Sherlock Holmes – Conan Doyle

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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle & Sherlock Holmes

Conan_doyleSir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle KStJ, DL (1859 – 1930) was a British writer and physician, most noted for his fictional stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes, which are generally considered milestones in the field of crime fiction.

He is also known for writing the fictional adventures of a second character he invented, Professor Challenger, and for popularising the mystery of the Mary Celeste. He was a prolific writer whose other works include fantasy and science fiction stories, plays, romances, poetry, non-fiction and historical novels.

Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on 22 May 1859 in Edinburgh, Scotland. His father, Charles Altamont Doyle, was English, of Irish Catholic descent, and his mother, Mary (née Foley), was Irish Catholic. His parents married in 1855. In 1864 the family dispersed due to Charles’s growing alcoholism and the children were temporarily housed across Edinburgh. In 1867, the family came together again and lived in squalid tenement flats. Doyle’s father died in 1893, after many years of psychiatric illness.

Supported by wealthy uncles, Doyle was sent to the Jesuit preparatory school Hodder Place, Stonyhurst, at the age of nine (1868–70). He then went on to Stonyhurst College until 1875. From 1875 to 1876, he was educated at the Jesuit school Stella Matutina in Feldkirch, Austria. He later rejected the Catholic faith and become an agnostic, then finally a spiritualist mystic.

From 1876 to 1881 he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh Medical School. While studying, Doyle began writing short stories. His earliest extant fiction, “The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe”, was unsuccessfully submitted to Blackwood’s Magazine. His first published piece, “The Mystery of Sasassa Valley”, a story set in South Africa, was printed in Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal in 1879. later that year, he published his first academic article, “Gelsemium as a Poison” in the British Medical Journal, a study which the Daily Telegraph regarded as potentially useful in a murder investigation.

Doyle was employed as a doctor on the Greenland whaler Hope of Peterhead in 1880 and, after his graduation from university in 1881 as M.B., C.M., as a ship’s surgeon on the SS Mayumba during a voyage to the West African coast. He completed his M.D. degree (an advanced degree in Scotland beyond the usual medical degrees) on the subject of tabes dorsalis in 1885.

In 1882 he joined former classmate George Turnavine Budd as his partner at a medical practice in Plymouth, but their relationship proved difficult, and Doyle soon left to set up an independent practice. This practice in Southsea was initially not very successful. While waiting for patients, Doyle again began writing fiction.

Doyle struggled to find a publisher for his work. His first work featuring Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, A Study in Scarlet, was taken by Ward Lock & Co on 20 November 1886, giving Doyle £25 (£2875, in 2015, or $4,279.44) for all rights to the story. The piece appeared one year later in the Beeton’s Christmas Annual and received good reviews in The Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald. Holmes was partially modelled on his former university teacher Joseph Bell. A sequel to A Study in Scarlet was commissioned and The Sign of the Four appeared in Lippincott’s Magazine in February 1890, under agreement with the Ward Lock company. Doyle felt grievously exploited by Ward Lock as an author new to the publishing world and he left them after this volume.

Short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes were then published in the Strand Magazine. As early as November 1891 he wrote to his mother: “I think of slaying Holmes,… and winding him up for good and all. He takes my mind from better things.” His mother responded, “You won’t! You can’t! You mustn’t!” In an attempt to deflect publishers’ demands for more Holmes stories, he raised his price to a level intended to discourage them, but found they were willing to pay even the large sums he asked. As a result, he became one of the best-paid authors of his time. Still, in December 1893, to dedicate more of his time to his historical novels, Doyle had Holmes and Professor Moriarty plunge to their deaths together down the Reichenbach Falls in the story “The Final Problem”. Public outcry, however, led him to feature Holmes in 1901 in his novel The Hound of the Baskervilles.

In 1903, Doyle finally published his first Holmes short story in ten years, The Adventure of the Empty House, in which it was explained that only Moriarty had fallen; but since Holmes had other dangerous enemies—especially Colonel Sebastian Moran – he had arranged to also be perceived as dead. Holmes was ultimately featured in a total of 56 short stories – the last published in 1927 – and four novels by Doyle, and has since appeared in many novels and stories by other authors.

