The Hound of the Baskervilles: Biography: Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle (born in Edinburgh, May 22, 1859) studied medicine in Scotland under the tutelage of one Doctor Joseph Bell. In later years, Conan Doyle would remain greatly impressed by Dr. Bell’s ability to deduce facts about his patient through careful observation. Dr. Bell, said the author, “would sit in his receiving room… and diagnose the people as they came in, before they even opened their mouths. He would tell them details of their past life; and hardly would he ever make a mistake.” Conan Doyle received his medical degree in 1885 and established a small private practice in Southsea, specializing in opthamology; however, in his spare time (and, for lack of patients, he seems to have had a fair amount of it), he began writing fiction.


Although Conan Doyle always said he hoped he would be remembered for such historical fiction as The White Company (1890), his fame today is due almost entirely to his creation of Sherlock Holmes. Like Dr. Bell, Holmes was a master of observation and deductive reasoning. Literature’s first private consulting detective made his debut in the novel A Study in Scarlet (1887 in Beeton’s Christmas Annual) and reappeared in the novel The Sign of Four (1890). It was, however, in a series of short stories that appeared in the Strand magazine, beginning with “A Scandal in Bohemia” (1891), that Holmes really became a sensation among Britain’s reading public. By 1893, Conan Doyle had grown tired of writing the Holmes stories, convinced as he was that they stole his time and energy away from more serious matters. He attempted to “kill off” Holmes in the short story he (no doubt optimistically) entitled “The Final Problem.” Readers would have none of it, however. Not only was Conan Doyle obliged to bring Holmes back for an adventure set preceding his death—the present work, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902), which most readers, both general and Holmes enthusiasts alike, regard as the greatest of the Holmes mysteries—but also the author would “resurrect” his most famous creation for more Strand stories, commencing with “The Empty House” in 1903. When the final Holmes story did appear, in 1927, Conan Doyle had written 60 stories featuring this immortal character and his faithful companion, Dr. Watson.


Conan Doyle returned to military medical service in the Boer War in 1900; after the war, he ran for Parliament twice, both times unsuccessfully. He left the Roman Catholic Church in which he had been born and raised and became a spiritualist, keenly interested in such supernatural phenomena as speaking with the dead in séances. He was touring the world to promote spiritualist beliefs when exhaustion led him to return home to England in 1929. He died the next year on July 6.