Quick thought about The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes



Sherlock Holmes’ significance in pop culture is undeniable.  Not only his character turned private detective characters into “heroes”, Holmes also introduced and consolidated several clichés of pop cultures.  Elements such as eccentric detective and his narrator friend were introduced by Edgar Allan Poe, but Arthur Conan Doyle expanded on the concepts.  Holmes’ eccentricity was described in more details, which made it amusing to read about his behaviour and mannerisms, and John Watson became more than a narrator, but solid character.  I would go as far as to say that Holmes provided archetype of lone eccentric hero type in many genres, including Sci-Fi and Fantasy.  For example, look at Doctor Who.  We have the eccentric outsider hero (the Doctor), and his close friend (Companions).  Like Sherlock Holmes, many incarnations of Doctor share eccentric behaviour, contempt for high class society, and close friendship with one close friend, although Doctor Who played variance in this cliché by switching companions regularly. 

Sherlock Holmes’ second short story collection, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is significant in a way that it introduced and consolidated clichés we see often in pop cultures.  This collection is most famous for the demise of hero and introduction of arch-nemesis, but also provides the origin story and “before he was famous” type of story.  I personally consider The Memoir to be better than The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in literary sense because it offered few of most enduring clichés. 

The Adventure of Gloria Scott introduced “the origin story” of Sherlock Holmes (in a way).  We get to read about Holmes’ youth for the first time, and how he decided to become the master of deduction.  In The Adventure of Musgrave Ritual, Conan Doyle tells us the first official detective work of Holmes.  The Adventure of Greek Interpreter introduced Mycroft Holmes, who is another enduring character in many reincarnations of Sherlock Holmes stories, and this story also tells us a bit about Holmes’ ancestry.  Basically, Conan Doyle was preparing us for the end of the beloved character by giving us more details about Sherlock Holmes the human; all these stories humanize Holmes little by little by informing us that Holmes was not an overnight creation, but a human being who paved his way into who he was, and had a family as well.  I believe it was not the coincidence that Holmes’ most humiliating failure was included in The Memoir.  Conan Doyle was reminding us that Holmes was human after all.  And death comes to every human being. 

Conan Doyle was humanizing Holmes through the stories of Holmes’ failure, his emotion for Irene Adler, his kindness in Blue Carbuncle and witty remarks in many other stories.  In The Memoir, Conan Doyle expands on his task by getting us to know Holmes’ history more, as if he was preparing us for the end of Holmes’ career. 

The Memoir of Sherlock Holmes provides the beginning and the end of the character.  Of course, “the end” was nulled with The Return of Sherlock Holmes, but when Conan Doyle wrote it, it was really the end.  With such structure in mind, this book offers many occurring themes of pop culture – the beginning of the hero, his family and lineage, his nemesis, and his end.  In a way, The Memoir is what turned Holmes into the archetype of many heroes to come.    


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