Beloved Detective Holmes

Modern Books and Manuscripts 2015-06-21

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items from the newly acquired Santo Domingo collection.

The private life of sherlock holmesAlthough fan fiction is cropping up everywhere now and seems to be a new fad, it has actually been around for quite some time.  Fictitious characters have often inspired imaginative readers who go on to write their own stories.  Sherlock Holmes is no exception, though the extent of the genre and the seriousness with which people pursue it might be unusual.   Much of the stories about Sherlock Holmes are written as though he was a real person, and there are even “historical” sites devoted to him.  One such author is Vincent Starrett, a Holmes enthusiast who wrote The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes in 1933.  Written as a biography, it takes into account both the fictional character of Holmes and describes further exploits and adventures, while also discussing Arthur Conan Doyle and the writing and publishing of these stories.

Subcutaneously my dear watsonAnother way in which authors have interacted with fictional characters is to examine the full cannon of stories about them and analyze character traits or actions.  One example is Subcutaneously, My Dear Watson: Sherlock Holmes and the cocaine habit by Jack Tracy.  Inspired by the pastiche The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer, Tracy studies the use of cocaine in the Sherlock Holmes tales and describes how it impacts the detective and his relationships.  It is an interesting read for Holmes enthusiasts as well as those interested in late 19th century attitude toward cocaine and drug use.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes by Vincent Starrett and Subcutaneously My Dear Watson by Jack Tracy are from the Santo Domingo Collection. Several other books about Sherlock Holmes both by Arthur Conan Doyle and others can be found in Harvard’s collections.  Some examples include, The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes by Adrian Conan Doyle, Arthur’s son, and Sherlock Holmes: the unauthorized biography by Nick Rennison.

Thanks to Emma Clement, Santo Domingo Library Assistant, for contributing this post.