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Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on May 22, 1859, in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Doyles were a prosperous Irish-Catholic family, who had a prominent position in the world of Art. Arthur’s mother, Mary Doyle, had a passion for books and was a master storyteller. Arthur wrote of his mother’s gift of “sinking her voice to a horror-stricken whisper” when she reached the culminating point of a story. There was little money in the family and even less harmony on account of his father’s excesses and erratic behavior. Arthur’s touching description of his mother’s beneficial influence is also movingly described in his biography, “In my early childhood, as far as I can remember anything at all, the vivid stories she would tell me stand out so clearly that they obscure the real facts of my life.” After Arthur reached his ninth birthday, the wealthy members of the Doyle family offered to pay for his studies. He was in tears all the way to England, where for seven years he had to go to a Jesuit boarding school. Arthur loathed the bigotry surrounding his studies and rebelled at corporal punishment, which was prevalent and incredibly brutal in most English schools of that epoch. During those grueling years, Arthur’s only moments of happiness were when he wrote to his mother, a regular habit that lasted for the rest of her life, and also when he practiced sports, mainly cricket, at which he was very good. It was during these difficult years at boarding school, that Arthur realized he also had a talent for storytelling. He was often found, surrounded by a bevy of totally enraptured younger students, listening to the amazing stories he would make up to amuse them. Years later he wrote, “Perhaps it was good for me that the times were hard, for I was wild, full blooded and a trifle reckless. But the situation called for energy and application so that one was bound to try to meet it. My mother had been so splendid that I could not fail her.” It has been said that Arthur’s first task, when back from school, was to co-sign the committal papers of his father, who by then was seriously demented. Family tradition would have dictated the pursuit of an artistic career, yet Arthur decided to follow a medical one. This decision was influenced by Dr. Bryan Charles Waller, a young lodger his mother had taken-in to make ends meet. Dr. Waller had trained in the University of Edinburgh and that is where Arthur was sent to carry out his medical studies. The young medical student met a number of future authors who were also attending the university, such as for instance James Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson. But the man who most impressed and influenced him, was without a doubt, one of his teachers, Dr. Joseph Bell. The good doctor was a master at observation, logic, deduction, and diagnosis. All these qualities were later to be found in the persona of the celebrated detective Sherlock Holmes. A couple of years into his studies, Arthur decided to try his pen at writing a short story. Although the result called The Mystery of Sasassa Valley was very evocative of the works of Edgar Alan Poe and Bret Harte, his favorite authors at the time, it was accepted in an Edinburgh magazine called Chamber’s Journal, which had published Thomas Hardy’s first work. That same year, Conan Doyle’s second story The American Tale was published in London Society, making him write much later, “It was in this year that I first learned that shillings might be earned in other ways than by filling phials.” Arthur Conan Doyle’s was twenty years old and in his third year of medical studies, when for the first time, Adventure knocked on his door. He was offered the post of ship’s surgeon on the Hope, a whaling boat, about to leave for the Arctic Circle. The Hope first stopped near the shores of Greenland, where the crew proceeded to hunt for seals. The young medical student was appalled by the brutality of the exercise. But apart from that, he greatly enjoyed the camaraderie on board the ship and the subsequent whale hunt fascinated him. “I went on board the whaler a big straggling youth” he said, “I came off a powerful well-grown man”. The Arctic had “awakened the soul of a born wanderer” he concluded many years later. This adventure found its way into his first story about the sea, a chilling tale called Captain of the Pole-Star. Without much enthusiasm, Conan Doyle returned to his studies in the autumn of 1880. It is interesting to note that after the Arctic trip, the struggling student became quite a Ladies man, boasting about being in love with five women at once… Nevertheless, a year later, he obtained his “Bachelor of Medicine and Master of Surgery degree. On this occasion, he drew a humorous sketch of himself receiving his diploma, with the caption: “Licensed to Kill.” Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle’s first gainful employment after his graduation was as a medical officer on the steamer Mayumba, a battered old vessel navigating between Liverpool and the west coast of Africa. Unfortunately he found Africa as detestable as he had found the Arctic seductive, so he gave-up that position as soon as the boat landed back in England. Then came a short but quite dramatic stint with an unscrupulous doctor in Plymouth of which Conan Doyle gave a vivid account of forty years later in The Stark Munro Letters. After that debacle, and on the verge of bankruptcy, Conan Doyle left for Portsmouth, to open his first practice. He rented a house but was only able to furnish the two rooms his patients would see. The rest of the house was almost bare and his practice was off to a rocky start. But he was compassionate and hardworking, so that by the end of the third year, his practice started to earn him a comfortable income. During the next years, the young man divided his time between trying to be a good doctor and struggling to become a recognized author. In August of 1885, he found the time to marry a young woman called Louisa Hawkins. He described her in his memoirs as having been “gentle and amiable.” In March 1886, Conan Doyle started writing the novel which catapulted him to fame. At first it was named A Tangled Skein and the two main characters were called Sheridan Hope and Ormond Sacker. Two years later this novel was published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual, under the title A Study in Scarlet which introduced us to the immortal Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Conan Doyle much preferred his next novel Micah Clark, which though well received, is by now almost forgotten. This marked the start of a serious contrast in the author’s life. There was Sherlock Holmes, who very quickly became world famous, in stories its author considered at best “commercial” and there were a number of serious historical novels, poems and plays, based upon which Conan Doyle expected to be recognized as a serious author. A third novel, written at that time, was a very strange and confusing tale about the afterlife of three vengeful Buddhist monks called The Mystery of Cloomber. This story illustrates the most serious and incomprehensible schism in Conan Doyle’s personality. Under one hand, he was capable of writing brilliantly about deduction and pure logic, on the other, he was obviously fascinated by and inexorably drawn to the paranormal and ultimately to spiritualism. Surprisingly, at this point in time, Conan Doyle was better known as a writer in the United States of America than in England. In August of 1889, Joseph Marshall Stoddart, who published the Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in Philadelphia, came to London to organize a British edition of his magazine. He invited Conan Doyle for dinner in London at the elegant Langham Hotel which was to be mentioned later in a number of Holmesian adventures, and he also asked Oscar Wilde, who by then was already quite well known. Oscar Wilde appeared to be a languorous dandy, whereas Conan Doyle in spite of his best suit, looked somewhat like a walrus in Sunday clothes. Yet Oscar and Arthur got along like a house on fire. “It was indeed a golden evening for me.” Conan Doyle wrote of this meeting. As a result of this literary soirée, Lippincott’s commissioned the young doctor to write a short novel, which they published in England and the US in February of 1890. This story was The Sign of Four and was instrumental in establishing Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle once and for all in the annals of literature. To write The Sign of Four, Conan Doyle had to set aside for a time The White Company, a historical novel he always said was the work he had most enjoyed writing. This is not surprising, for the main characters had the same traits of decency and honor, which guided the author through his life. Thirty years later, he told a journalist, “I was young and full of the first joy of life and action, and I think I got some of it into my pages. When I wrote the last line, I remember that I cried: ‘Well, I’ll never beat that’ and threw the inky pen at the opposite wall.” In spite of his literary success and a flourishing medical practice, a harmonious family life enhanced by the birth his daughter Mary, Conan Doyle was restless. He decided the time had come to leave Portsmouth, and go to Vienna, where he wanted to specialize in Ophthalmology. A foreign language turned that trip into somewhat of a fiasco and after a visit to Paris, Conan Doyle hurried back to London followed by the gentle Louisa. Conan Doyle opened a practice in elegant Upper Wimpole Street where, if you read his autobiography, not a single patient ever crossed his door. This inactivity gave him a lot of time to think and as a result, he made the most profitable decision of his life, that of writing a series of short stories featuring the same characters. By then, Conan Doyle was represented by A. P. Watt, whose duty was to relieve him of “hateful bargaining.” Hence, it was Watt who made the deal with The Strand magazine to publish the Sherlock Holmes stories. The “image” of Holmes was created by Sidney Paget a very talented illustrator who took his strikingly handsome brother Walter as a model for the great detective (Estimated 357 illustrations created). This collaboration lasted for many decades and was instrumental in making the author, the magazine and the artist, world famous. In May of 1891, while writing some of the early Sherlock Holmes short stories, Conan Doyle was struck by a virulent attack of influenza, which left him between life and death for several days. When his health improved, he came to realize how foolish he had been trying to combine a medical career with a literary one. “With a wild rush of joy,” he decided to abandon his medical career. He added, “I remember in my delight taking the handkerchief which lay upon the coverlet in my enfeebled hand, and tossing it up to the ceiling in my exultation. I should at last be my own master.” It is refreshing and very endearing that this highly intelligent, talented and amazingly accomplished man, was able to demonstrate enthusiasm or frustration with childish outbursts, such as throwing a hankie or a pen across the room. Other