Doyle was found clutching his chest in the hall of Windlesham Manor, his house in Crowborough, East Sussex, on 7 July 1930. He soon died of a heart attack at the age of 71. His last words were directed toward his wife: “You are wonderful.” At the time of his death, there was some controversy concerning his burial place, as he was avowedly not a Christian, considering himself a Spiritualist. He was first buried on 11 July 1930 in the Windlesham rose garden, but was later reinterred together with his wife in Minstead churchyard in the New Forest, Hampshire. 

Edited from Wikipedia Arthur Conan Doyle

About Sherlock Holmes

The role of Sherlock Holmes should never be underrated. He remains the most popular and iconic detective of all times. It is a canon of fiction that has not only enthralled several generations of fans, but has also made real contributions to modern criminology.

I must begin by admitting that I am a serious fan of all things Sherlock! I began watching Holmes and Watson on TV when I was about eight years old, in those old serialized versions, starring Basil Rathbone. By my mid-teens, I had devoured the entire Sherlock canon. There is, quite simply, no detective in literary history that has had a greater impact on our culture than Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes is ubiquitous. The list of references in various media, is truly astounding, and simple quotes, such as “Elementary, my dear Watson”, have become universally recognized, in a manner only surpassed by Shakespeare. Though the roots of literary detection go back at least half a century before Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and include such illustrious characters as Edgar Allan Poe’s, Dupin, and Emile Gaboriau’s, Lecoq, right from the beginning, the Sherlock Holmes stories were in a class of their own. Holmes even notes in A Study in Scarlet: “Now, in my opinion, Dupin was a very inferior fellow. That trick of his of breaking in on his friends’ thoughts with an apropos remark after a quarter of an hour’s silence is really very showy and superficial. He had some analytical genius, no doubt; but he was by no means such a phenomenon as Poe appeared to imagine…. Lecoq was a miserable bungler,” he said, in an angry voice; “he had only one thing to recommend him, and that was his energy. That book made me positively ill.”

Today, more than 100 million Sherlock Holmes books have been sold, though since it was written before 1923, and is now in the public domain, an accurate total is virtually impossible to compile. Current sales still average around 50,000 copies a year, but that does not include free internet downloads. It has also resulted in a truly amazing number of movies, TV episodes, radio programs, theatrical performances, comic books, dedicated internet websites, video games, board games, and nearly everything else you might imagine. The Sherlock Holmes museum at 221b Baker Street in London passed two million visitors several years ago – at £10 a shot. Conan Doyle may not have sold as many books as Agatha Christie, but with only four short novels and five collections, totalling 56 short stories, often marketed in a single volume, against Christie’s 66 novels, and 153 short stories, this comparison is hardly surprising. While not the first or largest mystery franchise, there can still be little doubt that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes virtually created the mystery genre, opening up the door for all those great writers that would soon follow.

More on Arthur Conan Doyle

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Arthur Conan Doyle Locked Room page

Sherlock Holmes Recommended Complete Collections

complete sherlock 1The Complete Sherlock Holmes (Knickerbocker Classics)

Available only in boxed hardcover set.

Note: A great classic selection for your mystery library!

complete sherlockSherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories, 2 Volumes

Available in two volume paperback editions.
Volume 1  Volume 2  ebook Vol 1  Vol 2  eBook

Note: A quality collection in both ebook and paperback

The Four Sherlock Holmes Novels

A Study in Scarlet (1887)Study_in_Scarlet

Available in paperback, ebook, and audible editions.
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Note: Watson’s first case!

“There’s a scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.”

From the moment Dr John Watson takes lodgings in Baker Street with the consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, he becomes intimately acquainted with the bloody violence and frightening ingenuity of the criminal mind.

In A Study in Scarlet , Holmes and Watson’s first mystery, the pair are summoned to a south London house where they find a dead man whose contorted face is a twisted mask of horror. The body is unmarked by violence but on the wall a mysterious word has been written in blood.

