|Arthur Conan Doyle - long after his Cincinnati adventures|
Christopher Redmond is a gentleman as well as a scholar.
I’ve written previously about his Welcome to America,Mr. Sherlock Holmes, recounting Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1894 visit to the United States. When I mentioned to him online some weeks ago that I would be interested in knowing more about ACD’s visit to Cincinnati on that occasion and in the 1920s, he simply sent me his decades-old file marked “Cincinnati.”
The file is crammed with Redmond’s own hand-written notes, photocopies of contemporary newspaper accounts of Conan Doyle’s talk, pages from nineteenth century guidebooks to Cincinnati, and correspondence with librarians and other research sources.
Right on top as I opened the file was a letter ACD wrote from Cincinnati on Burnet House stationary to the great Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley, whom he had met in Indianapolis just before going to Cincinnati. It displays a charming humility, even though Sherlock Holmes did rank humility among the virtues:
“My dear Riley,
Many thanks for the kindly things which my brother says you have said of me in the paper. You’ll send me home all head like a tadpole. It was a delight to me to meet you.
A. Conan Doyle”
The newspaper accounts were interesting, but mostly familiar to me from having read Redmond’s book. But reading the (Cincinnati) Enquirer story of Oct. 17, 1894, reminded me of ACD’s fondness for the writing of one-time Cincinnatian Lafcadio Hearn.
“Another (writer) who is almost unknown, Lafcadio Hearn, and who, I understand was formerly a reporter on The Enquirer, has done some of the strongest writing in many years,” the British author told an interviewer.
Almost unknown then, Hearn is even less known today. That’s too bad. A man who lived a lifestyle so eccentric as to make Sherlock Holmes seem a model of conventionalism, Hearn wrote sensational accounts of lurid crimes in the pages of the Cincinnati paper. By the time ACD visited Cincinnati, he had moved to Japan and more literary work. He died there 10 years later.
Hearn’s middle name (used as a first came in his byline) from the Greek island of Lefkada, where he was born to an Irish father and a Greek mother. Not coincidentally, Lafcadio is also the first name of a continuing character in my Sebastian McCabe – Jeff Cody series.
Retired high school drama teacher Lafcadio Figg made his debut in my radio play, “The Wrong Cab,” about a modern-day private eye who mysteriously finds himself transported to the world of Sherlock Holmes. It was reprinted in my book Baker Street Beat. Figg re-appears in The 1895 Murder as a rival of sorts to Sebastian McCabe, and again in my work in progress Queen City Corpse.
When Figg first came to life, I had no idea of the ACD-Hearn connection. I’m grateful to Chris Redmond for making me aware of it. There are no coincidences.