A Study In Sherlock

Part Three of the Sherlock Holmes Documentary

Dr Bryan Charles Waller

Today we continue our documentary on the people who inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to create Sherlock Holmes with a look at Dr. Bryan Charles Waller.

Mary Doyle’s Lodger

With Conan Doyle’s father a chronic alcoholic, Mary Doyle, Conan Doyle’s mother took in a lodger to help support her family and alleviate the financial strain that her husband’s drinking had put the family under. That lodger was Dr Bryan Charles Waller, and he was to have a profound effect, not just on the young Arthur Conan Doyle, but also on the character of Sherlock Holmes.

Influence on Sherlock Holmes

It was Bryan Charles Waller who suggested that Conan Doyle enter Edinburgh University and study medicine, a course of action that, as was discussed in the previous instalment of our Sherlock Holmes documentary, led to his meeting Dr, Joseph Bell, the doctor upon whom Sherlock Holmes’s deductive and reasoning skills were based.

Conan Doyle’s Animosity

However, their is evidence to suggest that Doyle, for some reason, possessed a certain amount of animosity towards Waller, and he may well have based several of Holmes’s less attractive traits upon this early mentor.

Waller may have become romantically involved with Conan Doyle’s sister.

Mary Doyle’s Lover?

Some believe that he may even have had an affair with Conan Doyle’s mother, Mary, and it might have been resentment of this that lay at the heart of his ill will towards Waller.

Certainly, when Charles Doyle died, Mary went to live in a cottage on  Waller’s estate in Yorkshire, a fact which has suggested to some that Mary Doyle and Bryan Waller enjoyed a relationship that went beyond that of  lodger and landlady.

Speculation aside, however, it is certain that Waller’s persuading Conan Doyle to study medicine was pivotal in the development of the young author to be and, had it not been for Waller, the World may never have known the name, or the adventures, of Sherlock Holmes.

A Study In Scarlet

Having graduated from Edinburgh University, Conan Doyle moved between medical practices and then, in 1886, whilst working as a general practice doctor on Southsea, Portsmouth,  he wrote the story that would introduce the World to Sherlock Holmes and Dr John H. Watson A Tangled Skein.

However, the following year, he thought better of the original title and changed it to A Study in Scarlet, and after several rejections by several publishers, it finally appeared in the 1887 Beeton’s Christmas Annual.

Although the public at large were largely underwhelmed by this first appearance of Holmes and Watson, unbeknown to the author these two characters were destined for immortality.

In July 1888 the first book version of A Study In Scarlet was published and Conan Doyle asked his father Charles to provide the illustrations. Charles evidently recognised himself in his son’s detective creation and the drawings he provided bore and uncanny resemblance to himself and are, therefore, far removed from the image we now have of Sherlock Holmes.