It is hardly a revelation to state that Arthur Conan Doyle disliked Sherlock Holmes. To him Holmes was always a means to an end. Initially, in 1886*, he created Holmes simply to show that he could make a better job of a detective novel than those who had come before him. Following this, during his
South Norwood years (1891-1894), Holmes was the means by
which Conan Doyle established his credentials as an author and started to earn
the big money.
|Conan Doyle felt restricted by Holmes|
It was at this point that the resentment towards Holmes began as Conan Doyle found himself unable to write what he wanted to write because of the demand for Holmes adventures. It was a demand he initially found difficult to resist as he felt a typically Victorian patriarchal responsibility towards the fiscal health of his family. On the one hand Holmes was standing in the way of his development as an author. On the other Holmes promised financial stability for his young family. Thus when he first toyed with the idea of finishing Holmes he was successfully dissuaded by his mother. When he considered the idea again he went through with it.
Subsequently, in 1897, Holmes was resurrected in play form with the aim being to help cover some of the building and other costs associated with Undershaw, his home in Hindhead. Eventually, in his latter years, Conan Doyle used Holmes to effectively bankroll his travels in the cause of promoting spiritualism which was rather amusing given that Holmes would, with his logical outlook, have dismissed the subject entirely. Perhaps that was Conan Doyle reminding his creation who was boss.
|Arthur Conan Doyle - prisoner of Holmes?|
Is it right for us to be critical of Conan Doyle for using Holmes this way? The answer is probably no. Only someone in a similar position, such as Agatha Christie, knows what it is like when the public demands more of a character that you don’t like as much (in Christie’s case this was Poirot). In the end we got the extra stories that we craved. Is the reason for these stories being created something that we need to be concerned about or should be just be grateful that they were written?
*ACD wrote A Study in Scarlet in 1886 but it was not published until 1887.
For more information on Arthur Conan Doyle and his time at Undershaw please refer to my book, An Entirely New Country which is available through all good bookstores including Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Classic Specialities, and in all electronic formats including iTunes, Kobo, Nook and Kindle .
The Norwood Author is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Waterstones UK, Amazon UK, Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon Kindle, iBooks for the iPad/iPhone, Kobo Books, Nook.
Close to Holmes is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.