From Kyle Freeman's Introduction toThe Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume I Arthur Conan Doyle began writingA Study in Scarletin 1886 while waiting for patients in his newly furnished doctor's office in Southsea, Portsmouth. He sent it to what seemed like every publisher in England before it was finally accepted by a small firm called Ward, Lock & Co. He was paid a one-time sum of 25, relinquishing all other rights to the publisher. The company thought it would be most effective in one of its big holiday issues,Beeton's Christmas Annual, so Conan Doyle had to wait nearly a year before seeing it in print in December 1887. Thus after this long and uncertain gestation the world finally saw the birth of the resplendent career of the character who would become the greatest literary detective, Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle got the idea for a detective story from the acknowledged creators of the genre. Edgar Allan Poe had written three short stories featuring Parisian sleuth C. Auguste Dupin: "Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Mystery of Marie Roget," and "The Purloined Letter." Conan Doyle lifted so much detail from Poe that he seemed a plagiarist to some. He took several key components from Dupin. Holmes, like Dupin, is a prodigious pipe smoker. He also places ads in the newspaper to lure the perpetrator of the crime to his apartment. He goes to the scene of the crime to find clues the police had overlooked. Yet another component borrowed from Dupin was his trick of breaking in on his companion's thought process by guessing the links in his train of thought. Ironically, Holmes complains in this first story that this habit of Dupin annoys him, but apparently not as much as he claims, as he adopts it himself in two later stories. Most important, like Poe, Conan Doyle decided to give his detective a companion to narrate the case. Such a narrator provides several advantages. He can frame the story more dramatically than the detective could because the companion is in the dark about the outcome. He therefore can sustain suspense and share his surprise with us when the mystery is solved. The narrator also has the freedom to glorify his friend, something the detective as narrator couldn't do for himself without suffering the inevitable backlash from readers who don't usually take kindly to braggarts. Conan Doyle also borrowed from the work of Emile Gaboriau, a Frenchman who wrote the first police novels. His Inspector Lecoq uses scientific methods to build a solid case against the criminal piece by piece. Holmes's scientific method owes the most to this source. Gaboriau also divides his novels into two equal parts, with flashbacks to prior action, a device Conan Doyle copied in the first two Holmes novels. Conan Doyle based Holmes's deductive process--lightning quick and seemingly intuitive, though informed by careful observation of detail and mountains of precise knowledge--on Conan Doyle's teacher at the medical school at Edinburgh, Dr. Joseph Bell. Once embarked on the process of stirring all these ingredients together, Conan Doyle had to choose a name for his detective. The first he chose was J. Sherrinford Holmes, then Sherrington Hope, and finally the one we know today. We don't know where he got the name Sherlock, but we can be sure that the last name was a tribute to Oliver Wendell Holmes, the American physician and author, father of the great U.S. Supreme Court justice of the same name. Conan Doyle had read and greatly admired his work, saying of him, "Never have I so known and loved a man whom I had never seen." On his first trip to America Conan Doyle made a reverDoyle, Arthur Conan is the author of 'Complete Sherlock Holmes, Vol. I', published 2003 under ISBN 9781593080341 and ISBN 1593080344.[read more]
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