Tit-Bits, New Journalism, and early Sherlock Holmes fandom

Ann K. McClellan

Plymouth State University, Plymouth, New Hampshire, United States

[0.1] Abstract—The Strand's more popular sister magazine, Tit-Bits, played a significant role in establishing Sherlock Holmes as a literary and cultural icon, particularly through its use of participatory practices, cross-promotion, and transmedia storytelling. I argue that Tit-Bits' late 19th-century New Journalism techniques like contests and prizes, inquiry columns, correspondence, and internal advertising fostered a corporately devised participatory fandom that directly contributed to Sherlock Holmes's popularity. Tit-Bits audiences were invited and encouraged to imagine new scenarios for their favorite character that were validated through publication. Such practices not only created a unique identity for Sherlock Holmes fandom but also directly contributed to the creation and maintenance of Holmes's fictional world. With fandom studies reaching more and more audiences—both academic and popular—historicizing early fan practices like the early publication and reception of the Sherlock Holmes stories provides important insight into how audiences have historically responded to, and interacted with, fictional characters, and how they helped sustain and expand those characters' fictional worlds.

[0.2] Keywords—Arthur Conan Doyle; Cross-promotion; George Newnes; Strand Magazine

McClellan, Ann K. 2017. "Tit-Bits, New Journalism, and Early Sherlock Holmes Fandom." In "Sherlock Holmes Fandom, Sherlockiana, and the Great Game," edited by Betsy Rosenblatt and Roberta Pearson, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 23.

1. Introduction

[1.1] When scholars talk about the origins of Sherlock Holmes fandom, they usually start with the Strand Magazine, the periodical that first published Conan Doyle's short stories. However, the Strand's more popular sister magazine, Tit-Bits, played a significant role in establishing Sherlock Holmes as a literary and cultural icon, particularly through its use of participatory practices, cross-promotion, and transmedia storytelling. I argue that late 19th-century New Journalism techniques like contests and prizes, inquiry columns, correspondence, and internal advertising fostered a corporately devised participatory fandom that directly contributed to Sherlock Holmes's popularity. By integrally linking the publication and advertising strategies of his two major periodicals, proprietor and editor George Newnes manufactured one of the most vibrant literary fandoms in history. Analyzing New Journalism's cross-promotional strategies provides contemporary scholars with one way to bridge "the fundamental problem facing fan studies"—the long gap between historical fandoms like 1800s Byromania and contemporary fan cultures (Cranfield 2014, 66) (note 1).

2. The newness of George Newnes

[2.1] George Newnes was not brought up in a publishing family (note 2). The son of a Congregational minister, he was educated at boarding schools in Derbyshire, Birmingham, and London before beginning his professional career in a London fancy goods firm, where he quickly rose up the ranks to become chief bookkeeper and then a regional sales manager in the north of England. An entrepreneur at heart, he raised the capital to start his first magazine by opening a vegetarian restaurant in Manchester. The magazine, Tit-Bits, was an immediate success, and Newnes was offered £16,000 for the periodical by a London publishing firm just 6 weeks after its initial publication on October 22, 1881, and £30,000 six months later (Jackson 1996, 6). Tit-Bits was designed as a 16-page miscellany, a composite of various kinds of writings including correspondence, advice columns, contests, new fiction, advertisements, and general human interest stories. Newnes sought to bridge a perceived gendered gap in the market between sentimental women's magazines like Reynold's Weekly and the "racier" sporting papers aimed at men. Periodicals somewhere in the middle were often priced too high for working-class readers (Jackson 2001, 48), so Newnes set out to create a new kind of periodical, one that appealed to the often self-taught upper working and lower middle classes and that would "improve his readers' cultural health" (Pittard 2007, 1) (note 3). "An enormous class of superficial readers, who crave for light reading, would read the so-called sporting papers if there was no Tit-Bits to entertain them," Newnes wrote. "At least its contents are wholesome and many of those readers may be led to take an interest in higher forms of literature" (quoted in Pittard 2007, 1–2).

[2.2] In 1884, Newnes moved his publishing house to Burleigh Street in London, just a few doors down from other popular London periodicals like the Globe, the Guardian, and the Court Journal, and within the decade Tit-Bits' circulation averaged 900,000 copies per week. Only Alfred Harmsworth's newspaper, the Daily Mail, had a higher circulation, at nearly one million copies per day (Jackson 2001, 48–49; Sumpter 2006, 240). No other magazine at the time, in Britain or the United States, ever reached comparable circulation numbers. Its cultural legacy was even farther reaching, as Tit-Bits was "transformed from printed text into embedded cultural reference," with mentions in several novels (including James Joyce's Ulysses), biographies, periodicals, and historical documents, even if it was sometimes being mentioned as a scathing indictment of what critics saw as Newnes's cheapening of journalism (Jackson 2001, 56).

3. New Journalism, participatory culture, and celebrity

[3.1] Tit-Bits was so successful partly because of its publication model. Inaugurating what is known as "New Journalism," Newnes's editorial strategy included less political and parliamentary reporting, shortened news items, and more human interest stories, and he broke up large sections of text with images and photographs (Griffen-Foley 2004, 534) (note 4). Periodicals also changed from small-circulation efforts by an "editor-proprietor" to publications with massive readerships (Sumpter 2006, 240) (note 5). Newnes's strategy was also built on new conceptions of audience; rather than viewing the reading public as upper-class, male, and with solitary pursuits, he and other New Journalism magnates imagined a popular audience made up of the masses and with varied interests (note 6).