The police are baffled by the crime and its circumstances. But when Sherlock Holmes applies his brilliantly logical mind to the problem he uncovers a tragic tale of love and deadly revenge.

sign of four2The Sign of The Four (1890)

Available in paperback, ebook, and audible editions.
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Note: A Holmsian cure for depression?

As a dense yellow fog swirls through the streets of London, a deep melancholy has descended on Sherlock Holmes, who sits in a cocaine-induced haze at 221B Baker Street. His mood is only lifted by a visit from a beautiful but distressed young woman – Mary Morstan, whose father vanished ten years before. Four years later she began to receive an exquisite gift every year: a large, lustrous pearl. Now she has had an intriguing invitation to meet her unknown benefactor and urges Holmes and Watson to accompany her. And in the ensuing investigation – which involves a wronged woman, a stolen hoard of Indian treasure, a wooden-legged ruffian, a helpful dog and a love affair – even the jaded Holmes is moved to exclaim, ‘Isn’t it gorgeous!’

hound baskervilles2The Hound of The Baskervilles (1901-1902)

Available in paperback, ebook, and audible editions.
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Note: Who let the dog out?

At Baskerville Hall on the grim moors of Devonshire, a legendary curse has apparently claimed one more victim. Sir Charles Baskerville has been found dead. There are no signs of violence, but his face is hideously distorted with terror. Years earlier, a hound-like beast with blazing eyes and dripping jaws was reported to have torn out the throat of Hugo Baskerville. Has the spectral destroyer struck again? More important, is Sir Henry Baskerville, younger heir to the estate, now in danger?

Enter Sherlock Holmes, summoned to protect Sir Henry from the fate that has threatened the Baskerville family. As Holmes and Watson begin to investigate, a blood-chilling howl from the fog-shrouded edges of the great Grimpen Mire signals that the legendary hound of the Baskervilles is poised for yet another murderous attack.

The Hound of the Baskerville first appeared as a serial in The Strand Magazine in 1901. By the time of its publication in book form eight months later, this brilliantly plotted, richly atmospheric detective story had already achieved the status of a classic. It has often been called he best detective story ever written. It remains a thrilling tale of suspense, must reading for every lover of detective fiction.

Valley of FearThe Valley of Fear (1914-1915)

Available in paperback, ebook, and audible editions.
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Note: A locked room twist!

The plot of the novel is loosely based on the real-life adventures of the Molly Maguires and, particularly, of Pinkerton agent James McParland. The novel is divided into two parts. In the first, a man has been brutally murdered by an intruder inside the locked and moated manor house of Birlstone, and only Sherlock Holmes can read the clues to this seemingly impossible mystery. In the second part, the long American back story behind this gruesome murder is finally explained.

Sherlock Holmes Short Story Collections

Adventures-sherlock-holmesThe Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892)

Available in paperback, ebook, and audible editions.
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Published 31 October 1892; contains 12 stories published in The Strand Magazine between July 1891 and June 1892 with original illustrations by Sidney Paget. For more information on these stories see our GoodMystery review above.


“A Scandal in Bohemia”
“The Adventure of 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”

Memoirs SHThe Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894)

Available in paperback, ebook, and audible editions.
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Contains 12 stories published in The Strand as further episodes of the Adventures between December 1892 and December 1893 with original illustrations by Sidney Paget. For more information on these stories see our GoodMystery review above.

“Silver Blaze”
“The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” (this story is included as part of His Last Bow in lifetime editions of the collection)
“The Adventure of the Yellow Face”
“The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk”
“The Adventure of the Gloria Scott” (Holmes’s first case)
“The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual” (told by Holmes)
“The Adventure of the Reigate Squire”
“The Adventure of the Crooked Man”
“The Adventure of the Resident Patient”
“The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter” (Mycroft’s first appearance)
“The Adventure of the Naval Treaty”
“The Final Problem” (Watson reports the death of Holmes)

Return of SHThe Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905)

Available in paperback, ebook, and audible editions.
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Contains 13 stories published in The Strand between October 1903 and December 1904 with original illustrations by Sidney Paget. For more information on these stories see our GoodMystery review above.

