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NA315212 - DOYLE, A.C.: Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (The), I (Unabridged)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Read by David Timson
The Speckled Band
Born in Edinburgh in 1859, Arthur Conan Doyle was Irish by descent, Scottish by birth and English by adoption. The son of a painter, he grew up to become a fully qualified doctor while at the same time developing a passionate interest in the paranormal, and these two components are to be found in his fictional creations, most notably in Sherlock Holmes himself.
Holmes is a calculating, rational sleuth who also exudes an almost hypnotic sense of otherness. One thinks for example of the casual and effortless way in which he, a slightly built man, bends back the poker in The Copper Beeches. Holmes is more than a mere detective, he is rather an enigmatic mix of folklore and science, with knowledge and a wisdom, which seems mysterious and even, at times, unearthly.
The creation of Dr. Watson was a real masterstroke. He is the emotional foil to Holmes' relentless rationality; he is a comforting and at times uncomprehending narrator with whom we can identify; he puts the questions, which we long to ask. The relationship between these two men, each perhaps representing a different side of their creator, gives an extra dimension to the stories and has become one of the most famous literary partnerships.
The idea of writing a series of short stories based around the character of Holmes came to Doyle out of a wish to write for the extremely popular monthly magazines of his day. He wanted to develop the idea of a single character that would serve as a hook to readers, and yet he wanted the stories to be complete in themselves "so that the purchaser was always sure that he could relish the whole contents of the magazine." With this aim in mind Doyle sent A Scandal in Bohemia to Greenhough Smith, the editor of The Strand, who liked the story and encouraged Doyle to go on with the series. Uninterrupted, apparently, by a single patient during his time as an eye specialist, Doyle was able to spend all his days writing. "My rooms on Devonshire Place", he said, "Consisted of a waiting-room and a consulting-room, where I waited in the consulting room, and no one waited in the waiting-room."
Doyle seldom took less than a week to write a story. After having finally given up a career in medicine, he moved to South Norwood. Here he worked from breakfast to lunch and from five to eight in the evening, while many of his ideas came to him in the afternoons when walking or playing cricket or tennis. In August 1892, he told an interviewer of his fears about spoiling the character of whom he was very fond, but claimed that he had enough material to get him through another series (The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes).
The sixtieth and final adventure of Sherlock Holmes, Shoscombe Old Place, appeared in The Strand magazine in April 1927. Doyle died on July 7, 1930, having a few days earlier accompanied a deputation to the Home Secretary for the legalization of mediums and spiritual societies. During his lifetime he straddled two centuries and his enduring appeal will ensure that his popularity will live on into a third.
Notes by Heather Godwin.
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