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British writer, creator Sherlock Holmes, the best-known detective in
literature and the embodiment of sharp reasoning. Doyle himself was
not a good example of rational personality: he believed in fairies and
was interested in occultism. Sherlock Holmes stories have been
translated into more than fifty languages, and made into plays, films,
radio and television series, a musical comedy, a ballet, cartoons,
comic books, and advertisement. By 1920 Doyle was one of the most
highly paid writers in the world.
--'This is indeed a mystery,' I remarked. 'What do you imagine that it
--'I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorise before one
has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories,
instead of theories to suit facts...'
--(from 'A Scandal in Bohemia', 1891)
Arthur Conan Doyle was born at Picardy Place, Edinburgh, as the son of
Charles Altamont Doyle, a civil servant in the Edinburgh Office of
Works, and Mary (Foley) Doyle. Both of Doyle's parents were Roman
Catholics. To increase his income Charles Altamont painted, made book
illustrations, and also worked as a sketch artist on criminal trials.
Not long after arriving Edinburgh he started to drink, he suffered
from epilepsy and was eventually institutionalized. Doyle's mother was
interested in literature, and she encouraged his son to take to books.
Doyle read voluminously. At the age of fourteen he had learned French
so that he read Jules Verne in the author's original language. Later
Doyle's second wife, Jean, said: "My husband's mother was a very
remarkable and highly cultured woman. She had a dominant personality,
wrapped up on the most charming womanly exterior." Charles Altamot
died in an asylum in 1893; in the same year Doyle decided to finish
permanently the adventures of his master detective. Because of
financial problems, Doyle's mother kept a boarding house. Dr. Tsukasa
Kobayashi has alluded in an article, that Doyle's mother had a long
affair with Bryan Charles Waller, a lodger and a student of pathology,
who had a deep impact to Conan Doyle.
Doyle was educated in Jesuit schools. During this period Doyle lost
his belief in the Roman Catholic faith but the training of the Jesuits
influenced deeply his mental development. Later he used his friends
and teachers from Stonyhurst College as models for his characters in
the Holmes stories, among them two boys named Moriarty. He studied at
Edinburgh University and in 1884 he married Louise Hawkins. Doyle
qualified as doctor in 1885. After graduation Doyle practiced medicine
as an eye specialist at Southsea near Porsmouth in Hampshire until
1891 when he became a full time writer.
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story, an illustrated tale of a man and a tiger, at the age of six.
Doyle's first story about Holmes, A STUDY IN SCARLET, was published in
1887 in Beeton Christmas Annual. The novel was written in three weeks
in 1886. It introduced the detective and his Sancho Panza and Boswell,
Dr. Watson, the narrator of the stories. Their major opponent was the
evil genius Moriarty, the classic villain and a kind of doppelgï¿½nger
of Holmes. Also the intrigues of the beautiful opera singer Irene
Adler caused much trouble to Holmes.
The second Sherlock Holmes story, The Sign of the Four', was written
for the Lippincott's Magazine. The story collects a colorful group of
people together, among them Jonathan Small who has a wooden leg and a
dwarf from Tonga islands. The Strand Magazine started to publish 'The
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' from July 1891. Holmes's address at
Mrs. Hudson's house, 221B Baker Street, London, became soon the most
famous London street in literature. However, already at the end of
1891, Doyle planned to end the series and in 1893 he became so wearied
of his detective that he devised his death in the 'Final Problem,'
published in the Strand in the December issue. Holmes meets Moriarty
at the fall of the Reichenbach in Switzerland and disappears. Watson
finds a letter from Homes, stating "I have already explained to you,
however, that my career had in any case reached its crisis, and that
no possible conclusion to it could be more congenial to me than this."
Doyle's readers expressed their disappointment by wearing mourning
bands and Strandlost 20,000 subscriptions. In THE HOUND OF
BASKERVILLES (1902) Doyle narrated an early case of the dead
detective. The ingenious murder weapon in the story is an animal.
Because of public demand Doyle resurrected his popular hero in 'The
Empty House' (1903).
