Here are some more pointless facts — most of which you probably know anyway, being clever people — about another legendary crime thriller character. This time round, Sherlock Holmes.
1/ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous creation first appeared in the novel A Study in Scarlet, which was turned down five times by publishers – will these foolish publishers never learn? However, the novel wasn’t at all successful. It was only at a dinner-party in 1889 that Doyle was persuaded to write another Sherlock Holmes novel by an editor. And what a swell party it must have been. At the same reception, Oscar Wilde was also persuaded to write a novel — The Picture of Dorian Gray appeared in the same year as The Sign of the Four. However, it wasn’t until A Scandal In Bohemia was printed in Strand Magazine that the Holmes character really took off.
2/ The Great Detective’s name was originally going to be Sherrinford Holmes, and Dr John Watson was to be called Ormand Sacker. However, Doyle thankfully changed his detective’s name to Sherlock – after a cricket player.
3/ Holmes was famously inspired by a real-life lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, Dr Joseph Bell, who had the uncanny ability to diagnose patients simply by looking at them, and also a forensic scientist called Sir Henry Littlejohn.
4/ Holmes was an habitual user of cocaine – which he injected in a seven-per cent solution – and occasionally used morphine. Both drugs, however, were legal in the 19th Century.
5/ Doctor John Watson moved in with Holmes after returning penniless and invalided from Afghanistan. It was only when he was disturbed by the crowded comings and goings in their lodgings – bloody flatmates! – that he discovered Holmes was a Consulting Detective.
6/ Watson’s narratives of his companion’s triumphant cases over the course of more than fifty stories contain many discrepancies, and the old dog alludes to up to five wives. Incidentally, Holmes’ famous deer-stalker cap is never mentioned in the prose, but was featured in the illustrations by Sidney Paget. Nor did he ever say: ‘Elementary, my dear Watson!’
7/ Holmes never mentions his parents, but has a brother called Mycroft whose powers of deduction surpass even his own. However, Mycroft is corpulent and lazy and works in some vague capacity in Government. Holmes also claimed that his great-uncle was the French painter Vernet.
8/ Holmes is often portrayed as a fey, cerebral character, but both he and his good friend Dr. Watson were not shy of getting stuck in. They carried revolvers, which they used to pistol-whip people. Holmes was also adept with a cane, a sword, and also at bare-knuckle fighting and martial arts, which he used to fling Moriarty to his death.
9/ Tired of the character, Doyle killed Holmes off in The Final Problem, saying ‘I am weary of his name.’ But reader pressure – and some serious cash – forced him to change his mind and bring Holmes back. Holmes apparently spent the three years after he supposedly fell to his death from the Reichenbach Falls travelling the world.
10/ Professor James Moriarty, the Napoleon of Crime, has been celebrated as Holmes’s great antagonist, but he only appeared in two stories, and was created specifically so that Holmes could meet his end in The Final Problem. A number of people have been suggested as the model for Moriarty, including famous London criminal Jonathan Wild, spiteful astronomer Simon Newcomb, and mathematician George Boole. However, there may be a more Freudian explanation. Conan Doyle went to school with two boys called Moriarty. Similarly, Irene Adler, another character who has become more prominent in the Holmsiverse in recent years, only appeared in a single story.
Now you have the facts at your fingertips, go forth and amaze the world.
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