The Adventure of the Speckled Band


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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The Adventure of the Speckled Band Study Guide

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Brief Biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Born in Edinburgh to an Irish Catholic family, Arthur Conan Doyle’s early life was marked by instability. After his father Charles’s growing alcoholism caused the family to split apart in 1864, the children lived across the city in different forms of low-income housing. The family reunited in 1867 and then lived together in a run-down tenement flat in the Sciennes neighborhood, where young Arthur was the leader of a Catholic street gang. When Charles died in 1893, a nine-year-old Doyle was sent to study at a Jesuit prep school in England, with the support of wealthy uncles. He went on to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh Medical School from 1876 until 1881. During this time, Doyle began to write short fiction and, in 1879, published both his first story, “The Mystery of Sasassa Valley,” and his first academic article, “Gelsemium as a Poison.” After working briefly as a doctor on two ships and trying to establish his own medical practice, Doyle received his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1885. That same year, he married his first wife, Louisa, with whom he would have two children. In 1886, Doyle published his first novel A Study in Scarlet, which was also his first work featuring the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. He went on to publish two historical novels in succession and then abandoned his career as a doctor to focus exclusively on writing. Doyle remained dedicated to a number of judicial and political causes, even moving briefly to South Africa in 1900 to work as a chief surgeon in a field hospital during the Boer War. Louisa died of tuberculosis in 1906 and Doyle was married again the following year, to his long term platonic love interest Jean, with whom he would have three more children. The author had an enduring fascination from with mysticism, Freemasonry, and Spiritualism, writing and lecturing frequently about these topics for decades. Up until his death at the age of 71, Doyle wrote a total of fifty-six stories and four novels featuring Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Watson, as well as dozens of books across non-fiction, drama and poetry.
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Historical Context of The Adventure of the Speckled Band

The Sherlock Holmes stories were written at the height of Victorian England, the cultural period between 1837 and 1901 when Queen Victoria reigned over the country. These years are considered a major turning point in England’s history, when it transitioned fully into the age of modernity. Without a major international war happening at the time, there was a relative increase in national prosperity, a push in industrialization and a massive population boom in the country’s cities. An expanded railway system, the use of gas lighting, and improved medicine were all important developments of the time. Under Queen Victoria’s rule, the British Empire continued its rapid colonial expansion throughout the world, especially around the Indian subcontinent. The era was also known for its widespread moral refinement, which can be seen in Sherlock Holmes’s infatuation with the balance between good and evil. The term “Victorian morality” usually refers to a general set of ethical beliefs promoting refined social codes, sexual restraint, and a low tolerance of crime.

Other Books Related to The Adventure of the Speckled Band

As Arthur Conan Doyle’s favorite of the twelve short stories collected in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” is one of the preeminent examples of modern detective storytelling. Though Holmes is so well-known as a fictional detective that he is nearly synonymous with the genre, Doyle had a few notable predecessors. Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” featuring the clever detective C. Auguste Dupin, is often considered the first example of a short story in the genre, while Wilkie Collins, the supposed “grandfather of English detective fiction,” is credited with writing the first of novel of the genre, The Woman in White. After Doyle’s long and productive career, the period between the First and Second World Wars generated what is thought to be the Golden Age of detective fiction. Agatha Christie is the most celebrated writer from that era, especially her novels featuring the detective Hercule Poirot, the most famous of which is Murder on the Orient Express.
Key Facts about The Adventure of the Speckled Band
  • Full Title: The Adventure of the Speckled Band
  • Where Written: London
  • When Published: 1892
  • Literary Period: Victorian
  • Genre: Mystery
  • Setting: London and Surrey, England
  • Climax: Sherlock discovers that Dr. Roylott used a poisonous snake to kill Julia Stoner
  • Antagonist: Dr. Grimesby Roylott
  • Point of View: Third-person

Extra Credit for The Adventure of the Speckled Band

Stage Adaptation. Doyle wrote and produced a play based on “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” which premiered at the London’s Adelphi Theatre on June 4th, 1910. The author changed the title to “The Stonor Case” and also made several other changes to the story, including some character names.

Amateur Athletics. Throughout his life, Doyle was an avid and respected sportsman, playing football, golf, and cricket. In the latter sport, he played on an amateur team for several years, beginning in his late thirties, and in one of his infrequent attempts as a bowler once took a wicket against W.G. Grace, who is considered one of the sport’s all-time best players.