From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia


People interested in Sherlock Holmes and who enjoy sharing their interest with others are baptized sherlockians or holmesians. Their purpose is to keep green the memory of the detective. The literary activities of the sherlockians is called the Sherlockiana. The study is limited to the Sherlock Holmes saga in the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, including all the characters appearing in the stories (their lives, their activities, the places where they live, etc). The sherlockiana is practised by writing articles, studies or conferences (serious or humorous) on the most diverse topics.

One who will be remembered as the founding father of the sherlockiana is Ronald A. Knox. When he was a child, with his brothers, he wrote a critic about The Sign of Four like a parody of the critical studies of literary and religious works. Later, while in university, Knox continued studying the whole writings of Dr. Watson, and wrote an article entitled Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes, published in the student's journal of Oxford University, The Blue Book in july 1912. Republished in his collection Essays in Satire in 1928, this text enjoyed a great diffusion and became the model for thousands of works for decades to follow. This text is very important to understand the starting principle of sherlockiana, also known as The Great Game or The Grand Game. The premise is that Sherlock Holmes was a real person, that he was the first consulting detective in the history and that he is still alive (because his obituary has not yet appeared in The Times). Also, that among the published stories of Sherlock Holmes (also known as sacred texts), most1 were written by his friend and colleague, Dr. John H. Watson, two by Sherlock Holmes himself (BLAN, LION) and two by a third person (MAZA, LAST). This, logically, eliminates Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as the creator and that his only role would be that of the literary agent of Dr. Watson.


The first known example of humorous sherlockiana was a parody of Sherlock Holmes. It was a vaudeville sketch entitled Under the Clock, created and performed by Charles Brookfield in 1893 at the Royal Court Theatre in London.

The more scholar sherlockiana has its origin in an article published in the Cambridge Review on 23 january 1902, when Frank Sidgwick wrote An Open Letter to Dr. Watson, in which he denounced some errors of dates in The Hound of the Baskervilles.

But in the beginning of the Sherlockiana there was Ronald A. Knox and his lecture Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes. It was not really a scholarly presentation on the character of Sherlock Holmes but rather a pseudo-scholarly satire parodying studies that are usually devoted to more "serious" subjects. On the second day of creation was Christopher Morley. Having understood that the study of Father Knox was an ironic joke about literary studies (« The way to pretend to analyze fun subjects with the greatest seriousness is the best way to mock those who approach the most serious matters in a spirit too picky. This new foot nose in criticism was welcome... » [1]), and driven by his interest in Sherlock Holmes, he inaugurated the Great Game, the Sherlockiana.

This seed had germinated during his literary lunches gathering the literary and intellectual elite of New York, the Three-hour lunches of the literary. From there, the Sherlockiana flourished and became the pastime of thousands of people in the world today. From some playful sophisticated fun, it has become an intellectual group activity, unpretentious, where reign an atmosphere of camaraderie. Christopher Morley would probably not deny that evolution.




  1. The Standard Doyle Company: Christopher Morley on Sherlock Holmes, by Steven Rothman, 1990, Fordam University Press, p. 6-7