The Influence of Sherlock Holmes (and John Watson) from a Fan’s Perspective
The way Sherlock Holmes is personified (in books, movies, and television series), it seems so that no piece of writing will do him any justice. And yet, somehow, he finds Doctor John Watson, who captures his life and his work perfectly, or as close to perfect as one can get to capturing the likeness of Sherlock Holmes.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have never anticipated the sheer amount of impact that his stories have made. The tale of Holmes and Watson is one that will be told over and over again, passed down from generation to generation through worn, well-loved volumes and books, or through the form of bedtime stories from parent to child.
The Canon and the Fandom
Ever since the publication of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most well-known work, there have been fans who hanged on every word ever written about the detective and yearned for more. And “more” they got. The fans and followers of Sherlock Holmes evolved and grew alongside technology and media. In fact, Sherlock Holmes is the most portrayed movie character, as listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. But, before there was the silver screen and before there was television, there were plays. Not only did these plays portray Sherlock Holmes in the flesh for the fans to enjoy, the plays also acted as a cornerstone for Holmesian movies and television series to come.
It was (and still is) fans and devoted followers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that has made these adaptations of Sherlock Holmes possible. The fandom, or fan-base, of Sherlock Holmes is enormous, as the existence of Holmes fans extends from 1887, when the first novel was published, to present day. Fandom, when defined by the Online Etymology Dictionary, derives from the word fan and the suffix –dom, and means “the realm of avid enthusiasts.” The fandom includes any input to the original canon that is produced by fans: artwork, fiction, plays, ideas, quotes, architecture, and so on and so forth.
The fandom derives so much from its canon, or the works of an author that has been authenticated. In this case, the canon of Sherlock Holmes is all four novels and fifty-six short stories that has been written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
At the same time, the fandom has put in an incredible amount of contribution into the world of Sherlock Holmes. The depiction of Sherlock Holmes as a tall man with a coat, a pipe, and a deerstalker was illustrated by a fan. Sherlock Holmes, when written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, had never said, “Elementary, my dear Watson,” but the fandom has accepted this as a quote from our beloved detective.
“Holmesian” is a word coined up by the fandom, meaning “relating to the stories of Sherlock Holmes.” There are also Holmesian studies in certain universities and colleges, as well as Holmesian architecture. This word can also mean a devoted Sherlock fan, and is interchangeable with “Sherlockian;” although, the latter term is mostly used by American Sherlock Holmes fan, as well as the fandom of BBC’s Sherlock.
Movements have also been spurred by the Sherlock Holmes fandom, both in Victorian and present times. When “His Last Bow” was published in 1893, readers were devastated to learn that the world’s only consulting detective had been killed off by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. To mourn the death of Sherlock Holmes, men and women, respectively, wore black armbands and veils. This reaction was so great that the creator of Sherlock Holmes had to bring back the well-loved detective, which he had not at all intended to do. Similarly, after the finale of the second season of BBC’s Sherlock was aired, the Believe in Sherlock (#BelieveinSherlock) movement began. “I Believe in Sherlock” and “Moriarty was Real” are being written everywhere and numerous creative artworks are being created to show support for Sherlock Holmes.
The actions of devoted fans of Sherlock Holmes show how much the stories and characters mean to them, so much so that said stories and characters have evolved into something more and found a place in culture today, the past, and, quite possibly, the future.