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.
Those were my thoughts, too. I seem to recall some mention of laudanum use as well. There was very clearly opium use. As I recall one scene actually took place in an opium den, but I cannot remember which adventure. Guess I’ll pull out my “Complete Sherlock Holmes” this weekend and search.
If you haven’t already, check out House M.D. on DVD. The current season just ended, but the main character is a pretty addictive re-imagining of Holmes...JFK
That was "The Man with the Twisted Lip," and actually, Holmes was undercover in the opium den and only pretending to partake (he had to keep a clear mind because he was in great danger). Watson happened to be in there searching for the husband of a woman who had come to him in desperation to find and rescue her husband, who ocassionally disappeared for days to visit London's opium dens. It's a cool story ... but the drug use in that case was not by Holmes, and in fact the opium den was really only a very small incidental part of the story. The real story had to do with ... well, I won't spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that every couple of years, a news reporter does the same thing that the main criminal (if you can call it that) character in the story does just to prove a point about street beggars. :^)
Also the character Robert Goren of Law & Order: Criminal Intent with his sidekick Eames. He's much more intellectual than Gil Grissom, altho Grissom is more scientific.
I miss William Petersen. ";^(
Just went to Amazon and ordered The Complete Sherlock Holmes. It HAS to be better than most of the detective tripe on TV, which is mostly based on Holmes anyway.
However, my favorite guilty pleasure on TV has to be L&O:CI with Goren and Eames.
I love your story. A friend of mine who lived down the street (this in 1961) told me of his admiration for the Holmes canon. His recitation of several plots and his sheer passion and enthusiasm led me to an old dogeared copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes. I was hooked. Though just out of High School and a sporadic reader I devoured all four novels and fifty six short stories. It is amazing how modern Doyle’s prose style is. These stories are timeless. The memory of this leaves me in a warm suffused glow. And if you ever get to London, check out Baker Street Underground Station. The hundreds of tiles that adorn its walls have silhouettes of Holmes.
House, M.D. is based on a sub-genre of that. They attribute the show to Berton Roueché, who wrote very popular medical detective stories for The New Yorker for 40 years. His collections, like ‘Eleven Blue Men’, ‘The Incurable Wound’, and ‘The Medical Detectives’, are still a great read.
However, they are characteristically different from criminal or forensic detection.
While they are detectives, and good detectives, they are not the archetypal “intellectual deductive” detectives. The shows Monk and Psych are parodies of this ability.
The plot lets the bad guys play beautifully as smart-asses who think they are ten times smarter than Columbo, and he plays cat and mouse with them -- that they're the mice comes on them slowly but surely in each episode! The guest stars are fantastic in the early ones especially ... Robert Culp, Patrick McGoohan, and Jack Cassidy played bad buys in multiple episodes -- nobody but nobody tops Robert Culp as a smart-ass bad guy! William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Celeste Holmes, Anne Baxter, Martin Landau, Donald Pleasance, Julie Harris, Don Ameche, Ruth Gordon, Roddy McDowell ... and just tons of other great, fun Hollywood faces ...
If you haven't discovered Columbo, I highly recommend it.
I forgot — Monk is another GREAT tv detective! Though I have to say that Stottlemeyer is my favorite character in the series!
Try reading them again, if you haven't done so already. You might even enjoy them more the second time around. And you LUCKY getting to see the Baker Street Underground Station! Shortly before we met, my husband got to spend about four months in England, and he and the pal who'd turned him on to Sherlock Holmes and given him the book had great fun exploring all things Baker Street. Maybe I'll get to go to London some day and see it myself with my sweetheart!
Cool! I was not aware of that. I just figured that the House=Home=Holmes and the Wilson=Watson along with the drug use and the same apartment # was all Holmes. I’ll have to check out Roueche...JFK
They say Columbo was inspired by Porfiry. The Police Inspector from ‘Crime and Punishment’.
Berton Roueché collections are a good read. If you enjoy them, I would also recommend The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, by Dr. Oliver Sacks, which is exclusively about neurological conditions, but is also a good read.
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.Once you've eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the solution. I read all the Sherlock Holmes in existence (I believe) sometime in my very early teens (or perhaps some of it a bit before), and really enjoyed it. I recall "Holmes" critiqueing Edgar Allen Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" or perhaps "The Purloined Letter" in one story. Doyle also wrote "The Lost World" and of course allowed himself to be hoodwinked in the Cottingley Fairies hoax.
I remember the story well. I’ve often believed many people I see on the streets have become wealthy in the same way this man did.
Yes, Columbo and Monk ~ the most wholesome on TV.
Peter Falk was to receive a Hasty Pudding Award from Harvard once in the mid 90’s. Our son and some buddies were visiting and got to meet him. They felt so bad that hardly anyone had shown up to honor him. Said he’s the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet. He’s also a very good artist and takes his sketchbook everywhere.
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