Influences on the short storys of sherlock holmes

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Influences In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Life That Carried

Into His Short Stories Of Sherlock Holmes

Preston Voglund

South Newton High School


This paper explores the events and characteristics in Sir Arthur Doyle's Life that he may have intentionally or unintentionally carried into his famous stories of the detective Sherlock Holmes and his loyal friend, Dr. Watson. Important figures in Doyle’s life such as his mother, his father and, his teacher Dr. Joseph Bell all had influences whether major or minor on his stories. Also he clandestinely puts characteristics of himself into one of his most important characters. Finally, events in his life also had a lasting impact on the short stories of Sherlock Holmes.

Influences In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Life That Carried

Into His Short Stories Of Sherlock Holmes

There are numerous instances in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's short stories of Sherlock Holmes in which Doyle brings aspects of his own life into the stories he writes. The way Doyle was raised by his mother and father, and the characteristics they possessed carried into his writing. Other people such as his teacher at Edinburg University also influenced his work in major ways. Also, Doyle's occupation and studies prior to writing his stories built the narrator of the story, Dr. Watson. Finally the events he faced in his life probably have one of the largest effects on his short stories of Sherlock Holmes.

Doyle's mother, Mary Doyle, had a passion for books and was a master story teller. She always told stories to young Arthur (Dover, n.d.). She possessed the ability to immerse one with the story so much that one lost sight of the factual information in your life. Doyle's biography quotes "In my childhood, as far as I can remember anything at all, the vivid stories she would tell me stand out so clearly that they obscure the real facts of my life"(Dover, n.d.). His mother passed on this magnificent talent to Doyle and he used this talent to write the stories of Sherlock Holmes, for which he is so famous today.

In the other hand, Doyle's father had a negative influence on his life; he was a chronic alcoholic (Dover, n.d.). The only way this could have been productive in Doyle's youth was to set an example for which he should not follow. This is present in the first story Doyle writes, A Study in Scarlet. In Doyle's first book, Holmes is investigating his first murder and after a while he comes up with his first suspect, a drunk (Doyle43, 1894). Most likely Doyle did not mean to make his first suspect a mirror image of his father. The distasteful attitude that Doyle had towards his father and his father's alcohol problems was carried on into the suspect of Doyle's first book about Sherlock Homes. But the drunk is not the only character modeled off of a person in Doyle's life.

Most don't know it but Sherlock Holmes is entirely based off of Dr. Joseph Bell (Kaw, n.d.). Dr. Bell was a surgeon, scholar and teacher that Doyle studied with while attending Edinburgh University. Kaw describes Dr. Bell as "having the uncanny ability to reveal a patient's symptoms, diagnose patients and report on their origins before they would speak a word to him about their afflictions"(Kaw, n.d.). This is very similar to Holmes' genius character, who uses deductive reasoning to solve his cases. Further research even shows that side by side pictures of Dr. Bell and Holmes show very many similarities. Dover says that "Later on in his career Doyle dedicated The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes to Dr. Bell, who gave credit to the author for Sherlock Holmes genius"(Dover2, n.d.).

Not only do important people in Doyle's live reflect characters in his books, but so does Doyle! Doyle graduated from Edinburg University as a doctor in 1885 and went on to work as a doctor's assistant (Merriman, n.d.). Watson, the narrator in the Sherlock Holmes series, is too a Doctor. Peters explains that “Doyle’s war experiences influenced much of his later work and ideas” (Peter, 2009). In the beginning of A Study in Scarlet, "Watson is settling in London to recover from a wound and illness he sustained while acting as a military doctor during the Second Afghan War"(LLC, n.d.). To add to that... Doyle goes on in 1900 to serve as a doctor at the Longman Hospital during the South American war (Merriman, n.d.). So, to get our facts straight, we have a doctor's assistant, Doyle, writing about a military doctor in the afghan war, Dr. Watson. Doyle then goes on to connect even more to Watson's character by serving as a doctor during the South African war.

Doyle kills Sherlock Holmes after only his first couple stories then decided to revive him because of events happening in his life (Kirkus, 2007). Doyle was not raised in a wealthy household and never had the privilege of not needing to worry about money. After writing his first couple stories of Sherlock Holmes, he killed Holmes because he did not want to right about him anymore. Later on as his books became slightly more popular, he decided that he would bring Holmes back to life because he needed the money. Without Doyle being in a tight money spot, the famous Sherlock Holmes would have never been as big as he is today.

Whether intentional or not, many people involved in Arthur Conan Doyle's life where carried into his stories. He did not have a luxurious or joyful youth, and this is apparent by his gloomy and war/murder detective stories. For further research I would recommend finding his autobiography in your local library. It has detailed factual information about his life, and the literature he has written.


Dover, P. (n.d.). Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Biography Page 1. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Home Page. Retrieved November 14, 2012, from

Dover, P. (n.d.). Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Home Page. Retrieved November 14, 2012, from

Doyle, A. C. (1985). Sherlock Holmes complete. Amsterdam: Loeb.

Kaw, H. (n.d.). The wide world of Sherlock Holmes. The Sherlock Holmes Society of London. Retrieved November 14, 2012, from

Kirkus (Ed.). (2007). MAN Who Created Sherlock Holmes: The Life & Times of Sir Srthur Conan Doyle, The (Book), By: Kirkus Reviews (Vol. 75)

LLC.. (n.d.). A Study in Scarlet Summary | GradeSaver. Study Guides & Essay Editing | GradeSaver. Retrieved November 14, 2012, from

Merriman, C. D. (n.d.). Arthur Conan Doyle - Biography and Works. Search Texts, Read Online. Discuss.. The Literature Network: Online classic literature, poems, and quotes. Essays & Summaries. Retrieved November 14, 2012, from

Peters, S. L. (Ed.). (2009). The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle: A Biography. By: Peters, Susan L., Library Journal, 03630277, 1/1/2009 (Vol. 134)

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