[3.2] At the heart of New Journalism was the concept of the periodical as an "open text." More traditional narrative forms, like the bound novel, have been described as "closed texts"—that is, texts that close off alternative interpretations, endings, and meanings, leaving only one dominant understanding of the text, the world, and the self (Beetham 1989, 98) (note 7). In contrast, because 19th-century periodicals like Tit-Bits comprised a variety of written genres, illustrations, and other visuals, they could be described as "open texts," ones that "refuse[d] the closed ending and allow[ed] for the possibility of alternative meanings" (Beetham 1989, 98). Such open-endedness gave readers the ability to disrupt and even subvert dominant readings by writing in to correspondence columns, sending letters to the editor, and even contributing original pieces for publication. Interestingly, the psychoanalysts on whom Beetham based her readings of Victorian periodicals aligned their definitions of "closed" and "open" texts with the gendered concepts of masculinity and femininity, respectively. Thus, closed texts were masculine, dominant, and authoritative, while open texts were feminine, disruptive, subversive, and creative. Such gendering becomes even more prescient when we look at Victorian periodicals and open texts in the context of recent discussion of fandom and celebrity culture. Contemporary fan fiction writers, for instance (many of whom are women), often view modern media texts like television shows, films, and novels as texts open to, and even in need of, revision and change, particularly in their approaches to marginalized audiences and to varieties of gender and sexual identities, and in their responses to and portrayals of people of color.

[3.3] The success of an "open" periodical like Tit-Bits rested on the editor's ability to identify and reproduce elements satisfying readers' desires to participate in the text's construction, and on the self-referential links between issues that could be found in contests, cross-promotions, serialized novels, and other features (Beetham 1989, 97). Because each issue directed readers to both previous and future issues, the text itself was never-ending and constantly open to new additions. Readers' familiarity with such formats, Andrew King argues, ended up creating a kind of "double reading," depending on the context within which the reader approached a particular publication. A "First Time Viewer" would relate a given issue of the periodical to "other products or cultural codes in general," while a "Constant Subscriber" (a pseudonym frequently adopted by London Journal correspondents) would read it in the context of previous issues (2000, 90). Thus, factors like time, space, and readers' identities and relationship with the magazine affected their interpretations of the text.

[3.4] Tit-Bits' openness and pragmatism can be seen in its dependence on contests, prizes, and promotional schemes, as well as in correspondence and advice columns that encouraged readers to actively engage with the text and to actively contribute to the construction of the periodical itself. Readers were even encouraged to submit their own work for publication. One of the earliest Tit-Bits writing competitions (ultimately won by novelist Grant Allen's "What's Bred in the Bone") garnered more than 22,000 submissions (note 8). Newnes's audience actively participated in creating the very text they consumed, and they "gained a sense of identity from the process" (Jackson 1997, 201). Ultimately, Tit-Bits and other periodicals functioned as a "social discourse," a method of cultural exchange "between the popular press and the popular mind (Jackson 2001, 54; Jackson 1997, 201).

[3.5] To those familiar with contemporary fan studies, such descriptions of openness, interactivity, and discursivity sound surprisingly similar to recent descriptions of fandom and participatory culture. In their recent work Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture, Henry Jenkins et al. define participatory culture as "a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby experienced participants pass along knowledge to novices" (2009, xi). Contemporary forms of participatory culture include affiliations, memberships, and message boards. Together they promote collaboration and creative problem solving, and they produce new creative forms like fan fiction, fan videos, and mashups (Jenkins et al. 2009, xi–xii). Contemporary fan audiences interact with and participate in modern media in much the same ways George Newnes originally devised for Tit-Bits. In 2008, for instance, NBC's Heroes created a fan-based Web site where fans voted on character personalities and special attributes to create new heroes, which would then "come to life" in a live-action series aired on; more recently, Entertainment Weekly (2015) ran a "Fanuary" contest offering to publish original fan fiction on its Web site. However, the majority of these contemporary practices depend upon modern technology and are grounded in convergence culture, and while their effects may be similar to those of New Journalism's techniques, the means used to achieve those effects in the 19th century were necessarily different. Thus, although historian Bridget Griffen-Foley describes the advent of New Journalism as the origin of "participatory media" (2004, 533), Matthew Freeman cautions that cross-promotion should more correctly be seen as "a lineal ancestor of today's participatory culture" (2014a, 2373; emphasis added).

[3.6] Freeman stresses the importance of understanding that the origins of participatory culture and transmedia storytelling, in particular, are rooted in early 20th-century advertising strategies and industrialized consumer culture (2014a, 2377) (note 9). At the turn of the century, Freeman explains, "consumption was promoted through mass culture, one established at this time through mass media such as magazines, which in turn encouraged notions of a mass culture by pronouncing a media text as itself a commodity" (2014b, 46). Cross-promotional practices like Tit-Bits' correspondence columns and contests were grounded in the rise of advertising and consumer culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. According to Freeman, cross-promotional culture "[lures] the masses toward the purchase of multiple media texts and tie-in products through the use of narrative and visual content, all of which was placed upon various screens and windows" (2014a, 2376–77). Magazines (including Tit-Bits, I argue) were "an important step in the direction of creating an active, migratory audience which, for the first time, was being encouraged to participate in the culture around them—actively shaping that culture, traversing borders" (2014a, 2365). Thus fictional characters and narratives—like those of Sherlock Holmes—that could "sell and sustain the purchase of newspapers would become the most important" media at the turn of the century and beyond, and cross-promotion became the most popular means of advertising for more US and European newspaper chains (2014a, 2368). Such practices provided the historical framework for today's transmedia storytelling.

