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Submitted by on Dec 26, 2021

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a British novelist, invented Sherlock Holmes, a fictitious investigator. In the novels, Holmes refers to himself as a “consulting detective,” and he is noted for his skill with observation, deduction, forensic science, and extraordinary logical reasoning, which he applies when investigating cases for a range of customers, including Scotland Yard.

The character’s fame grew with the publication of the first series of short stories in The Strand Magazine, beginning with “A Scandal in Bohemia” in 1891, and continuing until 1927, totaling four books and 56 short stories. All except one are set between 1880 and 1914, in the Victorian or Edwardian periods.

The majority of the stories are told by Dr. John H. Watson, Holmes’ friend and biographer, who generally accompanies Holmes on his investigations and often shares quarters with him at 221B Baker Street, London, where many of the stories begin.

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Sherlock Holmes is undoubtedly the best-known fictional investigator, despite not being the first. By the 1990s, there had already been over 25,000 stage adaptations, films, television shows, and books based on the detective, making him the most represented literary human figure in cinema and television history, according to Guinness World Records.

Many people think Holmes is not a fictitious character but a real person, and various literary and fan groups have been created on this premise. Fans of the Sherlock Holmes stories were instrumental in establishing the current concept of fandom.

For over a century, the character and stories have had a profound and lasting impact on mystery writing and popular culture, with the original tales, as well as thousands written by authors other than Conan Doyle, being adapted into stage and radio plays, television, films, video games, and other media.

C. Auguste Dupin, created by Edgar Allan Poe, is widely regarded as the first detective in fiction and served as a model for many following characters, including Sherlock Holmes. As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once put it, “Each is a seed from which a great body of writing has grown… What happened to the detective narrative before Poe injected new life into it?”

Similarly, around the time Conan Doyle began writing Holmes, Émile Gaboriau’s Monsieur Lecoq novels were highly popular, and Holmes’ vocabulary and behavior mirrored those of Lecoq.

Near the opening of A Study in Scarlet, which is set shortly after Watson meets Holmes, Doyle has his key protagonists analyze these literary forerunners. Watson tries to flatter Holmes by comparing him to Dupin, but Holmes responds that Dupin is “a very inferior fellow” and Lecoq is “a dreadful bungler.”

Conan Doyle stated several times that Holmes was inspired by Joseph Bell, a surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, whom he met in 1877 and for whom he had worked as a clerk. Bell, like Holmes, was known for drawing big inferences from minor details.

“You are yourself Sherlock Holmes and well you know it,” he later remarked to Conan Doyle. Holmes was also inspired by Sir Henry Littlejohn, Chair of Medical Jurisprudence at the University of Edinburgh Medical School. Conan Doyle had a relationship between medical inquiry and criminal detection thanks to Littlejohn, who was both a Police Surgeon and Medical Officer of Health in Edinburgh.

Other putative influences, such as French novelist Henry Cauvain’s Maximilien Heller, have been suggested but never recognized by Doyle. Henry Cauvain envisaged a melancholy, anti-social, opium-smoking polymath detective operating in Paris in this 1871 tale (sixteen years before the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes).

Conan Doyle was fluent in French and it is unknown if he read the work. Similarly, Michael Harrison speculated that a German self-styled “consulting detective” called Walter Scherer was Holmes’ inspiration.

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