One hundred and thirty years after his first appearance, Sherlock Holmes is still as popular and inspiring as ever.
Hard to credit it but it was exactly 130 years ago this month that Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s great ‘consulting detective’, was introduced to the public. The novel Study in Scarlet, which first appeared in the 1887 issue of Beeton’s Christmas Annual, and the subsequent novel, The Sign of the Four (which appeared in the 1890 edition of Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine), attracted little
Aattention initially. It wasn’t until the short stories appeared – beginning with A Scandal in Bohemia in 1891 – that Doyle’s detective would start his rise in popularity, one that doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon.
Having outstripped the fame of his creator (Doyle was famously ambivalent about his greatest, and most lucrative, creation), Holmes became even more famous with the advent of modern media. Guinness World Records lists him as the ‘most portrayed movie character’ in history, appearing in film, TV, radio and stage all over the world – in fact, the first instance of Holmes appearing in a film was a Hungarian production from 1905; the latest is a 2015 Japanese science fiction adventure anime film.
There is also the phenomenon of many people believing that Holmes actually is a real-life person – from the beginning, letters have arrived at the detective’s fictional home, 221B Baker Street in London, seeking his help. That, perhaps, might explain Holmes enduring, and ever increasing, popularity – in a world beset by uncertainties, there is great appeal for a figure who relies solely on his wits to solve problems, and makes it look easy while doing so. Holmes, in a way, gives us the belief that we, too, with a bit of brain power, can change things and make a difference. It’s only elementary, after all.