[3.7] More importantly, the rise of New Journalism also went hand in hand with the rise of celebrity culture. While many critics cite readers' obsession with George Gordon, Lord Byron, in the late 18th century as the origin of celebrity culture (Cranfield 2014, 66; Mole 2008, 345), such obsessions became much more commonplace at the end of the 19th century, when Newnes was beginning his editorial experiments. As early as the 1830s, magazines like Fraser's were publishing engraved portraits of famous authors, politicians, scientists, and explorers each month. "Fraser's Gallery of Illustrious Literary Characters" was accompanied by a page of text and was used to "unify" the often disparate elements of the magazine (Fisher 2006, 97). Advances in photographic technology and the subsequent growing interest in photography midcentury helped make evolutionary scientist Charles Darwin a cultural phenomenon; Darwin and other literati would include self-portraits, often with facsimiles of the sitter's signature, in their correspondence with fans (Gapps 2006, 348). By the end of the 19th century, celebrities, scientists, and writers increasingly depended on photos, gossip columns, and interviews to establish and enhance their reputations. Through this confluence of advertising, New Journalism, and photography, the life of the author became a commodity, something to be reproduced and sold to various audiences. Authors, as much as their characters, became "figures of public recognition," so much so that, for some critics, their celebrity seemed to "threaten the cultural distinction of authorship itself" (Salmon 1997, 159–60).

[3.8] In some cases, like that of Sherlock Holmes, the fictional characters became even more celebrated than their authors and might subsume their creators' reputations. Holmes, for example, granted an interview to the National Observer in 1892 ("The Real Sherlock Holmes"), criticizing his creator for being more interested in money than truth or artistry. Conan Doyle himself commented in his memoir, Memories and Adventures ([1924] 1988), that numerous people treated Sherlock Holmes as a real-life celebrity in his own right, sending him letters in care of Conan Doyle or offering to work as his housekeeper; a group of French schoolboys even wanted to visit his lodgings in Baker Street (108). Stories circulate of the Turks believing Holmes to be working for the Allies in World War I (Pound 1966, 90), of obituaries being published for Holmes after the 1893 publication of "The Final Problem" (Saler 2003, 610), of Holmes giving a Paris newspaper an exclusive interview about a recent murder (Pound 1966, 92), and so on. The publishing industry often turned authors into celebrities, but George Newnes went further, deliberately forging his "loyal Tit-Bitites" into interactive Sherlock Holmes fan communities, and in so doing he directly contributed to Holmes's popularity at the turn of the century.

4. Fears of participatory culture: New Journalism and contemporary fandom

[4.1] Contemporary media portrayals of fandom reveal many fears of it, and there were similar fears of participatory culture in the late 19th century. Several late 19th-century critics feared that the New Journalistic models promoted by Newnes and Harmsworth oversimplified important political and economic issues for the lower classes and risked degrading the news and the general public. In particular, many felt that the 1870 Education Act contributed to the rise of New Journalism (Pound 1996, 11). Facing an increasing population and changing urban demographics in response to the industrial revolution, Britain desperately needed to revise its national education policies and to create more schools. The 1870 Education Act, the first national legislation in support of education, expanded the number of schools and determined that religious teaching in the state schools was to be nondenominational ("The 1870 Education Act"). More schools meant increased literacy rates, particularly among working-class children. Popular magazines like Tit-Bits were often vilified by cultural critics for pandering to these new, underdeveloped readers.

[4.2] One of the biggest critics of the New Journalism was poet and essayist Matthew Arnold. Writing in the May 1887 issue of the Nineteenth Century in response to Pall Mall Gazette editor W. T. Stead, Arnold first coined the term "New Journalism" and lamented its effect on readers: "We have had opportunities of observing a new journalism which a clever and energetic man has lately invented…It has much to recommend it: it is full of ability, novelty, variety, sensation, sympathy, generous instincts; its one great fault is that it is feather-brained." He argued that New Journalism "offered information at the expense of knowledge" (Jackson 2001, 54) and risked the kind of anti-intellectual philistinism he had railed against in his previous famous essay, Culture and Anarchy (1869). Of the rising lower and middle classes, Arnold wrote,

[4.3] Consider these people, their way of life, their habits, their manners, the very tones of their voices; look at them attentively; observe the literature they read, the things which give them pleasure, the words which come forth out of their mouths, the thoughts which make the furniture of their minds; would any amount of wealth be worth having with the condition that one was to become just like these people by having it? ([1869] 1932, 28–29)

[4.4] For Arnold, the rise in literacy rates meant decreases in the quality of literature and the national intellect. Caroline Sumpter has recently connected Arnold's paranoia about rising philistinism to the 1867 Second Reform Act, which enfranchised segments of the male urban working classes in England and Wales. She argues that disparaging the New Journalism allowed the educated elite to "cast doubt on the rationality of voters as well as readers. It could also be used to reignite a familiar debate: to once again raise the spectre of elite culture under siege" (2006, 241). Because periodicals like Tit-Bits were so popular with the upper working and lower middle classes, they were accused of undermining literary standards. Tit-Bits in particular "became synonymous with illiterate taste, a scapegoat for shrinking attention spans and narrow intellects" (Chan 2007, 10).

