new evidence, recalled witnesses and questioned the prosecution’s evidence. Slater was released from prison with £6 000 as compensation.
- The epitaph on his gravestone at Minstead in the New Forest, Hampshire, reads, ‘Steel True/Blade Straight/Arthur Conan Doyle/Knight/Patriot, Physician & Man of Letters.’
For more things you never knew about the famous author, click here
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