In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

321 9. DOYLE, HOLMES, AND THE SEARCH FOR SOURCES Michael Harrison. A Study in Surmise: The Making of Sherlock Holmes. Bloomington, IN: Gaslight Publications, 1984. $24.95 Many source hunters have attempted to track down the elements that coalesced in the formation of Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective stories. Recent examples include Jack Tracy, Conan Doyle and the Latter-Day Saints (1979); Donald A. Redmond, Sherlock Holmes: A S tudy in Sources (1982); and Walter Klinefelter, Origins of Sherlock Holmes (1983). Now Michael Harrison, a novelist and an eclectic writer of non-fiction, offers his suggestions for possible sources of names scattered throughout the Holmes adventures. He argues that as the young Doctor Doyle came across names, especially in newspaper accounts of criminal trials, his retentive memory absorbed them for later use. Sometimes Doyle coincidenta1Iy came across a name he had met with earlier, and the name was reinforced in Doyle's well of creativity. Throughout his study, Harrison makes much use of free association of names, their mutations, variants and repetitions. Furthermore, Harrison tries to show that Doyle liked hidden meanings or "in jokes," using alternative spellings or words synonymous with the words to be hidden. However , these free associations and word games are Harrison's, and not necessarily Doyle's. Harrison also includes a statistical analysis of Poyle's use of names. In considering the sources for Holmes's Christian name, Harrison points to reports of the disappearance of a baker which appeared in the Times and the Dai Iy Telegraph in 1882. Wendel Scherer was the name of the private detective hired to trace the missing man. Harrison thinks that Doyle knew German well enough to realize that the German word scheren means to "cut, clip, trim, shear." This leads Harrison to assume that Doyle may have associated the word scheren with "shear locks," military slang for the service hair-cutter and, in passing, to mention a children's song that contains the line "Shearlocks the barber. . . ." He argues that such elements blended in Doyle's mind for the name Sherlock. Strangely enough Harrison has little to say about Holmes's surname. Before Harrison turns to a previous appearance of the Scherer name, he digresses into a discussion of the family of Scherer, including a branch that changed its name to Cherer, and moves even further afield to point out that the Victorian Cherer brothers were models for Dickens's Cheeryble Brothers in Nicholas Nickleby. He also indicates various names such as Stanger that derive from the missing baker case and appear in Doyle's first Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet (1887). 322 Harrison believes that Doyle had encountered the name of Scherer before 1882, in a case reported in the Western Times for 11 April 1879. Edmund Galley had been falsely accused of murder in 1836 and among those who attempted over a period of many years to have Galley pardoned was a man named George Scherer. After reading about Galley in 1879, Poyle, Harrison feels, looked up the issues of the 1836 Western T imes which had reported the original trial of Galley. Harrison points out a number of people involved in one way or another with Galley's trial whose names (along with variants, mutations and even reverse punning names) occur in the Holmes stories. The clincher for Harrison is the fact that in a report of another criminal case in The Exeter FIying Post of 4 August 1836 (which also reported the Galley case) the deadly poison sulphate of copper, or "Blue-stone," is mentioned. Harrison finds absolute confirmation of the fact that Poyle read the reports of both cases in this specific newspaper on this date because in 1892 Poyle published "a S trand magazine short story concerning a blue stone . . . The Blue Carbuncle"! The main part of Harrison's study concerns names encountered by Poyle which lay dormant in his mind for twenty years and then appeared in his detective stories. In other chapters Harrison indicates that the efforts of the British hero General Charles Gordon to establish ragged schools for poor boys gave Poyle the idea for Holmes's ragamuffin boy helpers, the Baker Street Irregulars. Harrison even...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 321-323
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.