Mr. Sherlock Holmes to his Readers
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
A Sherlock Holmes Competition: Mr. Sherlock Holmes to his Readers is an article written by Arthur Conan Doyle published in The Strand Magazine in march 1927. Illustrated with 44 illustrations from Sidney Paget.
The Prize competition results were published in the june 1927 issue of The Strand Magazine : The Sherlock Holmes Prize Competition: How I Made My List.
A Sherlock Holmes Competition
£100 Cash Prize and 100 Autographed Copies of "Memories and Adventures"
In the following article Sir A. Conan Doyle makes the interesting announcement that from the forty-four Sherlock Holmes stories already published in book form in four volumes he has selected the twelve stories which he considers the best, and he now invites readers to do likewise. A sealed copy of this list is in the Editor's possession, and a prize of £100 and an autographed copy of Sir A. Conan Doyle's "Memories and Adventures" is offered to the sender of the coupon which coincides most nearly with this list. In the event of ties the prize of £100 will be divided. The actual order of the stories will not be regarded. Autographed topics of "Memories and Adventures" will also be awarded to 100 readers submitting the next nearly correct coupons.
An illustration from each of the stories is here given. Each illustration being numbered, competitors need only state on the coupon (which will be found on page 68 of the advertisement section) the numbers of the stories selected.
The four volumes of stories, "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes," "The Return of Sherlock Holmes," and "His Last Bow," are published by Messrs. John Murray in two-shilling editions and may be obtained from all booksellers.
Mr. Sherlock Holmes to his Readers
By A. CONAN DOYLE
I fear that Mr. Sherlock Holmes may become like one of those popular tenors who, having outlived their time, are still tempted to make repeated farewell bows to their indulgent audiences. This must cease and he must go the way of all flesh, material or imaginary. One likes to think that there is some fantastic limbo for the children of imagination, some strange, impossible place where the beaux of Fielding may still make love to the belles of Richardson, where Scott's heroes still may strut, Dickens's delightful Cockneys still raise a laugh, and Thackeray's worldlings continue to carry on their reprehensible careers. Perhaps in some humble comer of such a Valhalla, Sherlock and his Watson may for a time find a place, while some more astute sleuth with some even less astute comrade may fill the stage which they have vacated.
His career has been a long one — though it is possible to exaggerate it.
Decrepit gentlemen who approach me and declare that his adventures formed the reading of their boyhood do not meet the response from me which they seem to expect. One is not anxious to have one's personal dates handled to unkindly. As a matter of cold fact, Holmes made his début in "A Study in Scarlet" and in "The Sign of Four," two small booklets which appeared between 1887 and 1889. It was in 1891 that "A Scandal in Bohemia," the first of the long series of short stories, appeared in THE STRAND MAGAZINE. The public seemed appreciative and desirous of more, so that from that date, thirty-six years ago. they have been produced in a broken series which now contains no fewer than fifty-six stories, including "The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place," to appear in next month's STRAND MAGAZINE. These have been re-published in "The Adventures," "The Memoirs," "The Return," and "His Last Bow," and there remain twelve published during the last few years which Sir John Murray is about to produce under the title of "The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes." He began his adventures in the very heart of the later Victorian Era, carried it through the all-too-short reign of Edward, and has managed to hold his own little niche even in these feverish days. Thus it would be true to say that those who first read of him as young men have lived to see their own grown-up children following the same adventures in the same magazine. It is a striking example of the patience and loyalty of the British public.
I had fully determined at the conclusion of "The Memoirs" to bring Holmes to an end, as I felt that my literary energies should not be directed too much into one channel. That pale, clear-cut face and loose-limbed figure were taking up an undue share of my imagination. I did the deed, but, fortunately, no coroner had pronounced upon the remains, and so, after a long interval, it was not difficult for me to respond to the flattering demand and to explain my rash act away. I have never regretted it, for I have not in actual practice found that these lighter sketches have prevented me from exploring and finding my limitations in such varied branches of literature as history, poetry, historical novels, psychic research, and the drama. Had Holmes never existed I could not have done more, though he may perhaps have stood a little in the way of the recognition of my more serious literary work.
There has been some debate as to whether the Adventures of Holmes, or the narrative powers of Watson, declined with the passage of the years. When the same string still harped upon, however cunningly one may vary the melody, there is still the danger of monotony. The mind of the reader is less fresh and responsive, which may unjustly prejudice him against the writer. To compare great things to small, Scott in his autobiographical not, has remarked that each of Voltaire's later pamphlets was declared to be a declension from the last one, and yet when the collected works were assembled they were found to be among the most brilliant. Scott also was depreciated by critics for some of his most solid work. Therefore, with such illustrious examples before one, let me preserve the hope that he who in days to come may read my series backwards will not find that his impressions are very different from those of his neighbour who reads them forwards.
It is as a little test of the opinion of the public that I inaugurate the small competition announced on page 281. I have drawn up a list of the twelve short stories contained in the four published volumes which I consider to be the best, and I should like to know to what extent my choice agrees with that of STRAND readers. I have left my list in a sealed envelope with the Editor of THE STRAND MAGAZINE.
And so, reader, farewell to Sherlock Holmes! I thank you for your constancy, and can but hope that some return has been made in the shape of that distraction from the worries of life and stimulating change of thought which can only be found in the fairy kingdom of romance.
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.