Conan Doyle and the Tax Man
I’m thoroughly enjoying a biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, by Dan Stashower: Teller of Tales. Stashower reveals the source of Holmes’ uncanny ability to deduce a person’s biography in the first meeting him or her, solely by close observation of appearance: Conan Doyle had a professor in medical school at the University of Edinburgh who had that gift and demosntrated it regularly! The professor recommended the analytical technique as a way to size up a patient’s medical problems.
Conan Doyle recognized the stunt as a the perfect talent for a too-smart detective with a taste for cocaine.
As a young physician, Conan Doyle struggled to make ends meet. He earned only 154 pounds sterling in his first year of practice, which was too little income to create any tax liability. Conan Doyle so advised the tax authorities. I will let Stashower tell the anecdote:
When Conan Doyle filed his tax return to show that he wasn’t liable, the assessors returned his form marked ‘Most unsatisfactory.” Conan Doyle added the words “I entirely agree,” and sent it back again.
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