Sherlock Holmes: Combing through the catalogue of the world’s most celebrated crime-stopper


As common on 21st century screens as he was in Victorian bookstores, Sherlock Holmes is one of those characters that simply refuses to die.

We mean this quite literally. In 1893, Holmes was killed off while grappling with arch-nemesis Moriarty – reportedly prompting outraged readers to don black armbands in a mixture of protest and mourning.

Though probably untrue, the story shows the regard in which Holmes was held even then, and Doyle was eventually cajoled into reviving his fallen hero.

Doyle himself had a colder relationship with his creation. He – correctly – felt the character cannibalised his other work (who remembers Professor Challenger?), and began to “weary of his name”. He didn’t even rate his own writing, referring to the stories as “an elementary form of fiction” (pun, one assumes, intended).

Doyle died in 1930, aged 71, but Holmes grew more vivacious with every passing decade. The Guinness Book of World Records lists him as the most portrayed character of all time – with more than 75 actors spanning more than 250 screen appearances.

Since the turn of the millennium, the centenarian Mr Holmes has been enjoying something of a purple patch. Benedict Cumberbatch rocked ratings for the BBC in Sherlock, while Robert Downey Jr. did the same on the big screen in Guy Ritchie’s soon-to-be trilogy, and Ian McKellen scored rave reviews with a more thespian take in 2015’s Mr. Holmes.

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