Should a Public Monument Be Erected to Sherlock Holmes?

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Should a Public Monument Be Erected to Sherlock Holmes? is a Sherlock Holmes pastiche published in Tit-Bits on 28 december 1901.


Tit-Bits (28 december 1901, p. 323)



To those millions of readers who have been with us, no to speak, in no many of our adventures, it will be readily conceived that this question is to me of profound interest. Ever since the tragic circumstances which at ono blow ended the career of my deeply lamented friend Holmes and robbed the world of its greatest genius in the detection of crime, I have felt assured that sooner or later I should be called upon to convey to a sympathetic public the message which he intrusted to me.

I dropped into his rooms at Balzer Street one evening in the month of August. The heat during the day had been up to 92deg. in the shade, and I was not surprised to find him lazily stretched cut on the sofa. It was the first time I had seen him after the Croydon Cardboard Box Case. He seamed particularly pleased to see me, and as the evening advanced sec talked upon all manner of subjects At one time it would be the structure of the teeth of Polar beam ; at another we would discourse on the discovery in Assyria of a tablet bearing an account of the conquest of Babylonia by the. Elamites. Finally we drifted to the discussion of monuments in general and public memorials in particular.

"You take it from me, Watson, that a public memorial is entirely a superfluity. Now take my own case. I have no doubt that when I am gone there will be some public regret expressed in the newspapers, after which the B.P. will, with the best intentions, want to associate my name with one of these lifeless things. If need be Watson, you tell them that I would have none of it."

"But surely," I broke in, "you would never suggest that the British public should deny them-selves the privilege of erecting a monument to commemorate your work, when such a consummation is often accorded to less and seldom to more worthy subjects?" In sincerity I would have substituted the word "never" for "seldom," but Holmes had no ear for flattery.

As was his wont when about to deliver himself of something which he particularly wished sic to remember, Holmes looked hard at me and brought the tips of his fingers together.

"Don't you make any mistake, Watson. When this project is mooted, if you are spared, simply tell them that from Holmes's own lips you knew that monuments were viewed by him with strong abhorrence, and with emphasis. Don't forget the adjective."

"And your reasons?" I ventured to ask, taken aback by the sudden change to energy which his tone and manner betrayed. I did not remember to have seen him speak with so much vigour and decision.

"A proper question — there should always be a reason for every statement. And yet you, Watson, have seen no much of my work that it must be clear to you that I need no greater memorial than the record I shall leave behind me."

He transferred his gaze to the ceiling, and with a half-dreamy air, as though living once more in the past, he continued:—

"There is scarcely a crowned head in Europe but has reason to thank me for unravelling some personal mystery that was eating away their life and happiness. My clients will- hand down my name as a 'blessed memory,' whilst criminals will utter it with bated breath. What better memorial than this? I doubt not that your own chronicles of my adventures will of themselves become historical."

"But what would Trafalgar Square be without its Nelson, or Princes Street, Edinburgh, without its Scott, not to mention——"

Holmes interrupted me with a, gesture of impatience. "There you've hit it, Watson. It is true Trafalgar Square would be robbed of an object of interest and that Princes Street would he deprived of the greatest literary monument in the world ; but do you think either Nelson or Scott would pass into oblivion if the monuments had never been?"

I was compelled to admit that they would not Holmes proceeded:—

"Monuments don't always signify merit, my dear fellow. Almost any mediocrity of municipal life, particularly if he is blessed with a fair share of this world's goods, can command his monument. The work of real men of genius is oftener left to stand unaided the test of posterity. I much prefer to abide by that test."

I was wondering at what point to renew the assault, when there came a loud knock at the hall door. Whilst the boy in buttons was answering the call Holmes, remarked: "If I mistake not, this knock comes from a gentleman interested in the Manchester Ruby Case."

These were the only words that ever passed between us on the subject, but Holmes was emphatic enough, and whatever my personal wishes may have been, I cannot do less than make known his views. There are times even yet when I feel that in this Holmes erred. It may have been due to that sense of modesty which was inseparable from him.