Want to understand Sherlock? - Try understanding his creator

It is common knowledge that Sherlock Holmes has lots more fans than the man who created him. The world contains a considerable number of Sherlockians (be they traditional Sherlockians or Sherlock Sherlockians) who know everything there is to know about Sherlock Holmes and next to nothing about his creator.

It is therefore rather amusing (and a tad depressing) when you hear Sherlockians pondering questions concerning the Great Detective. Why did Holmes refuse a knighthood?, why did he use the spy name Altamont? and so on….

Holmes aka Altamont overpowers Von Bork in His Last Bow
The work of most authors is, to a certain extent, biographical or auto-biographical. In other words their characters are almost always based, to some extent or other, on themselves or people they know. Sir Arthur’s youngest son – Adrian – suggested that Holmes’s personality was largely based on Conan Doyle and that, as we know, the method of deduction was based on a system he had seen demonstrated by his teacher Dr Joe Bell.

Holmes’s spy name of Altamont was drawn from the middle name of Conan Doyle’s father. Holmes’s refusal of a knighthood reflects Conan Doyle’s own frustration at having accepted one many years earlier largely due to the wishes of his family (he did not want to accept it).

The point I am trying to make is this. If you are a Sherlockian and you have a question about an aspect of Sherlock’s character or motivations, you would do well to start your search for an answer by looking at the life of his creator – the much overlooked Arthur Conan Doyle.

Arthur Conan Doyle in 1893 - the year of The Final Problem


  1. Been thinking for a long time now to start reading up on Dr Bell.
    Cool post Alistair!

    1. Then you should get hold of this book:

  2. Thanks Alistair. I had to think a bit about which story Holmes' refusal of a knighthood appeared in. It's good to have your memory (or lack of) jogged so that you go back and check the source.