Sidney Edward Paget

Sidney Edward Paget

The features of Sherlock Holmes as described by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are very peculiar and extra ordinary. And the person who drew Sherlock Holmes with quite a brilliant resemblance to the described features was Sidney Paget. Sidney Edward Paget, born in London on 4th October, 1860 was a British illustrator hailing from the Victorian era.

Paget is renowned for his illustrations of the legendary character of Holmes which were published alongside the stories in the Strand Magazine. He was initially hired to illustarte Holmes in ‘the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’, when they accidentlly sent the letter of commission to him rather than his younger brother, Walter Paget.

It has also been a common misconception that Sidney Paget based the looks of Sherlock Holmes upon his younger brother Walter, but Sidney outrightly dismissed this notion.  Later Sidney also made illustartions in ‘the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes’. Sir Arthur especially requested Sidney Paget to illustrate Holmes in the novel, ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’.

Holmes in deerstalker cap

Holmes in deerstalker cap

As the series started gaining popularity, his illustrations became larger and contained more and more details. It was Paget who first gave Holmes the gift of  a deerstalker cap and an iverness cape, which were no where mentioned in the writings of Doyle. The deerstalker cap and coat were first illustarted by him in ‘The Boscombe vally Mystery’. Paget drew the illustartaions in black and white which gave a darker and shadowy look to the  stories. All in all, Sidney Paget illustarted Sherlock Holmes in 37 short stories and 1 long novel with about 356 published drawings for the whole series.

Moriarty depicted by Paget

Moriarty depicted by Paget

All other illustartors also realized that whenever sketching Holmes, they had to follow the guidelines drawn by Paget. A complete set of Sidney Paget illustrations of Sherlock Holmes is considered to be priceless collectible item. The 10.5 x 6.75 inch original drawing of Holmes and Moriarty at the edge of Reichecbach Falls in the ‘Final Problem’, was sold for $220,800 on 16th November, 2004  in New York by Sotherby’s.

The illustrations of Sherlock Holmes made by Sidney Paget have been the most popular and accurate depictions of the great detective, and any new picture of Holmes deviating from the features made by Paget, is never accepted by Holmes’ enthusiasts.

‘A Study In Scarlet’ is one of the most popular novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The character of Sherlock Holmes was first featured in this novel. It is one of the four novels written by Conan Doyle that feature Holmes.

First Book Edition Cover (1888)

First Book Edition Cover (1888)

Doyle wrote this novel when he was 27 and it was first published, after much rejection, by Ward Lock and Co. in ‘Beeton’s Christmas Annual’ in 1887.  In 1888, Ward Lock and Co. published it as a novel which also contained illustrations drawn Charles Doyle, father of Conan Doyle. In 1890 an American version of ‘A Study In Scarlet’ was released by J.P. Lippincott Co. Conan Doyle only earned £25 from the publication, although, he did insist for royalty. Shortly after its publication, Doyle wrote ‘The Sign Of Four’ in 1890, another novel featuring Sherlock Holmes.

Initially this novel failed to make any mark and went unnoticed but who knew that in recent times, it was just the begginning of a series of short stories that will attract a huge fan club.

paget_holmes1The novel was initially named as ‘The Tangled Skein’ but was later renamed. Its name ‘A Study In Scarlet’ is derived from the engaging conversation between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in which the former is discussing his investigation methods. Holmes terms the murder investigation as ‘study in scarlet’, in his own words :”There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it”

It is in ‘A Study In Scarlet’ that both Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson meet for the first time. Dr. Watson exhausted and injured from war in Afghanistan returns to London, but soon due to limited resources looks to share an apertment with someone. A friend of his, who knows Holmes as well, arranges a meeting between the two to settle things. In their first meeting, Holmes surprises Dr. Watson with his deductive reasoning, when he reveals several facts about Watson’s past life.

The story is divided in two parts, the first part titled ‘Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of John Watson, M.D., Late of the Army Medical Department’  describes events of their meeting and the crime. While the other part titled ‘The Country of the Saints’  takes the reader to the deserts of United States describing events involving the Mormon community that lead to the crime. In the last two chapters, Dr. Watson continues to describe the conclusion of the case as he saw it.