[4.5] Arnold's fear that these new active readers, who participated in the text rather than merely consuming it, threatened literary quality and even democracy sounds familiar when we read his critiques in the light of contemporary fan studies. Much of our contemporary understanding of fans, as seen in scholarship and research on fans and fan practices, originated in the United Kingdom at the same time as New Journalism: between the 1880s and the 1920s. In Textual Poachers, Henry Jenkins provides a helpful etymology of the word "fanatic." It comes from the Latin fanaticus, originally meaning "of or belonging to the temple, a temple servant, a devotee," and then later "of persons inspired by orgiastic rites and enthusiastic frenzy" (Jenkins 1992, 12). The abbreviated form "fan" came to be commonly used in reference to audiences of late 19th-century sports and early 20th-century films. The Oxford English Dictionary, for example, cites an 1889 reference to "base-ball fans" in the Kansas Times & Star, as well as a 1914 reference to "First League football 'fans' in London" in the Daily Express.

[4.6] George Newnes himself was professionally invested in 19th-century fan culture, particularly as it related to spectator sports and celebrity culture. The inaugural issue of the Strand Magazine in 1891, for example, included a feature titled "Portraits of Celebrities" depicting important cultural figures of the 19th and 20th centuries, the first of whom was poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Newnes later added to his fan service such columns as "Illustrated Interviews," "Artists of the Strand," and "Celebrities at Play," all combining to celebrate celebrity culture and fan practices. In the early 20th century, when spectator sports were becoming popular, Newnes published full-page studio portraits of "famous footballers" and "famous cricketers" in C. B. Fry's Magazine (Jackson 2001, 113). The fact that Sherlock Holmes rose to international prominence amidst such dramatic changes in advertising, mass publishing, and celebrity culture suggests that the rise of celebrity culture correlates with the origins of fandom.

5. Tit-Bits, Sherlock Holmes, and cross-promotion

[5.1] Considering all of the cultural fears surrounding participatory culture during the late 19th century, it is surprising how effective George Newnes's new publishing practices were. He used his first periodical, Tit-Bits, to try out several different means to engage his readership, including prizes, correspondence columns, and writing competitions. Through these promotions, Tit-Bits readers became active writers and contributors to the magazine. After the success of the Sherlock Holmes stories in the Strand, however, Newnes sought out even more cross-promotional strategies to maximize his profits off both magazines and thus, indirectly, to build the first Sherlock Holmes fandom.

[5.2] Newnes created the Strand Magazine as a middle-class vehicle for educated readers. First launched in January 1891—just 10 years after the arrival of Tit-Bits—the Strand's 112 lavish pages included new fiction, articles, and colored prints from the previous year's Royal Academy art show, and was immediately popular. Its first issue sold over 300,000 copies, sales ultimately peaked at about half a million copies per month and were the highest when including a Sherlock Holmes story (Pound 1966, 32). Once Sherlock Holmes entered the scene in the July 1891 issue, the magazine had to be sent to press a month before publication in order to meet demand (Jackson 1996, 15). Holmes made the Strand so popular that the magazine could be found all over Europe and beyond. Pound records, "A traveler leaving Waterloo by boat train for Southampton noted that 'every other person on the train had a copy,'" and on arriving in Cape Town, South Africa, he saw "a pile of copies of the magazine on the railway bookstall…'diminishing with rapidity.'" Even Conan Doyle himself reported, after returning from the Continent, "Foreigners used to recognize the English by their check suits. I think they will soon learn to do it by their Strand Magazines. Everyone on the Channel boat, except the man at the wheel, was clutching one" (quoted in Pound 1966, 63).

[5.3] Although Newnes ostensibly intended the Strand to appeal to a higher-class audience than Tit-Bits, recent scholars like Winnie Chan, Christopher Pittard, and Kate Jackson have raised questions about the periodicals' readerships. According to Chan, the middle-class Strand welcomed working-class Tit-Bits readers "as if they were graduating to more sophisticated reading," and Tit-Bits conversely welcomed readers of the Strand (2007, 11). In fact, Newnes's plan to build and sell Holmes's world could only work if he could use Tit-Bits to fuel readers' hunger for more Holmes stories in both periodicals. The late 19th- and early 20th-century consumer model meant that "readers, as consumers…became accustomed to this multiplication, demanding more and more story from their media texts" (2014b, 46).

