The first ever mention of Sherlock Holmes came in A Study in Scarlet, published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887. Dr Watson is looking for lodgings, and meets an old acquaintance who knows of someone he could share with, but does not recommend.
Young Stamford looked rather strangely at me over his wine-glass. ‘You don’t know Sherlock Holmes yet,’ he said; ‘perhaps you would not care for him as a constant companion.’
More than 130 years on, Holmes remains Watson’s, and our, almost constant companion. Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective landed a Guinness World Record for the most frequently portrayed human literary character in film and television in 2012, beaten only by the (non-human) Dracula. He remains enduringly popular on screen: when Benedict Cumberbatch plunged off the roof at the end of the second series of BBC1’s Sherlock, more than nine million viewers tuned in to find out what had happened to him. Last year, Netflix estimated that, in just four weeks, 76 million households watched Enola Holmes, starring Millie Bobby Brown as the sleuth’s little sister and Henry Cavill as Sherlock.