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What Almost Killed The Sherlock Holmes Stories?

World-renowned detective. Most portrayed character in history. Icon. Who are we speaking of? Why, Sherlock Holmes, of course! Any self-respecting amateur detective would guess that!

The ultimate detective archetype, the character of Sherlock Holmes has been a hero to millions since his creation well over a century ago. So can all agree he more than deserves his very own day? Of course, elementary my dear Watson!

  • 1867 – Arthur Conan Doyle meets Dr. Bell, who becomes the chief inspiration for the character of Sherlock.
    • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle says the character was originally inspired by Joseph Bell, a surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh for whom Doyle had worked as an assistant. Like Holmes, Bell was famous for his ability to conclude from minute observations.
  • 1887 – Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes story first appeared in print in 1887 and continued to be published for forty years, until shortly before the author’s death. During this time, the detective had countless adventures, usually accompanied by his loyal friend and assistant, Dr. Watson.
  • 1890 – Following up on the success of the first story, Conan Doyle published his first book on Sherlock Holmes titled “The Sign of Four.”
  • 1927 – Although Holmes’s popularity is still strong, the last canon Holmes and Watson story was published in 1927. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 56 stories and four novels about Sherlock Holmes between 1887 and 1927.
  • 1969 – In the 1969 Oxford-Cambridge chess match, Oxford players called Watson and Holmes both won their games.
  • 2002 – Sherlock Holmes is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Yes, despite being a fictional character, the RSC offered him a fellowship in 2002 and presented his award to Dr John Watson (a real man who is also a fellow!) in front of the statue of Holmes outside Baker Street station.
  • 2013 – May 22, the birthday of Conan Doyle, is officially designated as International Sherlock Holmes Day.
  • 2022 – “Sherlock Holmes 3,” starring Robert Downing Junior, is released in December 2022.
  • Sherlock was originally named Sherrinford.   Originally Sir Arthur Conan Doyle named the sleuth Sherrinford but changed his mind – perhaps because there were well-known Nottingham cricketers called Sherwin and Shacklock and the author was a big fan of the sport.
  • John Watson was nearly called Ormand Stacker.
  • A Study in Scarlet wasn’t popular.  Doyles’ first adventure was rejected by several publishers and printed in Beeton’s Christmas Annual, which was not a success.
  • Sherlock Holmes is the most popular film character or at least, the most popular human character! He’s been in 226 films while Dracula has been in 239!
  • Sherlock never says ‘Elementary, my dear Watson’. While the detective says ‘elementary’ and ‘my dear Watson’ several times, he never puts the two together.
  • Conan Doyle tried to kill Sherlock Holmes because he was bored.  After two years of writing the popular stories, the author was sick of the detective, and complained ‘it takes my mind from other things’.
  • The Sherlock Holmes Museum isn’t at 221b Baker Street.  It’s actually at number 239.
  • The Speckled Band is the most popular Sherlock Holmes story. Not only was it Conan Doyle’s favorite, but it frequently tops reader polls.
  • Some portrayals of Holmes, including the Guy Ritchie films, are known for having the detective wear a “deerstalker” hat. The type of hat that Holmes wears is never actually mentioned in the books. Credit goes to illustrator Sidney Paget, who added the feature when illustrating The Boscombe Valley Mystery.
  • Sometimes Doyle wrote as many as four Holmes stories within two weeks. As a result, some of the finer details in the stories fall apart under scrutiny. In The Adventure of the Speckled Band, the murderer controls a snake with a whistle and a bowl of milk. However, snakes don’t drink milk and they can’t hear.
  • While we might like to grab some food during a study session, Holmes avoids food entirely when on a case. The detective believes eating slows down his brain.
  • Many fans will agree that Benedict Cumberbatch nails his role as Holmes in the 2010 BBC series. It might be genetic since he is related to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Researchers from Ancestry.com discovered that the two are sixteenth cousins, twice removed. They share a common ancestor in Duke of Lancaster of Gaunt (that’s a mouthful). Gaunt is Doyle’s 15th great-grandfather and Cumberbatch’s 17th great-grandfather.
  • “The game’s afoot” is a catchphrase that is often credited to Holmes. However, Doyle took the line from Shakespeare’s Henry V. King Henry says the line in Act III, Scene 1, at the end of a speech, “The game’s afoot: Follow your spirit…”
  • Holmes has over 300 societies dedicated to him. Generally, the American members call themselves Sherlockians and the British ones call themselves Holmesians.
  • Each sub-group also has its name. One of the most popular ones is the Baker Street Irregulars, named after Holmes’ intelligence network of homeless children.
  • Mycroft Holmes might get some screen time in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Sherlock, but the character only appears in two of Doyle’s stories: The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter and The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans.
  • Throughout 50+ Holmes stories, we never actually find out the names of Sherlock’s parents. The only information we get on an ancestor is that Holmes’s great-uncle was the French painter, Horace Vernet. We also get a passing mention to Holmes’ ancestors being important public figures, or “squires.”
  • Queen Victoria was a Sherlock fan.  In the story The Bruce-Partington Plans, Sherlock is invited to Windsor to meet Queen Victoria in recognition of his services and is presented with an emerald tiepin.


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