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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 May, 2004, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
Conan Doyle sale nears 1m mark
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle items for sale

A lost collection of personal papers belonging to Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sold for 948,546 at auction on Wednesday.

The papers and other artefacts included a first sketch of Sherlock Holmes in the novel A Study in Scarlet.

They went missing in a dispute over Conan Doyle's estate 40 years ago but were found in the offices of a London legal firm earlier this year.

There had been expectations that the collection might fetch up to 2m.

It is not yet known if artefacts were sold to private collectors or institutions.

1. Three notebooks written as a young doctor in Southsea: 139,560
2. Correspondence to his brother Innes Doyle and other family members: 71,700
3. The Norwood Notebook, an early literary notebook: 59,750
4. Correspondence with literary agent AP Watt and Son: 53,775
Untitled and unpublished first novel: 47,800

The collection of 3,000 items included letters, notes and hand-written manuscripts - 80% of which have never been published.

It also included personal effects taken from Conan Doyle's writing desk after his death in 1930.

A series of notebooks containing the seeds of ideas for his original stories fetched 139,650.

A lot containing personal correspondence to his brother sold for 71,700, although almost a quarter of the items on sale failed to reach their reserve prices.

The collection contained an acknowledgement that Conan Doyle, who lived in Crowborough, East Sussex, began a relationship with second wife Jean Leckie before the death of his ailing first wife Louise Hawkins.

'Platonic relationship'

"In correspondence to his brother Innes he talks frankly about his future wife Jean Leckie whilst his first wife was still alive and seriously ill," said a Christie's spokesman.

"The letters date from seven or eight years before she died and everyone has since speculated if this had been just a platonic relationship.

"Conan Doyle tells his brother about 'a large part of my life which was unoccupied but is no longer so'."

Christie's manuscript consultant Jane Flower said the papers were first referred to in a biography of Conan Doyle by John Dickson Carr in 1949.

The collection also included letters from public figures, including Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde, Bernard Shaw, PG Wodehouse and the US president Theodore Roosevelt.

In the House of Commons on Tuesday, Scottish National Party MP Pete Wishart said the collection should be placed in the British Library to "serve the public good".

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