Fallen Holmes & black armbands

I noted with some interest a letter (written by Peter Calamai) in the back of the current Baker Street Journal in regards to the notion that members of the public wore black armbands in their mourning for Sherlock Holmes in 1893.

As the letter states, this tale is often told and the scale of this sartorial fad varies from account to account. However, as pointed out in said letter, there isn't any contemporary evidence for the armband story and you can be relatively assured that had it occurred on any scale – no matter how modest - it would have made the press in the UK and beyond.

In fact, in many areas of the press, there was very little reaction and some UK regional newspapers even seemed rather relieved. One newspaper suggested that its readers would have “mixed feelings” about the end of Holmes. It is quite a leap from "mixed feelings" to scores of black armbands and stories of old ladies hitting Conan Doyle with their umbrellas.

It is fair to say that the public reaction to Holmes’s return was much more pronounced than that to his Swiss plunge.

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.


  1. Another part of the "lore" of Sherlock Holmes when the facts are much more interesting. Given your knowledge of Doyle's life, do you have any insights on how the black armband myth came about? What is the earliest reference of it that you have encountered? I have not (yet) read Doyle's "Memories and Adventures"; is it mentioned there? Sorry, I don't mean to ask for in depth research, just off-the-top-of-your-head knowledge.

  2. I’ve not found any reference before the Carr biography. As is suggested in the journal letter, the armband story was probably a creation of Adrian Conan Doyle.

    Arthur, as you can imagine, talks as little about Holmes as possible in his autobiography and I have no recollection of the armband story there either. Some mention was made of a letter being sent to him referring to him as “a brute” in the aftermath of The Final Problem’s publication but I cannot remember where that first appears without digging through my library.


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