I do enjoy a great mystery! They are curious and curiosity pleases me and yet sometimes there can be mysteries about the great mystery novel and its author that are rarely told. You may not think that the death of a mystery detective would be that curious, but then again we are talking about Sherlock Holmes. For early fans of the Sherlock Holmes mystery novels, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the years 1891 to 1894 are considered the “great hiatus” years. It was in these years within the novels where Holmes disappears and then is presumed dead having fallen off a waterfall with his arch nemesis Prof. Moriarty after a violent struggle in the novel The Final Problem (one of Doyle’s favorites). The popularity of the Sherlock Holmes stories, even at the time, made this a very controversial move on Doyle’s part.
Sherlock Holmes dead? What a curious thing to do with your most popular character.
You might not want to believe it really happened, but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did just that! The curious decision was made because Doyle wanted to dedicate more of his time to his historical novels and on works that were of better use of his time. This turned out to be a very unfortunate mistake on his behalf indeed. You see, a lot of people believed that Sherlock Holmes was a real person or at least loved the stories enough to make him real, including his creator of whom, on occasion, referred to him as if he were real. He even took great care in deciding how to end his life by traveling to the Swiss Alps and finalizing on the location of the now famous Reichenbach Falls. Fans, however, were a bit harder to persuade. Not wanting to see their beloved detective be lost forever, under pressure and resisting popular demand for over eight years, Doyle brought him back to life… however he did so in his own unique way.
Instead of bringing him back to life, he wrote a posthumous story…perhaps you’ve heard of it. The Hound of the Baskervilles, which supposedly (and conveniently) took place before his death, was written so that he didn’t necessarily have to bring him back to life but he could still write stories with his famous character. Again, the public was pleased but not satisfied. After two more years of denying the public’s cries he relented and continued to make Sherlock Holmes novels for the next 24 years. Why the sudden change in heart? Some say it was because of money (or the lack of it), others say he had a fear of losing his fans. Some just think Doyle eventually hated Sherlock. I say if it was for any of those things then it is curious that it took 8 years to finally bring him back to life if it were just that simple. Wouldn’t you say?
8 years! Most people forget about these types of things after some time, but for 8 years they demanded him back!
And yet the curiosities are not done yet! Not at all!
Remember earlier how I said people believe Sherlock Holmes was real? Well, some tried to account for his erratic hiatus. Truly! They honestly have real excuses for his disappearance! And writers ever since have come up with wonderful and curious little theories so they can put their own twist on the Sherlock Holmes stories. One such theory is that he took a secret sabbatical to cure his cocaine addiction by seeking help from Sigmund Freud (The Seven Percent Solution). Sadly, I doubt that would’ve ever happened in a Doyle novel…Sherlock seeing a shrink, I mean. And Sigmund Freud was also an avid cocaine user so I don’t think that theory holds much water…if he were real I mean. Other more colorful fictional theories involve Alice in Wonderland, but that is just plain silly and yet curiously amusing! Even today Sherlock Holmes’ study is on displayed in museums across England since he very well could have been a part history from the way everyone speaks of him.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a curious writer indeed. Not only did he do historical novels, but he was a firm believer in the supernatural (he supported the Cottingley Fairy photo) which is a rather odd characteristic for a man who made Sherlock Holmes (one of the greatest logical minds in the written world). One has to figure in these facts before coming to a conclusion on the theory of the death of Sherlock Holmes. The one beneficial outcome of this conclusion is that he never stopped writing so we get to enjoy Sherlock much more than we might have if there had been no more novels made after 1894. Sherlock Holmes is by far the only famous character in literary history that was brought back to life by his own devoted readers….or was it that?