The Doyle Diary
Here's some spooky October fun! Charles Altamont Doyle, father of Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, was living at the Montrose Royal Lunatic Asylum in Scotland in 1889 when he created this diary of musings and sketches. He draws sinister birds, plants and flowers, fairies and peculiar ladies. These bizarre, curious illustrations capture my imagination and seem to beg for storylines.
Author Michael Baker tries to sleuth out (in a self-proclaimed “Holmesian Investigation”) information on Charles Doyle, whose writing seems lucid if eccentric. What was he doing in the asylum, was he crazy or just depressed? He write and sketches about having headaches and declares in the first pages, “Keep steadily in view that this Book is ascribed wholly to the produce of a MADMAN. Whereabouts would you say was the deficiency of Intellect? Or depraved taste? If in the whole Book you can find a single evidence of either, mark it and record it against me.”
Biographies of Arthur Conan Doyle are vague when it comes to his father. In the semi-biographical Stark Munro Letters (1894) Arthur writes a narrative where the protagonist’s father declares himself terminally ill, and directs his son to quickly find employment and support the rest of the family indefinitely.
I found it interesting that Arthur Conan Doyle’s father was so interested in fairies. Arthur took up Spiritualism in the early 1920’s, and produced a book called The Coming of the Fairies, an account of the two young Yorkshire girls from Cottingley who created photos of themselves with posed paper fairies they tried to pass for real. Arthur championed these photos as legitimate, wrote dozens of books about death and the afterlife, and even became President of the World Federation of Spiritualists.
I picked this book up several years ago at The Bodhi Tree, metaphysical bookstore for spiritual seekers, that is hopefully reopening soon. You can read about their very interesting history on their site.