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Happy 135th Anniversary to Holmes and Watson

On Dec. 1, 1887 Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were first revealed to readers in the pages of Beeton’s Christmas Annual in the novella A Study in Scarlet. A mildly successful physician named Arthur Conan Doyle had written a story about a detective who was also a violin collector, philosopher, and amateur chemist. Conan Doyle had learned the basics of writing a short story from studying the works of Guy de Maupassant and learned the art of writing logically and with precision from his study of medical journals.

The original title for the novella was A Tangled Skein. Conan Doyle claimed to have written it in just three weeks. Other publishers deemed the story either too long for a single issue or too short for serialization, but Mr. Beeton’s wife, Mary Beeton, read the story and loved it. The magazine sold for one schilling and the issue sold out in 14 days, not because of Sherlock Holmes, but because it was the Christmas issue. Nevertheless, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson quickly became popular with readers, and led the way for fictional sleuths like Hercule Poirot and James Bond. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote more than 60 Holmes and Watson stories over the next 40 years.

This issue of Beeton’s is one of the rarest magazines in the world. Only 11 complete copies are left in existence; many were destroyed during enemy action during wartime. Some years ago, a complete issue sold at Sotheby’s for $157,000.

Conan Doyle used his profits from the popular writing to fund his obsession with spiritualism -- he was all in for the supernatural, and his insistence on the existence of fairies was too much for even the alternative lifestyle types of his day. He was one of the people who Harry Houdini sought to debate in defense of reality.

http://www.bestofsherlock.com/beetons-christmas-annual.htm

Where do you visit to capture the spirit of Holmes and Watson?

Posted by
7352 posts

Yes, my first trip abroad as an adult included a visit to Baker Street where of course the address was a bank or building society. But it still felt good to see a real place there.

There have been a number of authors who have tried their hand at writing new Holmes novels (I believe licensed by the Doyle family). The only one I can recommend is Anthony Horowitz who writes clever books in general.

Posted by
5957 posts

I’d have thought the Sherlock Holmes franchise was older than 135, but then, I’ve never had a Beeton’s - nor popped for a $157,000 issue of anything. Staying at a B&B a half block off of Baker Street a couple of times, and using the Baker Street tube station (which, by the way, has a “subway” crossing at its south end), I passed the address 221B Baker Street across the street, when using the station ‘s west exit. I wonder whether that address existed when Doyle used it for Holmes’ address, or if the building received the address after Doyle created it? Being at that spot, it seems as if (very old) Holmes and Watson could be right in that building, one floor above that door.

Any chance that deerstalker caps became more popular with it being a featured headgear for Holmes? Any time I see a mastiff dog, I think of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Posted by
1559 posts

My first visit to Europe at 30 was because of Sherlock Holmes as I had wanted to go to London ever since I saw Granada TV's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes on PBS as a child. I was so obsessed my parents bought me The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes including illustrations and I still bring out that old thick book from time to time and I have seen almost every media work on Holmes.

Of course the real London was nothing like the books, but my mother gamely went with me to Baker Street, the Museum Pub(called the Alpha in The Blue Carbuncle) and saw the last gas streetlights in Westminster.

Thankful to my father who had an old worn Hound of the Baskerville paperback laying around when I was bored on summer vacation one year. I was hooked. Still have to visit the moors in England.

Posted by
6378 posts

I wonder whether that address existed when Doyle used it for Holmes’ address, or if the building received the address after Doyle created it?

Like the detective, the address is fiction. The actual street address of the building you see today is 239 Baker Street, the 221B is just plastered on it. To add further confusion, between the time of the writings, to today, there has been renumbering and renaming of streets (that street was at the time Upper Baker Street).

Posted by
7112 posts

Using my imagination and reflecting on the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes adaptation:

At night Walking through Ely Court towards and past the Ye Old Mitre pub.

There and climbing the Holy Mount Steps up to the Holy Bush pub in Hampstead.

