5190Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Eugene Sandow.
- May 16, 2017
On 27 Mar 1904, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was driving home from a day of playing golf with his brother, Innes, when he turned too quickly into his driveway and clipped a gatepost. The collision sent the car careening up a grassy bank inside the gate and it flipped over, trapping both him and his brother underneath.
Amazingly, both men were left with nothing more than a few bruises.
When news of the incident broke in the press a few days later, Doyle was soon being asked to account for his miraculous escape from what would ordinarily have been a fatal accident. He was a keen sportsman and physically very fit—Doyle played soccer and was a proficient skier, and played on the same cricket team as Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie—but above all else, his attributed his escape to a muscle-conditioning program he had undertaken several years earlier with the help of a world-renowned German bodybuilder, Eugne Sandow. He had an“institute of physical culture" opened on St. James’s Street in London in 1894.
And it was there that he first attracted the attention of Arthur Conan Doyle. By now, Doyle was a well-established and successful writer. Despite his literary success, however, Doyle continued (as he always had done) supplementing his writing with his day-to-day work as a doctor, and in 1890, he had opened a private medical practice in central London—barely a 20 minute walk from Sandow’s institute.
Doyle’s training in medicine and anatomy, as well as his own personal interest in sport, led him to become one of Sandow’s earliest and most significant clients, and over the years that followed he meticulously followed Sandow’s exercise regime—so that by the time of his car accident in 1904, he was in exceptional physical shape. Sandow’s training, had quite literally saved his life.
The two men became good friends over the course of Doyle’s coaching, such that when Sandow came up with the idea of holding a charity bodybuilding competition—much larger and grander than any that had been held before—his most illustrious client happily agreed to act as one of its judges. Sandow’s “Great Competition,” as it was called, was held on September 14, 1901, as a fundraiser for injured British troops returning home from the Boer War, in London’s illustrious Royal Albert Hall. Three lavish prizes—enormous gold, silver, and bronze models of Sandow striking a suitably macho pose—were commissioned and Doyle was joined on the judging panel by Sir Charles Lawes, a famous English athlete and sculptor
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