Why is Sherlock Holmes English?

I think it is generally accepted that Sherlock Holmes is English with some French ancestry. In The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter we learn that….

"My ancestors were country squires, who appear to have led much the same life as is natural to their class. But, none the less, my turn that way is in my veins, and may have come with my grandmother, who was the sister of Vernet, the French artist. Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms.

It was, I think (off the top of my head), W.S. Baring-Gould who first suggested that the Holmes side came from Yorkshire.

The question that has always bugged me is why Arthur Conan Doyle, as a Scot, made his detective a part-French Englishman? Also, when it came to the French ancestry, why did he link his detective to a real person when he could have invented some fictional or vague ancestry as he did for the British side?

Given the missions he undertook for the British government in an age pre-European Union where there was a lot of inter-European mistrust (much the same as now in fact) it was, I suppose, necessary that Sherlock Holmes be British but why not a Brit from Scotland as Conan Doyle was himself?

I’ve always subscribed to the idea that it was a commercial decision. Then, as now, the majority of the native UK population was English. If the perception at the time was that readers would most identify with a character of their own nationality/background someone commercially savvy would make their hero the same nationality as the majority of the domestic readership.

An alternative theory could be that Conan Doyle was simply continuing the process, started by the Doyle generation before, of integrating the family into English society. Conan Doyle’s father Charles was only in Scotland because he had been effectively exiled there by the rest of the family to prevent him being an embarrassment while they were attempting to get established. Conan Doyle was probably all too aware of this. It is clear that he wanted to fulfill the patriarchal duties of the family in his father’s effective absence. Did he see the establishment of his family in English society as one of those duties?

Food for thought.

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 USABarnes and NobleAmazon UKWaterstones UKAmazon KindleKoboNook  and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.

Eliminate the Impossible 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.

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