Sport, Stethoscopes and Stories: 1882-1890

Life In Portsmouth

As a young man, Conan Doyle was athletic and enjoyed outdoor pursuits, through which he networked with Portsmouth and Southsea’s movers and shakers. He participated in bowls, captained the Portsmouth cricket team and played in goal for the amateur Portsmouth Association Football Club (the precursor to the current club). Being civic-minded, he became involved in local politics and joined the Portsmouth Scientific and Literary Society, through which he was introduced to Spiritualism. All this networking was fun – and also good for business.

Conan Doyle published several short stories during his first few years in Portsmouth. In 1884, the publication of J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement, a mystery about the Marie Celeste, inspired by his earlier ocean voyages, brought the young doctor 29 guineas. This was almost enough to cover his rent for a year.

Most importantly for his future career, his time in Portsmouth also saw publication of his first novel, A Study In Scarlet. The novel was featured in Mrs Beeton’s Christmas Annual, 1887 and introduced the world to Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.

Four more novels followed before the end of 1890: Micah Clarke, The Mystery of Cloomber, The Sign of the Four (the second Sherlock Holmes story) and the Firm of Girdlestone.

He was rapidly establishing himself as an author, but Conan Doyle also hoped to become an eye specialist. With his new wife, Louise, and their baby daughter, Mary, he moved to Vienna in late 1890 to continue his medical studies.

Arthur Conan Doyle pictured with the Norwood cricket team which toured Holland in 1891.

Arthur Conan Doyle pictured with the Norwood cricket team which toured Holland in 1891.

A letter written by Conan Doyle describing his short story, The Great Brown-Pericord Motor

A letter written by Conan Doyle describing his short story, The Great Brown-Pericord Motor. The letter was written on Portsmouth Literary and Scienti c Society letterhead.

Conan Doyle standing outside his home and practice at Bush Villas in Southsea.

Conan Doyle standing outside his home and practice at Bush Villas in Southsea.