Try as he might, Conan Doyle couldn’t bring himself to kill off Sherlock Holmes…even with the help of Moriarty
By Roger Lewis
Last updated at 7:58 AM on 18th November 2011
Stories for which the world was not yet prepared: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Should you chance to find in the back of a cupboard a dusty copy of Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887, it will be worth approximately $250,000 at auction. For it was in this periodical – of which only 11 are known to survive – that the very first Sherlock Holmes story appeared.
The hallmarks were an instant hit – footsteps emerging from a wall of fog, Baker Street’s gaslight and hansom cabs; what Michael Dirda, in this nutritious little book, calls ‘the celebration of plot and atmosphere, adventure and romance.’
Eventually there were to be 56 short stories and four novels. Dirda read them avidly as a youngster and he still reads them now, Doyle’s works setting off for him ‘little bursts of what I must call verbal happiness, and an almost childlike joy’.
He is far from being alone. T.S. Eliot revered the Holmes and Watson tales and a whole section from the Musgrave Ritual is reproduced (plagiarised) in his play Murder in the Cathedral. P.G. Wodehouse said: ‘When I was starting out as a writer, Conan Doyle was my hero.’ Agatha Christie was pleased to announce that: ‘It is the author, Arthur Conan Doyle, that I salute.’ John le Carr