Lastly, in the Baker Street tube station love the tiny Sherlock Holmes tiles that make the bigger iconic Sherlock Holmes image with the deerstalker hat and pipe.

EDIT: agree with Stan about the Anthony Horowitz books. Recently finished reading The Sentence is Death AND enjoyed Horowitz’s Magpie Murders on PBS Masterpiece.

EDIT: No better Sherlock Holmes portrayer than the late Jeremy Brett. For those who enjoy film trivia:
Brett portrayed Freddie Eynsford-Hill in the Audrey Hepburn/Rex Harrison 1964 My Fair Lady film.

Posted by
5677 posts

Like Heather, I was fascinated as a young reader, and read all the stories and novels. Also the "continued" adventures by Adrian Conan Doyle (son) and John Dickson Carr. And watched the pre-PBS TV series starring Ronald Howard and H. Marion Crawford (who portrayed Watson as a fool, sadly). The recreated Holmes-Watson flat is on Baker Street somewhere (maybe 239). I visited there twice, I think, and also the Sherlock Holmes Pub near Charing Cross. I have the collected Holmes on a bookshelf and also on my Kindle for any unexpected reading interludes. I can't say the style has worn as well over the decades as I might have hoped. And for some reason the PBS series with Jeremy Brett didn't do much for me. Maybe the absence of the deerstalker. ;-)

Certainly Poirot owes a lot to Holmes, but I don't see the parallel with James Bond. But it's been so long since I read the Bond novels that I might have forgotten that he solves baffling mysteries. His movie version has a different kind of appeal.

Thanks, Avi, for this reminder. And for all your reminders across the forum. Sometimes I feel like I should get academic credit for the time I spend here.

Posted by
2992 posts

I owe a debt to Sherlock Holmes, helped me learn English, first the books then the TV show with Jeremy Brett.

Posted by
2162 posts

I don't want to throw a spanner in the works, but how do we feel about Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law?
Today's moviegoers like action heroes, apparently, and plenty of gadgets.

Posted by
7112 posts

@ Avirosemail they were fine but Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke were excellent.

Believe you can see episodes via YouTube and Brit Box.

Posted by
7352 posts

I don't want to throw a spanner in the works, but how do we feel about Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law?
Today's moviegoers like action heroes, apparently, and plenty of gadgets.

It was criminal.

"Enola Holmes" was fun, but I can't abide the anachronisms. The current Netflix series "The Inside Man" with Stanley Tucci has been described as Sherlock Holmes in prison.

Posted by
6378 posts

but how do we feel about Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law?

I enjoyed their rendition of Holmes and Watson. Some 300 to 400 actors have played Holmes over the years, and that ranked in the top tier. On Tubi, I have been watching a bunch of lesser known Holmes movies as well as old TV series, and there are some truly dismal, and/or boring performances out there. Maybe the one I found the most "Bad Funny" was a low budget flick out of Canada, "Sherlock Holmes and the Shadow Watchers", always a flag when a guy is the Producer, Director, and the lead actor, plus maybe most of the crew.

Posted by
16 posts

I spent a couple of weeks in London in 1988 and saw Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke in the production of The Secret of Sherlock Holmes at Wyndham's. Twice. Wish I'd kept the program.

Posted by
1559 posts

Oh my yes.I came to Miss Marple on the TV later after Poirot but Joan was the perfect embodiment of her. Later, versions seem to forget that she was supposed to be a very proper unmarried gentlewoman.

On a Holmes and Watson note, Stanford U library had a community reading project back in the 2000s with British authors of the 19th century. With the session on Sherlock Holmes, you could sign up and they'd send a copy of that months story with a cover to resemble The Strand cover where it was originally published. I saved all of these and loved how Hound of the Baskerville released in a series of 4 months like originally. It felt like I was reading the stories like the Victorians.

They still have the archives on their website below

http://dickens.stanford.edu/sherlockholmes/