“The Adventure of the Empty House” (the return of Holmes)
“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”

last bowHis Last Bow (1917)

Available in paperback, ebook, and audible editions.
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His Last Bow (published 1917)
Contains seven stories published 1908–1917. (American editions often have “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” in this collection instead of in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.) For more information on these stories see our GoodMystery review above.

“The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge” (originally “A Reminiscence of Mr Sherlock Holmes,” in two parts given separate titles: “The Singular Experience of Mr. John Scott Eccles” and “The Tiger of San Pedro”)
“The Adventure of the Red Circle”
“The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans” (Mycroft)
“The Adventure of the Dying Detective”
“The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax”
“The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot”
“His Last Bow” (told in third-person)

Casebook sherlock-holmesThe Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (1927)

Available in paperback, ebook, and audible editions.
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Contains 12 stories published 1921–1927. For more information on these stories see our GoodMystery review above.

“The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone” (told in third-person)
“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” (narrated by Holmes;
Watson does not appear)
“The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane” (narrated by Holmes;
Watson does not appear)
“The Adventure of the Retired Colourman”
“The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger”
“The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place”

Sherlock Holmes Uncollected Stories

The Field Bazaar (1896)3 rare SH

Available in paperback and ebook editions.
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Note: Watson plays Doyle!

“The Field Bazaar” was written during an Edinburgh University fundraising event. Doyle had been requested by his university to contribute a short piece of literature for a charity magazine. In the story Watson has received a similar request and whilst he reads the letter at breakfast, Holmes correctly deduces the sender of the letter and Watson’s thoughts with regard to the letter. It shares many similarities to the canonical stories. Aside from the metafictional twist in which Watson supplants Doyle as the author publishing his own stories in a magazine, it also plays not only about the famous skill of Holmes’ observations producing apparently miraculous results, but also upon the notion of the “traditional breakfast scenes” which open many Holmes short stories.

lost specialThe Lost Special (1898)

Available in paperback and ebook editions.
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Note: A special train disappears – solved by a dead Sherlock?

Though Doyle had killed off his character by 1894, he still wrote other short stories for publication in the Strand Magazine. “The Lost Special” was one such story, a seemingly inexplicable mystery in which a special train and its few passengers disappear between two stations. After the mystery is described in full, it is stated that a letter appeared in the press, giving a proposed solution from “an amateur reasoner of some celebrity”. It is possible, and has been proposed by Haining, Tracy, and Green, amongst others that this “amateur reasoner” was Sherlock Holmes. The strongest clue to this is the quotation, “once one has eliminated the impossible…”, used by Holmes throughout his deductions. However, this suggested solution is proved wrong by a confession from the organising criminal once he is later arrested for an unrelated crime. Haining suggested that Doyle was “getting out some Holmes” during the series hiatus, but given the failure of the unnamed detective it appears he was parodying his most famous creation. The story was published in book form in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Tales of Terror and Mystery in 1923 and has for years appeared in French editions of the complete adventures.

man watchesThe Man with the Watches (1898)

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Note: Another mysterious amateur detective!

Like “The Lost Special”, “The Man with the Watches” appeared in the Strand (in 1898), and later in Round the Fire Stories and Tales of Terror and Mystery. It follows the same pattern; the mystery this time surrounds the appearance of a dead man in a railway carriage, with six pocket watches in his jacket. An explanation is offered by an amateur detective but the narrator notes it is flawed, as it doesn’t take into account all the facts. A man involved in the accidental murder of the victim writes a letter to the detective, saying that it was a “mighty clever solution” but entirely incorrect and continues to share the true events of that day. It shares the same backing for categorising as a Sherlock Holmes story as “The Lost Special”, and appears in French anthologies. The story was adapted for BBC Radio 4 in 2009 as “The Thirteen Watches”, in an episode from The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The number of watches was changed because the new title came from a reference (in the Holmes story The Noble Bachelor) to Holmes’ involvement with the watches incident.