examples of his impish sense of humor were when he would respond to autographs requests, by signing “Dr. John Watson.” In 1892, Louisa gave birth to a son they named Kingsley, which the proud father called “the chief event” of their life. A year later, in spite of everyone’s entreaties, the amazingly prolific but very impulsive author decided to get rid of Sherlock Holmes. During a trip to Switzerland, he found the spot where his hero was to come to his end. In The Final Problem, published in December 1893, Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty plunged to their deaths at The Reichenbach Falls. As a result, twenty thousand readers cancelled their subscriptions to The Strand Magazine. Now liberated from his medical career and from a fictional character who oppressed him and overshadowed what he considered his finer work, Conan Doyle immersed himself into even more intensive activity. This frenzied life may explain why the former physician didn’t notice the serious deterioration of his wife’s health. By the time he finally became aware of how sick she was, Louisa was diagnosed with Tuberculosis. Although she was given only a few months to live, her husband’s belated ministrations kept her alive well into the New Century. Writing incessantly, looking after Louisa, no longer a wife, but a patient, then losing his father, deeply troubled Conan Doyle. It may well have been his resulting depression which caused him to become more and more fascinated by “life beyond the veil”. He had long been attracted to Spiritualism, but when he joined the Society for Psychical Research, it was considered to be a public declaration of his interest and belief in the occult. As Sherlock Holmes said to Watson, “Work is the best antidote to sorrow…” Conan Doyle accepted to go to the United States to give a series of lectures. He sailed for New York, with his younger brother Innes, in September of 1894, and was booked to give talks in more than thirty cities. The tour was a huge success, judging by an article in the Ladies Home Journal. “Few foreign writers who have visited this country have made more friends than A. Conan Doyle. His personality is a peculiarly attractive one to Americans because it is so thoroughly wholesome…” The author got back to England, in time for Christmas, as well as for the publication in The Strand Magazine, of the first of the “Brigadier Gerard” stories, which was an instant hit with the readers. A trip with Louisa during the winter of 1896 to Egypt, where he hoped the warm climate would do her good, gave birth to another of his novels: The Tragedy of the Korosko. It is believed that Conan Doyle, a man with the highest moral standards, remained celibate during the rest of Louisa’s life. That didn’t prevent him from falling deeply in love with Jean Leckie the first time he saw her in March of 1897. Aged twenty-four, she was a strikingly beautiful woman, with dark-blond hair and bright green eyes. Her many accomplishments were quite unusual for those times: she was an intellectual, a good sportswoman as well as a trained mezzo-soprano. What further attracted Conan Doyle was that her family claimed to be related to the Scottish hero Rob Roy. During that same period, Conan Doyle wrote a play about Sherlock Holmes. It was not to give him new life but to shore-up his bank account. The very successful American actor William Gillette having read the script, asked for permission to revise it. Conan Doyle agreed, and when the actor asked permission to alter the Holmes persona, he replied, “You may marry him, murder him, or do anything you like to him.” By the time Gillette’s revisions were sent back, there was little left of Conan Doyle’s original script. The author’s laconic comment to Gillette was: “It’s good to see the old chap again.” After a triumphant tour in the United States, the play opened in London at the Lyceum Theater in the fall of 1901. The British critics panned it, but as it often happens, vox populi prevailed, and the play was a huge success. When the Boer War started, Conan Doyle declared to his horrified family that he was going to volunteer. Having written about many battles, without the opportunity to test his skills as a soldier, he felt this would be his last opportunity to do so. Not surprisingly, being somewhat overweight at the age of forty, he was deemed unfit to enlist. Without losing an instant, he volunteered as a medical doctor and sailed to Africa in February of 1900. There, instead of fighting bullets, Conan Doyle had to wage a fierce battle against microbes. During the few months he spent in Africa, he saw more soldiers and medical staff die of typhoid fever, than of war wounds. The Great Boer War, a five hundred-page chronicle, published in October of 1900, was a masterpiece of military scholarship. It was not only a report of the war, but also a highly intelligent and well-informed commentary about some of the organizational shortcomings of the British forces at the time. Exhausted and disappointed, Conan Doyle opted for yet another change of direction when he returned to England. He threw himself headfirst into politics by running for a seat in Central Edinburgh, which he described as being the “premier Radical stronghold of Scotland.” Having been raised by Jesuits, he was unfairly accused of being a Catholic bigot. To his credit, he lost the election by only a narrow margin and went back to London and to being an author. The inspiration for his next novel came from a prolonged stay in the Devonshire moors, which included a visit to Dartmoor the famous prison. At first, it was based mainly on local folklore about an