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SHERLOCK HOLMES’ 166TH BIRTHDAY!
‘Elementary, My Dear Watson’
The most beloved of all fictional detectives, Sherlock Holmes, celebrates his 166th birthday this month. It’s speculated that Holmes would have been born on Jan. 6, 1854, and fans across the globe gather each year on this date to observe his “birth.” People don their pipes, top hats, and long coats and, with a chorus of “The game is afoot!” settle down for a weekend marathon filled with novels, short stories, movies, and TV shows. The character Sherlock Holmes was created by author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who published his first novel,“A Study in Scarlet,” in 1887. Although Doyle is best known for his four novels and 56 short stories about the private detective Holmes and Dr. John Watson, it wasn’t his life’s work. Doyle wanted to become a historical novelist and wrote several novels of the genre which were admired in his time but did not receive the same attention as Holmes. The author became so disgruntled with Holmes and his popularity that he finally killed the beloved character in 1893. But due to the public’s overwhelming reaction, Doyle grudgingly brought him back in the early 1900s. One of the most noticeable characteristics of Holmes’ character is his ability to use observation to solve cases. Through reasoning and scrutiny of the people and areas around him, Holmes solves seemingly impossible mysteries. These characteristics were inspired by a professor Doyle met while attending medical school, Dr. Joseph Bell. The professor impressed on the students how important observation was when diagnosing a patient. Bell also enjoyed picking a student from his class and guessing their particular profession based only on observation and inductive and deductive reasoning. Over the years, Holmes has influenced the creation of a number of characters in our modern world, including Dr. Gregory House from “House” and Spock from “Star Trek.” While many individuals enjoy the plethora of characters and shows inspired by Sherlock Holmes, there are also plenty of
outright remakes, from BBC’s “Sherlock” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman to classics such as “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” that ran from 1984–1994 and starred Jeremy Brett and David Burke. To this day, fans continue to drink up the phenomenon Doyle created. Although fans may come together to celebrate the birth of their favorite detective on Jan. 6, it isn’t his canonical birthday. Doyle never mentions an exact year or date. In fact, in all Doyle’s works, Holmes’ age is mentioned only once, and that is in “His Last Bow,” Holmes’ final adventure. The detective is described as “a tall, gaunt man of 60.” From this, fans deduced that since the book is set in 1914, Holmes must have been born in 1854. But why Jan. 6? The date was decided by a dedicated fan, renowned journalist and novelist Christopher Morley. Morley started the largest organization for Holmes fans, known as the Baker Street Irregulars. He speculated that Holmes’ birthday was on Jan. 6 because Holmes references William Shakespeare’s play “Twelfth Night” twice within one story. Morley wrote an article in Saturday Review, which was published on Jan. 6, 1933. In it, he proposed that Holmes’ birthday was on the twelfth day of Christmas — Jan. 6. Ever since, fans across the world have dedicated this day to Sherlock Holmes’ birthday.
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