Maurice Leblanc

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Maurice Leblanc

Maurice Leblanc (11 december 1864 - 6 november 1941) was a French writer, author of several crime and adventures novels. He is famous for being the creator of Arsène Lupin', the gentleman burglar.

In the Arsène Lupin stories, he introduced Sherlock Holmes, but he was forced to rename the character as Herlock Sholmès after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle complained about the use of his detective.

Note that the US versions replaced "Herlock Sholmès" with "Holmlock Shears".

In 1930, after the death of Arthur Conan Doyle, Maurice Leblanc wrote an hommage to the author : A propos de Conan Doyle (About Conan Doyle) published in the French magazine Les Annales Politiques et Littéraires on 1st august 1930.

Arsène Lupin stories with Herlock Sholmès

  • Sherlock Holmes arrive trop tard (15 june 1906, in Je Sais Tout No. 17) Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late
  • La Dame blonde (november 1906 - april 1907, in Je Sais Tout No. 22-26) The Blonde Lady
  • La Lampe juive (september-october 1907, in Je Sais Tout No. 34-35) The Jewish Lamp
  • L'Aiguille creuse (november 1908 - may 1909, in Je Sais Tout No. 43-49) The Hollow Needle
  • 813 (march-may 1910, Le Journal)

Je Sais Tout No. 17 (15 june 1906)

Sherlock Holmes arrive trop tard

Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late

Short story published for the first time in the french magazine Je Sais Tout on 15 june 1906 (as La vie extraordinaire d'Arsène Lupin" : "Sherlock Holmes arrive trop tard") and collected on 10 june 1907 in Arsène Lupin gentleman cambrioleur (chapter IX) as Herlock Sholmès arrive trop tard, because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle protested against the use of the name of his detective without his consent.

In this short story, both heroes are proving to be equal intelligence. They both discovered a secret underpass in the castle of Thibermesnil owned by the banker Georges Devanne. Arsène Lupin managed to steal the detective's watch, before giving it back to him with his business card, which did not amuse Sherlock Holmes.

La Dame blonde & La Lampe juive

The Blonde Lady & The Jewish Lamp

These two stories are often criticized by both lupinians and sherlockians. Lupinians think they are too light with an humorous tone, and sherlockians don't recognize the real Sherlock Holmes. However, it seems that Maurice Leblanc has captured the true essence of the character of Sherlock Holmes, which is found perfectly in both stories. In the duel between Lupin and Holmes, the detective has all his intellectual skills, and he is elegantly respected by Lupin.

We can detect a real admiration by Maurice Leblanc for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. For example, in La Dame blonde, Arsène Lupin says: "He is Herlock Sholmès, that is to say, a sort of miracle of intuition, of insight, of perspicacity, of shrewdness. It is as though nature had amused herself by taking the two most extraordinary types of detective that fiction had invented, Poe's Dupin and Gaboriau's Lecoq, in order to build up one in her own fashion, more extraordinary yet and more unreal. And, upon my word, any one hearing of the adventures which have made the name of Herlock Sholmès famous all over the world must feel inclined to ask if he is not a legendary person, a hero who has stepped straight from the brain of some great novel-writer, of a Conan Doyle, for instance." About Leblanc's admiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, see his tribute to the British author after his death published in Les Annales politiques et littéraires (1 august 1930), and translated in The Baker Street Journal(BSJ, vol 21, No. 2, june 1971).

There was some similarities between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Maurice Leblanc in their relationships with their respective heroes: both sorry about the phenomenal success of their creature, who turned them from more serious literature. At the end of his life, Leblanc reconciled with Lupin, as he renamed his Etretat's house as "Clos Lupin".

However, and very clearly, we can blame Maurice Leblanc for his misunderstood of the Watson character (Wilson in the Lupin's stories), and having depicted him as a buffoon. Not knowing what to do with this character, Leblanc began two stories with Wilson seriously injured, even if he played no role in the stories. As a matter of fact, this lack of understanding of the essential role of Dr. Watson in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes can be found in the aforementioned tribute to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, where Leblanc concludes: "Let's celebrate the great lesson of power and control that gives us the extraordinary Sherlock Holmes and do not forget all the tasty and deeply comic in the ineffable character of Watson."

L'Aiguille creuse

The Hollow Needle

The gentleman burglar, having discovered that the needle of Etretat was hollow and housed the treasure of the kings of France, faces not only Ganimard his usual enemy of french police, not only Isidore Beautrelet, a student of rhetoric, but also Herlock Sholmès that he met here for the third time.

Though this is undeniable that this is a very good novel, the treatment of the detective can only disappoint sherlockians because the detective has little to do with the real one.


In this novel Arsène Lupin shows its dark side, consumed with fantasies of greatness. He wants to dominate the whole Europe and faces formidable opponents, including Baron Altenheim and the mysterious killer with initials "L. M.".

This is the fourth and final appearance of Herlock Sholmès in the adventures of the gentleman burglar. However, it's almost a guest appearance. The detective is hired by the Kaiser, Wilhelm II (1859-1941), to find some documents but failed in four days of research, while Lupin succeeded in less than 24 hours.

The two heroes does not meet in this story, unlike the other appearances in the lupinian saga. Incidentally, Lupin said in an open letter to newspapers that during his retirement four years after The Hollow Needle case, he lived among his books and his dog, named... Sherlock!