May 22 – Sherlock Holmes Day

Posted on May 22, 2018

On this date in 1859, a Scottish family of four became a family of five - on its way to becoming a family of eleven! - as little Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born.

When little Arthur grew up, he gifted the world with an icon:

Sherlock Holmes.

This fictional detective is mostly known for his incredible observation skills and amazing deductive powers. Everything else, it seems, is negotiable. Holmes original-flavor lived in London and worked with Scotland Yard, lived during the Victorian or Edwardian Eras, had a male sidekick named Dr. Watson, smoked a pipe, wore a tweed suit complete with a shoulder cape and a deerstalker cap...

But some adaptations show us a different Sherlock. For example, these days we have a British Sherlock living in NYC with a female Dr. Watson, without a trace of a pipe or a deerstalker cap to be seen.

Sherlock Holmes is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most portrayed movie character in history: more than 70 different actors in more than 200 different movies.

The variety of Sherlock portrayals (above)
are not quite as varied as the Dr. Watson portrayals,
thanks to Lucy Liu!

Sherlock also appears in stories, books, plays, radio plays, video games, and TV shows. There are Sherlock museums, societies, deductive games, and events.

A few interesting bits about Sherlock:

  • Even though many of us have heard Sherlock's famous words, "Elementary, my dear Watson," Doyle's original Sherlock Holmes stories never had the detective say those exact words. Holmes sometimes called his deductive solutions to crimes that stumped others "elementary," and he sometimes referred to his friend as "my dear Watson," but the two were never said together. 
    Note that a current TV show about Holmes is called Elementary.

    • Some experts say that modern fandom was begun by the fans of Sherlock Holmes. Not only did tons of people write fan letters to Doyle, many people also wrote to Sherlock Holmes, asking him to find a missing purse or to hire the writer as a housekeeper or something like! I'm sure some people were fully aware that they were writing to a fictional character, but apparently some truly thought that Sherlock Holmes was a real person living in London at 221-B Baker Street.

      (Some letters were actually sent to 221-B Baker Street, even though the numbers didn't actually go up that high on that particular street!)
    • Doyle apparently wasn't as fond of his fictional character as others were. When he killed Sherlock Holmes in a story by having him pushed off a cliff above some waterfalls, British society went into mourning. People dressed in black or wore black armbands. Loads of angry letters were sent to the newspaper that published the Holmes stories. Many people canceled their subscriptions to that newspaper. Tons of letters pleading for a revival were mailed to Doyle himself. I imagine a few were written to 221-B Baker Street.

      After ten long years, Doyle finally gave in, resuscitated Holmes, and wrote a few more Sherlock stories. But in the meantime, tons of OTHER people began to write Sherlock Holmes stories. While Doyle was alive! And probably fuming!

      Today we would call all of this outpouring of additional Sherlock stories "fan fiction." That term hadn't been invented back then, of course, but also that phenomenon had never been seen before. Again, modern fandom was born around Sherlock!
    • When Baker Street in London was renumbered, the Abbey National Building Society occupied number 221. The society got so much mail addressed to Sherlock, a secretary to deal with fan mail was hired.

      Later, a Sherlock Holmes Museum was opened - but not at 221 Baker Street (still the Building Society), but instead at 239 Baker Street. The museum wanted the Royal Mail to deliver any letters addressed to Sherlock to them, but the Building Society fought the idea!

      Finally, the Building Society closed their doors, and the Sherlock Museum was given the number 221, despite the fact that it was still located between 237 and 241...And of course, the museum does now get the Sherlock mail!

    Also on this date:

    No comments:

    Post a Comment