[5.4] Newnes began promoting Sherlock Holmes in Tit-Bits soon after the character had grabbed the public's imagination in 1891, and he did so through three main New Journalistic participatory practices: inquiry columns, competitions, and Holmesian pastiches. The inquiry column published short questions sent in by readers with the answers following 2 weeks after. The magazine's cultural authority was partially grounded in its guarantee that every question would be considered with the utmost seriousness and answered with absolute accuracy. For instance, just a year after Sherlock Holmes first appeared in the Strand's "A Scandal in Bohemia," Tit-Bits published an inquiry regarding the character's real-life existence: "Buttons wishes to know whether Sherlock Holmes, the detective genius…is or is not an actual person. We cannot positively say. As a matter of fact, we have not made the personal acquaintance of Mr. Sherlock Holmes…If…we should find that no such person is in existence we shall then be very much disappointed indeed" (Tit-Bits, January 23, 1892). The question of Holmes's authenticity came up again in an 1894 query, in answer to which the editors had to make clear that "it is not true that Oliver Wendell Holmes was the father of Sherlock Holmes; as a matter of fact, they were not related at all" (Tit-Bits, October 27, 1894). Such editorial responses provided curious readers with tiny insights into the famed character's backstory, a popular element of contemporary transmedia storytelling, and thus expanded Conan Doyle's fictional world. Michael Saler (2003) describes such readers as "naïve believers," audiences who want to believe that the fiction of Sherlock Holmes is, in fact, real. Newnes does not deny Holmes's reality; rather, he uses the Tit-Bits inquiry column to cross-promote the Strand and to reinforce readers' fascination with the character and desire for even more details about his life and fictional world.

[5.5] When Conan Doyle tried to kill off Sherlock Holmes in "The Final Problem" (1893), the Tit-Bits mailroom was overwhelmed with readers' complaints and demands to bring Holmes back to life. As early as January 6, 1894, Newnes was responding to readers' questions about Holmes's death, the future of the character, and the possibility of new Sherlock Holmes stories ever again appearing in the Strand Magazine:

[5.6] G. and very many others—The news of the death of Sherlock Holmes has been received with most widespread regret, and readers have implored us to use our influence with Mr. Conan Doyle to prevent the tragedy being consummated. We can only reply that we pleaded for his life in the most urgent, earnest, and constant manner. Like hundreds of correspondents we feel as if we had lost an old friend whom we could ill spare. Mr. Doyle's feeling was that he did not desire Sherlock to out stay his welcome, and that the public had had enough of him. This is not our opinion, nor is it the opinion of the public; but it is, we regret to say, Mr. Doyle's. The author desires to turn his attention more to other paths of literature, and for a time, at any rate, to leave detective stories alone. He has, however, promised us that he will, at some future date, if opportunity may occur, give us the offer of some posthumous histories of the great detective, which offer we shall readily accept.

[5.7] Such demands for more Holmes continued over the next decade, particularly in the Tit-Bits inquiry columns, where readers pressed the editor for news about the future of their favorite detective. For example, in the April 1, 1899, issue, the editor reported,

[5.8] Three Castles comes along with another long-continued—shall we say?—chronic complaint against Mr. Conan Doyle, that he does not give us a new series of Sherlock Holmes. Three Castles does not employ any arguments, nor do any of our correspondents who desire the same thing, which we have not already put before Mr. Conan Doyle…We hope that he will continue the series at some time, but when—or if ever—we cannot at present say.

[5.9] Contemporary readers can easily identify the frustration Newnes must have felt at being caught between the demands of his readers and Conan Doyle's obstinate refusal to bring back a beloved character. Because the more upscale Strand did not publish letters to the editor or inquiry columns, readers were forced to turn to Tit-Bits for answers, thus reinforcing the synergistic relationship between Holmes's publication "home" and its cross-promotional companion.

[5.10] Newnes not only promoted Tit-Bits as an authority on the future of Sherlock Holmes, but also advertised new publications and reprints of the old Holmes stories to already-invested readers, sometimes to the detriment of other writers for his magazines. In the late 1880s and early 1890s, the Strand explicitly marketed new Conan Doyle stories on the backs of other popular detective stories (Chan 2007, 16). Figure 1 shows a promotion for upcoming Sherlock Holmes stories that was inserted into installments of J. E. P. Muddock's "Dick Donovan" stories in 1892.

It will be observed that this month there is no detective story by Mr. Conan Doyle relating the adventures of the celebrated Mr. Sherlock Holmes. We are glad to be able to announce that there is to be only a temporary interval in the publication of these stories. Mr. Conan Doyle is now engaged upon writing a second series, which will be commenced in an early number. During this short interval powerful detective stories by other eminent writers will be published. Next month will appear an interview with Mr. Conan Doyle, containing among other interesting matter some particulars concerning Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

Figure 1. The Strand, Dick Donovan (Strand 4 [1892]: 82).

[5.11] Perhaps even more damaging, Tit-Bits often tacked such promotions onto the end of Muddock's stories, thus undermining their independent literary and cultural value. Such promotions implied that Dick Donovan stories might be satisfactory fillers while Conan Doyle was writing new stories, but they were no substitute for accounts of Sherlock Holmes himself.

[5.12] Not only did Newnes use Muddock's tales to promote new Sherlock Holmes stories, but he also used such "apologetic" prefaces to sell Holmesian reprints as well: "Admirers of that eminent detective are also informed that The Sign of Four, the story of the wonderful adventure by which he gained his reputation, can now be obtained at this office. Price 3s.6d." (Strand 4 [1892]: 470). In fact, Tit-Bits was advertising reprints of Conan Doyle's independently published novel, The Sign of Four, as early as 1892, just a year after Sherlock Holmes first appeared in short story form in the Strand (Answers to Correspondents, Tit-Bits, October 22, 1892). Conan Doyle's novels and collections, like The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, remained popular throughout the "hiatus" of the 1890s and were reprinted in 1899, with both volumes, of course, advertised in Tit-Bits (April 1, 1899, 15).

