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Creator / Arthur Conan Doyle

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"I should dearly love that the world should be ever so little better for my presence. Even on this small stage we have our two sides, and something might be done by throwing all one's weight on the scale of breadth, tolerance, charity, temperance, peace, and kindliness to man and beast. We can't all strike very big blows, and even the little ones count for something."

Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle (22 May 1859 – 7 July 1930) was the creator of Sherlock Holmes and Professor Challenger. He wrote many other stories, but mostly only the ones regarding the famous detective are remembered now. Anyone with an interest in medieval history and historical fiction should read his novel The White Company, providing both a fairly accurate depiction of the subject for its time (and the knowledge they had), and a fine insight into A.C.D.'s own time; British Imperialism, The Empire (after all, it was the largest ever), and the mentality that justified and drove it.

He started his career as a physician and took advanced degrees in medicine and opthalmology, but found much more success from his literary pursuits than in medical practice. One of his medical professors, Joseph Bell, is said to be the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, with his uncanny knack for observation and deduction. Doyle was also a keen amateur athlete, taking respectable turns in cricket, boxing, football, and golf. And he dabbled successfully in architecture, supporting the preservation of historic buildings and providing a design that was used for the Lyndhurst Park Hotel.


More controversially, he had a pronounced mystical streak, becoming a prominent advocate for psychical research and Spiritualism. This led to many disputes with other public figures such as Harry Houdini and Joseph McCabe who took a more skeptical view. In the case of the former, it cost Doyle his friendship with Houdini after a time. Houdini would explain exactly what he was doing with regards to cold reading, psychics, seances, et cetera, all so that Doyle could see that self-professed psychics were fraudsters that preyed on the vulnerable. However, Doyle ended up telling Houdini that he clearly had a spiritual gift that should be shared with the world. Despite several of his claims being debunked, Doyle remained a staunch believer and advocate, even having some of his fictional characters such as Professor Challenger turn to Spiritualism.


An early film interview from 1927 in which the man himself discusses the origins of Sherlock Holmes and his interest in Spiritualism can be seen here.

Works by Arthur Conan Doyle with their own trope pages include:

Provides the Trope Namer to:

Other works by Arthur Conan Doyle provide examples of:

  • Artistic License – Geography / Artistic License – Geology: The Terror of Blue John Gap has the titular cave (a source of the semi-precious stone Blue John) several miles from Castleton in Derbyshire. Blue John is in fact only found in the immediate vicinity of Castleton.
  • Blood-Stained Letter: "The Horror of the Heights" is about an aviator who discovered fantastic creatures living high in the atmosphere, but who later crashed and all that was recovered from the wreckage was a torn and bloody journal telling of something that had been following him.
  • The Cameo: While not explicitly named, "The Lost Special" feature an "amateur reasoner" with a complicated theory that turns out to be wrong, while the entire plot (hijacking a train and diverting it into an abandoned mineshaft) is the idea of "one of the acutest brains in England".
  • Cavalry Officer: The Brigadier Gerard stories, which to a large extent were based on the memoirs of the French Colonel Marbot.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: A few horrifying descriptions of the fate of anyone captured by the Iroquis can be found in The Refugees.
  • Creator Breakdown: His friend Harry Houdini believed this had happened after the deaths of several of his loved ones, following which Doyle became a devout believer in spiritualism and made his rationalist character Professor Challenger follow the same route. Houdini unsuccessfully tried to show him it was false by debunking spirit mediums, but to no avail. Doyle instead started to believe that Houdini himself had Psychic Powers, which he used to "disrupt" others, and perform some of his most hard-to-figure-out magic tricks.
  • Creepy Cave: the one in The Terror of Blue John Gap.
  • Death Seeker: "The Captain of the Pole-Star".
  • Dysfunctional Family: Doyle accumulated a huge archive of letters, journals, stories and notes for stories. Rumored to be worth about four million dollars, it disappeared after his death. It seems that most of his kids were complete Jerkass wastrels who wanted to sell it to maintain their Idle Rich lifestyles. Jean Conan Doyle DBE, the steadiest of the children, apparently got hold of it and willed it all to The British Library. Instead, after her death the massive collection somehow turned up at auction — and this is where the story really starts, including the weird death (murder or suicide?) of one of the world's foremost Holmes scholars.
  • Enlightened Antagonist: In "The Mystery of Cloomber", three Buddhist priests use their supernatural abilities to murder the British General Heatherstone and Colonel Rufus as payback for Heatherstone and Rufus killing their mentor during the First Afghan War.
  • Fair for Its Day: Several of the Sherlock Holmes stories (on issues of sexism and inter-racial relationships), and especially the short story ''The Man With the Watches'' (which, despite ending in tragedy as usual, not only features fairly sympathetic gay characters, but has the homophobic narrator realize the error of his ways in the end, at least a little).
  • Flying Seafood Special: The Horror Of The Heights.
  • Masquerading As the Unseen: The short story "A Night Among the Nihilists" centers on an ordinary English merchant, who is mistaken for an agent of a terrorist cabal, since the cabal in Solteff, Russia knows only that their agent is an Englishman. He gets taken before their leaders to report on the progress of their "secret weapon". Despite knowing nothing about the terrorists or their plans, the good fellow is able to sustain a facade of competency.
  • Monster Delay: The creature in The Terror of Blue John Gap is not actually seen until the very end, with the protagonist’s first encounter with the creature being in total darkness.
  • Mummy: Lot 249 is about a man siccing a mummy on his enemies.
  • My Card: Common due to the Victorian setting.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: In his autobiography Doyle, several times, lists something absurdly ridiculous, and notes the reader will find it absolutely ridiculous, but comments that it's 100% true.
  • Odd Friendship: In "My Friend the Murderer".
  • Our Vampires Are Different: "The Americans Tale", "The Parasite"
  • Patriotic Fervor: Many of his historical novels have characters prophesying the eventual rise and dominance of the British Empire.
  • Prehistoric Life - Mammals: The beast from The Terror of Blue John Gap is described as a gigantic blind cave-dwelling cave bear like-creature larger than an elephant.
  • Prehistoric Monster: The dinosaurs of the The Lost World and the cave-dwelling monster from The Terror of Blue John Gap.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: The twist of "Selecting a Ghost".
  • Spooky Séance: Conan Doyle took Spiritualism very seriously, and characters in several books and stories have séances and communicate with the spirits.
  • Really 700 Years Old: A character in The Ring of Thoth is four thousand years old.
  • Recycled Plot: "The Brazilian Cat" has a lot in common with "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and "The Speckled Band" (an Inheritance Murder committed with an animal that turns against its owner, with the owner's wife trying to scare the victim away), though written from the victim's viewpoint.
  • Take That!: To Sherlock Holmes in "The Story of the Lost Special", when an unnamed "amateur reasoner" writes to the papers suggesting a solution to the mystery, and uses Holmes's catchphrase about eliminating the impossible. As it turns out, his suggestion is not only far-fetched but completely wrong.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The Ring of Thoth.
  • Write Who You Know: Professor Challenger and Sherlock Holmes were both based in teachers he had. Challenger on a biology teacher named William Rutherford, a large, baritone-voiced and eccentric bearded man, and Holmes on Joseph Bell, a teacher who used Holmes' brand of deduction on his patients.

Arthur Conan Doyle in fiction:

Alternative Title(s): Sir Arthur Conan Doyle