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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
THE AUTHOR of ‘The White Company,’ ‘The Great Shadow,’ and ‘Micah Clarke’ has been heard to lament the fact that his introduction to American readers came chiefly through the good offices of his accomplished friend “Sherlock Holmes.” Dr. Doyle would prefer to be judged by his more serious and laborious work, as it appears in his historic romances. But he has found it useless to protest. ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ delighted a public which enjoys incident, mystery, and above all that matching of the wits of a clever man against the dumb resistance of the secrecy of inanimate things, which results in the triumph of the human intelligence. Moreover, in Sherlock Holmes himself the reader perceived a new character in fiction. The inventors of the French detective story,—that ingenious Chinese puzzle of literature,—have no such wizard as he to show. Even Poe, past master of mystery-making, is more or less empirical in his methods of mystery-solving.  1
  But Sherlock Holmes is a true product of his time. He is an embodiment of the scientific spirit seeing microscopically and applying itself to construct, from material vestiges and psychologic remainders, an unknown body of proof. From the smallest fragments he deduces the whole structure, precisely as the great naturalists do; and so flawless are his reasonings that a course of ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ would not be bad training in a high-school class in logic.  2
  The creator of this eminent personage was born in Edinburgh in 1859, of a line of artists; his grandfather, John Doyle, having been a famous political caricaturist, whose works, under the signature “H. B.,” were purchased at a high price by the British Museum. The quaint signature of his father—a capital D, with a little bird perched on top, gained him the affectionate sobriquet of “Dicky Doyle”; and Dicky Doyle’s house was the gathering-place of artists and authors, whose talk served to decide the destiny of the lad Conan. For though he was intended for the medical profession, and after studying in Germany had kept his terms at the Medical College of Edinburgh University, the love of letters drove him forth in his early twenties to try his fortunes in the literary world of London.  3
  Inheriting from his artist ancestry a sense of form and color, a faculty of constructiveness, and a vivid imagination, his studiousness and his industry have turned his capacities into abilities. For his romance of ‘The White Company’ he read more than two hundred books, and spent on it more than two years of labor. ‘Micah Clarke’ and ‘The Great Shadow’ involved equal wit and conscience. In his historic fiction he has described the England of Edward III., of James II., and of to-day, the Scotland of George III., the France of Edward III., of Louis XIV., and of Napoleon, and the America of Frontenac; while, in securing this correctness of historic detail, he has not neglected the first duty of a story-teller, which is to be interesting.  4
  His works include several volumes on the European War, ‘Great Britain and the Next War’ (an answer to Bernhardi), two books on the Boer War, several plays, and numerous novels dealing with a wide range of epochs and places. But perhaps he will continue to be best known as the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Among the later books dealing with that hero are ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ (1902) and ‘The Return of Sherlock Holmes’ (1905). Conan Doyle was knighted in 1902.  5
 
 
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