[5.13] During the hiatus, Newnes even used Sherlock Holmes to promote his own periodicals, as in an ad for Woman's Life (1895–1934) in the December 28, 1895, issue of Tit-Bits:

[5.14] Watson: "Have you noticed, my dear Holmes, how charmingly Mrs. Beauty dresses now; how well her house is managed, and how full of pleasant talk she is? She used to be such a dowdy creature you know."

Holmes: "Yes, I have observed."

Watson: "Her little dinners are now most excellent, and her home seems to be brighter and more charming than it used to be. And such lovely hats she wears! What is the reason?"

Holmes said not a word, but placing his hand in his overcoat pocket he pulled out No. 3 of "Woman's Life" and handed it to Watson, with a significant look as he turned the pages.

"Ah," said Watson, "now I understand how it has all come about."

—Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and Mrs. Beauty understood, and we wish all our lady readers to understand, that "Woman's Life" is the best illustrated penny paper for the home ever published. ("Sherlock Holmes Dialogue, with a Moral for Ladies")

[5.15] In preparation for Sherlock Holmes's return in 1901, Tit-Bits also spent a considerable amount of time announcing that new Sherlock Holmes stories would be published in the Strand (further indicating the overlap of the two magazines' audiences). In July of 1901, Tit-Bits began running regular ads for the serialization of The Hound of the Baskervilles; one particularly imaginative ad featured an image of a calling card with the message "At Home 1st day of each month: Sherlock Holmes. Strand Magazine" (Tit-Bits, September 21, 1901) (note 10). By advertising for its sister publication, Tit-Bits provided early Sherlock Holmes audiences with a form of fan service: material within a work of fiction that is added to please fan audiences. While Conan Doyle himself was not (as far as we know) including such elements in his stories, Newnes's cross-promotional practices enticed readers to several of his publications, providing them with information about Holmes's world and where they could purchase additional stories.

[5.16] In addition to advertising new reprints of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, over the next several decades Tit-Bits created and solicited promotional tie-in stories and advertisements as well. Some of the stories claimed to be factual accounts of actual events. The first of these, "Men Who Lead Double Lives," was published in 1892, in connection with Conan Doyle's publication of "The Man with the Twisted Lip" in the Strand (March 26, 1892). In September of that year, Tit-Bits ran another tie-in story, "A Female Sherlock Holmes," which it presented as an account of a real-life love triangle and murder mystery. By offering "real-life" tie-in stories, the magazine encouraged "naïve believers" and reinforced their belief that Sherlock Holmes was a real character. Perhaps more importantly, it created the perception that Holmes's world was ongoing, even if the character himself was dead. By linking Conan Doyle's stories to these supposedly real-life tales, Newnes reinforced the public's belief in Sherlock Holmes's reality and kept them interested in the Holmesian franchise, or world. Tie-in stories like these are common in modern transmedia platforms.

6. Holmesian contests

[6.1] Another participatory technique Tit-Bits used to engage readers in Holmes's world was competitions. The periodical offered several different kinds of contests throughout its publication history, beginning as early as the 1880s. One of the most famous was an 1883 story-writing competition with a prize of a seven-room villa. Newnes was able to dedicate several issues to promoting the competition and the award ceremony; he reported receiving over 22,000 entries, some containing as many as 20 individual stories, and selling 100,000 commemorative souvenir photos of the ceremony, which was open to the public (Jackson 2001, 79–80). As a method of recruiting new writers, Newnes ran another contest in 1884, offering £100 and a 1-year position at Tit-Bits to the person who could answer 10 challenging trivia questions correctly. He presented this contest as a philanthropic enterprise to help the unemployed; similarly, in 1889 he promised to donate £10,000 to the local hospital fund if his readers would raise Tit-Bits' circulation to one million (Jackson 2001, 59). In another playful competition, readers deciphered a series of cryptic clues to determine the location of a buried treasure of 500 gold sovereigns; over £2,500 was offered as hidden prizes over the years (Jackson 2001, 68–69). Newnes clearly saw such activities as "advertisement investment(s)," commenting that "there is no philanthropy about the matter. It is simply prompted by the advertising instinct, and there is no more generosity about it than if we had spent hundreds of pounds on bill-posting" (Jackson 1997, 208). Perhaps the most famous was the morbidly ingenious "Railway Life Assurance" competition of May 1885: "ONE HUNDRED POUNDS WILL BE PAID BY THE PROPRIETOR OF 'TIT-BITS' TO THE NEXT-OF-KIN OF ANY PERSON WHO IS KILLED IN A RAILWAY ACCIDENT, PROVIDED A COPY OF THE CURRENT ISSUE OF 'TIT-BITS' IS FOUND UPON THE DECEASED AT THE TIME OF THE CATASTROPHE"; by 1891, the periodical reported, 36 such claims had been paid to relatives of its loyal customers (Jackson 2000, 20–21).

