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Friday, November 15, 2013

A Full Life, and a Story Often Retold

Just how many biographies of Arthur Conan Doyle does one need?

In my case, at least two more. That's how many I bought last weekend at my favorite used bookstore: Conan Doyle: The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes, by Andrew Lycett, and The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle, by Russell Miller.

The shelves of my library already included Conan Doyle biographies of varying accuracy by Pierre Nordon, Charles Higham, John Dickson Carr, Martin Booth, and (by no means least) Daniel Stashower. I also own a number of other books about ACD, including the invaluable Life in Letters edited by Stashower, Jon Lellenberg, and Chalres Foley.

And yet, even though I'm not known to be a free-spending soul, I acquired still more. Why?   

First of all, my writing on this blog or for talks occasionally takes me away from Sherlock Holmes and into the realm of Arthur Conan Doyle. It's nice to have books about him handy for easy research.

Probably no one's life can be completely told in any one book, no matter how thick, and that's all the more true of a man with such varied accomplishments as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. His was a full and adventurous life during in which  he excelled at many different roles - whaler, doctor, writer, amateur sleuth, crusader, spiritualist, and politician. He even wrote a few detective stories! So it's good to have several biographies. 

Also, the ones I just bought, published in 2007 (Lycett) and 2008 (Miller) are newer than the others I already owned. That doesn't guarantee that they are better than their predecessors, but they may have the benefit of some new material that wasn't available to earlier scholars.

All of the above is true. But, really, the main reason I got these books is that they were in front of me . . . and I just couldn't resist.


  1. I've got Hesketh Pearson's biography of Conan Doyle and refer to it quite often.

  2. The Lycett biography is wonderfully done. Daniel Stashower's "Teller of Tales" (1999) handles the spiritualism issue very well.

  3. Thanks for the feedback! I don't own the Pearson book, but I read it many years ago.

  4. I have to admit I've really only ready Jon Lellenberg's (ed.) 'The Quest for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Thirteen Biographers in Search of a Life' which due to the way ieach volume is summarized by a noted Sherlockian/ACD scholar, I sometimes forget I have yet to read the original. One day I'll get on a ACD bio kick and read them all.

    On a related note, Stashower & Lellenberg's 'Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters' (2007) has given me more insight into ACD then almost any other article or essay I've yet to read. Great stuff!