Sherlock Holmes is undeniably the most famous crime “consultant” detective of all time. He is the smartest, and exceptionally intelligent among all detectives known.
However, there are several interesting facts surrounding this character as well. Let’s explore some of them:
A Study in Scarlet was written in three weeks
The iconic characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson were first introduced to the world in 1887 in the book A Study in Scarlet. Before this book came out, Conan Doyle was suffering from lack of money. In order to earn, Doyle decided to take up writing and finished his first detective novel in just three weeks. He was 27 then. A Study in Scarlet was the first work of detective fiction to incorporate the magnifying glass as an investigative tool.
The first Sherlock Holmes book, however, was a flop. It did not attract public interest or attention, and could only sell 11 copies. The novel was followed by A Sign of Four in 1890. The second novel is essentially the real reason we ever got to know Sherlock Holmes.
The real Sherlock Holmes
While writing about Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used a real-life person as his inspiration. Doyle studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh Medical School. There, he had a professor named Dr Joseph Bell. Dr Bell had a great ability to observe people closely. Sometimes, he used to predict the whereabouts of his patients before they shared any information. This served as the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes to have great deduction abilities.
In one of his letters to Dr Bell, Doyle wrote:
It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes . . . round the centre of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate I have tried to build up a man
Sherlock Holmes is not exactly who we know him as
Mr Holmes we know today was not exactly who he was back in the days of Conan Doyle. Over the years, this iconic detective has been imagined and changed, without people realising it. Most of the iconic things that Sherlock Holmes is known for today did not exist in the original writings of Doyle.
- Holmes never wore the deerstalker hat or the cape, the two signature things he is known for.
- He never once in any of the book says his iconic line, “Elementary, my dear Watson.”
- Sherlock drug use is rarely mentioned after the first two books. He may not have been a cocaine addict after all.
- Sherlock made wrong deductions more times than he did the right ones.
- Dr Watson and Holmes live together very little times.
All of these additions to the real Sherlock Holmes, created by Doyle is the result of several interpretations of the character at different times and parts of the world.
221B Baker Street does not exist
What is Sherlock Holmes’ address? This probably is known to all who know the detective. The famous consultant detective lived at 221B Baker Street in London, UK. However, if you were to look for the detective while he was alive (if he was real, of course), you would never find him. This was because there was no 221B in Baker Street. Enthusiastic fans would send fan letters and gifts addressed to Sherlock Holmes who lived at 221B Baker Street, only to get their posts returned.
In 1932, however, Baker Street was extended. The Abbey National Building Society moved into premises at 219–229 Baker Street. Even then, 221B was not the real address of the detective. Instead, a museum about Sherlock Homes was formed between 237B and 241B where a plaque hangs, saying it is 221B.
Professor James Moriarity, the napoleon of crime, and the archnemesis of Sherlock Holmes was not the archnemesis of Sherlock Holmes during Doyle’s time. Moriarity was not very popular either. Moriarity appears as a major character only in the short story titled The Adventures of Final Problem in 1891 and is of significance in The Valley of fear set before but written after the Final Problem. Out of 56 short stories and four novels, Moriarity appears in only two.
However, the reason Moriarity is regarded as Sherlock’s archnemesis is that he was the one who made Sherlock break a sweat. In ‘The Adventures of the Final Problem’, Holmes, along with Moriarity, jumps off the Reichenbach Falls, essentially dying.
The revival of Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes dies when he jumps off the Reichenbach Falls with Moriarty. I mean, literally! Conan Doyle was bored with writing stories about Sherlock Holmes and wanted to get into some serious writing, and so, he decided that he was not going to retire the character, but kill him.
The fans did not like that. Conan Doyle was so pressurised by his fans and publishers that he had to revive Holmes, essentially saying that he survived the fall. However, how he survived the fall is never told. Even the smartest writer of the era did not feel like coming up with an idea of how Sherlock survived the fall. It was simply because he had no intentions of bringing him back in the first place.
Nobody bothered to ask why either. Everyone was happy that their favourite detective had survived and returned, and that’s all they wanted. However, the question and mystery shall forever remain.
The retirement of Sherlock Holmes
Even though The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (1927) was the last published short stories, the story of Sherlock Holmes ends with His Last Bow, the series of short stories that came out in 1917 but are set in 1914.
Sherlock Holmes retires on the eve of the First World War. Holmes makes one last iconic dialogue about the World War before he retires:
“There’s an east wind coming, Watson.”
“I think not, Holmes. It is very warm.”
“Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age. There’s an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it’s God’s own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.
He personifies the War as an East Wind. Sherlock Holmes never talks about the great and destructive war ever again.