Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sherlock Holmes, Dorian Gray, and a dinner at the Langham

Wilde left with a commission to write his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, which appeared in Lippincott’s June 1890 issue. And Conan Doyle agreed to produce a second novel starring his ace detective; The Sign of Four would cement his reputation. Indeed, critics have speculated that the encounter with Wilde, an exponent of a literary movement known as the Decadents, led Conan Doyle to deepen and darken Sherlock Holmes’ character: in The Sign of Four’s opening scene, Holmes is revealed to be addicted to a “seven-percent solution” of cocaine.

Excellent article on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, his writing, his characters, his London. And the article touches on Doyle's meeting with Oscar Wilde in 1889, at a literary dinner with an editor. I like reading about moments like these - creative, imaginative people who make an impression on each other and, if only in a subconscious or inadvertent way, influence each other's work (though here the critics don't speculate as to how Doyle might have influenced Wilde - maybe he didn't). Are the critics right? Would Holmes have been a different character, had Doyle never encountered Wilde?

Regardless, "For both writers, the evening would prove a turning point" - securing commissions for major works in their careers. I wonder who else was at that dinner, which other writers (whom we likely haven't heard about today) and what happened with their careers and writing.

Another interesting point to the article is how Doyle wanted as time went by to rid himself of Holmes - but never could. That's an interesting disconnect, between the demands of the fans and the needs of the author.

No comments: