Study Guide

Arthur Conan Doyle

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s biographers agree in describing him as typical of the late Victorian era. He remained confident throughout his life of the soundness of his own moral vision and in the basic goodness of British morality. As a public personage, he repeatedly took the lead, both in praising British principles and in criticizing particular policies. He is credited with helping to modernize British defense between the Boer War and World War I, especially the defensive gear of common soldiers. He twice played detective himself, investigating cases of people unjustly condemned to prison. One of these, the Edalji case in 1906, contributed to establishing a court of criminal appeal in 1907. Even his support of spiritualism was a public crusade to effect the spiritual transformation of a nation he feared was in decline.

While his public services were many, Doyle will continue to be remembered mainly for the Sherlock Holmes stories. Holmes and Watson are indelible fixtures of Western culture, encountered in virtually every popular medium. These stories have influenced every important writer in the detective genre, from traditionalists, such as Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Ellery Queen, to hard-boiled writers, such as Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, and P. D. James.