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Friday, 10 June 2011
Talking of Sherlock Holmes in my last blog post reminded me: I think I discovered the other day where his and John Watson's names may ultimately come from. Roger Johnson, the Press and Publicity Officer of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London says that, '...in the first draft, the characters were called Sherringford Holmes and Ormond Sacker. Sherringford was soon changed to Sherlock because Doyle ran 30 runs against a bowler named Sherlock at a cricket match and had "retained a certain fondness for the name”. Sacker became Watson and the first story was published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual.'
I would not presume to dispute so distinguished a Holmesian - I am sure that what he says above is Arthur Conan Doyle's true account.
But Conan Doyle may not have consciously known his real source.
Daniel Defoe wrote a pamphlet entitled A True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs. Veal the Next Day after her Death to One Mrs. Bargrave at Canterbury the 8th of September, 1705. This is a ghost story; indeed it is one of the very first written short stories of any kind. It is only 15 pages long, but in it there appear both a Dr Sherlock and a Captain Watson.
Conan Doyle was famously interested in spiritualism, so it is highly likely that he would have read this pamphlet during his researches into that world. The pamphlet was written the best part of 200 years before Sherlock Holmes was created.
The names must have stuck in Conan Doyle's mind.