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Frequently Asked Questions

Why read Sherlock Holmes today?

The Sherlock Holmes stories are excellent vehicles for stimulating classroom discussions of literature, language, history, science, technology and psychology.

A Famous Character

Sherlock Holmes has been called the most recognizable literary figure in the world. The Sherlockian tales of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have been in constant publication since their first appearance over 100 years ago. The four novels and fifty-six stories are now on the Internet and audio recordings and selected film and television productions are available through libraries and shops.

Vocabulary Building

The stories are well-written, interesting and exciting -- English vocabulary-building is painless when a mystery is involved. Dr John Watson, the sympathetic physician friend and associate of the cool and rational Holmes, is presented as the author of almost all the stories, although they were actually written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The creator of Sherlock Holmes was an immensely popular author of historical fiction (he also wrote Brigadier Gerard and the Professor Challenger series).

Foreign Languages

Sherlock Holmes stories have been translated into over eighty languages. A mystery story is a good way to engage students who are learning a new language. In addition to French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Finnish, Russian, Czechoslovakian, Latin, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Greek, Egyptian, Hindi, Sinhalese, Urdu and sixty more spoken languages, stories have also been published in non-spoken languages such as Braille, Pitman shorthand, Morse code, and others.

History

The stories are rich in historic detail about Victorian art, behavior, architecture, science, royalty, geography at a time (the Industrial Revolution) when great social, economic and technological progress was made in the United Kingdom. The Sherlock Holmes "Canon" began publication in 1887 during the later part of the reign of Queen Victoria, a time marked by a great expansion of the British Empire, the foremost global power of the time. If you're looking for a way to get students to study Victorian history or early scientific discoveries, try looking through the magnifying glass of Sherlock Holmes!

Detective Story

Holmes has been considered the model for the modern-day detective story. Not only is this a literary genre worthy of study, but the mysteries themselves are fascinating. The Sherlockian method of deductive reasoning foreshadows today's crime scene investigation units, but Holmes did it all without computers or sophisticated instruments. Holmes' deerstalker cap and magnifying glass are popular cultural symbols of Sherlock Holmes and almost everyone can give you a quote by the Great Detective (but not always an accurate one!)

Deductive Reasoning

Sherlock Holmes, the most logical of thinkers, teaches all we need to know about deductive reasoning. Observe and gather facts, analyze what you discover, formulate your theories and arrive at a solution. Holmes reminds us that "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."[SCAN] And, "It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."[BERY]

Scholarly Research

Introducing students to scholarly research is surprisingly easy -- Holmes' ongoing popularity still generates contemporary research articles on various aspects of the stories and novels, many of which are available on the Internet and in libraries. Entire journals are devoted to Sherlock Holmes and papers appear regularly in publications in the fields of education, medicine, forensics, history and English.

Who are the Baker Street Irregulars (BSI)?

  • Members of the first Sherlock Holmes Society (founded in 1934, the year before the British Sherlock Holmes Society).
  • BSI members meet for dinner every January in New York City.
  • Membership in the BSI is by invitation only.
  • The BSI publishes the Baker Street Journal (BSJ), a quarterly publication.

Who are the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes (ASH)?

  • Members of the first women’s Sherlock Holmes Society
  • Membership in ASH is by invitation only
  • Women weren’t invited into the BSI until 1991 and men weren’t invited into ASH until 2008
  • ASH publishes The Serpentine Muse, a quarterly journal.

What is a scion society?

  • A Sherlock Holmes group affiliated with the Baker Street Irregulars
  • Anyone interested in Sherlock Holmes can start or join a scion society of the BSI
  • There are BSI scion societies all over the world
  • The Beacon Society is a scion society of the BSI

What is "the Grand Game" played by Sherlockians?

  • Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson were real
  • Dr. Watson wrote the stories to record actual events
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was Watson’s literary agent
  • Everything written in the Canon (all the stories about Sherlock Holmes, also called "the Sacred Writings") can be explained using Holmes’ methods of deductive research

What costume items are typical of Sherlock Holmes?

Who are Holmes' most well-known associates?

  • Dr. John H. Watson: Holmes’ biographer
  • Mrs. Hudson: his landlady
  • Irene Adler: The woman
  • Professor Moriarty: his nemesis
  • Mycroft Holmes: his brother
  • Inspector Lestrade: a Scotland Yard detective
  • Wiggins: head of the band of street urchins Holmes called the Baker Street Irregulars

How many stories and novels about Sherlock Holmes are there?

  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 60 tales about Sherlock Holmes.
  • Fifty-six stories of Sherlock Holmes are collected in five books (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, His Last Bow, and The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes.)
  • There are four novels (A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Valley of Fear).
  • Most were originally published in the Strand Magazine, a popular monthly paperback.
  • All were published between 1887 and 1927.