MARY DOYLE (1838-1921)
Series of twenty-six autograph letters signed ('Mammie'), to her son Arthur Conan Doyle ('My own Dearest Son', 'Dearest Love', 'My Dearest Boy'), Masongill Cottage, Ingleton, Kirkby Lonsdale, 1890-1917 and n.d., approximately 175 pages, 8vo, one with signature cut away, also: her autograph corrections to Conan Doyle's history of the Boer War and other subjects, 4 pages, 8vo; photograph of Mary Doyle (glass negative); and sketch by Conan Doyle of his mother, in pen and ink; also: thirteen autograph letters and one fragment signed by Mary Doyle to Jean Conan Doyle ('Dearest Jean', 'Dearest kindest Jean'), with envelopes postmarked 1900-20, 68 pages, 8vo, also: portrait postcard of Conan Doyle and 3 other items.
THE MOST IMPORTANT INFLUENCE ON CONAN DOYLE'S EARLY LIFE
The character of 'the Mam' permeates the early life and the literary career of Conan Doyle. Mary Doyle imbued her son with a love of history and pride in his descent from Irish warriors; she also nurtured his literary talent from childhood and proved herself to be a perceptive critic of his work. Her strength of character and powerful maternal instinct kept the family together during the long illness of Charles Altamont Doyle and her children remained close both to her and to each other. As late as 1894 she reminds Conan Doyle, 'You are still my Baby you know'.
The letters define the role she played in his literary career. 'Never send out a line till you feel that it is as good as you can make it.' She begs to be allowed to correct The Hound of the Baskervilles before it comes out in book form ('Not any Hound has finer scent, than A. C. D.'s Mammie has "flaire" for the least error'); in another she warns, 'I got rather a fright when Dodo [Conan Doyle's youngest sister] said you were altering words in Micah'; in 1899 she urges him, 'go into your mediaeval story [Sir Nigel], write for love & for your dear old public, try even to forget that it means money ... where you are simply carried away by the rush of incidents ... that is where I love your work best'.
She is dubious about his theatrical endeavours, writing to say that though she had had a good report of Halves [first performed at Her Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen on 10 April 1899] 'you know it is not on the stage that I most wish to see you triumph'.
When Conan Doyle decides to volunteer for medical service in the Boer War the Mam is appalled. Not only does she consider it 'a cruel suspect & unnecessary war' but its continuance outrages her. When Conan Doyle persists, she writes: 'How dare you - What do you mean by it? Why your very height & breadth wd make you a simple & sure target ... Do not go Arthur that is my first & last word', (22 November 1899).
Other remarks in her letters give an idea of the personality of this remarkable woman. She comments on current affairs such as the Dreyfus case; in an effort to keep herself informed she notes 'Quite by mistake I subscribed ... to a dismal paper ... called the "Daily Mail", its vulgar attitude to other countries especially France is simply odious'; she interests herself in Conan Doyle's 'causes' such as the situation in the Congo, referring to the Pope's entourage 'his Cardinals and large gathering of sacerdotal bullies & bigots -- They must have great interests in Belgium' and suggests that Conan Doyle write to the Duke of Norfolk ('You have met him') so that he can influence the Pope directly 'to get the truth of all these horrors impressed upon him'.
The Mam's letters to Jean Conan Doyle demonstrate how generously she accepted the role Jean played in Conan Doyle's life before their marriage in 1907.
Part of Conan Doyle's letter to the Mam of 22 November 1899 is published in Nordon, pp. 45-6. (46)