Sherlock Holmes has proved to be the most popular detective of all time despite being created over one hundred years ago. Having read some of his short storied including: The Blue Carbuncle, The Red Headed League, The Speckled Band, The Copper Beeches, A Case Of Identity and The Final Problem I can see why he is so popular in terms of the story lines, but there are many other concerning factors. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was among the first writers of detective stories and novels in England.
The first novel recognised as a detective story was written in 1868, by Wilkie Collins entitled “The Moonstone”. Later in 1870, the popular novelist Charles Dickens also tried his hand at writing a detective novel called “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”. These early detective stories have not become as famous as Doyle’s creation for a number of reasons, one of which is that when Doyle began writing his novels there was a greater demand in general for stories, as more people were becoming educated and were taught how to read.
Consequently, when the stories about Holmes were published, there was a growing crime rate in England, there where high profile criminals exposed to the public eye including the infamous jack the ripper, this was more amplified than crimes had been in Dickens’ and Collins’ time. Furthermore, the fact that the structure and language of the stories were reasonably easy to read, as they are now. This was especially helpful because people were just acquiring the basic skill of reading.
In addition, as the stories were originally published in the “Strand” magazine, this made them fairly accessible, which made it almost a necessity to be reading Sherlock Holmes at the time. The stories were often shorter than those of other writers, and therefore avoided unnecessary detail. Generally, the stories have a distinct plot and structure and were supported by illustrations. He was so popular that when he met his end in the final problem, many of the public wore black armbands to show their commiserations.
In Victorian London crime rates were extremely high, many pickpockets roamed the streets with no consequences. This was because the police, approx. 3000 strong, were busy trying to chase larger, more notorious criminals, such as, the already mentioned, jack the ripper. Sherlock Holmes was a man, who realised the police’s poor methods and inability to quieten crime rates, and he disrespected them for it and in return, out of envy, they disliked him. ‘He has his own little methods, which are, if he wont mind me saying so, just a little to theoretical and fantastic, but he has the makings of a good detective in him.
‘ This is said by an officer about Holmes, it indicates the officer sees Sherlock as an inferior detective to himself and does not agree with his, sometimes irregular, methods. ‘He is not a bad man, though an absolute imbecile in his profession’ this is an interesting quote by Holmes, as he displays an almost arrogance towards the police force and towards this particular officer, Jones. This rivalry between the police and Holmes draws readers into the stories and elevates Holmes’s already great stature into something of invincibility.
Although the stories where published in a time where crime was of great interest and a detective was in demand, it is in Sherlock Holmes character that provides a massive appeal. “Holmes settling down to one of his chemical researches” Holmes’ personality was eccentric, yet believable. He was far from perfect, as he was a drug user and was very arrogant. ‘You imagine that I have added opium-smoking to my cocaine injections’ this indicates Holmes is a flawed character, which makes him more realistic and believable, as well as many readers could relate to his issues.
Holmes is a solitary character, he is single and has not but one friend, but with this he is still very happy with his life. He never seems to value human relations like any other human, he is dispassionate and cold, all of this was part of his appeal. It made the readers more intrigued into his irregular lifestyle and character. Sherlock Holmes’s enthusiasm is a vital part of his popularity, as he will never be a person motivated by material goods, his reward is in his profession.