inhospitable manor, an escaped convict and a huge black sepulchral hound. As the novel progressed, he came to realize that his story lacked a hero. He is quoted as having said, “Why should I invent such a character, when I already have him in the form of Sherlock Holmes.” However, rather than resurrecting the detective, the author wrote the story as if it was a previously untold adventure. To the delight of thousands of frustrated fans, The Strand magazine published the first episode of The Hound of the Baskervilles in August of 1901. The novel became, and is to this day, a worldwide sensation. A year later, King Edward VII knighted Conan Doyle for services rendered to the Crown during the Boer War. Gossip has it, that the King was such an avid Sherlock Holmes fan, that he had put the author’s name on his Honours List to encourage him to write new stories. Be that as it may, His Majesty and several hundred thousand of his subjects must have been very pleased when in 1903 The Strand Magazine started serializing The Return of Sherlock Holmes. Writing, looking after Louisa, seeing Jean Leckie as discreetly as possible, playing golf, driving fast cars, floating in the sky in hot air balloons, flying in early archaic and rather frightening airplanes, spending time on “muscle development,” as body-building used to be called, kept Conan Doyle active but not really contented. His lingering deep desire for public service made him go for a second attempt at politics in the spring of 1906. He lost the election once more. After Louisa died in his arms on the 4th of July 1906, Conan Doyle slipped into a debilitating state of depression which lasted many months. He extricated himself of his misery by trying to help someone in a worse condition than he was. Playing Sherlock Holmes, he got in touch with Scotland Yard to point out a case of miscarriage of justice. It involved a young man called George Edalji who had been convicted of having slashed a number of horses and cows. Conan Doyle had observed that Edalji’s eyesight was so bad that it was proof the convict couldn’t possibly have done the awful deed. Several years later, this remarkable man, who couldn’t tolerate injustice, was captivated by yet another criminal cause célèbre. The Case of Oscar Slater, which he wrote in 1912, gives a detailed summary of that affair. At long last, after nine years of clandestine courtship, Conan Doyle and Jean Leckie got married very publicly in front of 250 guests, on September 18, 1907. With his two children from Louisa, they all moved to a new home called Windlesham, in Sussex. He would spend the rest of his life living in that lovely house while keeping a small flat in London. Arthur Conan Doyle was so happy to share many of his wife’s activities that his literary output slowed down considerably after his marriage. During the next years, he tried his hand at a number of plays, one based on Brigadier Gerard, the other on The Tragedy of the Korosko. Neither of them did well. Not one to give-up, he wrote a third one about boxing, he named The House of Temperley, which closed after three months. To make-up for his considerable financial losses, Conan Doyle set out to write a fourth play, but this time with Sherlock Holmes. At first he called it The Stonor Case but later reverted to calling it The Speckled Band, which was well known and had been so successful. One of the difficulties of the production was the casting of the snake. The author insisted upon a live reptile, whereas the actors and the crew begged for an artificial one. Conan Doyle won, but later wrote admitting his mistake: “The Python either hung down like a pudgy yellow bell rope, or else when his tail was pinched, endeavored to squirm back and get level with the stage carpenter who pinched him, which was not in the script.” Happily, the play got rave reviews, and made the author a lot of money. After the success of The Speckled Band, Conan Doyle chose to retire from “stage work,” “Not because it doesn’t interest me, but because it interests me too much,” he said. The birth of his two sons, Denis in 1909 and that of Adrian in 1910, also contributed to keep the author from concentrating on fiction. A last child, their daughter Jean, was born in 1912. A couple of years went by before the author’s next creation, the delightfully outrageous Professor Challenger, whose own wife called “a perfectly impossible person.” His new hero was quite the opposite of Sherlock Holmes; nevertheless, The Lost World was an immediate success. It involved the Professor in a delightfully humorous adventure, with a number of other highly personable characters, stranded in a mysterious region of South America, discovering prehistoric fauna and flora. In those days, the term “Science Fiction” had not been formulated, so when Conan Doyle wrote this story, in his mind it was a “boys book”. Another four novels about Professor Challenger’s adventures followed The Lost World. This series stands out as a masterpiece of the genre authors such as Michael Chrighton have had no qualms to “borrow” from. The Valley of Fear, the second full length Sherlock Holmes novel, was serialized in The Strand magazine in early 1914. But Conan Doyle’s readers were not quite satisfied, for Sherlock Holmes was absent during a great part of the novel. In May 1914, Sir Arthur and Lady Conan Doyle sailed for New York, a city the author found unfavorably changed since his first visit twenty years earlier. Canada, where they spent a short time, the couple found enchanting. They were back home a month later, probably because for a long time, Conan Doyle had been convinced of a coming