30+ Facts You Didn't Know About Sherlock Holmes

I never thought of myself as a Sherlockian until I attended a lecture by an expert in the canon and realized, somewhat to my embarassment, that I knew the origin of every quote and detail he mentioned.  Apparently the line between "enthusiast" and "obsessed" is narrower than I thought! 

Here's my ongoing list of interesting Sherlock Holmes facts.  I keep dropping new tidbits in as I run across them.  If you have any good ones I ought to add, let me know!
  1. There are 60 Sherlock Holmes stories in all (56 short stories + 4 longer tales), of which 56 are narrated by Watson, 2 by Sherlock Holmes himself (The Blanched Soldier, The Lion's Mane), and 2 by an unnamed narrator (The Mazarin Stone, His Last Bow). The four longer stories are A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Valley of Fear.
  2. The first two short story collections released by Conan Doyle - Adventures and Memoirs - are considered by Sherlockians to contain the best of the stories. While the stories in Return (volume 3) include some of the best-known, their plots repeat many of the elements introduced in the first two volumes. His Last Bow (volume 4) is, despite the name, not actually Holmes' last bow, as a final volume of short stories appeared under the name Casebook. These stories are generally considered to be the weakest of the series.
  3. The first Sherlock Holmes story was A Study in Scarlet, which was published in Beeton's Christmas Annual for 1887, and for which Conan Doyle was paid the pincely sum of 25 pounds.
  4. The very rare second edition of A Study in Scarlet was illustrated by Conan Doyle Sr., the author's father, who was an artist.
  5. Conan Doyle originally intended to name his main character Sherringford Holmes, and his trusty sidekick began life as Ormond Sacker.  Mrs. Hudson was to be Mrs. Turner, and actually is referred to by this name in one of the stories (A Scandal in Bohemia).
  6. The last name Holmes is an homage to Oliver Wendell Holmes, whom Conan Doyle greatly admired.
  7. Holmes' first case was The Gloria Scott. It was this case that inspired him to become a consulting detective
  8. Watson eventually married Mary Morstan, the heroine of A Study in Scarlet.  No one's quite sure how many wives he had in all - due to inconsistencies in dating the stories, it appears he had at least two and possibly three.
  9. Precisely where was Watson wounded during the campaign in Afghanistan?  Some stories state that he was wounded in the shoulder, others suggest he was wounded in the leg (or heel)
  10. In most of the stories Watson's first name is "John"; however, in one story his wife inexplicably refers to him as "James"
  11. Before he moved into 221B Baker Street with Watson, Holmes lived on Montague Street, around the corner from the British Museum.
  12. One of Holmes' grandmothers was the sister of Vernet, the French artist.
  13. At one time Holmes and Watson kept a bull pup at 221B.
  14. Most "Sherlockians" accept Jan 6, 1854 as Sherlock Holmes' birthday, though this is never specifically mentioned in the canon and is based on extremely dubious reasoning. Watson's birthday is generally accepted to be July 7.
  15. Sherlock Holmes was an expert in baritsu, a combination of jujitsu, British-style boxing, and wresting. While working undercover, he was known to engage in boxing matches down by the wharves.
  16. Sherlock Holmes is never described as wearing a deerstalker cap in the stories; however, Sidney Paget (illustrator) often drew him wearing such a hat when undertaking adventures in the country, and it has over time been incorporated into the Sherlock schema.
  17. Neither did Sherlock Holmes ever utter in any of the stories the phrase most popularly attributed to him: "Elementary, my dear Watson." This was a line from an early Sherlock Holmes movie.
  18. Sherlock Holmes' arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty, is mentioned in only three stories: The Valley of Fear, The Final Problem, and The Empty House. (By the way, Moriarty isn't given a first name, so feel free to invent your own.)
  19. According to various mentions in the stories, Holmes authored papers on (among other things) tobacco ash, footsteps, the influence of trade upon the form of the hand, the dating of old documents, tattoo marks, secret writings (codes), the anatomy of the human ear, and beekeeping. At the time of his retirement, he was working on a comprehensive textbook, The Whole Art of Detection.
  20. Holmes' career extended from 1880 to approximately 1914, with a notable gap between 1892-1894 when, presumed dead in England, he toured Tibet disguised as a Norwegian explorer named Sigerson. The stories themselves were written by Doyle between 1886-1927.
