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 corner 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 so unkindly. As a matter of cold fact, Holmes made his debut 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-nine years ago, they have been produced in a broken series which now contains no fewer than fifty-six stories, republished in The Adventures, The Memoirs, The Return, and His Last Bow. and there remain these twelve published during the last few years which are here produced 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.
And so, reader, farewell to Sherlock Holmes! I thank you for your past 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.
When first published in the Strand Edition in 1894, the Memoirs contained one additional story viz. The Cardboard Box. The London edition however did not contain this story.
It is believed that the story was removed on request by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as it included adultery and was considered unsuitable for young readers. The US edition went on to publish a revised edition soon after this which excluded The Cardboard Box.
However, the same was republished when it was added to His Last Bow.
They were originally published in the Strand Magazine from July 1891 to June 1892. The book was published on October 14, 1892 by George Newnes Ltd and on October 15 in a U.S. edition by Harper. The initial combined print run was 14,500 copies.
The Return of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of 13 Sherlock Holmes short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, published in 1903-1904.
This is also the first collection after Sherlock Holmes death in The Final Problem. Faced by public demand, Doyle revived his favorite detective. The very first story in this collection explains his return.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is the creator Sherlock Holmes, the best-known detective in literature and the embodiment of scientific thinking. Doyle himself was not a good example of rational personality: he believed in fairies and was interested in occultism. Sherlock Holmes stories have been translated into more than fifty languages, and made into plays, films, radio and television series, a musical comedy, a ballet, cartoons, comic books, and advertisement. By 1920 Doyle was one of the most highly paid writers in the world.
Doyle was born on May 22, 1859 at Picardy Place, Edinburgh, as the son of Charles Altamont Doyle, a civil servant in the Edinburgh Office of Works, and Mary (Foley) Doyle. Both of Doyle’s parents were Roman Catholics. His father suffered from epilepsy and alcoholism and was eventually institutionalized. Charles Altamont died in an asylum in 1893. In the same year Doyle decided to finish permanently the adventures of his master detective. Because of financial problems, Doyle’s mother kept a boarding house. Dr. Tsukasa Kobayashi has suspected in an article, that Doyle’s mother had a long affair with Bryan Charles Waller, a lodger and a student of pathology, who had a deep impact to Conan Doyle.
Doyle was educated in Jesuit schools. He studied at Edinburgh University and in 1884 he married Louise Hawkins. Doyle qualified as doctor in 1885. After graduation Doyle practiced medicine as an eye specialist at Southsea near Porsmouth in Hampshire until 1891 when he became a full time writer.
First story about Holmes, A STUDY IN SCARLET, was published in 1887 in ‘Beeton Christmas Annual.’. The novel was written in three weeks in 1886. It introduced the detective and his associate and friend, Dr. Watson, and made famous Holmes’s address at Mrs. Hudson’s house, 221B Baker Street, London. Their major opponent was the malevolent Moriarty, the classic evil genius who was a kind of doppelgänger of Holmes. Also the beautiful opera singer Irene Adler caused much trouble to Holmes.
The second Sherlock Holmes story, THE SIGN OF FOUR, was written for the Lippincott’s Magazine in 1890. The story collects a colorful group of people together, among them Jonathan Small who has a wooden leg and a dwarf from Tonga islands. In the Strand Magazine started to appear ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.’
In 1893 Doyle was so wearied of his famous detective that he devised his death in the Final Problem (published in the Strand). In the story Holmes meets Moriarty at the fall of the Reichenbach in Switzerland and disappears. Watson finds a letter from Homes, stating “I have already explained to you, however, that my career had in any case reached its crisis, and that no possible conclusion to it could be more congenial to me than this.”
In THE HOUND OF BASKERVILLES (1902) Doyle narrated an early case of the dead detective. The murder weapon in the story is an animal.
He was knighted (“Sir Arthur”) in 1902 for his work in Boer War propaganda (particularly the pamphlet The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct) — and, some said, because of the publication of THE HOUND OF BASKERVILLES.
Owing to public demand Doyle resurrected his popular hero in The Empty House (1903).
“I moved my head to look at the cabinet behind me. When I turned again Sherlock Holmes was standing smiling at me across my study table. I rose to my feet, stared at him for some seconds in utter amazement, and then it appears that I must have fainted for the first and last time in my life.”
During the South African war (1899-1902) Doyle served for a few months as senior physician at a field hospital, and wrote THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA, in which he took the imperialistic view. In 1900 and 1906 he ran unsuccessfully for Parliament. Doyle was knighted in 1902. Fourteen months after his wife died, Conan Doyle married in 1907 his second wife, Jean Leckie. He dedicated himself in spiritualistic studies after the death of his son Kingsley from wounds incurred in World War I. An example of these is THE COMING OF FAIRIES, in which he supported the existence of “little people” and spent more than a million dollars on their cause. He also became president of several important spiritualist organizations.
Conan Doyle’s other publications include plays, verse, memoirs, short stories, and several historical novels and supernatural and speculative fiction. His stories of Professor George Edward Challenger in THE LOST WORLD and other adventures blended science fact with fantastic romance, and were very popular. The model for the professor was William Rutherford, Doyle’s teacher from Edinburgh. Doyle’s practice, and other experiences, seven months in the Arctic as ship’s doctor on a whaler, and three on a steamer bound to the West Coast of Africa, provided material for his writings.
Doyle died on July 7, 1930 from heart disease at his home, Windlesham, Sussex.
“My contention is that Sherlock Holmes is literature on a humble but not ignoble level, whereas the mystery writers most in vogue now are not. The old stories are literature, not because of the conjuring tricks and the puzzles, not because of the lively melodrama, which they have in common with many other detective stories, but the virtue of imagination and style. They are fairy-tales, as Conan Doyle intimated in his preface to his last collection, and they are among the most amusing of fairy-tales and not among the least distinguished.”
—(Edmund Wilson in Classics and Commercials, 1950)