The Sixty Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

March 2009


More than 120 years have passed since Sherlock Holmes was “born” in the short novel A Study in Scarlet on the pages of Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887. Author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote two novels and 24 short stories featuring the great detective before killing off his creation just six years later in The Final Problem. Conan Doyle then turned his attention to writing historical novels. He set off for South Africa to document the Boer War, conducting firsthand interviews which resulted in two publications: the pamphlet The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct, and a comprehensive book, The Great Boer War. These works gained Conan Doyle the knighthood in 1902. Back in England, Conan Doyle began fighting campaigns to help those wrongly accused, not surprisingly using the very deductive powers of his own Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle’s actions led to the origination of the Court of Criminal Appeal into the British legal system, perpetuating Conan Doyle’s crusade.


During the years following Holmes’ death, Conan Doyle resisted a plethora of pleas to revive the great detective who was still very much alive in the hearts of his admirers. Readers had fought so fervently for Holmes’ return because it was hard to believe him dead based on his resiliency and strength of mind. It was more believable that Holmes faked his own death as part of a master plan to solve a major case. Not until Conan Doyle heard the mysterious tale of the barbarous hound of the moors of Dartmoor was he piqued to resuscitate Holmes. The Hound of the Baskervilles serial first appeared in 1901. It was cleverly written to have taken place before Holmes’ demise. Then, inevitably, Holmes turned up alive in September 1903 in The Adventure of the Empty House. Holmes, now quite alive and well, continued his career with 32 more adventures over the next 26 years.


Conan Doyle died in 1930 with only two of his Sherlock Holmes books remaining in print. But the new radio shows brought Sherlock Holmes afresh to a new generation of fans. On stage, William Gillette first portrayed Holmes on Broadway in 1899 and in London in 1901. Today, Guinness World Records lists Sherlock Holmes as the most portrayed movie character with more than 70 actors playing the part in over 200 films. A new highly updated Sherlock Holmes film is due out this year, based on a graphic novel and emphasizing Holmes’ martial arts abilities.


Today, fans agree that Sherlock Holmes is dead – not because he never lived, but because he died of old age at his beekeeping farm in Sussex Downs. Just ask the many visitors to The Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street, London, the first museum in the world dedicated to a fictional character.