Five Things You May Not Know About the Sherlock Holmes Stories

5. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first choice for the name of his famous detective was Sheridan Hope, but that name was later transmogrified to Jefferson Hope for another character in ‘A Study in Scarlet.’  The ‘Hope’ was the name of the ship Conan Doyle sailed on for his Arctic journey as ship’s surgeon.  Conan Doyle considered the name Sherringford, then Sherrinford, for his now-famous detective for awhile until his wife talked him out of it. By the way, the original title of the first Sherlock Holmes novelette was ‘A Tangled Skein.’

4. Conan Doyle’s original manuscript of ‘A Study in Scarlet’ was rejected by 3 publications before he reluctantly accepted an offer of £25 for the exclusive rights to the story from Beeton’s Christmas Annual. According to Conan Doyle, he never received another pence for the story.

3. Watson wrote in ‘The Red-Headed League’ the following passage: ‘Three gilt balls and a brown board with “JABEZ WILSON” in white letters, upon a corner house, announced the place where our red-headed client carried on his business. Sherlock Holmes stopped in front of it with his head on one side and looked it all over, with his eyes shining brightly between puckered lids.’ Not a very compelling passage for most modern readers.

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The coat-of-arms of the house of the Medici family of Lombardy had three gilt (gold) balls, and they were the first money lenders in London during the middle ages. Since that time, three gilt balls had come to be the universal symbol for a pawn-broker’s shop. Holmes probably had an epiphany when he realised there is another institution famous for money-lending, which helped lead to the eventual solution of the case. And now, you know the rest of the story, with apologies to Paul Harvey.

2. The two stories ‘The Cardboard Box’ and ‘The Resident Patient,’ in most American versions, now begin with essentially the same episode in which Watson falls into a brown study that Holmes eventually recreates. The reason for this dilemma stems from Conan Doyle’s second thoughts about publishing a story involving adultery after it appeared in the Strand and Harper’s Magazines for January 1893 and, for a short time, in an American collection of ‘The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.’ Conan Doyle put a personal ban on ‘The Cardboard Box,’ so the ‘Brown Study’ episode was transferred to ‘The Resident Patient’ in most American versions of the story. Almost twenty-five years later, he relented and had ‘The Cardboard Box’ (with the brown study episode) included in the short story collection titled ‘His Last Bow,’ thus creating the duplication.

1. Conan Doyle dedicated ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ to a friend of his named Bertram Fletcher Robinson who gave Conan Doyle several details for the story including local Dartmoor legends of a vicious hound. Conan Doyle also had Robinson’s coachman to thank. Robinson gave a copy of the novel to his coachman, and he finished his personal inscription in the book “with apologies for using the name.” The name of Robinson’s coachman? Harry M. Baskerville.

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Time Benders 2: The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge

Here is yet another glaring example of Watson’s carelessness with the calendar. I suppose Watson can be forgiven for his neglect because accuracy of details was not his main purpose in these tales, but it sure would be nice if he gave it a little effort now and again.

Watson begins ‘The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge,’ published in August of 1908, with this sentence: “I find it recorded in my notebook that it was a bleak and windy day towards the end of March in the year 1892.” A fine beginning, unless you are Dr. John Watson. If you remember, Watson thought Holmes was buried in Reichenbach Falls from May 4, 1891 until soon after March 30, 1894 per ‘The Final Problem’ and ‘The Adventure of the Empty House,’ respectively. Perhaps the simple explanation is the correct one. Perhaps Watson meant to write ‘towards the end of March in the year 1891 or 1895.’ When was the simple explication good enough to describe Watson’s writing? Perhaps Watson had something else recorded in his notebook on that date. The only event of note, other than his writing, that we know about in Watson’s life during that nearly three year hiatus is the death of Mary Morstan Watson. Could it be that Watson had been reminiscing a bit too much when he was writing this story?