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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The Napoleon of Crime

Sherlock Holmes called Professor James Moriarty “the Napoleon of crime” in ‘The Final Problem’ and a “Napoleon-gone-wrong” in ‘The Valley of Fear.’  Here are some interesting facts:

  • Professor Moriarty wrote a treatise on the Binomial Theorem and the book ‘The Dynamics of an Asteroid,’ and he won accolades for both.
  • Professor Moriarty has a brother Colonel Moriarty (also named James) and a younger brother who is a station-master in the West of England.  Exactly how many brothers are there?
  • His chief of the staff is one Colonel Sebastian Moran who Holmes caught upon returning to London in 1894 after his great hiatus.
  • He was created to become the foe who would eventually destroy Holmes and allow Conan Doyle to spend more time on other pursuits, but the reading public would have none of that.
  • The very real Adam Worth was called “the Napoleon of the criminal world” by the very real Scotland Yard detective Robert Anderson (later Sir Robert Anderson), and Worth may have been the model for Moriarty.

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