Dr. Kittle and Dr. Doyle—
By Robert Cotner
Kinsmen Through Medicine
and Belle Letters
Caxtonian March 1997
here is a kinship between Caxtonian Fred Kittle and English litterateur, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, that transcends the usual relationship of collector and the one collected. It is safe to say that few know Dr. Doyle as Dr. Kittle does. Both were trained as physicians, both cultivated broad interests from their earliest years, and both surrounded themselves with the legacies of literary and artistic accomplishment. Kittle's Doyle collection began in the mid-1950s, when he acquired the original manuscript of Doyle's, The Romance of Medicine, a 19-page, handwritten medical lecture that Doyle gave on October 3, 1910, at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School, London. Kittle himself is currently working on his own manuscript of a book that will delineate all of the particulars about The Romance of Medicine and that will include in its context a reprinting of Doyle's own hand-written text. The study will be published by the Arthur Conan Doyle Society this spring.
Between the acquisition of his first manuscript and his most recent, Kittle has become, while assembling what is recognized as one of the world's finest Doyle collections, a late-20th-Century comrade of Doyle, a scholar in his own right on the life, times, and work of the world's greatest detective-writer and his family.
Besides first editions of practically all of Doyle's works, Kittle owns the original manuscripts of Doyle's The White Company (1890–91), The Leather Funnel (1903), The Homecoming (1909), The Last of the Legions (1910), and one of about 12 extant copies of Beeton's Christmas Annual (1887), which contained "A Study in Scarlet," the first published story about Sherlock Holmes. "In case of a fire," Kittle says with a smile, "I'd save The White Company first and Beeton's Christmas Annual second." He has, as well, 50 to 60 original Doyle letters dated between 1890 and 1930, periodicals containing the first serialization of Doyle's books, seven large loose-leaf notebooks of photographs, and three file drawers of ephemera on the great writer.
The Doyle family itself impresses Kittle: "Here was a whole family of gifted people," he comments as he stands in his library before the splendid Doyle collection that measures more than 100 linear feet.
Richard Doyle, Doyle's uncle, illustrated his own and others' children's books. As we talk, Kittle pulls from the shelf a six-page unpublished manuscript of a story by Victor Hugo, featuring the drawings and paintings by "Dickey" Doyle. Another uncle, James, wrote A Chronicle of England (1864), and Charles, Doyle's father, also illustrated children's literature. Kittle's collection contains a rich representation of the work by all of the family members.
Denis Conan Doyle, Doyle's son, lectured in Barrington, IL in 1942 on the topic, "Will This War End Christianity?" and Kittle has a copy of the Barrington Town-Warming, (Vol. IV, 1942), to prove it.
Doyle himself, Kittle says, "was a sports enthusiast." He enjoyed boxing when it was not an accepted sport and wrote one of the best books on boxing ever written—Rodney Stone (1896)—a first edition of which Kittle fondly shares with his visitor. Doyle played rugby and cricket, shot billiards, raced autos and toboggans, and rode motorcycles and hot air balloons.
Kittle loves to talk of Doyle's skiing exploits in the Alps. In fact, he published an important article, "Down the Slopes with Doyle at Davos" (Journal of the Arthur Conan Doyle Society, Vol. 4, 1993), in which he attributes the birth of the sport of downhill skiing to Doyle's much-publicized, 14-mile ski trip across the Mayerfelder-Furka Pass with the Branger brothers on March 23, 1894. The residents of Davos erected a commemorative plaque to Doyle next to their sports arena for his "bringing this new sport [of skiing] and the attraction of the Swiss Alps in winter to the attention of the world."
Kittle pulls from the shelf The Strand Magazine (1891), which contained in its second volume "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes." He has all issues of that magazine, as well as such magazines as Chambers's Journal (Sept. 6, 1879), Temple Bar (Jan. 1883), Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (Feb., 1890), and others, all relevant to Doyle writings.
Kittle has organized his collection chronologically and by family members. A visit to his library is a tour of one of the most creative families of the Victorian era—and Kittle knows each intimately and offers insights and elaborations as he provides examples of books, magazines, or art, which adorn the wall of his library not taken up by bookshelves.