[6.2] LeRoy Lad Panek argues it was no surprise that the same editor who devised a contest involving finding buried treasure would be the same man behind Sherlock Holmes's (indeed, much of detective fiction's) rise to popularity. According to Panek, "It is not a great leap from the clues in a prize contest to a detective story. And contemporary critics were quick to make the connection between the puzzle and the detective story. The success of the Sherlock Holmes stories in the early 1890s, in fact, demonstrated to publishers and writers that narratives showing someone cleverly solving an interesting and complicated puzzle" attracted a wide variety of active readers. (Panek 2014, 198)

[6.3] Most of the Holmes-themed contests that appeared in Tit-Bits involved competitions in storytelling, factual knowledge, and interest in the Holmes stories. For example, during the first run of Conan Doyle's stories in the Strand, Tit-Bits published a "Sherlock Holmes Examination Paper" (October 21, 1893), consisting of 12 questions about Holmes's methods; answers and winners were announced in the December 21 issue (first prize went to Adam R. Thompson for his "personal ingenuity") ("A Sherlock Holmes Competition" 1983, 318). Much as detectives piece together clues to solve a crime, Tit-Bits' readers applied their investigative skills to answering detailed trivia quizzes that subsequently (re)created the periodical text. After the publication of "The Final Problem" (1893), a sympathetic reader proposed the idea of a "Sherlock Holmes Memorial Prize" in honor of Holmes's alleged death, asking readers to

[6.4] state which they think to be the best of the series of "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," stating their reasons for so thinking. The "Adventure" receiving the greatest number of supporters to be considered the most popular, and the person sending in the best reasons for considering the successful one to be best to receive the prize. (Tit-Bits, January 6, 1894)

[6.5] The author of the winning essay, Mr. G. Douglas Buchanan, argued for "The Speckled Band"; he received £10 and the publication of his essay as reward.

[6.6] Conan Doyle recognized how effective Newnes's cross-promotional methods were and even came up with his own ideas for Holmesian contests later in his career. After the publication of "The Problem of Thor Bridge" in 1921, he wrote to the Strand editor, Herbert Greenhough Smith, about the possibility of a contest for new Holmesian plots: "I can write them if I have good ideas, but have rather exhausted my own stock. No wonder! I wonder if a competition for the best mystery idea would be possible—probably you would get no fish worth taking out of the net" (quoted in "A Sherlock Holmes Competition" 1983, 318–19). Greenhough Smith agreed it wasn't the best notion (and of course modern copyright law would have complicated such a project); however, they did agree to create a competition in the March 1927 Strand Magazine in which readers would list what they considered "the best Sherlock Holmes stories." "A prize of £100 and a signed copy of [Conan Doyle's] autobiography, Memories and Adventures, was offered to the person who sent a list which coincided most closely with his own, and there were to be a hundred signed copies of his autobiography for the runners-up" (quoted in "A Sherlock Holmes Competition" 1983, 317). Newnes's New Journalistic practices, including contests and prizes, changed the way writers like Conan Doyle thought about their audience and the relationship between author, text, and reader.

7. Holmesian pastiches

[7.1] The most popular contests Tit-Bits ran were Holmesian pastiches—that is, competitions in which readers were invited to write original stories featuring Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in the style of Conan Doyle. The appearance of such contests is not surprising, since audience-produced articles were a major part of Tit-Bits' original format. Tit-Bits frequently solicited new fiction writers (just as it solicited new journalists in contests like the ones described earlier). Issues often included an ad: "TO LITTERATEURS: The price we pay for original contributions specially written for Tit Bits is ONE GUINEA PER COLUMN" (quoted in Jackson 2001, 60). And audiences were keen to participate; in 1890, a contest for a 40- to 50-chapter serial novel (later to be published in book form) garnered more than 22,000 submissions (Griffen-Foley 534) (note 11).

[7.2] Pastiches can be considered a form of narrative-fronted promotional content similar to newspaper comic strips. Such content "may or may not possess its own in-built revenue stream…yet operates primarily as a cross-promotional mechanism for the subsequent sale of other texts or products belonging to or extending from the same intellectual property. Such promotional content typically exploits a serialized narratological structure [like the Sherlock Holmes stories] as that which itself points audiences to the consumption of additional iterations" (Freeman 2014a, 2371–72). Interestingly, Tit-Bits began advertising Sherlock Holmes pastiche contests while Conan Doyle's original stories were still being published in the Strand; that is, Newnes's cross-promotional strategies were building upon and expanding Holmes's world even while it was still being created. As early as December 3, 1892, Tit-Bits published the prize-winning "The Adventure of Shylock Oams: The Sign of Gore," a clear play on Conan Doyle's 1889 novella, The Sign of Four: "The prize of two guineas which we recently offered to the best detective story in the manner of Sherlock Holmes, introducing certain incidents, has been awarded to Mr. F. W. Freeman" for penning a tale about a man whose moustache was shaved off in his sleep by a romantic rival.

