Search This Blog

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Surprising Sherlock Holmes

We are so excited to be celebrating Sherlock Holmes throughout the month of October. You grow up watching and hearing about certain characters so much, that you think you know all about them. However, I never actually read any of Doyle’s work. To prepare for the series, I dove into the Sherlock stories and some interesting articles and found that a lot of what I thought about our second favorite detective (everyone knows Nancy Drew rules) was not even true (well, “not true” in the sense of not being in the original stories, because of course we all know that Sherlock is fictional)!

For Sherlock buffs, the info below is old news. But others, here are some interesting tidbits:

·   Real-life Sherlock - Doyle was inspired to create his famous character by his medical school professor. University of Edinburgh’s Professor Joseph Bell was said to possess the ability to diagnosis his patients’ illnesses, nationality and occupation solely through observation. Sound familiar?

·   Cruel addiction - I was vaguely aware of Sherlock’s predilection for drugs, but I did not realize its severity. At times when his intellectual ability failed him, Sherlock turned to morphine and cocaine. In “The Sign of the Four,” Doyle describes the detective as having forearms scarred up and down with needle marks. But, in 1890 England, the use of these drugs was legal and even Queen Victoria was said to partake now and again.

·   Not the man we thought he was – We all think we know how Sherlock looked, acted and sounded, but most of what we think we know was born in the movies, not the stories. For example, Sherlock’s most famous exclamation never appeared in a Doyle story. It was in P.G. Wodehouse’s 1915 novel that we first read the line, “Elementary, my dear Watson!” And! Sherlock hardly ever wore his ubiquitous deerstalker cap AND his pipe was straight, not curved---I feel as though I never even knew the man!

·   Not too good at the book learnin’ – Get Sherlock a library card quick, because this genius (“experts” guesstimate his IQ at 190) did not hit the books in school. In “A Study in Scarlet,” Watson describes meeting Sherlock, and in part, grades the detective’s knowledge thusly: 1. Knowledge of Literature-Nil. 2. Philosophy-Nil. 3. Astronomy-Nil. 4. Politics-Feeble. 5. Botany- Variable. 6. Geology-Practical, but limited. 7. Chemistry-Profound. 8. Anatomy-Accurate, but unsystematic. 9. Sensational Literature-Immense. Watson is especially astonished to find that Sherlock has no idea the earth circles the sun. Astounding!

If you have more fascinating facts to add, then I highly encourage you to email ( or call (405.372.3633 x8106) us for an invite to join our SPL Sherlock discussion board at There, you can discuss your favorite Sherlock stories, show-off your Sherlock trivia, argue over symbolism and themes and talk Sherlock 24/7 through the entire month.

The Sherlock series starts Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. with an English Tea and Costume Kick-off hosted by scholar Dr. Bill Hagen. To see all of the events, visit or pick up a program listing when you come to the Used Book Sale Sept. 24-27.