Sherlock Holmes is still alive! | Sunday Observer

Sherlock Holmes is still alive!

A tourist walking up to London’s Baker Street was seen checking the house numbers. He asked everybody he met to help him to locate the house bearing number ‘221b’ where Sherlock Holmes lived. They told him that Baker Street had houses numbered from 219 to 233 but they were unaware of 221b.

“Can you direct me to the house where Sherlock Holmes shares a room with Dr Watson?”

Whenever he asked the question, they gave him a puzzled look.

“Please tell me whether Sherlock Holmes is a real detective.” He asked them again.

They were helpless, so the crestfallen tourist walked on muttering something to himself.

The tourist is just one among many thousands who want to locate Sherlock Holmes’s house. Commissionaire Alfred Blythe keeps a record of such tourists. He says a large number of tourists come from Canada, the United States, Russia, France, Spain, Sweden, India, Italy, Brazil and Denmark. Most of them believe that Sherlock Holmes is still practising his profession from Baker Street. Even others who have never visited Baker Street still believe their favourite detective is living there. Every week a large number of letters addressed to Sherlock Holmes are delivered to the Abbey National. It is strange but true that replies to each letter is duly sent with the following noncommittal message:

“You will appreciate that Mr Holmes has had to vacate his rooms and unfortunately we do not know his present whereabouts.”

Autograph

Sometimes young admirers request Holmes’s autograph or his presence at a local club or dinner. They are probably unaware that if Holmes was alive, he would be at least 120 years by now. For Sherlock Holmes’s admirers he is an immortal detective.

When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created his fictional detective Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet, first published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887, readers started sending letters to him. They wanted Sherlock Holmes to solve some of their private problems. When 59 detective stories were published in the Strand with Sidney Paget’s illustrations, the figure of Sherlock Holmes was permanently etched in the readers’ minds. The detective was depicted as a tall, left-handed man who had a slight limp. He smoked Indian cigars and wore shooting boots. He invariably carried a penknife in his pocket.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was more interested in writing historical novels than detective stories. However, readers demanded more and more Holmesian adventures. After writing many detective stories, the author found it a boring and intolerable burden. In 1873 he wrote The Final Problem in which he sent Sherlock Holmes and Prof Moriartry plunging over the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. He heaved a sigh of relief after killing Sherlock Holmes.

Death

Quite unexpectedly, readers protested the death of Sherlock Holmes. Some of them wore mourning bands on their silk hats. Readers in Chicago, Boston and San Francisco demanded: “Keep Holmes alive.” An infuriated reader called the author “a brute.” The publisher of the Strand magazine also felt that Holmes’s death was a dreadful event. Despite protests and appeals, Doyle did not want to resurrect Holmes for eight years. When he could not bear the pressure any longer, Holmes was resurrected in The Hound of the Baskervilles. This was followed by many other detective stories. The Strand’s circulation jumped by 30,000 copies and readers lined up to buy the magazine straight from the press. Doyle is reported to have written many of the detective stories while sitting on the pavilion floor at Lord’s cricket ground.

From then onwards Sherlock Holmes has been living in our collective memory. More than 100 million copies of Sherlock Holmes stories have been sold so far. They have been translated into 41 languages including Eskimo and Esperanto. They are also available in Braille. Egyptian police used them in their training courses. More than 150 films have been made with Sherlock Holmes as the detective. John Barrymore, Clive Brook and Raymond Massey played the role of Holmes. However, it was Basil Rathbone who acted in 14 films came close to the original detective created by Conan Doyle.

Apart from detective stories and films there were more than 30 stage plays featuring Sherlock Holmes. Later the stories were adapted for the radio and television. In Russia, Sherlock Holmes is regarded as the exterminator of crimes and evils.

Adventures

There are many clubs and societies devoted to the study of Holmes’s adventures. The members of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London include engineers, scientists, doctors, schoolchildren, schoolmasters, clergymen, journalists, professors and Conan Doyle’s daughter. There are similar clubs scattered over the United States. A pub near Trafalgar Square is named ‘Sherlock Holmes’. It displays a faithful reproduction of Sherlock Holmes’s sitting room. An Arizona University student wrote a thesis on Holmes for his degree. The London Tourist Board has printed the ‘Tourist Guide to the London of Sherlock Holmes,’ which has a big demand from tourists. In a survey held in 1970, one in four Londoners said they believed Holmes really lived. Others believe that he never died. Vincent Starrett, a great Sherlockian, said, “Holmes and Watson still live for all that love them, in a romantic chamber of the heart in a nostalgic country of the mind.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930) was a British physician, novelist, detective story writer, and the creator of the unforgettable master sleuth Sherlock Holmes. A Study in Scarlet, the first of 68 stories featuring Sherlock Holmes, appeared in 1887. The characterization of Holmes, his ability of ingenious deductive reasoning, was based on one of the author’s own university professors. Equally brilliant creations are those of Holmes’s foils: his friend Dr Watson, the good-natured narrator of the stories and the master criminal Prof Moriartry. Doyle was so successful in his literary career that he gave up his medical practice to become a full-time writer.

Any detective story features a private detective as the prime solver of a crime, usually a murder. The detective is the main protagonist through whom the story is narrated. The detective interrogates the suspects, ferrets out clues and tracks down the culprit. He shares all the clues with the reader but withholds their significance until the end. To make the case difficult for the detective, the author puts complications in the detective’s way. For instance, we find several suspects, additional murders and threat of violence. The detective unmasks the culprit only at the end.

The detective story evolved in the 20th century. The originator of early detective stories was Edgar Allan Poe who created the world’s first fictional detective known as C. Auguste Dupin. His method of deduction provided the model for detective story writers such as, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Charles Dickens ventured into the writing of detective fiction in The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870) but he died before completing it. Another English novelist Wilkie Collins wrote The Moonstone (1868) and The Woman in White (1860) and created the detective Sergeant Cuff. However, it was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who perfected the art of writing detective stories with Sherlock Holmes as the detective. Readers are fortunate to see him as a real person still living with them.

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