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The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes

The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes

Arthur Conan Doyle

Update: 2020-04-22

Preface

  • I fear that Mr. Sherlock Holmes may become like one of those popular tenors
  • who, having outlived their time, are still tempted to make repeated farewell
  • bows to their indulgent audiences. This must cease and he must go the way of
  • all flesh, material or imaginary. One likes to think that there is some
  • fantastic limbo for the children of imagination, some strange, impossible
  • place where the beaux of Fielding may still make love to the belles of
  • Richardson, where Scott's heroes still may strut, Dickens's delightful
  • Cockneys still raise a laugh, and Thackeray's worldlings continue to carry on
  • their reprehensible careers. Perhaps in some humble corner of such a Valhalla,
  • Sherlock and his Watson may for a time find a place, while some more astute
  • sleuth with some even less astute comrade may fill the stage which they have
  • vacated.
  • His career has been a long one—though it is possible to exaggerate it;
  • decrepit gentlemen who approach me and declare that his adventures formed the
  • reading of their boyhood do not meet the response from me which they seem to
  • expect. One is not anxious to have one's personal dates handled so unkindly.
  • As a matter of cold fact, Holmes made his debut in A Study in Scarlet and in
  • The Sign of Four, two small booklets which appeared between 1887 and 1889. It
  • was in 1891 that "A Scandal in Bohemia," the first of the long series of short
  • stories, appeared in The Strand Magazine. The public seemed appreciative and
  • desirous of more, so that from that date, thirty-nine years ago, they have
  • been produced in a broken series which now contains no fewer than fifty-six
  • stories, republished in The Adventures, The Memoirs, The Return, and His Last
  • Bow. and there remain these twelve published during the last few years which
  • are here produced under the title of The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes. He
  • began his adventures in the very heart of the later Victorian era, carried it
  • through the all-too-short reign of Edward, and has managed to hold his own
  • little niche even in these feverish days. Thus it would be true to say that
  • those who first read of him, as young men, have lived to see their own grown-
  • up children following the same adventures in the same magazine. It is a
  • striking example of the patience and loyalty of the British public.
  • I had fully determined at the conclusion of The Memoirs to bring Holmes to an
  • end, as I felt that my literary energies should not be directed too much into
  • one channel. That pale, clear-cut face and loose-limbed figure were taking up
  • an undue share of my imagination. I did the deed, but fortunately no coroner
  • had pronounced upon the remains, and so, after a long interval, it was not
  • difficult for me to respond to the flattering demand and to explain my rash
  • act away. I have never regretted it, for I have not in actual practice found
  • that these lighter sketches have prevented me from exploring and finding my
  • limitations in such varied branches of literature as history, poetry,
  • historical novels, psychic research, and the drama. Had Holmes never existed I
  • could not have done more, though he may perhaps have stood a little in the way
  • of the recognition of my more serious literary work.
  • And so, reader, farewell to Sherlock Holmes! I thank you for your past
  • constancy, and can but hope that some return has been made in the shape of
  • that distraction from the worries of life and stimulating change of thought
  • which can only be found in the fairy kingdom of romance.
  • ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.