war with Germany. He had sent articles to newspapers about organizing “Military readiness,” many years before World War I broke out. In 1913 he wrote to the Fortnightly Review, expressing his views about new untested warfare: “These new factors are the submarine and the airship”. He foresaw the possibility of a “Blockade” by enemy submersible ships, long before anyone in the British navy did. The only solution he added would be to build a Channel Tunnel. But this intelligent man’s warnings were judged to be “Jules Verne fantasies” by most naval experts. As soon as the war broke-out, Conan Doyle then fifty-five, offered to enlist again. He was denied his wish once more but set out to organize a civilian battalion of over a hundred volunteers. When the navy lost more than a thousand lives in a single day, his brilliant mind never at rest, Conan Doyle made suggestions to the War Office to provide “inflatable rubber belts,” and “inflatable life boats.” He also spoke of “body armor” to protect soldiers on the front. Most government officials found him irritating at best. One of the exceptions was Winston Churchill, who wrote to thank him for his ideas. While writing a book, which was to be called The British Campaign in France and Flanders, the author was given permission to visit the British and French fronts in 1916. A while later, the Australian High Command invited him to observe their position on the river Somme. Witnessing the Battle of St. Quentin made Conan Doyle say he would never be able to forget the horrors of the “tangle of mutilated horses, their necks rising and sinking,” lying amidst the blood soaked remains of fallen soldiers. In late 1914, the author made-up for the lackluster reception of his second Sherlock Holmes novel, with the publication of His Last Bow. In this tale, Sherlock Holmes infiltrates and vanquishes a German spy-ring, a timely war propaganda story. Two years later, Conan Doyle’s acute sense of justice was awakened again and made him rise to the defense of Sir Roger Casement, an Irish diplomat accused of being “the foulest traitor who ever drew breath.” Conan Doyle had known and liked the diplomat several years before, as the man had alerted him to awful injustices committed against blacks in the Congo. The author had even based the character of Lord John Roxton in The Lost World on Casement. Now, the “traitor” was found guilty of having tried to get Germany’s support for the Irish independence movement. Conan Doyle almost succeeded in sparing the convicted man’s life, on grounds of insanity, had it not been for the discovery of Casement’s diary. It chronicled in detail his homosexuality, which at the time was also a criminal offense. Conan Doyle’s feelings about homosexuality were more liberal than the norm, which may have been the reason why, he later was not elevated to sit in the House of Lords. The toll of the war was cruel on Conan Doyle. He lost his son Kingsley, his brother, his two brothers-in-law and his two nephews. After an amazingly full and constructive life, it is difficult to accept that such a man as he would retreat into an imaginary world of Science Fiction and Spiritualism. Yet, having achieved so much, why should he not be allowed to do whatever he desired? Communications with the dead, the existence of fairies, are things many of us have dreamt about and wished for. The difference was that Conan Doyle was not a man to be satisfied by dreams and wishes; he needed to make them come true. He was compulsive and did this with the same dogged energy he had shown in all his endeavors when he was younger. As a result, the Press mocked him, the Clergy disapproved of him. But nothing deterred him. His wife, reputed to be such a levelheaded woman, came to share his beliefs with passion or maybe for passion. In any event, she went as far as to develop the questionable talent of “trance-writing.” Interestingly, there is no record of her, or any other of the mediums gravitating around the Conan Doyles, of ever having tried to communicate with Louisa. After 1918, because of his deepening involvement into the occult, Conan Doyle wrote very little fiction, writing arduously about Spiritualism instead. Their subsequent trips to America, Australia and to Africa, accompanied by their three children, were also on psychic crusades, some less than well received than others. As years went by, having spent over a quarter of a million pounds in the pursuit of his esoteric dreams, Conan Doyle was faced with the necessity to earn money. In 1926, Professor Challenger and his colorful friends appeared again in The Land of Mist, a novel of Psychic adventures followed by The Disintegration Machine and When The World Screamed. Two years later, his last twelve stories about the exploits of the immortal detective were compiled in The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. In the autumn of 1929, in spite of having been diagnosed with Angina Pectoris, Conan Doyle went off for his last Psychic tour to Holland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. He was in such pain by the time he returned, that he had to be carried ashore. Bedridden from that time on, he managed to have one last quixotic adventure on a cold spring day in 1930. He rose from his bed, and unseen went into the garden. When he was found, he was lying on the ground, one hand clutching his heart, the other holding a single white snowdrop. Arthur Conan Doyle died on Monday, July 7, 1930, surrounded by his family. His last words before departing for “the greatest and most glorious adventure of all,” were addressed to his wife. He whispered, “You are wonderful.”
