Euripides wrote in 405 B.C. that "reason can wrestle, and overthrow terror."

It is through "that severe reasoning from cause to effect: that Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's percipient fictional sleuth unmasked and entrapped many felons including some vile, execrable villains. In so doing, Holmes became a venerated literary celebrity, and Doyle, Holmes' creator, a prominent notable as well.

Doyle was born in l859 and lived until the age of 71. He was a complex, multifarious man with an amazing melange of interests. He was, among other things, a doctor, a novelist, an essayist, a military historian, a criminal consultant , a philosopher and a spiritualist. He achieved his greatest acclaim, however, as the prolific author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries--a canon which includes four novels and about 60 short stories written over the course of several decades.

It is believed that the character of Sherlock Holmes was based on a real person, Doyle's revered, somewhat inscrutable mentor, Dr. Joseph Bell who baffled colleagues by understanding and diagnosing many a cryptic medical problem using deductive reasoning and inductive analysis. As a student of Dr. Bell, Doyle scrutinized and assimilated his professor's methodology. Dr. Doyle learned his lessons well. He came to believe that if "it was...possible in real life...why should I not make it plausible in fiction."

Make it credible he did! There are even some votaries who like to pretend that Sherlock Holmes was a real person, and the stories are actual case histories. Some have indicated taht there has been some intellectual,fussy arguments, (while not actual altercations and wranglings) regarding the exact location of 221B Baker Street, for example ( a place that never existed,) have gone on for years.

Interestingly, some of Holmes' logical methods inspired many inspectors of Scotland Yard in their work with many perplexing cases, and the science of criminology progressed.

Dr. Bell, the likely model for Sherlock Holmes, was indeed a logician. So too was Doyle; he had to be! Dr. Bell himself observed this when he told Doyle, "you yourself are Sherlock Holmes and well you know it."

Ironically, Doyle expressed a disdain for the Sherlock Holmes tales and disliked the principle player. He was convinced that these stories diverted his attention away from what he considered to be his more important works, especially his historical novels. One of his purposes in writing the mysteries, it is thought by some Sherlockian scholars, was pecuniary solvency. Doyle tended to write them hastily at parties or on trains, for example, with less than meticulous attention to storyline consistencies. As a result, he erred in certain particulars about which he was very much cognizant but unperturbed. "What matter," Doyle would say, "if I hold my reader." Unlike Serlock Holmes who once urged a client in the story "The Speckled Band" : "pray, be precise as to details," Doyle felt that "in short stories... so long as you produce your dramatic effect, accuracy of detail matter little." His writings had flair, and in this respect was much like Dr. Watson, Holmes' allegiant comrade. Doyle was, after all, a bit like both of the characters he created.

At one point in his career, this greatest of all mystery storytellers tired of Sherlock Holmes, becoming "weary" of his name." While traveling in Switzerland with his wife, Doyle concocted a plot which culminated in Holmes' demise. "The Final Problem," published in l891 met with the disapprobation of a vexed public. All attempts to pursuade Doyle to resurrect the deceased hero were thwarted by the author's rigid pertinacity. For a few years the obstinate author held out but finally succumbed to the incessant public and private pressure. The response of the Holmes fans to "The Empty House" in which Holmes explained that his feigned death was just a strategy designed to fool some criminals he was trying to outwit , was effusive exhiliration.

In l841, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in an essay, "Let him be great and love shall follow him." We might muse that Emerson might well have been prophetically thinking of someone like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: the remarkable Victorian scholar-doctor-consummate author- who was and will always be adored with gratitude for the ingenious stories he disliked--an inestimable legacy bequeathed to aficionados of detective fiction.


Back to SAT Menu

Back to Stories Menu

Back to home

Back to Start page