Sir Arthur CONAN DOYLE. Two autograph letters signed to Margaret Ryan (one addressed to her as 'Mam'), Gravelly Hill, Birmingham, and Bush Villa, Southsea, n.d. together 6 pages, 8vo.
Two early letters, the first a letter of condolence, the second an excited prospect of a dawning literary career. Conan Doyle writes from Gravelly Hill to offer his condolences on the death of a member of the Ryan family (possibly a daughter, Mary) -- 'we have lost an old dear friend, and the sweetest nature in all our little Edinburgh circle'. In the letter from Southsea, Conan Doyle gives details of his literary plans after the completion of Micah Clarke: 'I wrote the book in about five months, but it took me about two years to collect my materials. I am now reading for a medieval book [The White Company], but as I must consult at least a hundred works first, it will be some time before I get it under weigh. Should there be a prospect of my being able to depend entirely on literature I should sell my practice here and start in London as an ophthalmic surgeon & oculist'; he refers also to his schooldays at Stonyhurst (which he shared with James Ryan) -- 'I don't, looking back, consider the Stonyhurst system a good one, nor would I send a son there if I had one. They try to rule too much by fear -- too little by love and reason' -- and describes his three month old daughter Mary, with 'very widely opened eyes, which stare out in perpetual astonishment at this queer universe she has come into'.
Mrs Ryan was a friend of Conan Doyle's mother, and remained an intimate member of the 'little Edinburgh circle'. She had the unique distinction, as in the second of the two letters here, of sharing with Mrs Doyle the title of 'the Mam'. Her son, James Ryan, was one of Conan Doyle's closest friends (see lots 107 and 108). (2)