Study Guide

A Scandal in Bohemia

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A Scandal in Bohemia eText - eText

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What is a literary classic and why are these classic works important to the world?

A literary classic is a work of the highest excellence that has something important to say about life and/or the human condition and says it with great artistry. A classic, through its enduring presence, has withstood the test of time and is not bound by time, place, or customs. It speaks to us today as forcefully as it spoke to people one hundred or more years ago, and as forcefully as it will speak to people of future generations. For this reason, a classic is said to have universality.

Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on May 22, 1859. After his father was institutionalized because of epilepsy, Doyle's mother encouraged the young boy to explore literature, which he did. However, as a young man, Doyle seemed destined for a career as a doctor, not an author; he went to Edinburgh University, graduated, and even began to practice medicine, specializing in eye care.

Doyle married Louise Hawkins in 1884 and sometime later, began writing seriously. His first story dealing with Sherlock Holmes, “A Study in Scarlet,” was published in The Strand magazine in 1887. The detective and his exploits quickly became extremely popular with the British public, but after four years of writing just this one type of story, Doyle had had enough of the genre and decided to stop writing Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Fans protested, even going so far as to wear black armbands and canceling subscriptions to The Strand. Doyle bowed to public pressure to resurrect the detective, which he did in 1903 in “The Adventure of the Empty House.” King Edward VII awarded Doyle the title of Sir in 1903, not for authoring the Sherlock Holmes books, but for writing a pamphlet on the Boer War, The War in South Africa: Its Causes and Conduct.

Before his death of heart failure on July 7, 1930, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had become one of the highest paid authors in the world, and Sherlock Holmes had achieved the status of the world's most well known detective.