University Archives


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Reflects on His Inspiration for Sherlock Holmes

A small lot related to British crime and mystery writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), including a note we believe is secretarial, as well as a mourning card and transmittal envelope dating soon after the death of Doyle's first wife Louisa Hawkins Doyle.

The lot is comprised of:

1. A 1p note written in the hand of Doyle's longtime secretary, Alfred H. Wood (1866-1941). Doyle's secretarial signature appears as "Arthur Conan Doyle" with a tiny "W" monogram at lower right indicating that it was written in Wood's hand. The note to an unknown correspondent is dated February 14, 1906 and was inscribed on a single leaf of "Undershaw, / Hindhead, / Haslemere" letterhead. In part: "Sherlock Holmes did not exist, but the character is drawn from a medical Professor whom I knew." Expected paper folds and light scattered scuffs and stains mentioned just for accuracy, else near fine. 4.5" x 7.125."

Doyle's inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, his best-known literary creation, was Dr. Joseph Bell (1837-1911), Doyle's instructor at the University of Edinburgh. In addition to teaching, authoring medical textbooks, and serving as Queen Victoria's personal surgeon while she was in Scotland, Dr. Bell assisted in several high-profile police investigations, pioneering the science of forensics. During medical school, Doyle served as Dr. Bell's clerk at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

Doyle lived at his home Undershaw in Surrey, England between 1897-1907, completing his manuscript "The Hound of the Baskervilles" there.

2. A black-edged printed thank you note and original transmittal envelope sent to Mr. Arthur Schutz in Vienna, Austria shortly after the death of Doyle's first wife, Louisa Hawkins Doyle (1857-1906). The addressee could possibly be Austrian writer Arthur Schutz (nom de plume Erich Ritter von Winkler). The postmarked and stamped envelope is letter-opened at top and slightly weathered, else very good.

The card reading "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle / and family / desire to express their / heartfelt thanks for / kind enquiries and sympathy" was sent from Undershaw on July 7, 1906. Doyle's wife Louisa died on July 4th after a protracted struggle with tuberculosis.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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September 30, 2020 10:30 AM EDT

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