Friday, September 21, 2012

18 Days With Sherlock - Intro

Sherlock Holmes is a very popular character right now with the two smash hits starring Robert Downey, Jr. as the lead character in two movies and the current BBC series featuring Benedict Cumberbatch. Sherlock has always been popular in film going back to the 1930s and 1940s when Basil Rathbone starred as the super sleuth. We never seem to tire of the eccentric detective.

Sherlock Holmes was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the 1880s. Doyle wrote a total of 4 novels and 56 short stories about the master detective. The stories are told from the viewpoint of Sherlock’s faithful companion Dr. John Watson, with the exception of "The Blanched Soldier" and "The Lion's Mane" which Holmes himself narrates and "The Marzarin Stone" which is narrated by a third-person omniscient narrator. The writing style is absolutely brilliant and you are immediately drawn in. There is no doubt in your mind that Sherlock was a real person and that Dr. Watson’s diaries are accurate remembrances of their adventures. If you have never read these stories you really should.

Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes story, “A Study in Scarlet” was rejected multiple times by publishers before being accepted with a £25 copyright fee paid to Doyle. He wrote this novel with no intention of using the Sherlock Holmes character again. The story was a hit in America so Doyle brought Sherlock back again and again.

First a few Sherlock facts and trivia:

Reading the stories brings you into contact with some familiar characters, Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard, Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock’s tireless landlady and Sherlock’s brother Mycroft Holmes. You also meet Irene Adler, the only female Holmes ever had any sort of feelings for and the only feelings he had were that of admiration as she was able to pull one over on him. If you have seen any of the films you will know that James Moriarty was Sherlock’s nemesis. In the story “The Final Problem” both Moriarty and Sherlock were killed, or so it seemed. Three years later Sherlock reappears which causes poor Watson to faint dead away.

Sherlock is described as tidy in his appearance but unkempt in his housekeeping. He isn’t interested in romance but can turn on the charm when it is to his advantage. He usually solves the crime early on but doesn’t reveal his conclusions until much later. He claims it is so he can lay out all of the facts but also admits that he likes the drama of it all. He is a bit vain and really likes it when someone acknowledges how smart he is. Sherlock was a master of disguises and often fooled Watson. Sherlock was quite the practical joker with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He was also an accomplished violinist. He was a very likeable character.

On the negative side, Sherlock smoked cigarettes, cigars and a pipe. When he wasn’t actively working on a case he turned to drugs because he couldn’t handle his mind being idle, however, Watson was able to eventually wean him off of his cocaine habit. Sherlock could get depressed and morose and would go for long periods of time without eating.

Watson tells us that Sherlock’s career spanned 23 years with Watson at his side for 17 of them. Holmes and Watson mention many other cases they were involved in that didn’t make it into Watson’s collection of stories. Sherlock chides Watson a bit for sensationalizing and glamorizing stories which should have been told matter-of-factly in textbook fashion so that other detectives could learn by them.

Many genealogists look to Sherlock for inspiration because his method of deductive reasoning is the perfect approach for genealogical research. Throughout the stories you will find many sound principles that will help you in your quest to uncover the truths about your ancestors’ lives. For the next 18 days I will outline some of these principles and give examples of how Sherlock’s methods will help you.

By the way, contrary to popular belief, Holmes never said, “Elementary, my dear Watson!” in any of his adventures.


Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

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