Skip to comments.Celebrate Sherlock Holmes's creator
Posted on 05/22/2009 12:26:24 PM PDT by Borges
The game is still afoot. Today is the 150th anniversary of the birth, on Picardy Street in Edinburgh, Scotland, of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle died in 1930, but Holmes and Dr. Watson live on.
Every day, some child's imagination vanishes into the foggy depths of Victorian England and accompanies Holmes in pursuit of mysteries and malefactors. Descend just once into that world with Holmes and the memory is marked for life.
Some 200 movies have been made starring Sherlock Holmes - he is, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the most frequently portrayed fictional character. The latest film, starring Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson, will be released later this year.
Countless books of scholarship and mock scholarship have been written about Holmes, and his adventures have been continued by authors who kept the character alive in books set in other times and places.
Doyle, who trained as a physician, brought Holmes into the world in 1887 in A Study in Scarlet. He went on to write four novels and 56 stories starring the detective and his friend and confidante, Dr. John Watson. Their titles, The Sign of Four The Hound of the Baskervilles, "The Five Orange Pips," "The Blue Carbuncle," "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," rekindle memories of reading under the covers by flashlight, aloud by firelight and when homework should have been done.
Similarly, Holmes's wit and wisdom live on in language heard every day, although perhaps the detective's most famous words, "Elementary, my dear Watson," were never uttered by him. They are a misquote made famous by writer P.G. Wodehouse.
Many of Holmes's most memorable utterances were made to explain how he arrives at his remarkable conclusions. "You know my method. It is founded on the observation of trifles," he told Watson. Holmes's conclusions occur because "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
Holmes was never lulled into forgetting that evil, whether in the form of the criminal genius Moriarty or an innocent looking widow, can be found anywhere and everywhere.
"It is my belief, Watson, founded on my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside."
He observes and no trifle escapes him. One case hinged on "the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
"The dog did nothing in the night-time," the police inspector said.
"That was the curious incident," Holmes replied.
The sleuth was possessed of a great store of arcane knowledge and vain about his prowess at times. Consider this exchange from "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot."
Sterndale: "How do you know that?"
Holmes: "I followed you."
Sterndale:"I saw no one."
Holmes: "That is what you may expect to see when I follow you."
Holmes himself remains an unsolved mystery. That's one reason he is such an unforgettable character.
Doyle came to resent being known, not for writings he considered his serious work, but for Holmes, and he killed the detective off in 1893 in "The Final Problem." While locked in a struggle with Moriarty, the sleuth fell from the summit of Switzerland's Reichbach Falls. After a few-year hiatus, however, fans forced Doyle to resurrect the detective who, in the end, was his greatest creation.
Celebrate Doyle's accomplishment over this Memorial Day weekend by treating yourself to at least one Sherlock Holmes story. You'll be glad you did.
Elementary, my dear Borges. Thanks for this, I had no idea and it’s always nice to remember this bard.
Holmes to Watson - “It is quite a three pipe problem.” Watson to Holmes - “What ineffable twaddle.” Sublime! Let’s tip a glass to Doyle. His Holmes is immortal.
The old time radio station I listen to frequently plays Sherlock Holmes radio shows. Some have the great Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, some have other players, but they are all great fun and wonderful to listen to late at night.
Children still read? you could have fooled me judging by my stepkids!!!
“For the me, there remains the cocaine bottle...”
Holmes was an IV cocaine user during virtually all of the time associated with the stories. Such a habit perhaps explains his vigor in pursuit of his many cases, and his lethargy in between.
Doyle, especially in his later life, was an utter sucker for the spiritualist and occultic frauds of his time. Quite interesting for the creator of the super-rationalist Holmes.
On my way to use the bathroom over the course of the evening, I took a quick peek into his bedroom and noticed the familiar book on his nightstand. It was identical to the book that at that very moment currently resided on MY nightstand -- The Complete Sherlock Holmes, "... and very well thumbed, I assure you." (anyone recognize the quote from Hound of the Baskervilles???)
I took it as an auspicious omen, and it was. We celebrate our 20th anniversary this year.
On the other hand he used the dope when he was between cases and bored out of his mind.
HOWEVER, one of the coolest things about Conan Doyle was that he gave express permission to dramatists who wanted to cast Holmes in plays, to do whatever they wanted with the character, even marry him off if they wanted. He was absolutely indifferent! So I expect I'll be able to enjoy the movie in spite of the fact that Downey Jr.'s Holmes looks to be nothing at all like the "real" Holmes!
*ahem* Intravenous user, yes, but your claim that it was "during virtually all of the time associated with the stories" is, I expect, pure imagination on your part. I can only recall at most half a dozen times in (at my count) 60 stories total, that Holmes' cocaine use was mentioned at all.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Doyle, himself had cocaine use issues since many contemporary physicians did. An early giant of surgery, William Halsted struggled with addictions first to cocaine, then to morphine in the late 19th/early 20th centuries.
Something is to be said for the intellectual, deductive detective character, which has long been popular around the world. Perhaps the earliest detective was Ja’far ibn Yahya, from a story of the Arabian Nights, who didn’t particularly much want to be a detective, but had to do so to save his head, twice.
In the 18th Century, China had several detective stories, but these were more character and philosophical studies than mysteries. From there, the scene shifted to Europe, then America, with Edgar Allen Poe creating the first modern detective plot with “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”
The most recent incarnation of the intellectual, deductive detective character was of the character Gil Grissom, in the very popular CSI: Las Vegas TV show.
However, Hollywood doesn’t like this kind of character, so even though it is a popular type, it’s rarely used outside of popular written detective fiction.
It seems to be working well with House M.D., which is an obvious reimagining/retelling of the Holmes character...JFK
That could be. I've always found it confusing, however, that he described the effect of the drug on Holmes as making him sleepy and lethargic. I would have thought that would be more in tune with the use of opium or laudenum.
A lot of TV shows have the used the Detective archetype such as Columbo, The Rockford Files and so forth.
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