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Edinburgh Writers – Arthur Conan Doyle

08/06/2015

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle left a legacy which changed modern literature and created characters who are as relevant in 2015 as they were when they were written in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The creator of Sherlock Holmes and many other memorable characters and tales.

Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh in 1859 to an Irish family and trained as a doctor at Edinburgh University. He qualified in 1881 and worked as a surgeon on a whaling boat as well as a medical officer on a steamer and spent his medical career travelling between Liverpool and Africa. Eventually he settled in England, on the south coast at Portsmouth and he began to divide his time between practicing medicine and writing.

He was a hugely prolific writer of short stories inventing many memorable characters including Professor Challenger and he also wrote historical novels which many critics rate highly and prefer to the famous Sherlock Holmes stories. Holmes himself made his first appearance in 1887 in ‘A Study of Scarlet’ and the success of the character meant Conan Doyle continued to write more and more mysteries for the sleuth to solve. By 1893 Conan Doyle had grown tired of Holmes’ stories and wanted to focus on more serious work but even killing him off in one story didn’t stop him being brought back in ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles.’

Outside of the Holmes’ canon Conan Doyle successfully wrote on a range of other subjects including a pamphlet justifying the involvement of Britain in the Boer War, which earned him his knighthood and comprehensive histories of both the Boer War and World War One.

In later life Conan Doyle attempted to become an MP on a number of occasions and also became interested in spiritualism. The Edinburgh Association of Spiritualists call The Arthur Conan Doyle Centre in Palmerstone Place their home. Conan Doyle died in 1930 of a heart attack at 71 and in Edinburgh there is a large statue of Sherlock Holmes standing outside his place of birth in Picardy Place. The Conan Doyle pub is on York Place, a 10 minute walk from The Royal Scots Club.

Edinburgh was designated as the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature in 2004. The city has always been awash with literary talent, whether born and bred Edinburgh folk or those who call the city their home. Don’t forget the Edinburgh Book Festival in August too.

The Royal Scots Club

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