. . . I asked him [Doyle] how on earth he had evolved, apparently out of his own inner consciousness, such an extraordinary person as his detective Sherlock Holmes, with which readers of the Strand, are so familiar. "Oh! but," he cried, with a hearty, ringing laugh—and his is a laugh it does one good to hear—"Oh! But, if you please, he is not evolved out of any one's inner consciousness. Sherlock Holmes is the literary embodiment, if I may so express it, of my memory of a professor of medicine at Edinburgh University, who would sit in the patients' waiting-room with a face like a Red Indian and diagnose the people as they came in, before even they had opened their mouths.
"He would tell them their symptoms, he would give them details of their lives, and he would hardly ever make a mistake. 'Gentlemen,' he would say to us students standing around, 'I am not quite sure whether this man is a cork-cutter or a slater. I observe a slight callus, or hardening, on one side of his forefinger, and a little thickening on the outside of his thumb, and that is a sure sign he is either one or the other.'
"His great faculty of deduction was at times highly dramatic. 'Ah!' he would say to another man, 'you are a soldier, a non-commissioned officer, and you have served in Bermuda. Now how did I know that, gentlemen? He came into the room without taking his hat off, as he would go into an orderly room. He was a soldier. A slight authoritative air, combined with his age, shows he was an N.C.O. A slight rash on the forehead tells me he was in Bermuda, and subject to a certain rash known only there.'
"So I got the idea for Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock is utterly inhuman, no heart, but with a beautifully logical intellect. I know nothing about detective work, but theoretically it has always had a great charm for me. The best detective in fiction is E. A. Poe's Mons. D.; then Mons. Le Cocq, Gaboriau's hero.
"The great defect in the detective of fiction is that he obtains results without any obvious reason. That is not fair, it is not art. I have written two little books about him. 'A Study in Scarlet,' the first thing I wrote, and 'Sign of Four.'
"I get many letters from all over the country about Sherlock Holmes. Sometimes from schoolboys, sometimes from commercial travellers who are great readers, sometimes from lawyers pointing out mistakes in my law. One letter actually contained a request for portraits of Sherlock at different periods of his life."
. . . the conversation turned to America, about which the novelist is evidently very enthusiastic.
"I take the greatest possible interest in all things American," said he. "There is, or ought to be, so little difference between them and us. And we must remember this: they are the coming Power. The centre of gravity of the whole race has shifted to the West, and I believe in time that every Saxon will be united under one form of government.
"Home Rule, with a centre of authority, and the Anglo-Saxon will swing the sword of justice over the whole world. We will not permit then the horrors of Siberia or the like. America and England, joined in their common Anglo-Saxonhood, with their common blood, will rule the world. We shall be united. And the sooner that day comes the better." — Raymond Blathwayt, "A Talk with Dr. Conan Doyle," THE BOOKMAN [U.K.] (May 1892)Resource:
- The "professor of medicine at Edinburgh University" whom Doyle doesn't name was Dr. Joseph Bell; see the Wikipedia article about him HERE.
Category: Detective fiction