The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Front cover of the first edition
|Author||Arthur Conan Doyle|
|Genre||Detective fiction short stories|
|14 October 1892|
|Preceded by||The Sign of the Four|
|Followed by||The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes|
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of twelve short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, first published on 14 October 1892. It contains the earliest short stories featuring the consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, which had been published in twelve monthly issues of The Strand Magazine from July 1891 to June 1892. The stories are collected in the same sequence, which is not supported by any fictional chronology. The only characters common to all twelve are Holmes and Dr. Watson and all are related in first-person narrative from Watson's point of view.
In general the stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes identify, and try to correct, social injustices. Holmes is portrayed as offering a new, fairer sense of justice. The stories were well received, and boosted the subscriptions figures of The Strand Magazine, prompting Doyle to be able to demand more money for his next set of stories. The first story, "A Scandal in Bohemia", includes the character of Irene Adler, who, despite being featured only within this one story by Doyle, is a prominent character in modern Sherlock Holmes adaptations, generally as a love interest for Holmes. Doyle included four of the twelve stories from this collection in his twelve favourite Sherlock Holmes stories, picking "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" as his overall favourite.
Arthur Conan Doyle began writing while studying medicine at university in the late 1870s, and had his first short story, "The Mystery of Sasassa Valley", published in September 1879. Eight years later his first Sherlock Holmes story, the novel A Study in Scarlet, was published by Ward Lock & Co. It was well received, but Doyle was paid little for it; after a sequel novel, The Sign of the Four, was published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, he shifted his focus to short stories. Soon after The Strand Magazine was inaugurated in January 1891, its editor Herbert Greenhough Smith received two submissions to the new monthly from Doyle. Later he described his reaction: "I at once realised that here was the greatest short story writer since Edgar Allan Poe." The first of them, "A Scandal in Bohemia", was published near the back of the July issue with ten illustrations by Sidney Paget. The stories proved popular, helping to boost the circulation of the magazine, and Doyle was paid 30 guineas each for the initial run of twelve. These first twelve stories were published monthly from July 1891 until June 1892, and then were collected together and published as a book, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes on 14 October 1892 by George Newnes, the publisher of The Strand Magazine. The initial print run of the book was for 10,000 copies in the United Kingdom, and a further 4,500 copies in the United States, which were published by Harper Brothers the following day.
Sidney Paget illustrated all twelve stories in The Strand and in the collection. The preceding Holmes novels had been illustrated by other artists.
All of the stories within The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes are told in a first-person narrative from the point of view of Dr. Watson, as is the case for all but four of the Sherlock Holmes stories. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry for Doyle suggests that the short stories contained in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes tend to point out social injustices, such as "a king's betrayal of an opera singer, a stepfather's deception of his ward as a fictitious lover, an aristocratic crook's exploitation of a failing pawnbroker, a beggar's extensive estate in Kent." It suggests that, in contrast, Holmes is portrayed as offering a fresh and fair approach in an unjust world of "official incompetence and aristocratic privilege". The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes contains many of Doyle's favourite Sherlock Holmes stories. In 1927, he submitted a list of what he believed were his twelve best Sherlock Holmes stories to The Strand Magazine. Among those he listed were "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" (as his favourite), "The Red-Headed League" (second), "A Scandal in Bohemia" (fifth) and "The Five Orange Pips" (seventh). The book was banned in the Soviet Union in 1929 because of its alleged "occultism", but the book gained popularity in a black market of similarly banned books, and the restriction was lifted in 1940.
