Dr Conan Doyle as a Lecturer

He Makes His First Appearance in America and Talks of Himself


New York, Oct 10 1894 - Calvary Baptist Church - If Sherlock Holmes had been in the Calvary Baptist Church in this city tonight he would have seen enter a tall, broad-shouldered man, who seated himself behind a reading desk in front of the pulpit. The tall man wore, of course, evening dress, for the church was full of polite women and men to entertain and to whom he had come. The only bits of colour about this broad-shouldered man were his red cheeks, his red ears, and a blood-red silk handkerchief stuck in his pocket.

If Sherlock Holmes wished to deduce this man's character he would have studied him; a low forehead, growing broader because the hair above it is growing thinner; large ears, narrow slits of eyes, a tilted nose, a yellow moustache of vigorous growth, and a weak, receding chin. The moment the man spoke, Sherlock Holmes would have said he was a 'good fellow', a generous man, for he spoke in a hearty welcoming voice; a modest man, too, for he sometimes spoke almost deprecatingly of himself. He used none of the tricks of elocutionists, few, very few gestures, nor had he any stagey tricks, except now and then, involuntarily, he made a motion that fitted the mood or character of which he spoke or read. But much more it would have puzzled even Sherlock Holmes to tell of this big man. He might have been a doctor, a lawyer, a writer, anything but an actor.

The lecture was about himself and his writings and how he came to write them, and he said, very candidly, that he had chosen the subject because the only reason why such a fine audience had came to hear him was that they had read some things he had happened to write. "If I made any development" - this without the slightest affectation - "it has been a slow and painful matter. In 1878 a manuscript of mine was accepted. The small check I received for it was the bounty that enrolled me in the great army of literature. For ten years or so I wrote short stories, yet I did not earn $250 during any one year from my writings".

"Of my first story to appear in the Cornhill Magazine it was said that it would make Thackeray turn in his grave. About this time a gentleman appeared who has been a very great friend to me - Sherlock Holmes. The detective story is a primitive form of literature, but, I think, a good setting for a dramatic idea.I resented the fashion in which authors make detectives arrive at results by chance and tried to set up a semi-scientific system of detection. I derived the formulation of the idea from an old professor of mine in Edinburgh, who, in a few minutes, simply by observing a man, could not only diagnose his disease, but learn his age, his place of birth, his training, and his personal habits."

"Well," he said, almost regretfully, "Mr Holmes came to grief at last. Perhaps it was just as well. He had been imposed long enough upon the public. Twenty-six stories about one man were rough. He was so real to some people that I received letters asking for a lock of his hair, and one letter asked for his photograph at different ages."


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