Sherlock returns – in 1903

Sidney Paget's illustration, The Strand, October 1903

Sidney Paget’s illustration of Sherlock’s return, The Strand, October 1903

If you enjoyed The Empty Hearse, the first episode of the new BBC series of Sherlock last night, you might be interested to see how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle originally brought Holmes back from apparent death at the Reichenbach Falls in 1903. In a new story called The Adventure of the Empty House published first in Collier’s Magazine and then in The Strand Magazine, Holmes reappears disguised as an antiquarian bookseller, then reveals himself to Watson in his study. The story is illustrated throughout by Sidney Paget and Watson’s reaction to Holmes’s reappearance is reproduced here. The writers of the BBC series, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, play with the structure, characters and plot devices from the original stories and Martin Freeman’s expression, complete with moustache, in last night’s episode does bear a strong resemblance to the original drawing, something the keen fans will have recognised and enjoyed.

Conan Doyle “killed” Sherlock Holmes in The Final Problem in 1893 to spend more time on his historical novels. However, there was huge public demand for more Holmes stories and The Hound of the Baskervilles appeared in serial form in 1901, followed by the second set of short stories which continued until 1927. All of these can be read in the original format in our print volumes of The Strand, available on request from the Special Collections and American Studies Reading Room in the Aldham Robarts Library, Mondays – Fridays, 10am – 4pm. The Reading Room re-opens on Monday 6th January and there is another episode of the BBC’s Sherlock called The Sign of Three on Sunday at 8.30 pm.

The advertisement for the return of Sherlock Holmes printed in the September 1903 issue of The Strand indicates that anticipation for the new stories was just as high in 1903 as it has been this year:Return3

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