|"A Scandal in Bohemia"||July 1891||The King of Bohemia engages Holmes to recover an indiscreet photograph showing him with the renowned beauty, adventuress and opera singer Irene Adler—the revelation of which would derail his marriage to a daughter of the King of Scandinavia. In disguise, Holmes witnesses Adler marry the man she truly loves, then by means of an elaborate stratagem discovers the photograph's hiding place. But when Holmes and the king return to retrieve the photo, they find Adler has fled the country with it, leaving behind a letter for Holmes and a portrait of herself for the King. The king allows Holmes to retain the portrait as a souvenir.|||
|"The Red-Headed League"||August 1891||Jabez Wilson, a pawnbroker, consults Holmes about a job, gained only because of his red hair, which took him away from his shop for long periods each day; the job for to simply copy the Encyclopædia Britannica. After eight weeks, he was suddenly informed that the job ended. After some investigation at Wilson's shop, Holmes contacts a police inspector and the manager of a nearby bank. With Watson, they hide in the bank vault and catch two thieves who had dug a tunnel from the shop while Wilson was at the decoy copying job.|||
|"A Case of Identity"||September 1891||Against the wishes of her stepfather, Mary Sutherland has become engaged to Hosmer Angel. On the morning of their wedding Hosmer elicits a promise that Mary will remain faithful to him "even if something quite unforeseen" occurs, then mysteriously disappears en route to the church. Holmes deduces that Hosmer was Mary's stepfather in disguise, the charade a bid to keep Mary a spinster and thus maintain access to her inheritance. Holmes does not reveal the truth to Mary because "There is danger for him who taketh the tiger cub, and danger also for whoso snatches a delusion from a woman"; he had already advised her to put the matter behind her, though she responded that Hosmer "shall find me ready when he comes back."|||
|"The Boscombe Valley Mystery"||October 1891||Inspector Lestrade asks for Holmes's help after Charles McCarthy is murdered, and his son, James, is implicated. McCarthy, and another local landowner, John Turner, are both Australian expatriates, and Lestrade was originally engaged by Turner's daughter, Alice, who believes James is innocent. Holmes interviews James, and then inspects the scene of the murder, deducing a third man was present. Realising Holmes has solved the case, Turner confesses to the crime, revealing that McCarthy was blackmailing him due to Turner's criminal past. Holmes does not reveal the crime, but secures James's release because of the presence of a third person at the crime scene.|||
|"The Five Orange Pips"||November 1891||John Openshaw tells Holmes that in 1883 his uncle died two months after receiving a letter inscribed "K.K.K." with five orange pips enclosed, and that in 1885 his father died soon after receiving a similar letter; now Openshaw himself has received such a letter. Holmes tells him to do as the letter asks and leave a diary page, which Holmes deduces is connected to the Ku Klux Klan, on the garden sundial. Openshaw is killed before he can do so, but Holmes discovers the killers have been travelling on a sailing ship, and sends the captain a letter with five orange pips. The ship is lost at sea.|||
|"The Man with the Twisted Lip"||December 1891||Neville St. Clair, a respectable businessman, has disappeared and his wife claims she saw him at the upper window of an opium den. Rushing upstairs to the room she found only a beggar who denied any knowledge of St. Clair – whose clothes are later found in the room, and his coat, laden with coins, in the River Thames outside the window. The beggar is arrested, but a few days later St. Clair's wife receives a letter from her husband. Holmes concludes, then proves, that the beggar is actually St. Clair in disguise; he confesse that he has been leading a double life as a beggar, making more money that way than in his nominal work.|||
|"The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle"||January 1892||A "Blue Carbuncle" is stolen from a hotel suite, and a former felon is soon arrested. However, an acquaintance of Holmes discovers the carbuncle in the throat of a Christmas goose. Holmes traces the owner of the goose, but soon determines that he was not the thief by offering him a replacement goose. The detective continues his search, first to an inn and then a dealer in Covent Garden. The dealer refuses to provide Holmes with information about the source of the goose, but Holmes observes another man trying to find the same information, and confronts him. The man, the head attendant at the hotel, confesses to his crime. Holmes allows him to remain free, arguing that prison could make him a hardened criminal later.|||
|"The Adventure of the Speckled Band"||February 1892||Helen Stoner worries her stepfather may be trying to kill her after he contrives to move her to the bedroom where her sister had died two years earlier, shortly before her wedding. Stoner is herself now engaged, and Holmes learns that her stepfather's annuity (from the estate of his wife—Stoner's mother) would be greatly reduced if either sister married. During a late-night investigation of the bedroom, Holmes and Watson discover a dummy bell-pull near a ventilator. As they lie in wait a whistle sounds, then a snake appears through the ventilator. Holmes attacks the snake with his riding crop; it retreats to the next room, where it attacks and kills Stoner's stepfather.|||
|"The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb"||March 1892||An engineer, Victor Hatherley, attends Dr Watson's surgery after his thumb is chopped off, and recounts his tale to Watson and Holmes. Hatherley had been hired for 50 guineas to repair a machine he was told compressed Fuller's earth into bricks. Hatherley was told to keep the job confidential, and was transported to the job in a carriage with frosted glass, to keep the location secret. He was shown the press, but on closer inspection discovered a "crust of metallic deposit" on the press, and he suspected it was not being used for compressing earth. He confronted his employer, who attacked him, and during his escape his thumb is chopped off. Holmes deduces that the press is being used to produce counterfeit coins, and works out its location. However, when they arrive, the house is on fire, and the criminals have escaped.|||
