Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Fictional Detective Sherlock Holmes created by Scottish author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was given the birthdate of January 6 1854. Holmes was a graduate of the University of Edinburgh Medical School. A London-based “consulting detective” whose abilities border on the fantastic, Holmes is known for his astute logical reasoning, his ability to adopt almost any disguise and his use of forensic science to solve difficult cases. Holmes, who first appeared in print in 1887, was featured in four novels and 56 short stories. The first novel, A Study in Scarlet, appeared in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887 and the second, The Sign of the Four, in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in 1890. The character’s popularity grew with the first series of short stories in The Strand Magazine, beginning with “A Scandal in Bohemia” in 1891; additional short-story series and two novels (published in serial form) appeared from then to 1927.

All but four stories are narrated by Holmes’s friend and biographer, Dr. John H. Watson. Two are narrated by Holmes himself (“The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier” and “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane”), and two others are written in the third person (“The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone” and “His Last Bow”). In two stories. In “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual” and “The Adventure of the Gloria Scott” Holmes tells Watson the story from his memory, with Watson narrating the frame story.

Doyle said that Holmes was inspired by Joseph Bell, a surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh for whom he had worked as a clerk. Like Holmes, Bell was noted for drawing broad conclusions from minute observations.However, he later wrote to Conan Doyle: “You are yourself Sherlock Holmes and well you know it”. Sir Henry Littlejohn, Chair of Medical Jurisprudence at the University of Edinburgh Medical School, is also cited as an inspiration for Holmes. Littlejohn, who was also Police Surgeon and Medical Officer of Health in Edinburgh, provided Doyle with a link between medical investigation and the detection of crime. Another inspiration is thought to be Francis “Tanky” Smith, a policeman and master of disguise who went on to become Leicester’s first private detective. Holmes says that he first developed his methods of deduction as an undergraduate and A meeting with a classmate’s father led him to adopt detection as a profession, and he spent six years after university as a consultant before financial difficulties led him to accept John H. Watson as a fellow lodger (when the stories begins).

Holmes moved into 221B Baker Street, London in 1881 and according to an early story 221B is an apartment at the upper end of the street, up 17 steps. Until Watson’s arrival Holmes worked alone, only occasionally employing agents from the city’s underclass; these agents included a host of informants, and a group of street children he called “the Baker Street Irregulars”. The Irregulars appear in three stories: A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four and “The Adventure of the Crooked Man”.

His parents are not mentioned in the stories, although Holmes mentions that his ancestors were “country squires”. In “The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter”, he claims that his great-uncle was French artist Horace Vernet. Holmes’s brother Mycroft, seven years his senior, is a government official who appears in “The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter”, “The Final Problem” and “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans” and is mentioned in “The Adventure of the Empty House”. Mycroft has a unique civil service position as a kind of human database for all aspects of government policy but lacks Sherlock’s interest in physical investigation, preferring to spend his time at the Diogenes Club.Holmes was in active practice for 23 years, with physician John Watson with him for 17.They were roommates before Watson’s 1887 marriage and again after his wife’s death. Their residence is maintained by their landlady, Mrs. Hudson.

Conan Doyle wrote the first set of stories over the course of a decade. Wishing to devote more time to his historical novels, he killed off Holmes in “The Final Problem” (which appeared in print in 1893, and is set in 1891). After resisting public pressure for eight years, the author wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles (which appeared in 1901, with an implicit setting before Holmes’s death; some theorise that it occurs after “The Return”, with Watson planting clues to an earlier date). In 1903 Conan Doyle wrote “The Adventure of the Empty House”, set in 1894; Holmes reappears, explaining to a stunned Watson that he had faked his death in “The Final Problem” to fool his enemies. “The Adventure of the Empty House” marks the beginning of the second set of stories, which Conan Doyle wrote until 1927. Holmes aficionados refer to the period from 1891 to 1894—between his disappearance and presumed death in “The Final Problem” and his reappearance in “The Adventure of the Empty House”—as the Great Hiatus. The story “A Reminiscence of Sherlock Holmes”, (“The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge”) took place in 1892.

In “His Last Bow”, Holmes has retired to a small farm on the Sussex Downs. This predates 1904 (since it is referred to retrospectively in “The Second Stain”. He has taken up beekeeping as his primary occupation, producing a Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen. The story features Holmes and Watson coming out of retirement to aid the war effort. Only one other adventure, “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane” (narrated by Holmes), takes place during the detective’s retirement.


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