We have no Canonical happening for today, but we celebrate a rather important event!
Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born May 22, 1859 at Picardy Place, Edinburgh, to Charles Altamont Doyle and Mary Doyle (née Foley).
In honor of Dr Doyle’s 158th birthday, we’d like to share some fascinating facts from A Curious Collection of Dates: Through the Year with Sherlock Holmes by Leah Guinn (JHWS “Amber”) and Jaime N Mahoney (JHWS “Tressa”). We rely on this excellent volume for inspiration for many of our non-chronology entries. As a rule, we avoid posting such long extracts from published works; we hope that this small taste will inspire you to grab a copy of the book from Wessex Press for yourself!
Ten Facts about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle You Might not Know
from A Curious Collection of Dates: Through the Year with Sherlock Holmes by Leah Guinn and Jaime N Mahoney
- He was six years old when he wrote his first story. An adventure story about a hunting party’s encounter with a Bengal tiger, it was, as is typical for little boys’ tales, realistic about its protagonist’s fate: the tiger went away filled.
- He had a miniature monorail train built at Undershaw for his children and their friends.
- He could be musical. In the early spring of 1898, he wrote to his mother that he was learning the banjo: “To hunt and to play a musical instrument would 2 years ago have been picked out as the two things in the world that I was least likely to do.” (We cannot tell if he stuck with it.)
- He did not like corn on the cob. During his 1894 tour of the States, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that he “does not seem to be infatuated with ear corn.” Sweet potatoes and eggplant were apparently more palatable.
- He seems to have been asked to join The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, whose alleged members included William Butler Yeats, Arthur Machen, and Sax Rohmer. He declined the invitation, from a “Dr. Brown,” claiming that he simply did not have the time. A month later, he encountered “Dr. Brown” again at a social gathering, and heard him and a friend discussing their experiences with astral projection. “…I remain under the impression that I brushed against something strange,” he wrote later, “and something which I am not sorry that I avoided.”
- He could be a bit of a thrill seeker. In 1901, he excitedly reported to his mother that he had taken a ride in a hot air balloon, flying 25 miles from the Crystal Palace to Sevenoaks, “We went 1½ miles high,” he exulted, “It was a most extraordinary sensation and experience… […] I have always wanted to do this & am glad I have done it.”
- If he were shipwrecked on a deserted island and could choose only one book to have with him, it would be Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. This is, in fact, a multi-volume work, which might be considered cheating.
- He showed remarkably poor judgment… when, on Christmas morning in 1892, he decided to dress as a monster and jump out to scare his family. Four year-old Mary was traumatized, and biographer Daniel Stashower tells us that Arthur was give nighttime comfort duty, a just and fitting punishment.
- His name was valuable. In October of 1895, Conan Doyle felt obligated to write to a New York paper, The Critic, to alert readers that someone was publishing an anthology of stories under his name. He had only one story in Strange Secrets, he wrote, “a short one in the middle of the book.”
- He owned property in Canada. During his trip to Canada with Jean in 1914, he bought land in Fort William, Ontario, as an investment, paying $15,000. In 1965, his heirs sold the lot at a loss for $14,000.