IN the annals of publishing there are many instances of the difficult and protracted birth-pangs of what was destined to be a supremely successful book. One such example is A Study in Scarlet, the first recorded story of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
In the spring of 1886 Arthur Conan Doyle was a doctor in general practice at Southsea. But his ambitions were literary: he was already a contributor to the Cornhill and he had completed the draft of his first novel. He had also read Poe and Wilkie Collins and Gaboriau and his mind turned to the science, as well as to the literature, of detection. Literary influences apart, he remembered with peculiar vividness the methods of Joseph Bell, surgeon at the Edinburgh Infirmary, who had enlivened his instruction by encouraging his students to recognize a patient as a lefthanded cobbler, or as a retired sergeant of a Highland regiment who had served in Barbados, by the simple processes of accurate observation and rational deduction. Into Conan Doyle's mind came the notion of a detective of highly scientific quality confronted by a murderer masquerading as a cabman, and out of this notion A Study in Scarlet was developed. After some experiment, the detective was named Sherlock Holmes and, with a novelist's instinct, Conan Doyle realized that his hero must have a foil and his story a narrator. Hence came the presentation of A Study in Scarlet as 'a reprint from the reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D., late of the Army Medical Department' and the opening pages of the story are in fact devoted to