Today is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s birthday.
To celebrate, we went back in time (our favorite research technique) and tore a random page out of one of his personal journals, and now we will share it with you. In retrospect, we should have knicked an entire journal or maybe even a whole stack and published them and got rich. On the other hand: ethics. Plus, if you make repeated trips back in time and start futzing around in the same spot, things get complicated. Besides, we’re pretty happy with the page we got. The date is obscured, but from events and references, it is maybe between 1908 and 1910.
So, here’s a day-in-the-life of this great man, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
6am – Muscle development! Truly this deliberate flexing and bending of the body is the wave of the future. I predict in times to come it will be de rigeur to participate in daily exercising for maintenance of health. Bracing!
Thought: Would a daily physical regimen from a young age have staved off the TB and preserved the life of Louisa? Perhaps not. Ah, well.
630am – Ablutions & constitutional (excellent)
7am – Breakfast & The Times – Bliss.
745am – The other constitutional with Jean, Mary Jr and Arthur Jr. Saw an enormous dog, exactly like the ones I saw in Edinburgh. The children were mesmerized, so we stopped and spoke with the owner, who was very excited to inform me that the beast was named “Baskerville”.
No matter what I do, I cannot escape Mr. Holmes. Still, the gift of a career & fame seems worthy of some loyalty on my part, so I feigned delight.
Tomorrow, we will take a different route.
824am – A delay in starting work, as there was an automobile waiting when we returned. I had forgotten my agreement to meet with Casement and Morel re the Congo Free State. Horrifying situation there, and it is difficult to believe the stories. Such cruelty shown to people with such little power to resist. “Civilized” and “enlightened” Europeans should be ashamed. It is likely I will involve myself in the matter. Twain’s piece is excellent, and the Crown is lending its weight. Our Nigeria is in sharp contrast. Leopold is a right bastard.
1025am – On my way out, met by chance an acquaintance from the Home Office, a lawyer whose name I repeatedly fail to remember – bluffed through it, again. He insisted on a few minutes to discuss the Court of Criminal Appeal, my advocation of which, he mistakenly supposes, qualifies me to speak on matters of practice. I spoke my mind and can only hope I have not misinformed him. I am not a lawyer! In any case, glad to see it a going concern.
1050am – Once again interfered with on my way home – this time by a biographer of Stevenson’s. Had it been anyone else, I should have made my excuses, but I am loathe to neglect dear Robert, even in death. This man had questions about his illness, etc.. He thought it would be interesting for his readers to have the opinion of myself, being both a medical doctor and his friend. Miss his letters.
1150pm – Couldn’t possibly make it home in time for meaningful work before lunch, so stopped at the Club. Lunched with Stoker. Discussed possibility of running for office a third time, but concluded that two failures were enough. Argued about supernatural matters, but I think we are two sides of the same coin. He looked wan, should probably rest. I recommended skiing in Switzerland, out of habit. Perhaps Italy would be better for him if he is overworked.
115pm – Blocked – physically blocked – by the stupidly grinning Colonel “Puffy Shirt” as I was leaving the Club. I had never seen him there before and was deflated to hear he’d recently joined. Damn. In South Africa he was efficient at nothing but being a nuisance and I told the War Department as much in several of my reports. He’d heard about my automobile and thank the spirits I did not have it with me or I would have been strained to the greatest reaches of my inventive powers to find a reason he couldn’t “have a quick roar-about” as he put it. God.
145pm – Not enough time to go home before tea, so I stopped in at the bookshop for those things I ordered and to look for more on South America.
335pm – Early tea with Jean at the place near the park. She is wonderful.
430pm – Popped over to the fields to see how the Allahakbarries were coming along. Kips, Wells and Chesty were there, torturing themselves. “A fine lot of sportsmen we are, with a knee-tweak here and a Bowler’s Elbow there!” I offered, almost forgetting to rub my shoulder. I should be ashamed of myself. If they find out I’m faking injury just to get Milne back in the lineup, I’ll be in a spot. Milne is too nervy, but I see potential if he can just gain a little experience, and with it – confidence!
610pm – Finally sat down to write, mostly notes and reading on the dinosaur book. Science says the persistence of such creatures to our day would be impossible, and that is certainly a reasonable position. It is their certainty that grates. It would give me no end of pleasure to expose their hypocritical myopia. “Free inquiry!” they cry, while defending homeostasis. Perhaps some sort of hoax is in order.
8pm – Kept Milne and Barrie waiting at dinner, but they were gracious. Meal a bit spoilt when we reminisced about poor Wilde, and the broadly similar idiocy with Edalji. A society that believes itself so rational – and moral – but grinds men under its heels with such little reflection or self-criticism is a society in need of reform. Overwhelming. Will continue to do what I can.
1015pm – Short consult with Scotland Yard. Couldn’t help this time, but flattered none-the-less.
11pm Finally home, everyone is abed. Pipe & capper (the brandy from Cape Town – not bad). Feeling a bit unproductive. Tomorrow will be better.
— addendum: approx. 248am, saw ghost in hallway, by the clock – noisy bugger
And that’s just one day. He was an amazing dude.
Happy birthday, Doyle – and thanks for making the rest of us look like torpid slugs.