Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born on May 22, 1859. He did not always intend to be an author, but instead began his career as a doctor. He abandoned these efforts, however, in order to pursue writing. The roots of his foray into detective fiction began when he read Wilkie Collins’ sensationalist novel The Moonstone and Edgar Allan Poe’s pioneering detective story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” When Doyle read Poe’s work, he found underlying themes of scientific reasoning in the detection process that he appreciated, and he used this story as an inspiration for a new character, Sherlock Holmes. His first work featuring the famous Holmes and his companion Dr. Watson was A Study in Scarlet, published in 1887. Doyle did not, however, have an easy time finding an editor to publish his work (Jaffe 1-7).
Even though editors rejected A Study in Scarlet many times, it did not take long for readers in Britain and in the United States to latch onto Sherlock Holmes. Although Doyle was at first amused by the onslaught of fame, he soon grew to despise it. He also hated the literary demand associated with amassing such a fan base, and felt pressured to produce inferior work for the sake of profit. He grew so tired of the constant demands that he actually killed off Sherlock Holmes in a battle with his arch nemesis, Moriarty, in the story “The Final Problem” in 1893. Fans were outraged and some even wore mourning crepe. Queen Victoria herself was also rumored to be displeased with Holmes’s untimely demise. In response, Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles and eventually published a series of more stories, in which Holmes returns and reveals that he actually did not die.
Doyle so despised his fame associated with Sherlock Holmes mostly because he felt he was famous for writing in an inferior, unintellectual literary genre. He was most proud of his historical novels, and his favorite works include Micah Clarke and The White Company. He was knighted in 1902 due to the effects of his patriotic pamphlet “The War in South Africa: Its Causes and Conflicts,” which detailed the ongoing events of the Boer War in a way that persuaded journalists of foreign nations to lessen tensions with the British (Jaffe 9-12).
Doyle died on July 7, 1930 of a heart attack at his home in Surrey, ironically most famous for the publication for which he never wanted acclaim (Jaffe 14).