Ever since I was six and saw a poster of a turtle dressed up as Sherlock Holmes, I’ve been a fan of mysteries, despite being totally afraid of them because of the…well…mysteriousness. While I can’t admit I’ve read all there is to read of the famous detective, I have read a bit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most popular character. Continuing on my BBC/Steven Moffat kick, I recently watched Sherlock, a BBC TV series (there were three episodes in 2010, with another three to come in 2012).
The program is an updated version of the Sherlock Holmes most of us know, and I got really into all the details that they translated from then to now — Holmes wears nicotine patches (instead of smoking a pipe), and Watson is an army doctor who served in the War in Afghanistan; Holmes uses a smaller magnifying glass that he can carry around more easily, and Watson has a psychosomatic limp despite being shot in the shoulder in Afghanistan (Watson’s injury was said in an earlier story to have been in his shoulder, and then in later stories, his leg).
But of course, that wasn’t enough for the dork in me. Watching Sherlock made me wonder: What about Sherlock Holmes have I forgotten, or perhaps never known?
5. Sherlock Holmes has a Stradivarius violin.
If you recognize the name Stradivarius but aren’t into violins, it’s probably because you know that these things sell for millions of dollars. Joshua Bell, the violinist who did that cool Washington Post experiment in a subway station, has a 300-year-old one. According to the Chambers Dictionary of Literary Characters (2004), Holmes had a Stradivarius, too.
4. Sherlock Holmes does coke.
This was one of those facts that initially surprised me, and then didn’t. He’s a pretty all-over-the-place kind of guy, and we know he loves his tobacco, but for someone who just never stops, tobacco probably doesn’t cut it all the time. That said, the Chambers Dictionary of Literary Characters (2004) also tells us that he enjoyed a 7% solution of cocaine.
3. Sherlock Holmes is based off of an Edgar Allan Poe character and one of Doyle’s professors.
Poe’s Inspector Dupin inspired many literary detectives, among them Sherlock Holmes. But many of the details, including his quirks and use of the scientific method, were based off of Dr. Joseph Bell (not to be confused with Stradivarius-playing Joshua Bell), one of Doyle’s professors at the University of Edinburgh (The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English, 2000).
2. Sherlock Holmes is a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry. In real life.
In 2002, he became the first character to receive an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Society of Chemistry (Chambers Dictionary of Literary Characters, 2004). I hate it when fictional characters get inducted into Royal Societies before I do.
1. Sherlock Holmes died.
Those of you who have read the first installment of The List are already somewhat familiar with the story: Doyle basically felt trapped by Holmes. He wanted to write about subjects that weren’t Sherlock Holmes, but he knew the public wouldn’t have it (The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English, 2000). Finally, being fed up with his creation, he killed him off in “The Final Problem.”
Oh, and then he brought him back. Doyle was right — The public wouldn’t have a dead Sherlock Holmes.