The Real Sherlock Holmes
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
The Real Sherlock Holmes is an article written anonymously by the Special Commissioner of The Scots Observer published on 28 october 1892.
The Real Sherlock Holmes
In view of the recent publication of some of Mr. Sherlock Holmes's more celebrated cases (writes our representative) I called upon that famous scientific detective for the purpose of elucidating if possible some of the more eventful and thrilling episodes in his adventures. I found the celebrated sleuthhound, whose fame is now European, seated before a comfortable fire in his cosily furnished rooms in Baker Street. His chin was sunk upon his chest, and his lynx eyes were fixed upon the ceiling with that hawklike expression which his portraits have rendered so familiar to us.
"Good evening," he said, without turning his head or altering his gaze, as I entered. "You could not have come at a better time. I was just off to bed. You wish to interview me," he added, as his eyes literally pierced me through and through. "You wear a high hat on Sundays, you are fond of cream tarts, Mr. William Watson is your favourite author and seventeen years and six months ago you had a cousin who died."
"Really, Mr. Holmes," I stammered in amazement. "It is quite true, though how on earth you know—"
"It is very simple," he said, smiling. "Moreover it saves me from ennui — it and cocaine. Life, my dear sir, (your name by the way begins with a D, as I see from your handkerchief) is only interesting because it is mysterious. What is ordinary is merely that which is not remarkable, and if you could open all the windows and sail over this vast city you would behold strange secrets. I do not seem to be able to persuade you of the importance of the improbable," he said reflectively.
"I have come, Mr. Holmes," I began hastily, knowing from Dr. Conan Doyle's account of him his weakness for this vein of reflection, and fearing to be taken beyond my depths; "I have come to ask you about the book—"
"You mean," he interrupted, "my treatise on the 742 ways of saying the word 'damn'."
"No, I refer to Dr. Doyle's collection of your adventures."
"I have heard of the man," said Mr. Holmes. "It is my business to know about all kinds of people. But I've never met him. If you will look in my Index, under the heading Plagiarists—"
"But," I objected, "Dr. Doyle is a novelist."
"True; but he is also a plagiarist — the very worst kind of plagiarist, seeing that he steals from life. Oddly enough, as there was no classical concert this evening, I was just dipping into the very book to which you refer."
He waved his hand towards the table, and leaned back in his chair with a little soft laugh. As he put his fingertips together and, closing his eyes, assumed a languid expression of weariness, I guessed what was coming, and so seized my opportunity and my notebook.
"It is perhaps," Mr. Holmes resumed, "just as well, my good man, that people will not stick to the truth; otherwise my occupation — and it is a pleasant way of passing the time — would be gone. This man (who is a stranger to me) has compiled a book purporting to be my adventures. It is, in fact, a garbled version of some very inferior incidents in my professional career: but where or how he got hold of them I cannot say, although my mind is already made up. You see, Watson could never keep his tongue quiet, and he was the densest man I ever saw, as you may have perceived. If a man wore a muddy coat he would wonder how I knew he had been splashed. And then Scotland Yard has always been jealous of me. They may have given me away. But in any case it is of no consequence. Dr. Doyle, by the way, I am in a position to state, has written eight other books; and this one appeared originally in the columns of a magazine, where it ran for twelve months. Am I not right?"
"Certainly, but how—"
"It is merely the faculty of observation," he replied. "By examining the book I find out all that. Obviously, too, he is a man of few scruples and no respect for the truth. He is an unfair man, striving, like all his class, to make 'copy' where he can. I have been grossly misrepresented by him. Do you think I really made that blunder in 'A Scandal in Bohemia'? Do you imagine I really had as little a finger in 'The Engineer's Thumb' and 'The Copper Beeches' as he makes out? And do you suppose I interfered as ineffectually in the 'Five Pips' as he represents?"
"What do you suppose was his object, Mr. Holmes?"
The famous detective looked me full in the face.
"Gain," said he, simply.
I started back in astonishment.
"Yes," he resumed; "it is all easy when you see the explanation. You see this book is large and expensively brought out; moreover it is issued by a publisher who caters for the million. Hence it is clear that a very large sale is anticipated. Why? Because the book is supposed to contain a popular element, and that popular element is myself. Now, it follows that Dr. Doyle must have heard of me, through Watson or the police; that he saw I should suit his game (which was money); and having invented spurious stories about me that he hit upon a publisher similarly unscrupulous. With my name, and a fairly accurate account of those interesting cases of mine, 'The Blue Carbuncle' and 'The Speckled Band,' he made a good start; and after that anything would sell, even stuff like 'The Engineer's Thumb' or 'The Noble Husband'. It is a case of moral degeneration."
"What else do you gather of Dr. Doyle?" I asked. Mr. Sherlock Holmes yawned.
"He is evidently a smoker; for your smoker always attributes the odious vice to his hero (I need hardly say I never touch tobacco). It is clear too he is not a teetotaler."
"One word more, and I have done. Should you say Dr. Doyle was young or old?"
Mr. Holmes got up and stretched himself. "I need only refer you to the colour of his book," he said. "Good night!"