”I’m thinking about killing Holmes… kill him. It’s a hundred. Holmes takes up too much of my time.” Arthur Conan Doyle complained in a letter to his mother in November 1891. His mother firmly disagrees with this idea. His mother told him that he couldn’t do anything except write Sherlock Holmes. Later readers agree with Conan Doyle’s mother. Sherlock Holmes is not only the best achievement of Conan Doyle, but also one of the best achievements any writer in the world can create. Private detective Sherlock Holmes lives at 221B Baker Street. Mrs. Hudson is the landlady. Dr. Watson also lived here before getting married. But in this unremarkable place, he walked out of a place where he could interact with Hamlet and Don Quixote. De, Pickwick, Sven Gurry (the musician in the classic novel Trilby published by the British novelist George du Maurier in 1894, he uses hypnotism to control the heroine Trilby, Make it obedient and become his profit-making tool. Later generations use Sven Gali to describe those who have great influence and control over others. ——Annotation), a literary figure comparable to Harry Potter, Fame broke through the literary circle.
The territory of the Sherlock Holmes Empire began with “Study of the Words of Blood”. This little book has brought in an income of £25 for the poor author (he was a struggling doctor at the time); now, “Sherlock” has become a brand in the TV series and film industry, generating thousands worldwide Ten thousand pounds of profit.
How did this happen? The protagonists of many detective novels in the Victorian era have been lost in the long river of history. How can Sherlock Holmes continue to reap the favor of generations of readers? We can analyze them one by one and find the answer among many factors. But first let’s take a look at the life of the creator of Holmes.
Doyle was born in Edinburgh in 1859 to an Irish father and an alcoholic. In his later years, he was sent to a mental hospital. Conan Doyle was educated at the Catholic Jesuit University in Stonyhurst and spent a year in Austria at the age of 16. After returning home, he entered the University of Edinburgh Medical School. In 1880, Doyle spent seven months in the Arctic as the doctor on board a whaling ship. He graduated successfully in 1881 and then went to Africa. In 1882, a clinic was opened in Portsmouth. At the end of 1885, his annual income had reached 300 pounds. He married the sister of one of his patients. Doyle had already started writing while practicing medicine. In 1886, he began to write some novels featuring “Amateur Private Detective J. Sheringford” as the protagonist. As a result, a novella in the Sherlock Holmes series of stories was born. “A Study in Scarlet”, but no good publishing house is willing to publish this novel. Its ultimate way out was to serialize it as a “Christmas gift” in a magazine, and then it was introduced to the public as a cheap novel (called “a shilling thriller” at the time).
There are two murders in Utah, USA and London, UK in “Study of the Words of Blood”, which attracted the interest of ordinary readers. Doyle published a Sherlock Holmes story shortly thereafter-“The Sign of Four” (The Sign of Four) was also popular with readers, but until the beginning of 1891, Doyle voted six short stories for “He After Strand Magazine, “Holmes fever” really began. After seeing the submission, the editor of “Riverside Magazine” realized that “he is the greatest short story writer since Edgar Allan Poe”. Doyle’s real purpose in writing these novels is to correct the “major flaw” in the detective novels at the time-lack of logic. The short stories published in “Riverside Magazine” were pictured by the excellent illustrator Sidney Paget, who fitted Holmes with the iconic deerstalker hat and hooked nose.
Doyle’s heart has never really been on detective novels, but these novels are very popular in the United Kingdom and the United States. Compared with them, Doyle’s other works are much inferior. In 1893, he let Holmes die at Reichenbach Falls in “The Last Case”. As a result, “Riverside Magazine” lost 20,000 subscribers overnight. This incident even alarmed the British senior level, and many people expressed dissatisfaction with it.
Although Doyle gradually hated Holmes, it is undeniable that it was Holmes who made him a rich man-Doyle was one of the richest writers in England at the end of the 19th century.
The development of detective fiction
In the 19th century, detective novels have evolved into a type of best-selling literature. The historical conditions for the development of detective novels were the establishment of criminal investigation departments such as the London Criminal Investigation Office in 1878. The pioneering short stories written by Edgar Allan Poe played the same role, the most important of which The famous “Secret Chamber” classic is “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (The Murders in the Rue Morgue) published in 1841. Like Holmes, the detective August Dupin in the novel relies entirely on “reasoning” to solve the case. This is also the only law for Holmes to solve the case. In the “Four Signatures”, he clearly expressed this idea twice: “How many times have I told you that when you remove all the impossible factors, no matter how unbelievable the rest is It must be the truth.” The French writer Emile Gaboriau (Emile Gaboriau, 1832-1873) and the protagonist of his series of novels, Lecock, also influenced Doyle.
The market for cheap novels
A mass reading market eager for cheap novels is also important to the development of detective novels. In 1870, the United Kingdom promulgated the “Elementary Education Act”, a large number of young and educated readers came into being, but they were in short supply, and the story of Sherlock Holmes’s Detective Case appeared at this time. More importantly, Doyle’s first story is a cheap novel. The Riverside Magazine, which published the novel, was sold at 6p (equivalent to 2.5p now). Poor children can also enjoy the excitement brought by the Sherlock Holmes story.
Doyle brought some innovations to the literary genre of detective novels. On the whole, these novels praise the British culture of “amateurism” (for example, Doyle loves cricket but only plays in his spare time). Holmes is very good, but he has no special career. Although he is smarter than those professors, he has been too lazy to get a medical degree.
