Episode 42: The Ring of Thoth by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Or to give him his full name, Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born in 1859 in Edinburgh in Scotland and he died in Crowborough, Sussex, England aged 71. 

His family name was just Doyle and Conan was his middle name but taking Ignatius and Conan together with the surname Doyle, he could hardly be anything other than of Irish Catholic heritage. His mother was Irish and though his father was born in England, he was of Irish family. 

He was born in Edinburgh and his father Charles was an alcoholic and that caused the family to fall apart. His father ended up in the famous Crichton Royal psychiatric hospital just outside Dumfries. 

Because his father could not support him, Doyle’s wealthy uncles sent him to a large Catholic school in Lancashire, which I stumbled upon one sunny night several years ago when out for a walk. Then aged 16, he went to another Catholic school at Feldkirch in Austria. Despite his Catholic upbringing, Doyle renounced Catholicism and became an ardent believer and supporter of spiritualism. He was a member of the Hampshire Society for Psychical Research and the Society for Psychical Research in London.

After his time in Austria, he went back to Edinburgh where he trained as a doctor. After graduating he worked in the south of England, setting up a practice in Southsea. Incredible as it sounds, he didn’t make money and had to become a writer to support himself. 

He also became the goalkeeper of the Portsmouth Association Football club when he was at Southsea. He also played cricket form Marylebone Cricket Club in London and then as part of the Authors XI with J M Barrie, P G Woodhouse and A A Milne. He was also a keen golfer!

He was a big supporter of vaccination. He went to study ophthalmology in Vienna but found the German too hard (though he had been a school student in Austria off course). While he was in Vienna he mainly spent his time ice skating and writing fiction.

He was a prolific writer and his first short story was published in 1879 when he was 20. He wrote his first Sherlock Holmes story when he was 27 and struggled to find a publisher for it. By the time he had written several stories he was tired of Holmes. 

Doyle was interested in many things and it is said that he wasn’t considered a great writer because he kept changing the focus of his enthusiasms, from writing to medicine, to golf to psychical research and many other subjects

The Ring of Thoth

Given what we’ve just said about Doyle’s wandering enthusiasms, it is interesting to note that is the same criticism he makes of the John Vansittart Smith hero of the Ring of Thoth. The observation adds little to the story, and has the ring of a personal anecdote. The Vansittarts were a noble English family of Dutch descent, and Doyle would probably have heard of them.

The Ring of Thoth was published in 1890 in the Cornhill Magazine. 

The Ring of Thoth was the first mummy story. If we think of our Gothic Horror and especially of our Hammer Horror tradition, we have mummies, werewolves and vampires; in some movies they even meet up and do battle!

I remember the Matell glow in the dark mummy, wolf man and other figures. My memory is hazy about the others. A friend of mine had a glow in the dark mummy and I wanted it. 

And Boris Karloff’s role in The Mummy from 1932 owes it all to The Ring of Thoth. As stories go it’s fairly straightforward. We have the learned man delving too deeply into things that should not be delved into, a little anyway. He’s not as bad as some of M R James or H P Lovecraft’s protagonists who mess with the really bad stuff. I think that’s a quote from Phil Lynott, by the way (if yous are old enough to know who that is)

Pull Out The Stops

The show is growing enormously, up 33% this month, which is fantastic, but more downloads mean more cost and if you like the show, it would really help if you could make a modest contribution, ideally via Patreon but you can always [buy me a coffee] (Tony Walker on Buy Me A Coffee) which I will then spend on podcast hosting bills and not coffee. Just so you know and in the interests of transparency


I’ve got another science fiction horror podcast where I read out my own novel Darkworlds London. Check it out, someday, maybe?


Intro by The Heartwood Institute entitled/Some Come Back/

Outro is /Bad Encounter/by Myuu

Live Storytelling

We’re doing live storytelling events around our home area, but if you want to come to your city; that could be possible!

Everything is possible, remember.

Otherwise, let’s keep on rocking in the free world. 


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