Death of Sherlock Holmes
While Sir Arthur Conan
Doyle is best known for his Sherlock Holmes stories, that was not the
work he valued the most. In fact Conan Doyle once referred to them
as "an elementary form of fiction". He was very
proud of his historical novels and considered them some of his finest
While his Sherlock Holmes stories were
hugely successful Conan Doyle was concerned that they were keeping him
from more important work. As early as 1891 he shared with his
mother his concerns about Holmes. "He takes my mind
from better things."
As time went on Conan Doyle found himself
more closely identified with Sherlock Holmes to the exclusion of his
other works. "I weary of his name," he told his
In his own mind the matter was
settled. Holmes must die. The only question was how?
Conan Doyle wanted a dramatic finish for the great Sherlock Holmes.
In 1893 Conan Doyle visited Reichenbach
Falls in the northern Swiss Alps. After seeing the magnificent
falls he decided the place would make a worthy tomb for Sherlock
The Adventure of the Final Problem was published in December
of 1893 in The Strand magazine. People were so upset that more
than twenty thousand of them cancelled their subscription to The
It took a story of a ghostly hound to inspire Conan Doyle
to bring the great
detective back. In 1901 Sherlock Holmes reappeared in
Hound of the Baskervilles. Conan Doyle needed a
strong central character for his ghostly novel. Why invent one
when he already had that in Holmes? However Conan Doyle made it
clear that Holmes was not alive. This story took place before the
incident at Reichenbach
The public's response was phenomenal.
The Hound of the Baskervilles was also first published in The Strand.
The magazine's circulation rose by thirty thousand overnight.
Later Holmes was truly brought back to life in The Adventure of
the Empty House. At the start of
the story Watson is alone. His wife is dead and he believes
Holmes to be dead as well. However Watson learns that Holmes's
death was a ruse to hide from Moriarty's associates.
I moved my head to look at the cabinet behind me. When I turned
again, Sherlock Holmes was standing smiling at me across my study
table. I rose to my feet, stared at him for some seconds in utter
amazement, and then it appears that I must have fainted for the first
and the last time in my life. Certainly a gray mist swirled before my
eyes, and when it cleared I found my collar-ends undone and the
tingling after-taste of brandy upon my lips. Holmes was bending over
my chair, his flask in his hand. - The Adventure of the Empty