|"The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor"||April 1892||Lord Robert St. Simon's new American bride, Hatty Doran, has disappeared almost immediately after the wedding. The servants had prevented an old love interest of his from forcing her way into the wedding breakfast, Hatty had been seen in whispered conversation with her maid, and Inspector Lestrade arrives with the news that Hatty's wedding dress and ring have been found floating in the Serpentine. Holmes quickly solves the mystery, locating Hatty at a hotel with a mysterious, "common-looking" man who had picked up her dropped bouquet after the ceremony. The man turns out to be Hatty's husband Frank, whom she had thought dead in America, and who had managed to locate her only moments before she was to marry Lord St. Simon. Frank and Hatty had just determined to go to Lord St. Simon in order to explain the situation when Holmes found them.|||
|"The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet"||May 1892||A banker asks Holmes to investigate after a "Beryl Coronet" entrusted to him is damaged at his home. Awakened by noise, he had found his son, Arthur, holding the damaged coronet. Arthur refuses to speak, neither admitting guilt nor explaining himself. Footprints in the snow outside the house tell Holmes that the banker's niece had conspired with a blackguard to steal the coronet; Arthur had discovered the crime in progress and the coronet had been damaged during his struggle to prevent it being stolen. He had refused to tell his father the truth of the crime because of his love for his cousin.|||
|"The Adventure of the Copper Beeches"||June 1892||Violet Hunter consults Holmes after being offered a governess job subject to a number of unusual conditions, including cutting her hair short. The wage is extremely high, £120, and she decides to accept the job, though Holmes tells her to contact him if she needs to. After a number of strange occurrences, including the discovery of a sealed-off wing of the house, she does so. Holmes discovers that someone had been kept prisoner in the wing, but when Holmes, Watson and Hunter enter, it is empty. They are accused of freeing the prisoner, who was the daughter of Hunter's employer, who sets his dog on them, though it attacks him instead. It is revealed that Hunter had been hired to impersonate her employer's daughter so that her fiancé would believe she was no longer interested in seeing him, but the daughter had escaped and the pair later married.|||
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes were well received upon their serialisation in The Strand Magazine. Following the publication of "A Scandal in Bohemia" in July 1891, the Hull Daily Mail described the story as being "worthy of the inventive genius" of Doyle. Just over a year later, when Doyle took a break from publishing the short stories upon the completion of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a piece in the Belfast News Letter reviewed a story by another author in The Strand Magazine saying that it "might have been read with a moderate amount of interest a year ago", but that "the unique power" of Doyle's writing was evident in the gulf in quality between the stories. The Leeds Mercury particularly praised the characterisation of Holmes, "with all his little foibles", while in contrast the Cheltenham Looker-On described Holmes as "rather a bore sometimes", noting that descriptions of his foibles "grows wearisome". The correspondent for Hampshire Telegraph lamented the fact that Doyle's more thoughtful writing, such as Micah Clarke, was not so popular as the Holmes stories, concluding that an author "who wishes to make literature pay must write what his readers want".
Sherlock Holmes has been adapted numerous times for both films and plays, and the character has been played by over 70 different actors in more than 200 films. A number of film and television series have borne the title "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes", but some of these are either original stories, combinations of a number of Doyle's stories, or in one case, an adaptation of The Sign of the Four.
Irene Adler, who is in the first short story, "A Scandal in Bohemia", is prominent in many modern adaptations, despite only appearing in one story. Often in modern adaptations, she is portrayed as a love interest for Holmes, as in Robert Doherty's Elementary and the BBC's Sherlock, even though in the story itself, the narration claims: "It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler." In his Sherlock Holmes Handbook, Christopher Redmond notes "the Canon provides little basis for either sentimental or prurient speculation about a Holmes-Adler connection."
Many of the stories from the collection were included as episodes in the Granada Television series, Sherlock Holmes which ran from 1984 until 1994. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes were dramatised for BBC Radio 4 in 1990–1991, starring Clive Merrison as Holmes and Michael Williams as Watson. Bert Coules was the head writer, but stories were also written by Vincent McInerny and Peter Mackie, and directed by Patrick Rayner and Enyd Williams.
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- The full text of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes at Wikisource
- Media related to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes at Wikimedia Commons
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes at Project Gutenberg
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes public domain audiobook at LibriVox