Sherlock Holmes (article february 1911)
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Sherlock Holmes is an article published in The Bookman (US version) in february 1911.
We wonder how many of our readers have paused to think that despite certain undeniable literary short-comings, the present age Holmes has produced the most widely known character in all fiction. It is now a little over twenty years since the name of Sherlock Holmes was first introduced through the medium of The Study in Scarlet, and to-day it is a byword to millions who have never read any of Conan Doyle's books and who have not the slightest interest in the science of deduction. Robinson Crusoe, Sam Weller, Mr. Pickwick, Uncle Tom, the Count of Monte Cristo, the Swiss Family Robinson, Don Quixote, Aladdin of the Wonderful Lamp, Ali Baba, Old Mother Hubbard — all these are strangers compared to the English detective. This is not an expression of opinion, but a statement of fact. If you doubt it, try an experiment, as we have done, with half a dozen urchins in the street, and see if you can find one to whom the name of Sherlock Holmes does not bring an expression of instant recognition. There is a minstrel song about a "darkey" who determined to name his first-born child after his favourite characters, and selected:
- George Washington, Christopher Columbus, Roosevelt, Douglas, Lee,
- Jack Johnson, Joe Gans, Dixon, ring in Booker T.,
- Admiral Dewey, Thomas Jefferson, McKinley, Sherlock Holmes,
- Hezekiah, Obadiah, Abraham Lincoln Jones.
It is hardly worth while to mention that the mother has something to say in the matter and that the child in question becomes plain Arabella Jones, or to call attention to the metrical shortcomings of the song. The significance lies in the fact that the name of Sherlock Holmes was one of those which most naturally suggested themselves to the rhymster.
We are bound to say that most of the Sherlock Holmes revivals of recent years have rather disappointed and bored us, as they have usually represented very inferior work on the part of Conan Doyle, and a great deal of talk about the fabulous sums of money he was being paid for doing it. The present revival, however, is considerably better. First there is Mr. Gillette's revival of the old play, and there is the new play built upon "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," which is interesting despite the comment that the snake in the last act suggests nothing snore terrible than a large and unwieldy sausage. Then there is the two-part story which is appearing serially in the Strand, and of which the first instalment is certainly very good. In fact it is so good that we are quite prepared for a very decided disappointment when it comes to a solution of the mystery.