What is a Sherlockian? by Resa Haile

I am a Sherlockian. A Sherlockian is someone who studies the fifty-six short stories and four novels featuring Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. These stories are known to Sherlockians (who are called “Holmesians” in Britain) as the Canon.

Because Conan Doyle wrote these very quickly and didn’t really consider them serious literature, there are certain seeming contradictions in the stories. Sherlockians strive mightily to come up with copious theories to reconcile these contradictions. This is something fans of television series now do on the Internet every day. In fact, Sherlock Holmes was the subject of what might qualify as fanfiction before there officially was fanfiction.

Because Dr. Watson, who narrated most of the stories, did not tell the cases in order, another Sherlockian activity is the creation of a chronology, or timeline, for the tales. A Sherlockian might look for clues to the date of the case, such as Watson’s reference to Queen Victoria’s Jubilee (an anniversary of her reign), and then try to figure out which Jubilee it was.

There is also great debate over the number of times Watson was married, with some Sherlockians positing as many as six (which would lead one to wonder if Holmes’s old friend was Bluebeard) and some only one (with a separation for health reasons). The identity of Watson’s second wife (if there was one) is another subject for speculation.

The spaces between the stories allow writers to create their own Sherlock Holmes stories as well. Sherlock Holmes has met Dracula and Oscar Wilde, and faced off against Jack the Ripper (a few too many times). He has been frozen and revived in modern times (in two television pilots and a cartoon series). He has traveled through time. Every year, new novels and short stories appear featuring Sherlock Holmes, various other characters from the Conan Doyle tales, and relatives of Sherlock’s that we never knew existed, along with Sherlockian theory and criticism.

Groups of Sherlockians get together to discuss the Canon and put forth theories. The main organization is the Baker Street Irregulars in New York, and there are various scion societies across the country.

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