Sherlock Holmes - Background to a Phenomenon (Header)
Previous Content Next

1. Introduction: Approaching Sherlock Holmes

Exploring the World of Sherlock Holmes (A.C. Doyle): historical traces and backgrounds, critical interpretations – and the lasting appeal of mysteries, flawlessly unrevelled by a charismatic genius. Outline and Introduction.

“It is wonderful!” [Watson] cried. “Your merits should be publicly recognised. You should publish an account of the case. If you won’t, I will for you.”(from: “A Study in Scarlet”, II/7)

To the present day, the genial qualities of Sherlock Holmes, the greatest (fictional) detective of all times, are still highly regarded, and all over the world thousands of fascinated readers even today share Dr. Watson’s deep admiration for his eccentric comrade, accepting the invitation to take him for the actual author of the texts.
Therefore, the fact that Holmes and Watson are both fictional characters of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did little to diminish the fame the detective actually got for his  “merits”: unlike the author’s, the detective’s name and appearance are common knowledge - he has come to symbolize intellectual superiority and the principles of rational thought. Discussing the topic with friends, I felt that it was hardly necessary to tell them anything about Holmes himself, but rather to remind them that I was dealing with stories not by but about the master-mind.
This baffling effect is due to the fact that in his 60 narratives (1) about Sherlock Holmes – jointly referred to as the Canon – Conan Doyle did far more than invent a complex and truly extraordinary character or introduce scientific elements into crime fiction: he created an entire world – the World of Sherlock Holmes.

In my paper, I am going to embark on an imaginary expedition into this mysterious realm, taking my own imagination and reading experience as a guide. First, I would like the introduce the readers to the world’s first and only consulting detective and his famous Method of Deduction, analysing its elements as well as its implications.
Next, I plan to step back from the texts themselves and cast an attentive glance upon some historical circumstances that are of major importance to the stories. After a brief outline of Conan Doyle’s time, which is also the époque of Holmes, I will focus on two aspects that are of particular interest in my opinion: the roles of men and women as they are presented in the Canon, and the concept of justice Holmes acts upon.
Finally, I would like to move to the frontier of the detective’s realm and look at our own non-fictional world from this unusual point of view. Drawing mainly on my personal experience, I am going to offer some arguments why we are so very eager to take Watson’s accounts for real. To put my argumentation on a solid basis, I will connect these theoretical reflections to a quick overview of the cult about Holmes in past and present.

My paper therefore resembles a tour through the virtual native country of Sherlock Holmes. Departing from its centre, we travel gradually backwards until we have gained a good impression of the landscape. Naturally, I can not provide a full interpretation of the stories or enlarge on individual details (2) – just like a guide, I have to select, in the hope that my audience will follow me.
Finally, I think there is only one thing left to be said:"Come, Watson, come! […] The game is afoot. […]".(3)

For a competent introduction to the texts turn to Chris Redmond’s sophisticated web-site: (since 1994). [Text]
Holmes’ nonchalant invitation in:"The Adventure of Abbey Grange". [Text]
Author's Logo · Author: Paul - Christoph Trüper, 2004  - 2006.
Project Information German Version Home