The Best of Sherlock Holmes


The Manuscript of Conan Doyle's Whaling Diary on the SS Hope

By Randall Stock, August 6, 2012


Arthur Conan Doyle kept a diary during his six-month voyage in 1880 as ship's surgeon on an arctic whaler.  Filled with observations and drawings of shipboard life, whaling, and hunting seals, the diary remained virtually unseen in the family archives until it was put up for sale at Christie's in 2004.  A full-color facsimile of Conan Doyle's 1880 diary plus related material is now available.


Conan Doyle arctic whaling diary from SS Hope March 1880


Manuscript Description


Offered by Christie's as Lot 5, "The Log of the Hope," the diary consists of three numbered volumes in two notebooks.  The first includes Volumes I and II, with the gathering of pages for Volume II detached but loosely inserted in the cloth-backed marbled boards.  Spanning  28 February – 10 June 1880, this section covers 105 pages and contains 35 pen-and-ink drawings.  Ten of these are laid down or tipped in, and a few have watercolor highlights.


Although Christie's mistakenly listed it as "II," the second notebook is Volume III and is likewise bound in cloth-backed marbled boards.  It covers 11 June – 11 August 1880 in 60 pages with 18 pen-and-ink drawings.  Twelve are laid down or tipped in, and a few have watercolor highlights.


Pictured above is a page from Volume I of the diary with portions of the entries for Wednesday, 17 March 1880, and Thursday, 18 March 1880.  A full-color facsimile of the entire diary is part of "Dangerous Work": Diary of an Arctic Adventure.


Conan Doyle drawing from 1880 whaling diary

Conan Doyle Diary opened to March 18-20, 1880, with his drawing folded out.

See above for a larger diary photo


Associated Materials


Several related items were offered in the same lot with the diary.  These included three letters sent to Conan Doyle in January 1897 by Jack Lamb (not "Jack Lane" as given by Christie's), steward on the Hope, and one letter dated 1900 about the crew of the Hope from James Brown, "an old Peterhead skipper."  In addition, the lot contained a studio portrait of Captain John Gray of the Hope and a printed advertisement for an 1883 lecture that Conan Doyle gave about the Arctic to the Portsmouth Literary and Scientific Society.  The portrait and advertisement are reproduced in "Dangerous Work," and parts of the letters are quoted.



History of the Manuscript


Conan Doyle retained this diary until his death, and it passed on through his heirs in the family archives.  Offered by the heirs of Anna Conan Doyle (widow of Sir Arthur's son Adrian) at the 19 May 2004 Christie's auction, the diary went unsold.  As of August 2012, it was still the property of the family as reported for Lot 5 on the Census of The Conan Doyle Collection.


More details about how Conan Doyle came to be on the Hope, and how he used these experiences for later literary efforts, are discussed with the history of the manuscript.




Related Pages


First Published Edition of "Dangerous Work": Diary of an Arctic Adventure


Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters


Sale of the Conan Doyle Archives at Christie's in 2004


Census of the Conan Doyle Archives / Collection


More about Conan Doyle Manuscripts


Other Sherlockian rarities: Beeton's Christmas Annual 1887 and Sidney Paget original drawings


Lists of each year's best Sherlock Holmes books & DVDs, the best Sherlock Holmes stories, and more Top 10 Lists.



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