10 Little Known Facts About Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born 156 years ago today! To celebrate the beloved author's birthday, we've gathered a few surprising, but true* facts about the Sherlock Holmes creator.
1. He compared Sherlock Holmes—arguably his greatest creation—to pâté de foie gras.
...And Doyle really hated pâté de foie gras. He told a friend, "I have had such an overdose of [Holmes] 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."
2. We live in a world with Doyle's fiction because no one wanted him as their doctor.
If at first you don't succeed at being a doctor, become a world-famous novelist! After getting his medical degree from the University of Edinburgh Medical School and serving as a ship's surgeon, Doyle opened his own practice in Southsea. Hardly any patients came, so he began writing fiction in his free time.
3. Doyle and Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie were on the same cricket team.
The team was called the Allah-Akabarries, a combination of Barrie's name and an Arabic phrase meaning, "May the Lord help us." The two men met at university and remained lifelong friends.
4. He once bought a car without ever having driven one.
Best way to learn, right? Doyle was one of Britain's early prominent motorists, and he quickly took to the emerging form of transport, entering an international road competition in 1911.
5. He spent a million dollars trying to convince the world that fairies were real.
Not only did Doyle believe fairies existed, he worked pretty tirelessly to make other people believe too. His million went to promoting the authenticity of the infamous Cottingley Fairy photographs—a hoax, if you're a skeptic, and not a true believer like Doyle—and he later wrote a book called The Coming of the Fairies.
6. His knighthood was not for his fiction.
King Edward VII knighted him in recognition of his nonfiction pamphlet defending British actions in South Africa during the Boer War.
7. He was an amateur detective.
When he wasn't writing about Sherlock Holmes (or fairies), Doyle tried his hand at solving crime using what he called the "Holmes method." In The Curious Case of Oscar Slater, an actual case that occurred in the real world, he uncovered new evidence and recalled witnesses—though Scottish authorities were not especially keen on any of his theories.
8. Doyle and Harry Houdini had a falling out over mediums.
Their friendship showed cracks early on, when Doyle, ever the believer in all things mystical and other-worldly, insisted his illusionist pal had the "divine" gift of dematerialization. By the time the skeptical Houdini began debunking mediums on stage, their kinship had vanished—or dematerialized.
9. If you want to do as Doyle wished, remember him for his psychic work—not that detective guy.
Ten of his sixty books were about spiritualism, and as he got older, Doyle repeatedly expressed that his psychic work should be his greatest legacy. (Why? See earlier pâté de foie gras story.)
10. His last words were whispered to his wife: "You are wonderful."
Doyle died peacefully at his home at Windlesham Manor on July 7, 1930. His wife of 23 years, Jean Elizabeth Leckie, was by his side.
*Rest assured, we eliminated the impossible and took what remained, so no matter how improbable, we know this must be the truth.
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