This is an account of the wanderings of a spiritualist, geographical and speculative. Should the reader have no interest in psychic things-if indeed any human being can be so foolish as not to be interested in his own nature and fate,-then this is the place to put the book down. It were better also to end the matter now if you have no patience with a go-as-you-please style of narrative, which founds itself upon the conviction that thought may be as interesting as action, and which is bound by its very nature to ...
This is an account of the wanderings of a spiritualist, geographical and speculative. Should the reader have no interest in psychic things-if indeed any human being can be so foolish as not to be interested in his own nature and fate,-then this is the place to put the book down. It were better also to end the matter now if you have no patience with a go-as-you-please style of narrative, which founds itself upon the conviction that thought may be as interesting as action, and which is bound by its very nature to be intensely personal. I write a record of what absorbs my mind which may be very different from that which appeals to yours. But if you are content to come with me upon these terms then let us start with my apologies in advance for the pages which may bore you, and with my hopes that some may compensate you by pleasure or by profit. I write these lines with a pad upon my knee, heaving upon the long roll of the Indian Ocean, running large and grey under a grey streaked sky, with the rain-swept hills of Ceylon, just one shade greyer, lining the Eastern skyline. So under many difficulties it will be carried on, which may explain if it does not excuse any slurring of a style, which is at its best but plain English.
The life of Arthur Conan Doyle illustrates the excitement and diversity of the Victorian age unlike that of any other single figure of the period. At different points in his life he was a surgeon on a whaling ship; a GP; an apprentice eye-surgeon; an unsuccessful parliamentary candidate (twice); a multi-talented sportsman; one of the inventors of cross-country skiing in Switzerland; a formidable public speaker; a campaigner against miscarriages of justice; a military strategist; a writer in a range of forms; and the head of an extraordinary family. In his autobiography, he wrote: 'I have had a life which, for variety and romance, could, I think, hardly be exceeded.' He was not wrong. But Conan Doyle was also a Victorian with a twist, a man of tensions and contradictions. He was fascinated by travel, exploration, and invention, indeed all things modern and technological; yet at the same time he was also very traditional, voicing support for values such as chivalry, duty, constancy, and honour. By the time of his death in July 1930 he was a celebrity, achieving worldwide fame and notoriety for his creation of the rationalist, scientific super-detective Sherlock Holmes; yet at the same time his later decades were taken up with his advocacy of the new religion of Spiritualism, in which he was a devoted believer.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh in 1859. After nine years in Jesuit schools, he went to Edinburgh University, receiving a degree in medicine in 1881. He then became an eye specialist in Southsea, with a distressing lack of success. Hoping to augment his income, he wrote his first story, A Study in Scarlet. His detective, Sherlock Holmes, was modeled in part after Dr. Joseph Bell of the Edinburgh Infirmary, a man with spectacular powers of observation, analysis, and inference. Conan Doyle may have been influenced also by his admiration for the neat plots of Gaboriau and for Poe's detective, M. Dupin. After several rejections, the story was sold to a British publisher for £25, and thus was born the world's best-known and most-loved fictional detective. Fifty-nine more Sherlock Holmes adventures followed.
Once, wearying of Holmes, his creator killed him off, but was forced by popular demand to resurrect him. Sir Arthur -- he had been knighted for this defense of the British cause in his The Great Boer War -- became an ardent Spiritualist after the death of his son Kingsley, who had been wounded at the Somme in World War I. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died in Sussex in 1930.