  21. After retiring from his detective work, Sherlock Holmes moved to Sussex to become a beekeeper.
  22. In the stories, Sherlock Holmes is described as inventing a method to positively identify blood and introducing Scotland Yard to the uses of fingerprints in identification. These methods were only just being adopted by Scotland Yard when the stories were written. (The first United Kingdom Fingerprint Bureau was founded by Scotland Yard in 1901; the first tests to positively identify blood were beginning to be adopted by police in the 1880s.) 
  23. Conan Doyle began his professional career as a general practitioner, but later travelled to Vienna to become a specialist in optometry
  24. Oscar Wilde and Conan Doyle once met over dinner with a representative of the American publishing company Lippincott. The publisher commissioned original stories from each author. Wilde's eventual contribution was The Picture of Dorian Gray, while Doyle's submission was The Sign of Four. The two men (Wilde and Doyle) thereafter enjoyed a long acquaintance.
  25. Conan Doyle also numbered Bram Stoker and Harry Houdini among his friends.
  26. The most famous play based on the canon was Sherlock Holmes, which opened in 1899 starring famed actor William Gillette.  In this play, which was written by Gillette with Conan Doyle's blessing, Holmes falls in love with his heroine, Miss Alice Faulker, whose character is based on Irene Adler in A Scandal in Bohemia.   The play was enormously successful; by the end of its run, it had been performed almost 1000 times. (In case you'd like some trivia with your trivia, here's more: When the play ran in London, the role of Billy, Holmes's page, was played by a very young Charlie Chaplin.)
  27. Conan Doyle later wrote a his own Sherlock Holmes play, which he based on the events recounted in The Speckled Band.  It also enjoyed a long and profitable run.
  28. Better-known authors of Sherlock Holmes parodies include Mark Twain (The Double Barrelled Detective Story), P.G. Wodehouse (author of the Jeeves novels), and A.A. Milne (author of the Winnie the Pooh stories)
  29. Conan Doyle and Sir James Barrie (author of Peter Pan) collaborated on their own Sherlock Holmes parody, titled (somewhat self-consciously) The Adventure of the Two Collaborators.  Ironically, this parody was not as popular with the public as parodies and burlesques by other authors.
  30. Conan Doyle was himself involved in investigating several real-life mysteries, and was instrumental in obtaining the release of at least two men who had been falsly imprisoned (George Edalji and Oscar Slater).
  31. When he died, Doyle left an unpublished Holmes story among his papers ("The Man Who Was Wanted") with a note requesting that it not be published, as he felt the quality of the story to be inferiors.  His heirs have (thus far) abided by his request.
  32. Two great artists are responsible for the most well-known Holmes illustrations. Sidney Paget based his portrait on his brother; Frederick Dorr Steele based his portrait of the great detective on William Gillette.
  33. Rex Stout was a serious Sherlock Holmes fan.  His orchid-loving, misanthropic detective Nero Wolfe is deliberately modelled after the great detective.  The producers of the television show House have also acknowledged that the character of Dr. Gregory House is based on Sherlock Holmes (with Dr. Wilson functioning as Dr. Watson). 
  34. Other famous Sherlockians (members of Sherlock organizations) include Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dorothy Sayers, Issac Asimov, and Neil Gaiman
  35. To this day, Sherlock fans divide themselves into two camps: "Holmsians" believe that Holmes is a creation of Arthur Conan Doyle's imagination, while "Sherlockians" prefer to play "The Great Game," pretending among themselves that Holmes is a historical personage, Watson his chronicaller, and Conan Doyle the literary agent responsible for placing the  stories in print.
  36. The Baker Street Irregulars, formed in 1834, are a group of Sherlock enthusiasts who publish papers about the great detective and gather once a year at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City for a great feast in the detective's honor. The group accepts only a fixed number of members at any time; new "investitures" are available only upon the death of current members.
  37. Sherlock Holmes appears more frequently in film than any other fictional character but one ... Count Dracula.
  38. Sherlock Holmes is a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry. He was granted an honorary fellowship in 2002.
  39. A historic marker has been erected at Reichenbach Falls.  It reads: "In this fearful place Sherlock Holmes vanquished Professor Moriarty on 4 May 1891."  There is also a Sherlock Holmes museum on the site

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