He's famed as the creator of Sherlock Holmes, but Conan Doy1e's letters show the scope of his ambitions.
Within that exclusive group of literary characters who have survived through the centuries-from Hercules to Hamlet to Huckleberry Finn-few can rival the cultural impact or staying power of that brilliant sleuth, Sherlock Holmes. Since his debut 120 years ago, the gaunt gentleman with the curved pipe and a taste for cocaine, the master of deductive reasoning and elaborate disguise, has left his mark everywhere--in crime literature, film and television, cartoons and comic books. Even his home on Baker Street has for decades been one of London's most popular tourist destinations: the Sherlock Holmes Museum.
At Holmes' side, of course, was Dr. Watson-trusted friend, occasional accomplice and engaging narrator. Looming even larger, however, was another doctor, one whose medical practice was so slow it allowed him plenty of time to pursue his literary ambition. His name: Arthur Conan Doyle. As the creator of these fictional icons, Conan Doyle has himself become something of a cult figure, the object of countless critical studies, biographies and fan clubs.
Yet only now with the publication of Arthur Conan Doyle：A Life in Letters, do we have a
candid, personal portrait of the writer, with little of the Victorian reserve of his memoirs, Mast of the nearly 1,000 letters are to his beloved mother, Mary Doyle, beginning in 1867, when he was an 8-year-old boy at a Jesuit boarding school, and continuing until 1920, when Mary died. The book's editors--two Conan Doyle scholars and the author's great-nephew-also provide plenty of background material, rare drawings and photographs, and relevant excerpts from Conan Doyle's other works, making this the most comprehensive single volume out there.
Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh in 1859, into a respectable middle-class Catholic family. Still, it was far from an easy life. There was never enough money; they moved frequently in search of lower rents; and his father, a civil servant and illustrator, was an alcoholic who had to be institutionalized, Yet the early letters are surprisingly upbeat, concerned mainly with food, clothes, allowances and schoolwork. At 14 came his first unforgettable visit to London, including Madame Tussaud's, where he was "delighted with the room of Horrors, and the images of the murderers".
A superb student, Conan Doyle went on to medical school, where he was entranced by Dr. Joseph Bell, a charismatic professor with an uncanny ability to diagnose patients even before they opened their mouths. For a time he worked as Bell's outpatient clerk and would watch , amazed ,at how the location of a callus could reveal a man's profession, or how a quick look at a skin rash told Bell that the patient had once lived in Bermuda. In 1886, Conan Doyle-by now an eye doctor-outlined his first novel, A Study in scarlet, which he described as “a simple tale of mystery to make a little extra money." Its main character , initially called Sherringford Hope and later rechristened Sherlock Holmes, was based largely on bell. But Holmes’ debut went almost unnoticed, and the struggling doctor devoted nearly all of his spare time to writing long historical novels in the vein of Sir Walter Scott-novels that he was convinced would make his reputation. It wasn't to be. In 1888, Holmes reappeared in A Scandal in Bobemia, a short story in Strand Magazine. An immediate hit, its hero took the foggy, crime-ridden London of gas street lights and Jack the Ripper by storm--and Conan Doyle's life would never be the same.
But he quickly tired of the tales, complaining to his mother that Holmes "takes my mind from better things". So, in 1893, he sent the detective over the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland during a struggle with his underworld nemesis, Professor Moriarty."Killed Holmes" was all Conan Doyle deigned to scribble in his notebook. The public was devastated, as was his mother, but it would take 10 years of pleading and pressure before he gave in and resurrected Holmes from his watery grave.
The later letters are those of an important public figure, dining with the King and earning a knighthood with an impassioned defense of Britain's role in the Boer War at a time when world opinion was against it, not least due to the British Army's use of scorched earth tactics. His final years were marked by tragedy-he lost his brother Innes and his son Kingsley to World WarⅠ—and by controversy, as he became Britain's most famous defender of spiritualism, convinced of our ability to communicate with the dead through a medium. (Among those he contacted: his son and Dr. Bell.) It brought personal solace and public ridicule. In one of his last letters to his mother, who never embraced these beliefs, he wrote: “What does it matter what anyone says of me. I have a good hide by this time" After his death in 1930, all of this would be forgotten and Conan Doyle would be immortalized as the creator of Sherlock Holmes. It was not the legacy he wanted-but in the end, it was not for him to decide.
【大纲全义】 n.枪廊，略图;大纲，梗概 v. 概述，略述;描…外形，描…轮廓
sleuth n.侦探 debut n.初次登场
gaunt adj憔悴的 accomplice n.共犯，同谋
institutionalize v把……送交专门机构 upbeat adj乐观的
charismatic adj有魁力的 rechristen v.重命名
rechristen v.重命名 crime-ridden adj.充满犯罪行为的，犯罪倡狠的