Books: Sherlock Holmes*

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An Author Tells of War, Murder, Spooks, Disease

The Student. Conan Doyle was educated under the iron rod of the 'Jesuits. Said one of his masters, hearing that he proposed to be a civil engineer: "Well, Doyle, you may be an engineer, but I don't think you will ever be a civil one." He was perpetually in scrapes, liked to fight. Later, at Edinburgh University, studying medicine, he met a bearded barrel of a man, original of "Professor Challenger" in The Lost World. There, also, was Joseph Bell, surgeon, whose specialty was diagnosis through observation and deduction. Bell was the original Sherlock Holmes.

The Voyager. Now a physician, Doyle spent seven months on an arctic whaling trip. He ended the expedition an experienced hand with the harpoon. The following year found him sliding down the west coast of Africa in a tiny steamer. Ensued storm, narrow escapes from shipwreck, fire at sea, native savages, blackwater fever, swimming in shark-infested waters, curious fish, all the relentless cruelty of "the great, sullen, brown Continent."

The Doctor. Medical practise he began as assistant to a formidable creature, half lunatic, half genius, half doctor, half quack, who later turned against him and cunningly contrived to leave him stranded practically penniless in Portsmouth. A minute practice and an occasional short story kept him alive. At about this time, the Sherlock Holmes stories began to be written.

The Sleuth. The creator of Sherlock Holmes was bombarded with problems for solution by the methods of his best-known character. Many of these he tackled, with varying degrees of success.

The Warrior. Doyle's first experience with war was on the banks of the Nile, following a health trip to Egypt which involved him in various forms of desert adventure. The Boer War brought him to South Africa as an army surgeon, gave him a good taste of the unpleasanter forms of conflict, including work in a hospital improvised during an enteric epidemic. The town could be smelt rather than seen. The Great War found him roaming about the front-line trenches—French, Australian, Italian. After the Boer War and during the Great War, Doyle devoted a good deal of time to propagandist writing. He has been at all times greatly interested in war and the waging of it.

The Lecturer. His interests in spiritualism brought Doyle on several trips to the U. S., spreading the gospel of the psychic. He enjoys lecturing.

The Spiritualist. Spooks were always among Doyle's chief interests. The later years of his life have been almost wholly devoted to studying psychic phenomena and broadcasting his conclusions. He assures the reader that he has chatted with spirits, held their hands, smelt ectoplasm, seen prophecies fulfilled, seen heavy objects flying about, heard supernatural whistling and singing.

The Sportsman. Big, powerful, restless, Doyle is first of all a man of action. He is proficient at most games. Brilliant cricketer, masterly billiard player, fisherman, footballer, horseman, skier, first-rate boxer (he was asked to referee the Johnson-Jeffries fight), golfer — he has at least dabbled in everything.

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