"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 last
time in my life." (from 'The Empty House')
In these following stories Holmes stopped using cocaine, but although
Doyle's later works have been criticized, several of them, including
'The Three Garridebs,' 'The Adventure of the Illustrious Client,' and
'The Veiled Lodger,' are highly enjoyable. Sherlock Holmes short
stories were collected in five books. The first appeared in 1892 under
the title THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. The later were THE
MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1894), THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
(1904), HIS LAST BOW (1917), and THE CASE-BOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
During the South African war (1899-1902) Doyle served for a few months
as senior physician at a field hospital, and wrote THE WAR IN SOUTH
AFRICA, in which he defended England's policy. The same uncritical
attitude marked his history of World War I, THE BRITISH CAMPAIGN IN
FRANCE AND FLANDERS, 1928 (6 vols.). Doyle was knighted in 1902 and in
1900 and 1906 he also ran unsuccessfully for Parliament. Fourteen
months after his long-invalided wife Louisa died, Conan Doyle married
in 1907 his second wife, Jean Leckie. When his son Kingsley died from
wounds incurred in World War I, the author dedicated himself in
spiritualistic studies. An example of these is THE COMING OF FAIRIES
(1922). But he had already showed interest in occult fantasy before
publishing Holmes stories. In his early novel, THE MYSTERY OF CLOOMBER
(1888), a retired general finds himself under assault by Indian magic.
Doyle supported the existence of "little people" and spent more than a
million dollars on their cause. The so-called "fairy photographs"
caused an international sensation when Doyle published a favorable
account of them in 1920. The photographs showed fairies dancing in the
air. A year after, the Star newspaper reported that the faries were
from a poster. Doyle became president of several important
spiritualist organizations. In 1925 he opened the Psychic Bookshop in
London. Among his friends was the legendary American magician and
escape artist Harry Houdini (1874-1926). He believed that Houdini
possessed supernatural powers, which the magician himself denied.
Another friend was D.D. Home. According to Doyle, he could levitate.
Once Doyle claimed that Home "floated out of the bedroom and into the
sitting room window, passing seventy feet above the street." His own
psychic experiences Doyle recorded in THE EDGE OF UNKNOWN (1930),
which was his last book. Doyle died on July 7, 1930 from heart disease
at his home, Windlesham, Sussex.
"My contention is that Sherlock Holmes is literature on a humble but
not ignoble level, whereas the mystery writers most in vogue now are
not. The old stories are literature, not because of the conjuring
tricks and the puzzles, not because of the lively melodrama, which
they have in common with many other detective stories, but the virtue
of imagination and style. They are fairy-tales, as Conan Doyle
intimated in his preface to his last collection, and they are among
the most amusing of fairy-tales and not among the least
distinguished." (Edmund Wilson in Classics and Commercials, 1950)
Conan Doyle's other publications include plays, verse, memoirs, short
stories, and several historical novels and supernatural and
speculative fiction. His stories of Professor George Edward Challenger
in THE LOST WORLD (1912) and other adventures blended science fact
with fantastic romance, and were very popular. The model for the
professor was William Rutherford, Doyle's teacher from Edinburgh.
Doyle's practice, and other experiences, expeditions as ship's surgeon
to the Arctic and West Coast of Africa, service in the Boer War,
defenses of George Edalji and Oscar Slater, two men wrongly
imprisoned, provided much material for his writings.
Sherlock Holmes's literary forefather was Edgar Allan Poe's detective
C. Auguste Dupin and on the other hand a real life person, Conan
Doyle's teacher in the University of Edinburgh, Joseph Bell, master of
observation and deduction. Another model for the detective was Eugï¿½ne
Francois Vidoq, a former criminal, who became the first chief of the
Sï¿½retï¿½ on the principle of 'set a thief to catch a thief.' Holmes's
character have inspired many later writers to continue his adventures.
Among them are O. Henry, Robert L. Fish and Nicholas Meyer with his
novels The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1975) and The West End Horror
(1976). Philip Josï¿½ Farmer's The Adventure of the Peerless Peer (1974)
pastiched the Sherlock Holmes saga in the context of his World Newton
Family series. In Robert Lee Hall's novel Exit Sherlock Holmes (1977)
Moriarty is Holmes's alter ego. In Dr. Fu Manchu novel Ten Years
Beyond Baker Street (1984) the Evil Doctor fights Sherlock Holmes.
