I Say, Jeeves, You're Just a Bally Sherlock Holmes Rip-Off; from Wodehouse to T.S. Eliot, Why Everyone's a Fan of Conan Doyle ... except Women, of Course

Daily Mail (London), November 18, 2011 | Go to article overview

I Say, Jeeves, You're Just a Bally Sherlock Holmes Rip-Off; from Wodehouse to T.S. Eliot, Why Everyone's a Fan of Conan Doyle ... except Women, of Course


Byline: MICHAEL DIRDA

SHOULD you chance to find in the back of a cupboard a dusty copy of Beeton's Christmas Annual of 1887, it will be worth approximately $250,000 at auction. For it was in this periodical -- of which only 11 are known to survive -- that the very first Sherlock Holmes story appeared.

The hallmarks were an instant hit -- footsteps emerging from a wall of fog, Baker Street's gaslight and hansom cabs; what Michael Dirda, in this nutritious little book, calls 'the celebration of plot and atmosphere, adventure and romance.' Eventually there were to be 56 short stories and four novels. Dirda read them avidly as a youngster and he still reads them now, Doyle's works setting off for him 'little bursts of what I must call verbal happiness, and an almost childlike joy'.

He is far from being alone. T.S. Eliot revered the Holmes and Watson tales and a whole section from The Musgrave Ritual is reproduced (plagiarised) in his play Murder In The Cathedral. P.G. Wodehouse said: 'When I was starting out as a writer, Conan Doyle was my hero.' Agatha Christie was pleased to announce that: 'It is the author, Arthur Conan Doyle, that I salute.' John le Carre has called the canon 'narrative perfection'.

Well, Bertie Wooster and Jeeves are a parody version of Holmes and Watson, I can see that, and Christie's Poirot is a Belgian Sherlock, reliant upon his 'little grey cells'. George Smiley, rotund and canny, is perhaps the Baker Street wizard and his dependable sidekick rolled into one.

As for Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle (1859-1930) himself, he was born and raised in Edinburgh, where he also trained to be a doctor. He was knighted, indeed, not for inventing Sherlock Holmes, but for his services in a field hospital during the Boer War.

HE LIVED a bluff, hearty life -- far more Watsonian than Sherlockian.

Doyle as a young man worked on an Arctic whaling ship. He enjoyed hiking, bicycling, golfing, shooting, billiards and boxing. He skied and was 'one of the first to bring the Scandinavian sport to Switzerland'.

According to Dirda, Doyle 'lent his name and pen to causes in which he believed: divorce law reform, the plight of the abused Africans in the Congo, miscarriages of criminal justice, and Spiritualism'. This last might seem a peculiar lapse, but during World War I, with millions of parents grieving for lost sons, it appeared a sort of solace.

But anyway, isn't that what Holmes always does -- see things that no one else can see? Deduce presence from absence? His skills seem supernatural, as he reads clues in pipes, hats, walking sticks, cigarette cases, bootlaces, and polished coffee pots. His very first words to Watson set the scene: 'You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive?' In The Norwood Builder he disconcerts the villain by saying: 'Beyond the obvious facts that you are a bachelor, a solicitor, a Freemason and an asthmatic, I know nothing whatever about you.' Doyle got fed up with Holmes, however, and in 1893 tried to kill him off by sending him over the Reichenbach Falls. Grappling together, Holmes and his nemesis Professor Moriarty plummet into 'the swirling waters'. Nevertheless, by 1902, and owing to popular demand, Holmes bounced back in The Hound Of The Baskervilles (though this was set at a time before the Reichenbach incident, with The Adventure Of The Empty House, the next short story, explaining Holmes's supposed 'death' -- he had been lying low in Tibet and 'undertaking arcane chemical research in Europe').

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

I Say, Jeeves, You're Just a Bally Sherlock Holmes Rip-Off; from Wodehouse to T.S. Eliot, Why Everyone's a Fan of Conan Doyle ... except Women, of Course
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.