Ask anyone, anywhere, to tell you
something about Sherlock Holmes and the odds are that you will get a ready
answer. Celebrities come and go; the headline name of yesterday is
forgotten today. Sherlock Holmes, defying time, the fickleness of the
public, and the knowledge that he is a fictional creation, goes on forever.
Each year several hundred letters reach London from all parts of the world
intended for this man who never lived, at an address which never existed.
Their contents range from facetious exhortations to Sherlock Holmes and Dr
Watson to do something about a current crime, to genuine appeals for advice
and even personal intervention in cases of dispute or distress.
It is now the best part of a century since the first ever
Sherlock Holmes adventure appeared, yet the stories in book form are
selling in greater numbers than ever before. Film, radio and television
versions abound and are as popular with young audiences as with their
nostalgic elders, who tend to regards Holmes and Watson as fixed points in
a changing, ultra-sophisticated age whose frenetic clangour might have
expected to have blunted, our senses that such gentle, rather quaint
stories could no longer excite or even divert us.
this is the explanation for the stories immortality for Sherlock Holmes's
superiority over all other fictional detectives. First-rate storytelling
aside, they are a compound of charm, subtle atmosphere, and the reflection
of an age and a way of life, upon which we can gaze with deepening envy as
each year passes. Historians and sociologists hasten to remind us that a
romantic view of the late Victorian age must be sternly censored by
awareness of the misery, degradation and vice which were widespread.
"Emancipated from the bonds of fact" in Dr Johnson's phase,
Holmes and Watson live in milieu which has been emancipated too: the jingle
of hansom cab substituted for the roar of massed automobiles, the stench of
carbon monoxide replaced by the sweet scent of horse, the modern pressure
relaxed into a tranquil routine of leisured breakfast, half a dozen
newspapers, a pot of coffee. "Ring for our boots", a stroll in
Regent's Park, then back to lunch and any letters from the fifth and sixth
delivery of the day, to find an anxious client with a bizarre tale that
will take us by cab or train on some trilling trail.
Millions of people have entered this world and shared these experiences
through the mediumship of Sherlock Holmes and the great storyteller and man
who created him, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Michael & Mollie Hardwick
Michael & Mollie Hardwick are the authors of six books about Sherlock
Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and of scores of dramatisations of the
stories for the radio and television services of the British Broadcasting