Roger Zelazny's A Night in the Lonesome October (1993) features Holmes
in a bit part. Perhaps the best actor who ever played Sherlock Holmes
was not Basil Rathbone but Jeremy Brett (1935-1995). Brett devoted
himself entirely to the role in a television series produced by
Granada TV from 1984 to 1994. The tv scripts were very faithful to
Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle wrote 'The Speckled Band' in 1892, whereas
Roald Dahl wrote 'Lamb To The Slaughter' in 1954. 62 years is a long
time and this shows as the language of both stories is slightly
different considering they were written in two different centuries.
Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle's stories were about the worldwide famous
detective Sherlock Holmes. Before I read this book I knew Sherlock
Holmes was a famous detective working with Dr Watson.
Roald Dahl is famous for writing children's stories, although he wrote
adult stories as well. Many were known as 'twist in the tale'. These
stories would have an unexpected twist which would completely change
the plot, and the readers point of view as in 'Lamb to the Slaughter'.
Both Conan-Doyle and Dahl use various techniques to make their stories
more interesting. For instance, in 'Lamb to the Slaughter', Dahl uses
Mary Maloney as the main character and the story revolves around her
and her strange antics, whereas many stories focus on the detective,
and sometimes the victim as in 'The Speckled Band'.
Conan-Doyle's story revolves around a detective who goes by the name
of Sherlock Holmes. He does this to leave place for sequels. The story
is told through the eyes of Dr. Watson, who writes in the first
person. The Speckled Band is a classic 'whodunnit', which adds
Dahl uses two major plot twists in Lamb to the Slaughter. The murder
of Patrick Maloney by his wife was the first, and the second was when
the detectives ate the frozen leg of lamb, which is quite ironic, and
adds to the humour of the story.
Although both stories are detective stories, they are portrayed
differently. They differ in the setting, the characters and most of
all the plot, as I will show in my this essay.
In the Speckled Band, the setting of the main part of the story is the
typical setting for a murder mystery genre. The story is set in an old
crumbling mansion. Dr. Watson states that "in one of the wings the
windows were broken and blocked with wooden boards". This creates a
spooky atmosphere, as this fit's the description of a haunted house.
Whilst Stoke Moran is the typical setting of a murder mystery story,
the Maloneys 1950's american home is not. The setting for this story
is a warm, cosy family home belonging to Mrs Maloney and her husband.
The story starts with a brief description of the setting "the room was
warm and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight, hers
and the one by the empty chair opposite". The atmosphere of the room
does not prepare us for the murder. This is commonly known as a
In both of the stories, there are detectives who try to solve the
murders. The Speckled Band focuses on the detective Sherlock Holmes,
whereas in Lamb to the Slaughter, Jack Noonan and his detectives play
a minor part in the story.
Holmes is the professional detective. He makes 'rapid deductions, as
swift as intuitions, and yet always founded on a logical basis', this
is what has made him such an idol. The writer wants us to think that
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are a good team and can do anything
together. Holmes has a very sharp ability to resolve some of the most
unusual mysteries, a gift which Dr. Watson admires. Dr. Watson states
that "I had no keener pleasure than in following Holmes in his
professional investigations and admiring (the way in which) he
unravelled the problems which were submitted to him." This is a
compliment which Holmes would take in his typical professional manner.
Holmes takes every opportunity he gets to show off his abilities, when
talking to Helen Stoner. He says "you have come by train I seeâ€¦ I
observe the second half of your return ticket is in the left palm of
your glove". He then goes on to observe that she went to the train
station by dog cart, because there was mud on one arm only. This shows
his awesome detective skills. Basically, Holmes is portrayed as an
intelligent, observant and committed detective, which is the typical
detectives role in a murder mystery.
On the other hand in Lamb to the Slaughter the detectives are
unobservant, uncommitted and most of all unintelligent. Basically,
Holmes and Noonan are complete opposites. One example of their
unobservance is when one of Noonan's detectives, stupidly commented
"the murder weapon is probably right under our noses," whilst eating
the leg of lamb, which previously when frozen, was actually used as
the murder weapon.
