Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Happy Birthday, Arthur Conan Doyle

The great Conan Doyle was born on this day in 1859. He is most famous for creating Sherlock Holmes, a detective he eventually wanted to destroy because, as Doyle put it, "He takes my mind off better things." Doyle believed that Holmes did not represent his best work, but the public felt differently, and when Doyle killed off Holmes in 1892, there was much hue and cry. By 1901 Doyle could stand it no longer, and brought Holmes back with The Hound of the Baskervilles, which was set in a time that pre-dated Holmes' "death." (Paraphrased from The Great British Detective, Penguin Mentor, 1982).

Borntoday.com has this great quote in honor of Doyle's birthday:

Holmes: "I followed you."
Man: "I saw no one."
Holmes: "That is what you may expect to see when I follow you."

Holmes was the penultimate classical detective: superior, always successful, ever preferable to the bumbling police inspector, Lestrade. This formula, created really by Poe but expanded by Doyle, has been a classical model since the nineteenth century, and holds up well in Doyle's fiction.

While I greatly enjoy The Hound of the Baskervilles, I'm also a fan of Conan Doyle's short mysteries, and an especially good one is "Silver Blaze," in which Holmes goes to the moors to solve the mystery of an inexplicable death and a missing racehorse.

Doyle himself would have written his destiny differently, perhaps, but of course none of us can control how we will be remembered, and Doyle's name will always be synonymous with Sherlock's.

1 comment:

Scott Monty said...

Thank goodness Conan Doyle had the presence of mind (or of pocketbook) to bring Holmes back from the dead.

We at The Baker Street Blog join you in wishing Conan Doyle all the best for his 148th!