Disclaimer: I did not write this biography, I found it on the official Sherlock Holmes website.
To go to the official Sherlock Holmes website, click HERE.
To go to the biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, click HERE.
Of the 60 Arthur Conan Doyle-penned stories of Sherlock Holmes, all but four have Watson serving as the narrator.
Sherlock Holmes Novels:
1887 A Study in Scarlet
1890 The Sign of Four
1902 The Hound of the Baskervilles
1915 The Valley of Fear
Sherlock Holmes Short Story Collections:
1892 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
A Scandal in Bohemia
The Red-Headed League
A Case of Identity
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
The Five Orange Pips
The Man with the Twisted Lip
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
The Adventure of the Speckled Band
The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
The Adventure of the Copper Beeches
1894 The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
The Adventure of Silver Blaze
The Adventure of the Cardboard Box
The Adventure of the Yellow Face
The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk
The Adventure of the Gloria Scott
The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual
The Adventure of the Reigate Squire
The Adventure of the Crooked Man
The Adventure of the Resident Patient
The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter
The Adventure of the Naval Treaty
The Adventure of the Final Problem
1905 The Return of Sherlock Holmes
The Adventure of the Empty House
The Adventure of the Norwood Builder
The Adventure of the Dancing Men
The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist
The Adventure of the Priory School
The Adventure of Black Peter
The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton
The Adventure of the Six Napoleons
The Adventure of the Three Students
The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez
The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter
The Adventure of the Abbey Grange
The Adventure of the Second Stain
1917 His Last Bow
The Singular Experience of Mr. John Scott Eccles
The Tiger of San Pedro
The Adventure of the Cardboard Box
The Adventure of the Red Circle
The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans
The Adventure of the Dying Detective
The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax
The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot
His Last Bow
1927 The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone
The Problem of Thor Bridge
The Adventure of the Creeping Man
The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire
The Adventure of the Three Garridebs
The Adventure of the Illustrious Client
The Adventure of the Three Gables
The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier
The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane
The Adventure of the Retired Colourman
The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger
The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place
1928 The Complete Sherlock Holmes Short Stories
· The Guinness World Records has consistently listed Sherlock Holmes as the “most portrayed movie character” with 75 actors playing the part in over 211 films. Holmes’ first screen appearance was in the Mutoscope film Sherlock Holmes Baffled in 1900, albeit in a barely-recognizable form.
· The first sound film to feature Sherlock Holmes was the sound-on-disk The Return of Sherlock Holmes, written by Basil Dean, and filmed in New York City in 1929. It starred Clive Brook as Sherlock Holmes. It supposedly marks the first use of the line, “Elementary, my dear Watson”. The film exists today only as a silent picture because the sound disks were lost.
· Basil Rathbone starred as Sherlock Holmes alongside Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson in fourteen US films (two for 20th Century Fox and a dozen for Universal Pictures) from 1939 to 1946, as well as the radio show “The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” on the Mutual Broadcasting System from 1939 to 1946 before passing the role to Tom Conway.
· Ronald Howard starred in 39 episodes of the Sherlock Holmes 1954 American TV series with Howard Marion Crawford as Watson. It was produced in Paris and, despite the all-British cast, not shown in Britain until 2006, when it appeared on the satellite/cable channel Bonanza. In 2005, Mill Creek Entertainment released “Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Series”, a three-disc DVD set featuring all 39 episodes of the series.
· In 1959 Peter Cushing starred in Hammer Film Productions’ The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), marking Holmes’ first screen appearance in colour. He would return to the role several times in both film and television performances.
· Fritz Weaver appeared as Sherlock Holmes in the musical Baker Street, which ran on Broadway between 16 February and 14 November 1965.
· Acclaimed director Billy Wilder had long planned a roadshow motion picture about Holmes titled ‘The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes’ (1970), with Robert Stephens as Holmes and Colin Blakely as Watson .
