Conan Doyle’s Summer of 1910

by Mattias Boström

Conan Doyle really needed the rest, his first chance to relax since they had returned from a two weeks’ stay in Mullion in Cornwall four months earlier. Between these two holidays he had been more busy than usual. He had produced the play The House of Temperley – his boxing play – at the Adelphi Theatre, but soon realized women were less keen on watching boxing on stage. The final blow to the play came, however, when King Edward VII died on May 6th. According to Conan Doyle, the national mourning killed the play outright. But he had signed a contract to take over the Adelphi to the end of the season, and with no play running he lost £5000 during a short time. It was under those circumstances that he decided to write a totally new play. Three weeks after he had commenced it, the drama was in rehearsal, and the name of it was The Speckled Band. It was a three-act play, and compared to the original short story, new characters and scenes had been added. The play was an instant success, and Conan Doyle soon won his £5000 back again.

Since returning from Mullion, he had also written the short stories “The Marriage of the Brigadier” (to be published in the September issue of the Strand), “The Blighting of Starkey” (the fourth about Captain Starkey, published the following spring), and, inspired by the time in Cornwall, a new Sherlock Holmes story, “The Devil’s Foot”, for the December issue of the Strand.

This was also the time when Conan Doyle had lunch with President T. Roosevelt; gave speeches at the Royal Societies Club and the National Defence Association, and at the London Library; attended other society meetings; played golf and numerous games of cricket; had J.M. Barrie staying at Windlesham; and spent a lot of hours on the Congo controversy.

And in his spare time, he wrote the short story “The Terror of Blue John Gap”, to be published in the August issue of the Strand.

Sources: Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters, edited by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower, and Charles Foley; A Chronology of the Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, by Brian W. Pugh (revised 2018 edition); “Conan Doyle and the Drama” in the Birmingham Daily Mail, September 21, 1910.


Mattias Boström is the author of Agatha Award winning From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon (Mysterious Press, 2017), which won several other prizes and was nominated for Edgar, Anthony, and Macavity awards. He writes occasionally for the Baker Street Journal and is main editor of the Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle in the Newspapers series (Gasogene Books). He lives outside Stockholm with his wife and two daughters, is a member of the Baker Street Irregulars (“The Swedish Pathological Society”), an honorary member of the Baskerville Hall Club of Sweden, and also a member of other Sherlockian societies around the world.