7th July 1930. Elementary.

The typical image of the cocaine and morphine addicted Sherlock Holmes often portrays him with a curved-stemmed pipe, deer-stalker hat and the supposed user of the phrase, ‘Elementary my dear Watson’. 

Today saw the death of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, nephew of the original cover designer for Punch Magazine, and less known than his hero Holmes who features in 56 short stories and 4 long novels.



However ‘Elementary my dear Watson’, was in fact never said, the nearest the words came together was in The Adventures of the Crooked Man where Elementary and My dear Watson are separated by sentences.

There are only seven instances of ‘Elementary’ in the whole canon of the works, although ‘My dear Watson’ appears in 2/3 of the books.

But ‘Exactly my dear Watson’ does appear three times in the books.

The first recorded use of the phrase, in a complete novel, was in P.G. Wodehouse’s Psmith, Journalist of 1915: ‘Elementary my dear Watson, elementary’, murmured Psmith, though the phrase occurred before in its serialised form.

The deerstalker was an invention of illustrator Sydney Paget in 1891, whilst the essential ‘thinking pipe’ was originally a black clay, ‘thrusting out like a bill of some strange bird’. Some knotty problems required ‘three- pipes’ as in the Red Headed League.

It was Paget who gave him the smaller straight pipe and it was the actor in 1899 William Gillette who popularised the familiar curved smoker.

Straight pipe.

Holmes with straight pipe and Watson.

Not until the newly launched Strand Magazine in the 1890.s did his shorter tales catch the public imagination with the exploits of his famous detective whose skill technically, not in deduction, but in induction, and abduction where inference is drawn from evidence

Later Conan Doyle disparaged his work: ‘I have had such an overdose of Holmes… so that the name gives me a sickly feeling’, and said he  ‘wrote purely for money, on tales he considered unworthy of his talent’.

After killing Holmes off, public pressure in the 1920.s saw the ‘The Return of Sherlock Holmes’, though of little merit, it came complete with pipe and magnifying glass, though not deerstalker.

A statue exists to Holmes outside Baker St. Station, London, the first to a fictional character, erected by The Royal Society of Chemistry, in October 2002, in recognition of Holmes’ pioneering use of forensic science.

The statue marked the centenary of The Hound of the Baskervilles: one doesn’t exist of Conan Doyle.


listverse.com/sherlock-holmes/pic of book.

bbc.co.uk/new/mag/Pic of Holmes and pipe.

todayifoundout.com. August 27th 2013. Karl Smallwood.




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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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