‘… a great blue triumphant cloud—The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

  • Stephen Knight


No literary figure has a stronger hold on the public imagination than Sherlock Holmes. The name is a synonym for a detective; he has been parodied, imitated and recreated in all media with great success. The triumph of the figure made Conan Doyle wealthy, but forced him to keep writing Holmes’s adventures and discuss him in public when he much preferred other topics. These pressures are irresistible proof of real social meaning in the stories. The embarrassing success depended on the hero’s power to assuage the anxieties of a respectable, London-based, middle-class audience. The captivated readers had faith in modern systems of scientific and rational enquiry to order an uncertain and troubling world, but feeling they lacked these powers themselves they, like many audiences before them, needed a suitably equipped hero to mediate psychic protection.


Short Story Dual Figure Detective Story Folk Tale Early Story 
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  1. The Complete Sherlock Holmes Short Stories, Murray, London, reprint 1971.Google Scholar


  1. Doyle’s comments on his work are found in Memories and Adventures, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1924. His manuscript note and various quotations from his diaries are reprinted in John Dickson Carr’s The Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Murray, London, 1949, and in W. S. Baring Gould’s The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, Murray, London, 1968.Google Scholar
  2. Joseph B. Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Pantheon, New York, 1949.Google Scholar
  3. Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures, Hutchinson, London, 1973.Google Scholar
  4. Charles Higham, The Adventures of Conan Doyle: The Life-of the Creator of Sherlock Holmes, Hamilton, London, 1976.Google Scholar
  5. W. E. Houghton, The Victorian Frame of Mind, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1957Google Scholar
  6. Pierre Nordon, Conan Doyle, Murray, London, 1966.Google Scholar
  7. V. I. Propp, The Morphology of the Folk Tale, rev. edn, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1963.Google Scholar
  8. Lord Raglan, The Hero, Watts, London, 1949.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Stephen Knight 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Knight

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