The brainchild of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes is believed to be born on this day in 1854.
First appearing in the novel A Study in Scarlet in 1887, Sherlock Holmes gained popularity with the first series of short stories in The Strand Magazine, beginning with “A Scandal in Bohemia” in 1891; other tales appeared from then until 1927, eventually totaling four novels and 56 short stories.
Most stories are narrated by Sherlock Holmes’s friend and biographer Dr. John H. Watson, who usually accompanies Holmes during his investigations and often shares quarters with him at the address of 221B Baker Street, London, where many of the stories begin.
By the 1990s there were already over 25,000 stage adaptations, films, television productions, and publications featuring the detective. As a result of which Guinness World Records lists him as the most portrayed literary human character in film and television history.
Fiction is the most real form of reality?
Holmes’s popularity and fame are such that many have believed him to be not a fictional character but a real individual. Numerous literary and fan societies have been founded on this fan theory. Avid readers of the Holmes stories helped create the modern practice of fandom.
The character and stories have had a profound and lasting effect on mystery writing and popular culture as a whole, with the original tales as well as thousands written by authors other than Conan Doyle being adapted into stage and radio plays, television, films, video games, and other media for over one hundred years.
Sherlock Holmes Biography
Details of Sherlock Holmes’s life in Conan Doyle’s stories are scarce and often vague. Nevertheless, mentions of his early life and extended family paint a loose biographical picture of the detective.
A statement of Holmes’s age in “His Last Bow” places his year of birth at 1854; the story, set in August 1914, describes him as sixty years of age. His parents are not mentioned, although Holmes mentions that his “ancestors” were “country squires”. In “The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter”, he claims that his grandmother was sister to the French artist Vernet, without clarifying whether this was Claude Joseph, Carle, or Horace Vernet.
Holmes’s brother Mycroft, seven years his senior, is a government official. Mycroft has a unique civil service position as a kind of human database for all aspects of government policy. Sherlock describes his brother as the more intelligent of the two but notes that Mycroft lacks any interest in the physical investigation, preferring to spend his time at the Diogenes Club.
Holmes says that he first developed his methods of deduction as an undergraduate; his earliest cases, which he pursued as an amateur, came from fellow university students. A meeting with a classmate’s father led him to adopt detection as a profession.
The Last of the Stories
In His Last Bow, we see Holmes retired to a small farm on the Sussex Downs and taken up beekeeping as his primary occupation. Sherlock Holmes’ retirement is not dated precisely but can be presumed to be no later than 1904 (since it is referred to retrospectively in “The Adventure of the Second Stain”, first published that year). The story features Holmes and Watson coming out of retirement to aid the British war effort. Only one other adventure, “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane”, takes place during the detective’s retirement.
The First 12 Stories
For all the Sherlock Holmes lovers, here is a gift. Here are the first twelve stories of Sherlock Holmes. Enjoy!
- A Scandal in Bohemia
- The Red-Headed League
- A Case of Identity
- The Boscombe Valley Mystery
- The Five Orange Pips
- The Man With the Twisted Lip
- The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
- The Adventure of the Speckled Band
- The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
- The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
- The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
- The Adventure of the Copper Beeches