Sir Arthur Conan Doyle | First Editions

1859 - 1930

British writer, physician knighted for medical services during the South African War and creator of Sherlock Holmes, the best-known detective in literature and the embodiment of sharp reasoning. Doyle himself was not a good example of rational personality- he believed in fairies and was interested in occultism. When his son Kingsley died from wounds incurred in the Great War, Doyle dedicated himself to spiritualistic studies. An example of these is the rather bizarre and quite touchingly credulous The Coming of Fairies (1922), but he had already showed interest in occult fantasy prior to Holmes and his early novel, The Mystery of Cloomber (1888), concerns a retired general under assault by Indian magic. Doyle supported the existence of 'little people' and spent more than a million dollars on their cause (by 1920 Doyle was one of the most highly paid writers in the world). The so-called 'fairy photographs' caused an international sensation when The Strand published Doyle's favourable account of them in 1920. The photographs showed fairies dancing in the air, but a year later, The Star newspaper reported that the fairies were from a poster. Doyle became president of several important spiritualist organizations and in 1925 he opened the Psychic Bookshop in London. Among his friends was the legendary American magician and escape artist Harry Houdini (1874-1926). Doyle believed that Houdini possessed supernatural powers, which the magician himself denied. Another friend was D.D. Home, whom the author claimed could levitate. Doyle recorded his own psychic experiences in his final book The Edge of the Unknown (1930).

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Arthur Conan Doyle Collection at the Toronto Public Library
Arthur Conan Doyle
The Sherlock Holmes Society of London