The main detective in the story, although there are three others is
Jack Noonan. Whilst on duty, Mrs Maloney persuades him to drink whisky
which obviously affected his thinking.
He also assumes that the murderer had to be a man as a woman may not
have been able to kill a man in one blow with a heavy weapon. He
stupidly comments "get the weapon, you've got the MAN." The last word
being the key part of the quote. You could say he was being sexist but
Mrs Maloney wouldn't complain.
The murderer in 'The Speckled Band' was Doctor Grimesby Roylott. He
was a violent man who had a bad and short temper "In a fit of anger,
however, caused by some robberies which had been perpetrated in the
house, he beat his native butler to death". After his wife dies he
shut himself up and became very violent. "his deep bile-shot eyes,
and the high thin fleshless nose, gave him somewhat the resemblance to
a fierce old bird of prey" This description is typical for a murderer
he would make anyone reading the book know that he is most probably
the murder. He plans the crime very carefully and makes many
preparations; but he makes some mistakes and the crime is solved and
he is killed by his own snake - "The Murder Weapon". His motive for
trying to kill Miss Helen Stoner was out of pure greed for money.
Unlike Dr Grimesby Roylott in 'The Speckled Band' Mary Maloney has no
characteristics what so ever of a typical murderer. She was married to
the victim Patrick Maloney. Mary Maloney was pregnant and looked
beautiful "There was a slow smiling air about her" Her motive for
murdering her husband was because he has told her he would be leaving
her for someone else, and she killed him out of pure love. It was a
'Crime of Passion' "Of course I'll give you money and see you're
looked after. But there isn't needn't really be any fuss. I hope not
anyway. It wouldn't be very good for my job." Mary Maloney didn't want
to get caught because she didn't want her or her child to get killed
and wasn't going to take any chances. I feel sympathy for her, that
her husband was going to leave her for someone else and that he
thought that money could solve the problem but I think Mary Maloney
over reacted to the situation.
In the 'Speckled Band' the victim is Miss Helen Stoner. When we first
see her in the story she was wearing black, veiled and grey haired.
She was shivering and terrified "it is not cold which makes me
shiver it is terror" she is a typical victim for a murder-mystery
story as she is about to inherit good amounts of money and she is weak
and innocent, what else could a murderer want! Then you look at Mary
Maloney in 'Lamb To The Slaughter' she is almost the description of a
murderer never mind a victim. However you would expect Patrick Maloney
to be the murderer and he turns out to be the victim. The writer has
made us think clearly who the murderer and victim are before using the
twist and turning them round.
Before the murder, Patrick Maloney seems very distant as soon as he
walks through the door. He uses short short, sharp answers to Mary
Maloney's inquisitive questions, and when he drank a glass of whisky
in one gulp Mary Maloney starts to suspect something is wrong. May be
he drinks the whisky quickly to give him courage to tell his wife he
is leaving for someone else. This then backfires on him and he is the
victim of a vicious attack from his wife.
At the end of 'The Speckled Band' the whole mystery is explained very
clearly to us. Dr Watson and Sherlock Holmes solve the crime; Dr
Grimesby Roylott has been killed by his own snake and Helen Stoner has
been saved. This shows that once again Holmes solves the crime
successfully, whereas in 'Lamb To The Slaughter' the crime is not
At the end of this story we know what happened, but the detectives do
not. The story finishes very suddenly and we are left to add to the
story ourselves Mary Maloney gets away with the murder of her husband.
She tricks Jack Noonan and his detectives. I think that if Holmes was
the detective in this story he would have solved the murder.
I preferred the ending of 'Lamb To The Slaughter' because we are made
to like Mary Maloneys character and when she gets away with the murder
by cleverly out-thinking the detectives, the reader gets the ending
My favourite part of both stories is the ironic way in which both
murderers cleverly use their murder weapons so that the detectives
wont suspect them. I particularly like the part when the detectives
stupidly eat the leg of lamb which was used to kill Patrick Maloney.