I’m sure by the title of this post, most of you know that I’m going to be talking about the one and only, Sherlock Holmes. Holmes (in his many forms) has been entertaining readers (and watchers) for more than 100 years. Since his first appearance in A Study in Scarlet in 1888 he has been represented by numerous actors. He’s been modified for the big screen, as well as the television. He’s been modernized and Americanized. He’s been spoofed, animated, and worshiped. Holmes, the fictional character, has been made immortal, whereas many may not even know the name of his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Here are some images of Holmes’s many appearances.
As you can see, there’s bound to be an incarnation of Holmes that would appeal to anyone. And, if you take your interest to the extreme, you can purchase iPhone cases sporting a variety of Holmes decals, enjoy a spot of Holmes with Adagio’s line of Sherlock fandom tea, and do a quick Etsy search to find a myriad of ways to show your Sherlock pride. The detective has been and is still a hit today.
What of the detective’s author, though?
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in May of 1859 in Edinburgh, Scotland. While attending medical school at the University of Edinburgh, Doyle began writing short stories that were published in small papers. Doyle also spent a year of medical school on a whaling boat in the Arctic Circle, as the ship’s surgeon. After graduating, Doyle spent more time traveling, practicing medicine, and writing. In 1888, his first short story about logic, reason, and deduction catapulted him, and his character to fame. For the rest of his publishing, life, however, Doyle felt overshadowed by his character. While he wanted to write serious works of history and contemplation, the public wanted Holmes. Even after killing him off in Switzerland’s Reichenbach falls, Doyle continued to fight his entire life to achieve fame from his other writings, but often fell back on Holmes when he needed to make more money.
Doyle, having suffered numerous traumatic events in his life, including the loss of his wife to tuberculosis, and the loss of many family members in World War I, became obsessed with the paranormal and supernatural. He spent the last decades of his life traveling across the world in attempts to prove the existence of the great beyond. This was very common during this era, as people desired hard evidence that their loved ones had moved on to a better place. After a Psychic tour of Scandinavia, Doyle returned exhausted and suffering from a heart condition. He remained bedridden until, one day, his body was found outside in the garden, his hand clutching his heart. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle passed away on July 7, 1930. A more complete biography of Doyle’s life can be found here.
Isn’t it ironic that Doyle hated the character that made him famous? He continually felt himself in the shadow of the impersonal, moody, drug addicted Holmes and desired to be seen as a serious author of serious works.
If I’ve done my job, and I hope I have, you’re so interested in Sherlock Holmes now that you can’t wait to attend our program on Holmes and crime in the Gilded Age, coming up this November! Plans are currently in the works and I’m looking forward to continuing on with the research!