When Arthur Conan Doyle started life as a doctor he managed to supplement his income with money earned from writing stories. And so Sherlock Holmes made his literary debut when “A Study in Scarlet” was published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887.
Sherlock is a very unique and complex character. A brilliant thinker, he was a writer of many monographs and books ranging from the difference between 140 cigar ashes to a handbook on practical beekeeping. However, Sherlock also a man of action able to handle himself with his fists and weapons. He is described as being cold and calculating although he could pour on the charm when needed.
Holmes liked to be mentally challenged and when he was bored he was best left alone. He would either indulge in some indoor pistol practice while sitting in his lounge chair…or he would make use of his worst vice… addictive drugs. This was a mostly a seven percent solution of cocaine although he did take morphine on occasion.
The success of the Sherlock Holmes stories and healthy sales of other works enabled Conan Doyle to quit medicine and become a full time writer. But he was not entirely happy. Sherlock Holmes had become a distraction from his more serious literary works. So after 2 novels and 24 short stories Conan Doyle decided to achieve what all the criminal types of London could not. He decided to kill Sherlock Holmes.
“Killed Holmes” was all Conan Doyle had to say about it in his diary. At last he was free to write about more important subjects.
In 1901 Conan Doyle decided to write another novel that could be serialized in the Strand magazine. The story was to revolve around the tale of a gigantic phantom hound. Conan Doyle knew it needed a strong central character so he decided to use Sherlock Holmes. It had been 8 years since the public had read a new Sherlock Holmes story.
But Conan Doyle was quick to point out that this was a one-off Holmes story and set in a time before his death. However, the popularity of the story led to the American publication Colliers Weekly making Conan Doyle an offer for more Sherlock Holmes stories. It was an offer Conan Doyle found hard to refuse so in 1903, after a 10 year hiatus, Sherlock Holmes returned from the dead for another series of short stories that would continue till the last one was published in 1927.
Sherlock Holmes remains one of the world’s most endeared and popular literary characters. The future of Sherlock Holmes seems to be guaranteed, as he has become an industry in himself. He has the record for most portrayed literary character on film with over 254 entries. His adventures continue in hundreds, perhaps thousands, of novels. And he has been the subject of plays, comics, and even musicals.
His image can be seen everywhere – on stamps and coins, jigsaw puzzles, t-shirts, toby jugs, action figures and all sorts of merchandise and memorabilia. And, of course, the popular image of deerstalker, pipe and magnifying glass is still used in advertising and other media to portray the typical detective.
With a resurgence on the small and big screens recently we can be assured that Sherlock Holmes will continue to delight people, young and old, for many generations to come.