Elementary, my dear brother
The case of the Masonic career of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is investigated by Yasha Beresiner
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's name is synonymous with Sherlock Holmes. From the beginning of his career there was an element of spiritualism that always intrigued Doyle and influenced his work.
It may well have been this particular interest that aroused Doyle's somewhat erratic interest in Freemasonry.
Arthur Doyle - he added the middle name Conan later - was born into an Irish Catholic family at Picardy Place, Edinburgh, on 22nd May 1859.
One of ten children, he was sent to Hodder Preparatory School in 1868, and from there to Stonyhurst College, a Jesuit school, as a boarder, where he spent five unhappy years. By the time he left Stonyhurst, aged 17, he had rejected his religion and embraced spiritualism.
His father, Charles Altamont Doyle, a civil servant in the Edinburgh Office of Works, suffered from epilepsy and was an alcoholic, who died in an asylum in 1893. His mother, Mary Foley, had openly taken a lover, Dr. Bryan Charles Waller, as a lodger.
The same Dr. Waller influenced Doyle to pursue a medical career, rather than follow in the family tradition of artists and painters, qualifying from Edinburgh University in 1885.
He first set up a practice with a fellow student, Dr Budd, but later moved, with his newly wedded wife Louise Hawkins, to Southsea, near Portsmouth, where he established himself as an eye specialist. It was here that between 1885 and 1888 he attended a number of 'table turning' sittings at the home of General Drayson, a teacher at Greenwich Naval College, who was one of his patients. In 1887 he joined the Society for Psychical Research. On 26th January 1887, Arthur Conan Doyle was initiated into Freemasonry in Phoenix Lodge No. 257 in Southsea, aged 27. Among those present was Dr James Watson, with whom Doyle became very friendly, and whose name has been immortalised in the Holmes stories.
The true Watson, unlike his fictitious counterpart, was a graduate of Edinburgh University in 1865 and served 19 years as medical officer at the British Consulate in China.
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