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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Biography

 
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“Good Lord, Holmes. Have you seen this?”

“Pray tell me, Watson, to what is it that you refer? If I’m not much mistaken it must be to do with Biogs.com writing a biography of our literary agent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”

“Heavens, Holmes. How did you guess?”

“No guess, Watson. It was elementary. It is well known to anyone with a passing interest in biography that biogs.com are full of good ideas for biographies. Your high state of agitation immediately led me to the conclusion that it had something to do with us. But it was only when I noticed you practice your bowling action that I could be certain that it had to do with Sir Arthur.”

Once more, my good friend, Sherlock Holmes was right. For the communication from biogs.com had caused me to meditate not only upon Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s great hat-trick for the MCC against Warwickshire, but also that notable occasion when he took the wicket of the master, W. G. Grace.

Sherlock Holmes paused, and detecting my puzzled expression, spared me any further embarrassment, by outlining his deduction unprompted.

“There is much about Sir Arthur, that the general public simply are not aware of. In fact, I cannot think of a more surprising individual. Put simply, Watson, a man ideally suited to be a profile in biogs.com.”

“Hum,” I said. “I suppose there is his attitude to the fairer sex. Although Sir Arthur bravely attacked the police – even more critically than you have been with Lestrade – he was curiously silent about their brutality to suffragettes, whom he despised. And, I suppose, there was the case of his failed attack on Bernard Shaw over the Titanic. And he did, it’s true, write those macabre horror stories and show a marked interest in necrophilia.”

“Quite so,” Holmes chimed in. “But I believe that there are further revelations afoot. Tell me, Watson, what is it that you consider to be the most marked feature of our good friend’s long life?”

“Perhaps it is his views on blacks,” I ventured. “For example, when he wrote ‘I am not is favour of educating them’”.

“I think not, Watson. It is something far more noteworthy.”

Could it be his loyalty to his first wife, when he fell in love with his second wife-to-be, Jean Leckie?”

“Goodness, Watson. I fear that we are dealing with something more devilish.”

“Of course, Holmes. His attitude to war. Its adventure and glamour in his eyes. More than anything else perhaps, his continuing to fight in the Boer War in spite of the enteric fever all around.”

At first, Holmes did not respond. He simply lit his pipe. And as the smoke rose, the image of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle miraculously formed above Holmes’ head. It was as if our good friend’s presence was somehow with us. His spirit above us.

“I think you have it now, my dear Watson”, Holmes whispered.

“Yes, Holmes”

Then it came to me. Sir Arthur, the spiritualist, the believer in ectoplasm, the author of the History of Spiritualism. His evangelical fervour for spiritualism took him around the world in his later life. A quarter of a million people saw his addresses in the United States and Canada, where he posited that spirits smoked cigars and drank alcohol.

“I’ve got it Holmes,” I declared. “It is the Case of the Three Presidents. The man who was President of the London Spiritual Alliance, President of British College of Psychic Science, and President of the Spiritualist Community.”

“I fear Watson that you have been the victim of a smoke screen. Reflect, if you will, on Sir Arthur’s understanding of the modus operandi of a consulting detective.

“Of course, Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as a catalyst to the establishment of the Appeal Court. Many are the cases, where applying your techniques he worked bravely on terrible miscarriages of justice. He was certainly responsible for securing the release of Oscar Slater, wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. But more important still was all the evidence he amassed in the case of George Edalgi, found guilty of cutting open the stomachs of sixteen sheep, cattle and horses.”

“Quite so, Watson. Sir Arthur wanted a retrial, but never got it. The resultant scandal was without doubt one of the major factors behind the setting up of the Court of Criminal Appeal.”

 



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