Kittle's recently-acquired manuscript of The White Company would be one of the more physically impressive items in any book collection. It contains 531 leaves of ledger-ruled foolscap (12.5" x 7.75") with paste-on slips added and written on rectos only. It is bound in a red half-morocco gilt cover and has a calligraphic title page. It is held in a morocco-backed folding case. From the collection of David Gage Joyce of Chicago, the manuscript was acquired by Kittle from Sotheby's in December 1996. He has, as well, an earlier acquired first edition of the three volume The White Company (1891), which Kittle says Doyle considered his best piece of writing. This first edition has been rebound in full leather.
Doyle created in his lifetime a veritable library of his own writings, and this library is the essence of Kittle's extensive collection. There is Doyle's history (The British Campaign in France and Flanders, 6 vols., 1916–20), one of several plays (Jane Annie, 1893, with J.M. Barrie), his translations (The Mystery of Joan of Arc, 1924, from French), his later works on spiritualism, his books on science fiction (The Lost World, 1912)—"Doyle was equal to H.G. Wells," Kittle asserts—and his account (Through the Magic Door, 1907) about his personal library. These and additional examples from each category represent the breadth and depth of this magnificent library developed with devotion and thoughtfulness over a period of 40 years.
The good news for Chicago is that Kittle has recently made arrangements to donate his entire Doyle collection to the Newberry Library, where, he commented recently, he hopes his collection will become the heart for Doyleana and expanded by other donors over the years.
When Doyle's only living daughter, Dame Jean Dolye, learned of Kittle's acquisition of The White Company and his future plans for the collection, she wrote Kittle on December 12, 1996, saying, I am "joyful to hear ...that you have bought the MSS of The White Company and it will be in the collection you are giving to Newberry."
The Doyleana collection is by all accounts one of the most thorough of any in the United States and, perhaps, in the world. To be shown through the collection by Caxtonian Kittle is tantamount to having Doyle himself revealed by one so closely akin to him that you would swear you are in Doyle's very presence. I wonder to myself as I listen whether the good Dr. Doyle has indeed returned in the person of the good Dr. Kittle.
"No," I say to myself as I study Kittle solemn grace, the aquiline profile, his clear, resonant voice, and his studied and sure deliberation on things of the mind. "He's more Sherlock Holmes than Arthur Conan Doyle."
There's More to Doyle Than Holmes
By C. Frederick Kittle, M.D.
Superlatives come easily in describing Sherlock Holmes, the remarkable detective who entered this world in 1887 (A Study in Scarlet). He is unquestionably the best-known literary character and the greatest illusion of reality ever created. His popularity is progressive and continues unabated as indicated by the variously named Baker Street Irregular Societies devoted to him and by their increasing number, 416 organizations worldwide at latest count of which 321 are in the United States.
However, I confess that although attracted to and charmed by Sherlock Holmes, I gradually began to wonder about the man himself who invented and nurtured the character of Sherlock Holmes and those 60 delightful tales of the canon. How did all this come about?
Arthur Conan Doyle (actually Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle on his birth certificate) was born May 22, 1859, in a small flat in Edinburgh. Although his ancestry was Irish and his birthplace Scottish, he lived the major part of his life in England and, with his manner and actions, epitomized the typical Victorian English gentleman. During his adult life he was described as big and friendly, over six feet tall, about 225 pounds, and exuding energy and vitality.
His ancestry is important because of his father's devotion to Catholicism and his artistic ability. The grandfather John Doyle, a portrait painter and caricaturist, moved from Ireland to London in the early part of the 19th Century. To the public his art, under the nom de crayon "H.B.," was a welcome relief from the harsh and caustic sketches of James Gillray and Thomas Rowlandson.
Grandfather's talent passed to the next generation in his four sons—three of whom achieved notable success in the art world. James became an artist and historian. The next son Richard, "Dicky Doyle," was best known as the artist for Punch magazine. He also designed its cover, which persisted for many years, and illustrated many children's books. Henry, another son, became the director of the National Gallery of Ireland.
Success and recognition, however, were not so apparent with the fourth son, Charles Altamont Doyle, Arthur Conan Doyle's father. At the age of 19 he left London and moved to Edinburgh for a minor civil job at the Office of Works. He painted but in a unique, whimsical, and penetrating manner—dainty, child-like figures amidst large animals in pastel colors. They were imaginative, wild-like, often supernatural, and did much to establish a new art genre in child art.