· In “The Return of Sherlock Holmes”, a TV movie aired in 1987, Margaret Colin stars as Dr. Watson’s great-granddaughter Jane Watson, a Boston private eye, who stumbles upon Sherlock Holmes’ (played by Michael Pennington) body in frozen suspension and restores the Victorian sleuth to life in the 1980s. A similar plot line was used in “Sherlock Holmes Returns: 1994 Baker Street” where Dr. Amy Winslow (played by Debrah Farentino) discovers Sherlock Holmes frozen in the cellar of house in San Francisco owned by a descendant of Mrs. Hudson. Holmes (played by Anthony Higgins) froze himself in the hopes that crimes in the future would be less dull. He discovers that consulting detectives have been replaced by the police department’s forensic science lab and that the Moriarty family is still the Napoleon of crime.
· Jeremy Brett is generally considered the definitive Holmes, having played the role in four series of Sherlock Holmes, created by John Hawkesworth for Britain’s Granada Television, from 1984 through to 1994. Brett’s Dr. Watson was played by David Burke (pre-hiatus) and Edward Hardwicke (post-hiatus) in the series. Jeremy Brett wished to be the best Sherlock Holmes the world had ever seen and conducted extensive research into the character and the author that created him. He strove to bring passion and life to the role and in his obituary it was said, “Mr. Brett was regarded as the quintessential Holmes: breathtakingly analytical, given to outrageous disguises and the blackest moods and relentless in his enthusiasm for solving the most intricate crimes.”
· Nicol Williamson portrayed Holmes in “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution” with Robert Duvall playing Watson and featuring Alan Arkin as Sigmund Freud. The 1976 adaption was written by Nicholas Meyer from his 1974 book of the same name, and directed by Herbert Ross.
· Bob Clarke directed Christopher Plummer and James Mason in the 1979 created film “Murder by Decree”, which followed Holmes, hunting Jack the Ripper.
· Between 1979 and 1986, Soviet television broadcast a series of five made-for-TV films in a total of eleven parts, “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson”, starring Vasily Livanov as Holmes and Vitaly Solomin as Watson.
· Christopher Lee starred as Holmes in three screen adaptions, namely “Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace” (1962), “Incident at Victoria Falls” (1991) and “Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady” (1992) together with Morgan Fairchild as “The Woman”.
· In 2002 made-for-television movie “Sherlock: Case of Evil”, James D’Arcy starred as Holmes in his 20s. The story noticeably departs from the style and backstory of the canon and D’Arcy’s portrayal of Holmes is slightly different from prior incarnations of the character, psychologically disturbed, an absinthe addicted a heavy drinker and a ladies man.
· The Fox television series House contains numerous similarities and references to Holmes. Show creator David Shore has acknowledged this “subtle homage”.
· Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law starred as Holmes and Watson in “Sherlock Holmes” in 2009. It was based on a story by Lionel Wigram and images by John Watkiss, directed by Guy Ritchie, the role of Holmes is performed by Robert Downey, Jr. with Jude Law portraying Watson. It is a reinterpretation which heavily focuses on Holmes’s more anti-social personality traits as an unkempt eccentric with a brilliant analytical mind and formidable martial abilities, making this a very cynical incarnation of Holmes. Robert Downey Jr. won the Golden Globe Award for his portrayal. Downey Jr. returned in the 2011 sequel, “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”. The set for Sherlock Holmes’ home in this film was previously used as Sirius Black’s home in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. In the film the name of Holmes and Watson’s English bulldog is Gladstone. He seems to be named after William Gladstone, four-time Prime Minister under Queen Victoria. A Gladstone is also a type of bag, named after the man, which was sometimes used by doctors in this period to carry their medical equipment. Watson’s line to Holmes, “You know that what you’re drinking is for eye surgery?” is an obscure reference to Holmes’ cocaine usage. At the time, cocaine was used as a topical anesthetic for eye surgery. Attempting to escape the clutches of wearing a tight corset every morning, Rachel McAdams (Irene Adler) would trick the costumers by pushing her stomach out or eating a big breakfast of oatmeal before being laced up. However, they eventually caught on to her ruse. When Sherlock says “Now that you’re sitting comfortably, I shall begin” to begin explaining Blackwood’s plot, it is a reference to a BBC children’s radio program from the 1950s, “Listen With Mother”, which was famous for its opening line “Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.” Although “Sherlock Holmes” takes a number of liberties with the original Holmes stories, it also contains numerous references and allusions to the earlier works. The film quotes the Conan Doyle novels and stories on several occasions, including “The game is afoot” (“The Abbey Grange”, as well as the original source of the phrase, Shakespeare’s “Henry V”); “Because I was looking for it” (“Silver Blaze”); “You have the grand gift of silence, Watson. It makes you quite invaluable as a companion” (“The Man with the Twisted Lip”); “Crime is common, logic is rare” (“The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”); “My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work” (The Sign of the Four); “It makes a considerable difference to me, having someone with me on whom I can thoroughly rely” (“The Boscombe Valley Mystery”); “Data, data, data. I cannot make bricks without clay” (“The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”), “…one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts” (“A Scandal in Bohemia”), and “There is nothing more stimulating than a case where everything goes against you” (“The Hound of the Baskervilles”). A number of the film’s details recall “The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone.” The first is the name of the primary antagonist, Lord Blackwood, which parallels that of “Mazarin Stone” villain Count Negretto Sylvius (Negretto is Italian for black and Sylvius is Latin for woods). (As Holmes scholar W. W. Roberts notes, this is “presumably a private joke at the expense of Blackwood’s Magazine, long and unavailingly courted by Conan Doyle in the 1880s.”) Another common detail is the Crown Diamond, an alternate name for the Mazarin Stone, which hangs around Irene Adler’s neck in the film. “The Mazarin Stone” is also the first story to mention that the 221B Baker Street apartment had multiple exits and a waiting room. The extra exit, which was through the bedroom, is employed by Holmes to follow Irene early in the film. In the 2011 sequel “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” the text of the note that Holmes leaves Watson on the packing crate reads: “Come at once if convenient. If inconvenient come all the same”. This quote is taken directly from Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle’s book The Adventure of the Creeping Man.
· Independent film company The Asylum released the direct-to-DVD film Sherlock Holmes in January 2010. In the film, Holmes and Watson battle a criminal mastermind dubbed “Spring-Heeled Jack”, who controls several mechanical creatures to commit crimes across London. Holmes (Ben Syder) is portrayed as considerably younger than most actors who have played him, and his disapproval of Scotland Yard is undertoned, though things like his drug addiction remain mostly unchanged. The film features a brother of Holmes’ called Thorpe, who was invented by the producers of the film out of creative liberty. His companion Watson is played by Torchwood actor Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones).
· Benedict Cumberbatch plays a modern-day version of the detective, with Martin Freeman as Watson, in the BBC One TV series “Sherlock”, which premiered on 25 July 2010. The series changes the books’ original Victorian setting to the shady and violent present-day London. The show was created by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, best known as writers for the BBC television series Doctor Who. Says Moffat, “Conan Doyle’s stories were never about frock coats and gas light; they’re about brilliant detection, dreadful villains and blood-curdling crimes – and frankly, to hell with the crinoline. Other detectives have cases, Sherlock Holmes has adventures, and that’s what matters.” Cumberbatch’s Holmes was described by the BBC as: “Brilliant, aloof and almost entirely lacking in social graces. Sherlock is a unique young man with a mind like a ‘racing engine’. Without problems to solve, it will tear itself to pieces. And the more bizarre and baffling the problems the better. He has set himself up as the world’s only consulting detective, whom the police grudgingly accept as their superior”. He also uses modern technology, such as texting and blogging, to solve crimes, and in a nod towards changing smoking legislature, he has replaced his pipe with multiple nicotine patches, as London has forbidden smoking in most public areas, yet this interpretation of Holmes still finds nicotine to help the cognitive process.
You’ve seen me cry, you’ve seen me fall
I don’t see the point of moving on
Yet some how I walked away from the edge
Because you made me see I’m something after all
Oh how the weak go on
How they must survive the fall
The pain of life, the pain of death
The pain of not knowing what’s next
But we walk on, we stand proud
We sing our hope out loud
Our hope to live another day
To see out friends and say
Hey, I’m alright, I’m still here
I will always be near
I promise not to go away
To live another day
To walk on and stay strong
For those who don’t belong
Because you make me feel better than okay
You help me through, day by day
Not many people know this about me, but at one point in my life I was suicidal.
I wouldn’t have made it through and only one thing stopped me.
Her name is Kayla.
She is my Best friend and Sister.
She never knew that I was thinking about committing suicide.
She just knew that I was unhappy.
Just by being there for me she brought me back from the edge without even realizing she did so.
I will never be able to thank her enough for this, but I try to everyday.
This song is for her and all the other suicidals.
Thank You Kayla.