3 rare SHThe Adventure of TheTall Man (c1900)

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Note: Plot for Sherlock Holmes Story (c. 1900)

When searching through Conan Doyle’s papers, Hesketh Pearson, a biographer of his, came across a plan for an unwritten story. As Richard Lancelyn Green notes, “there is no evidence to show that it is by [Conan Doyle] and strong internal evidence to suggest that it’s not”. Various authors have attempted to complete the story (named “The Adventure of the Tall Man” by Peter Haining) and put it alongside the canon. Some are very close to Doyle’s plot, others including variations. However no ‘official’ completion has been made (In the same way as The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes was intended as an official continuation of the canon).

How Watson Learned the Trick (1924)3 rare SH

Available in paperback and ebook editions.
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Note: A story for a real doll?

In 1924, several authors were approached to contribute to the library of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. Conan Doyle wrote a short Sherlock Holmes story, just 503 words long, onto the tiny pages of a specially constructed miniature book: How Watson Learned the Trick. The story was later published alongside works by other authors in The Book of the Queen’s Dolls’ House Library. Though written 28 years after “The Field Bazaar”, this is almost a companion piece to that story. Like “The Field Bazaar”, this story is a breakfast scene, during which Watson attempts to mimic Holmes’ style in guessing his thoughts. Watson’s intuitions are proved wrong, however. Unlike almost all parts of the Sherlock Holmes story it is written in the third person, presumably due to its length.

Sherlock on stage!

angels darknessAngels of Darkness (c. 1889)

Available only in paperback and hardcover editions.


Note: A first ever facsimile manuscript from The Baker Street Journal

Unpublished until 2000, this play was written shortly after A Study in Scarlet was published. It is essentially a rewrite of the American chapters of A Study in Scarlet, with the London action moving to San Francisco. Holmes is not present, but Watson is, in a very different form. He acts discreditably and even marries another woman. The publication of this play was at first suppressed, Doyle’s biographer, John Dickson Carr stated that it would do no good for the public to read this, a view that Haining endorses readily. The play is notable for its contrasting sensationalist and comic scenes, and it is contained in Klinger’s Apocrypha.

SH 4 actsSherlock Holmes: A Drama in Four Acts (or Sherlock Holmes) (1899)

Available in paperback and ebook editions.

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Note: A 30 year run on stage!

The original Sherlock Holmes play written by Arthur Conan Doyle and William Gillette had a successful run of over 30 years. It has many original parts which are not found in the short stories but borrows many events from the canonical adventures, namely “A Scandal in Bohemia” and “The Final Problem”. Also, it had elements from A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, “The Boscombe Valley Mystery”, “The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter”, and “The Adventure of the Naval Treaty”. It includes the very first mention of the phrase “Elementary, my dear Watson”. While Conan Doyle wrote the original version, it is unclear how much of his material survived in the play as performed, which was written by Gillette. Conan Doyle and Gillette later revised the play together; it has since been revised by others twice.

speckled band playThe Speckled Band (AKA: The Stonor Case) (1902)

Available only in ebook editions, also in Sherlock Holmes on Stage (see below)


Note: A locked room play!

Around 1902, Doyle wrote and produced a play based on his short story “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”. It premièred 8 years later, at the Adelphi Theatre, London on 4 June 1910, with H. A. Saintsbury as Sherlock Holmes and Lyn Harding as Dr. Grimesby Roylott. The play, originally entitled The Stonor Case, differs from the story in several small details, such as the names of some of the characters.

sherlock stageThe Crown Diamond: An Evening With Mr Sherlock Holmes (1921)

Available in paperback and ebook editions.

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Note: Alternate version of The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone

This edition also includes: The Speckled Band and Sherlock Holmes: A Drama In Four Acts

“The Crown Diamond” is an alternate version of the short story “The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone” though it predates its counterpart by some time. Sometime during the original run the short story was adapted from the play, this is the reason that the narrative is told in third person rather than by the traditional narrator Watson. Some claim that the play originally appeared in an early draft of “Sherlock Holmes” (above) and was later removed, with some elements finding their way into “The Adventure of the Empty House” before the entire play was resurrected, some years later, into “The Crown Diamond” and “The Mazarin Stone.”

Arthur Conan Doyle Locked Room Page

Sherlock Holmes Canon

Complete Conan Doyle Bibliography

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