Grandfather John, the three uncles James, Richard, and Henry, and Arthur Conan Doyle gained additional and further distinction by their inclusion in the Dictionary of National Biography, and daughter Dame Jean is listed in Who's Who—six members of the same lineage so designated in four generations!
[Editor's Note: From a paper presented by Dr. Kittle at a Caxton Club dinner meeting, May 15, 1991.]
A Chronology of Books by Arthur Conan Doyle, 1859–1930
Fiction and Poetry
A Study in Scarlet, 1888
The Mystery of Cloomber, 1889
Micah Clarke, 1889
Mysteries and Adventures, 1890
The Captain of the Polestar, 1890
The Firm Girdlestone, 1890
The Sign of Four, 1890
The White Company, 1891
The Doings of Raffles Haw, 1892
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, 1892
The Great Shadow, 1892
The Refugees, 1893
The Great Shadow and Beyond the City, 1893
The Memories of Sherlock Holmes, 1893
An Actor's Duel and the Winning Shot, 1894
Round the Red Lamp, 1894
The Parasite, 1894
The Stark-Munro Letters, 1895
The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard, 1896
Rodney Stone, 1896
Uncle Bernac, 1897
The Tragedy of the Korosko, 1898
Songs of Action (poetry), 1898
A Duet with an Occasional Chorus, 1899
The Green Flag and Other Stories of War and Sport, 1900
The Hound of the Baskervilles, 1902
The Adventures of Gerald, 1903
A Duet (Duologue), 1903
The Return of Sherlock Holmes, 1905
Sir Nigel, 1906
The Croxley Master, 1907
Round the Fire Stories, 1908
Songs of the Road (poetry), 1911
The Last Galley, 1911
The Speckled Band, 1912
The Lost World, 1912
The Poison Belt, 1913
The Valley of Fear, 1915
His Last Bow, 1917
Danger! and Other Stories, 1918
The Guards Came Through and Other Poems, 1919
The Poems of Arthur Conan Doyle, Collected Edition, 1922
Tales of the Ring and Camp, 1922
Tales of Pirates and Blue Water, 1922
Tales of Terror and Mystery, 1922
Tales of Twilight and the Unseen, 1922
Tales of Adventure and Medical Life, 1922
Tales of Long Ago, 1922 Three of Them, 1923
The Land of Mist, 1926
The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, 1927
The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Short Stories, 1928
The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Long Stories, 1928
The Maracot Deep and Other Stories, 1929
The Field Bazaar, 1934
The Crown Diamond, 1958
Histories and Other Non-Fiction
The Great Boer War, 1900
The Immortal Memory, 1901
The War in South Africa, Its Cause and Conduct, 1902
The Fiscal Question, 1905
An Incursion into Diplomacy, 1906
The Story of Mr. George Edalji, 1907
Through the Magic Door, 1907
The Crime of the Congo, 1909
Divorce Law Reform. An Essay, 1909
Why He Is Now in Favour of Home Rule, 1910
The Case of Oscar Slater, 1912
Civilian National Reserve, 1914
To Arms!, 1914
The World War Conspiracy, 1914
The German War, 1914
Western Wanderings, 1915
The Outlook on the War, 1915
An Appreciation of Sir John French, 1916
A Visit to Three Fronts, 1920
The British Campaign in France and Flanders (six vols.), 1916-20
Supremacy of the British Soldier, 1917
The New Revelation, 1918
Life After Death (A Form Letter), 1918
A Vital Message, 1919
Our Reply to the Cleric, 1920
Spiritualism and Rationalism, 1920
The Wanderings of a Spiritualist, 1921
The Coming of the Fairies, 1922
Spiritualism Some Straight Questions and Direct Answers, 1922
The Cast for Spiritual Photography, 1922
Our American Adventure, 1923
Our Second American Adventure, 1924
Memories and Adventures, 1924
The Early Christian Church and Modern Spiritualism, 1925
Psychic Experiences, 1925
The History of Spiritualism, 1926
Pheneas Speaks, 1927
What Does Spiritualism Actually Teach and Stand For?, 1928
A Word of Warning, 1928
An Open Letter to Those of My Generation, 1929
Our African Winter, 1929
The Roman Catholic Church, A Rejoinder, 1929
(A Form Letter), 1930
(A Second Form Letter), 1930
The Edge of the Unknown, 1930
Strange Studies from Life, 1963
Compiled by C Frederick Kittle