The Real Sherlock Holmes Essay - Critical Context

Mary Hoehling

Critical Context

The year 1965 saw the publication of two young adult biographies dealing with Doyle: Hoehling’s study and another by James P. Wood, entitled The Man Who Hated Sherlock Holmes: A Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Despite the latter’s title, surely chosen to attract the curiosity of potential readers, a number of reviewers indicated their preference for Hoehling’s book, considering it to be both broader and more substantial in scope. Her prose style was described in Best Sellers as “lively and entertaining,” while C. E. Kilpatrick of Library Journal thought that the treatment of her subject was “an excitingly whole portrait of Conan Doyle as man and writer.”

Hoehling introduces young readers to an attractive, energetic, brave, and hardworking gentleman who was tenacious in his ideas, imaginative, and at times impulsive. He loved travel but was also intensely loyal to his country. All these characteristics might be used to describe Sherlock Holmes, but they are also an accurate description of Doyle.

Once discovered, Doyle, like his many fictional creations, continues to fascinate and inspire respect and admiration. Hoehling’s summation toward the end of her biography could be echoed by the many generations of readers throughout the world to whom his works have brought so much pleasure: “for those who love him, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle will never die.” Counterbalancing the somewhat questionable device of fictional dialogue is Hoehling’s sense of historical progression, her well-chosen bibliography, and her detailed index. Her prose is strong and never dull, making The Real Sherlock Holmes worthy of study.