April Fools Day seems like an appropriate time to talk about one of the early successes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s career, J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement.
The short story is a work of fiction. However it’s based on a true story, the maritime mystery of the Mary Celeste. In 1872 the Mary Celeste was spotted by the crew of the British brigantine Dei Gratia. The Mary Celeste seemed to be in trouble. Some of her sails were missing while others flapped uselessly in the wind. Most alarming of all was the fact that there was no one at the wheel!
The Mary Celeste was boarded and found to be relatively undamaged. The cargo was intact. There was plenty of food and water aboard. However there was no sign of the crew. Not a soul was on board. To this day no one knows what happened to the crew of the Mary Celeste.
J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement was published anonymously. In it, Conan Doyle wrote about an abandoned vessel named the Marie Celeste. The story tells how the ship was commandeered and sailed to Africa. Later the passengers and crew were murdered.
The problem was that the story was so vivid that some people mistook it for an article. They thought they were reading a piece of investigative journalism. It caused quite an uproar.
Other people reading the tale understood that it was a work of fiction. However it drew a lot of attention when hundreds of readers thought that they recognized the writing style of the anonymous author. They suspected that the author was none other than Robert Louis Stevenson.
Out of all the t-shirts, mugs, buttons, magnets, cards and other assorted merchandise in the LitQuotes gift shop, what’s the single most popular item? Let me rephrase that. What’s by FAR the most popular item at the gift shop? It’s this Sherlock Holmes themed license plate frame . . .
Let me know if you can think of any other phrases you’d like to see on license plate frames at the LitQuotes gift shop.
How well do you know your Sherlock Holmes stories? A quiz at our partner site, The Chronicles of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, will separate the true Sherlockians from the casual mystery reader. The quiz features the first lines from 10 stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Your task, should you decide to accept it, is to match the first line of the story to the story title. Do you dare to take The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Quiz?
Gyles Brandreth writes a mystery series based on the fictional adventures of Oscar Wilde and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders is the fifth book in the series.
Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders opens in 1892, as an exhausted Arthur Conan Doyle retires to a spa in Germany with a suitcase full of fan mail. But his rest cure does not go as planned. The first person he encounters is Oscar Wilde, and the two friends make a series of macabre discoveries among the letters—a finger; a lock of hair; and, finally, an entire severed hand.
The trail leads the intrepid duo to Rome, and to a case that involves miracles as well as murder. Pope Pius IX has just died—these are uncertain times in the Eternal City. To uncover the mystery and discover why the creator of Sherlock Holmes has been summoned in this way, Wilde and Conan Doyle must penetrate the innermost circle of the Catholic Church and expose the deadly secrets of the six men closest to the pope.
Recently I wrote about the publication of the diary Conan Doyle kept while working as ship’s surgeon aboard the whaling vessel, Hope. Recently NPR interviewed Jon Lellenberg, one of the book’s editors. You can listen to the entire interview and see photos from the book at NPR – From Ship To Sherlock: Doyle’s ‘Arctic’ Diary
Could James M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, be the literary Kevin Bacon of his day? It might sound a little nutty, but take a look at his connections:
- He had a long-standing correspondence with Robert Louis Stevenson. Despite that fact that the two wrote many letters, they never met in person.
- George Meredith, the author of The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, was his friend.
- George Bernard Shaw was Barrie’s neighbor for several years.
- He collaborated with H.B. Marriott Watson on a biography of Richard Savage.
- Barrie’s friend H. G. Wells tried to help him with his marital problems.
- Barrie knew Thomas Hardy.
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and James M. Barrie were good friends. You can read about their friendship at our partner site, The Chronicles of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
- Barrie’s formed a cricket team, the Allah-Akabarries. Some of Barrie’s teammates included, Conan Dolye, H. G. Wells, Jerome K. Jerome, P. G. Wodehouse, A. E. W. Mason, E. V. Lucas, E. W. Hornung, Maurice Hewlett, A. A. Milne (of Winnie the Pooh fame) and G. K. Chesterton.
As you may know, I’m also the publisher of a website on the life and work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. There’s a lot about Conan Doyle that’s not commonly known. For example, Conan Doyle was a doctor. When he’d completed his third year of medical studies he signed up for he adventure of a lifetime. He signed on as the ship’s surgeon of a whaling vessel, the Hope. You can read more about this at the Chronicles of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
You can learn even more about Conan Doyle and the era by reading the diary that he kept while aboard the Hope. Here’s a description of Dangerous Work: Diary of an Arctic Adventure:
Conan Doyle’s time in the Arctic provided powerful fuel for his growing ambitions as a writer. With a ghost story set in the Arctic wastes that he wrote shortly after his return, he established himself as a promising young writer. A subsequent magazine article laying out possible routes to the North Pole won him the respect of Arctic explorers. And he would call upon his shipboard experiences many times in the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, who was introduced in 1887’s A Study in Scarlet.
Out of sight for more than a century was a diary that Conan Doyle kept while aboard the whaler. Dangerous Work: Diary of an Arctic Adventure makes this account available for the first time in a beautiful facsimile edition that reproduces Conan Doyle’s notebook pages in his own elegant hand, accompanied by his copious illustrations. With humor and grace, Conan Doyle provides a vivid account of a long-vanished way of life at sea. His careful detailing of the experience of arctic whaling is equal parts fascinating and alarming, revealing the dark workings of the later days of the British whaling industry. In addition to the facsimile and annotated transcript of the diary, the volume contains photographs of the Hope, its captain, and a young Conan Doyle on deck with its officers; two nonfiction pieces by Doyle about his experiences; and two of his tales inspired by the journey.
What do Charles Dickens, Algernon Blackwood, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and W.B.Yeats all have in common? They were members of The Ghost Club.
The Ghost Club is the oldest organization in the world associated with research of psychic events and issues. The group was founded in 1862 and exists today. Their website states:
Today the Ghost Club is a non-profit, social club run by an elected Council of volunteers and its purpose remains true to its roots; the Ghost Club offers open-minded, curious individuals the opportunity to debate, explore and investigate unexplained phenomena with like-minded people and record the results for posterity.
I’ve just made a Facebook page for LitQuotes. I’ve also redone the two quote photos that I’ve posted so far so that they’ll look better when you share them with your Facebook friends.
To celebrate the Facebook page, I made a new quote photo. This one features a quote by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.