As stated in the first chapter of “Studies of Blood”, Holmes is a “private detective.” The detectives of Scotland Yard are official. In 1852, Dickens first introduced the Scottish Yard detective Beckett in “Bleak House.” The practitioners of private investigators grew rapidly due to the promulgation of the Matrimonial Causes Act in 1857. But Holmes is a “gentleman-like” detective, and would never investigate derailment through spying, because it was “not by a gentleman.” He was full of the chivalry and British manners of the upper class. In “A Scandal in Bohemia” (A Scandal in Bohemia), Holmes had a relationship with the criminal Irene Adler, but his performance was impeccable, with a true British style.
Stupid friends, smart criminals and forensics
Doyle introduced three innovations into the narrative of detective novels, and they have become indispensable norms for this type of literature. His first innovation was the so-called “stupid friend”, you must explain everything to him (in fact, tell the reader). In the Sherlock Holmes story, Dr. Watson is such a partner. This kind man has many close relatives, such as Major Hastings, Detective Poirot’s “stupid partner” in Agatha Christie’s detective novels, and other such characters in other novels.
Another innovation of Doyle is the “smart criminal” or “Napoleon of Crime” (Napoleon of Crime), these people are many times smarter than the reckless police. In the Sherlock Holmes story, Professor Moriarty is such a criminal.
Moriarty came from a famous background, received an excellent education, and was gifted in mathematics. At the age of 21, he wrote a paper on the binomial theorem. He got a job as a mathematics teacher in a university with this thesis. In everyone’s eyes, his future looks bright. But this person inherited the brutality of the family. He was born a criminal. He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. Half of the criminal activities in the City of London, almost all of the criminal activities that have not been detected, are organized by him…
The Final Problem, 1893] The
third innovation is the use of “forensic science” to solve cases . When we first met Holmes in the first chapter of “The Study of the Words of Blood”, he was studying hemoglobin in the laboratory on Baker Street. He said to the skeptical Watson:
”This is the most practical discovery in forensic science in the past few years. Don’t you understand that it can help us accurately identify blood stains?”
In the second Sherlock Holmes story “Four Signatures” , Doyle said fingerprints are an important method for detectives to solve cases.
Bizarre and logically confusing
Doyle believes that detective novels are not literature. He feels that the historical novels he wrote after careful research are the most cherished works for future generations. He was wrong. Based on the high and low points in his heart, he was less attentive when writing the story of Sherlock Holmes. Careful readers can find some weird, logically confusing, and sometimes absurd places.
For example, in “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (1902), a nobleman was scared to death by a “devil-like hound”, only to discover that it was just a dog bought from a dog dealer on Fulham Road Crossbreeds coming. The eyes of the poor dog were painted with luminous material to create a creepy effect. Any dog lover can stand up and say this is too difficult. If the quicksand of the Grippen Marsh can be used to kill people, what kind of criminals will spend time and effort to use unnecessary and extremely complicated methods to commit crimes?
In the Sherlock Holmes story, Doyle’s favorite is “The Speckled Band” (The Speckled Band). The novel is about a secret room mystery: a trained snake (the Indian swamp viper, but this species does not exist) can crawl along the bell in the room according to the whistle. This is an unthinkable thing, because snakes will not follow orders. Readers who like to pick mistakes can easily find holes in the Sherlock Holmes story.
But time and reader love have proven that these loopholes are not important. Among millions of readers, most of them will accept the flaws in logic, time, and detail of these 56 novels without any obstacles. These stories are so pretty.
Connection with medicine
Literary historians have noticed that “detective studies” in reality or fiction are closely related to the advances made in medicine in the 19th century, as is the relationship between observing criminal clues and explaining symptoms. “You watched, but you didn’t observe.” Holmes criticized Watson in “The Bohemia Scandal.” Most doctors in reality are like this. In 1854, John Snow discovered that it was not poisonous air that spread cholera in London, but polluted water. Like Holmes, Snow did “seize the clue.”
Holmes was a medical student, and Doyle himself is a graduate of a top medical school in Europe, with specialized training and a medical license. During his studies at the University of Edinburgh, Doyle was deeply influenced by his tutor Joseph Bell’s “deductive reasoning”. Doyle gave a vivid example:
(Joseph Bell) said to the patient: “Well, man, you were a soldier.”
”Is it the Royal Highland Regiment?”
”Stationed in Barbados?”
”Look at everyone,” (Bell) Explained, “This gentleman is polite, but he didn’t take off his hat, because they don’t do it in the army, but if he has been discharged for a long time, he should have learned the etiquette in civilian society. He is not angry and pretentious. You can see that he is a Scot. As for Barbados, he came to see the doctor because of Elephantiasis (Elephantiasis), which occurred in the West Indies, not in the United Kingdom.”
Compare the first chapters of Holmes and Watson in the first chapter of The Study of Blood The scene at the meeting:
”Hello.” He greeted me warmly and shook hands with me. I couldn’t believe that he had so much strength. “I think you have been to Afghanistan.”
”How did you know?” I asked in surprise.
Like Oscar Wilde, Sherlock Holmes’s fame peaked in the 1890s, when the “decadent style” prevailed in the literary world. For example, the beginning of the “Four Signatures”:
”What are you using today?” I asked him, “Is it morphine or cocaine?” He lazily looked up from an old book that had just been opened, “It’s cocaine. Sevenths out. Do you want to try?”
Dr. Watson was the least decadent of his stupid friends. He refused Holmes’ invitation. If there are bold readers and critics who want to find a trace of ambiguity between the two men living in the same room, there is only one possible answer to this: “When you remove all the impossible factors, no matter what How unbelievable the rest is, it must be the truth.”
No, maybe it is not necessarily.