[7.3] Notably, most of Tit-Bits' pastiches were published during Holmes's hiatus between 1893 and 1901. In "Sherlock in Love" (October 17, 1896), for example, Holmes visits America and falls in love with the beautiful Miss Snugger. "A Visit from the Ghost of Sherlock Homes" (Christmas 1897) explains that Holmes is "policing" the "Shades" in "Shadowland." Other winning entries in such contests included "A Student of Sherlock Holmes" (December 29, 1894), "Mrs. Dr. Sherlock Holmes" (January 8, 1895), "A Disciple of Sherlock Holmes" (January 1, 1898), "A Rural Sherlock Holmes" (March 11, 1899), and "Sherlock's Rival" (October 24, 1903)—a Sherlock Holmes pastiche was published almost every year the character was away. Other original stories were written in the style of Conan Doyle, and some, like "A Female Sherlock" (September 26, 1903), made specific reference to Holmes and his methods. Much like the Holmesian societies of the 1930s and beyond, Tit-Bits and its readers were "keeping Holmes alive" through their own writings and by expanding Sherlock's world. Most of these pastiches—today we would call them fan fiction—were the result of competitions created by the Tit-Bits editorial staff. Newnes actively encouraged his readers to obtain in the Strand the "original" Sherlock Holmes adventures they were missing, especially during the 1893–1901 hiatus.

[7.4] By publishing these fan productions, Newnes blurred the line between "author" and "fan," "authority" and "amateur," just as that line is contested in postmodern fandom. By using his periodical to solicit and publish Sherlock Holmes fan fiction, Newnes provided an alternative transmedia model in which the publisher and fans worked together to expand and promote the transmedia world. Not only do transmedia stories "unfold across multiple platforms, with each medium making distinctive contributions to our understanding of the storyworld" (Jenkins 2006, 334), they also extend the world. They offer new perspectives on the characters and the complex world of the text—what scholar Matt Hills has labeled its "hyper-diegesis" (Evans 2011, 30; Hills 2002, 137). Some threads may offer backstory for specific characters or the world itself (as we saw in the Tit-Bits inquiry columns), while others may lay out the chronologies, myths and lore, and even geography of the narrative world. They can provide alternative perspectives on key events, and also on tangential ones that may directly impact or parallel the world's main characters and events. Transmedia storytelling is another extension of cross-promotion, particularly brand extension, which Jenkins defines as "the idea that successful brands are built by exploiting multiple contacts between the brand and the consumer" (2006, 69). Thus, "each media text in a transmedia narrative is thus in a sense an advertisement for all the others" (Freeman 2014a, 2369). While 19th-century New Journalism did not have access to the distribution models available in contemporary convergence culture, analyzing the cross-promotional practices we see in Tit-Bits and the Strand provides a nuanced understanding of the historical development of literary fandoms and transmedia storytelling.

8. Conclusion

[8.1] Such cross-promotional practices during Newnes's tenure as editor of Tit-Bits and the Strand Magazine provide an important historical foundation for contemporary fan practices connected to Holmesian adaptations. Nowadays, fans must wait up to 2 years between seasons of the BBC's Sherlock, and more than 5 years have passed since the second Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes film, Game of Shadows (2011). Facing their own version of the Sherlockian hiatus, audiences once again turn to pastiches and contests to fill in the narrative gaps. Just as 19th-century Conan Doyle fans speculated about whether Watson had been twice married, where Holmes had gone to university, and what Holmes had been doing after Moriarty's death at the Reichenbach Falls, contemporary audiences publish fan fiction across a wide range of genres, including slash, alternate universe, and "fix-it" stories that alter the canon. They create "challenges" and contests to meet specific criteria (a "221b" story, for example, is a story in just 221 words, with the final word beginning with the letter b) or to explore a specific trope, event, or theme. Media-savvy creators make fan art and videos articulating new storylines and imagining alternate endings to season-ending cliffhangers; others design and sell Sherlock Holmes–themed crafts on Web sites like Etsy and Cafe Press. All of these actions articulate different ways contemporary fans participate in the consumption and promotion of Sherlock Holmes's world—whether that of Conan Doyle or Stephen Moffat. For over 100 years, "the rise of 'Sherlock chic'" has been "historically rooted in the perpetual belief that reading the text alone will not satisfy a voracious and obsessive readership" (Cranfield 2014, 69). Similarly, as Michael Saler has noted, "the cult of Holmes focuses not just on a single character, but on his entire world; fans of the 'canon' obsess about every detail of the fictional universe Doyle created, mentally inhabiting this 'geography of the imagination' in a way that was never true for the partisans of earlier characters" (2003, 601). No one seemed to understand this better than Tit-Bits' editor, George Newnes.

[8.2] Perhaps the secret to Sherlock Holmes's early and long-running success lies in the cross-promotional practices used by Tit-Bits and the Strand Magazine. Through Tit-Bits' correspondence columns, contests, and pastiches, George Newnes created a corporately supported and maintained fandom that both solicited and rewarded audience participation in the world of Sherlock Holmes. In the absence of new Sherlock Holmes stories in the late 1890s, in particular, Tit-Bits provided audiences with a place where they could get more Sherlock Holmes—more reprints, more Holmesian advertising, and more pastiches. In the latter, audiences were invited to imagine new scenarios for their favorite character that were not only encouraged by the publisher but were actually validated through publication. In early Sherlock Holmes fandom, these practices not only created a unique fandom identity, but also directly contributed to the maintenance and expansion of Holmes's fictional world, especially when Conan Doyle was not publishing new stories. With fandom studies reaching more and more audiences—both academic and popular—historicizing early fan practices like the publication and reception of the Sherlock Holmes stories provides important insight into how audiences have historically responded to and interacted with fictional characters, and how they helped formulate and extend those characters' fictional worlds.

9. Acknowledgments

[9.1] I would like to thank Dr. Michael Gunton and the staff at the Sherlock Holmes Collection, Richard Lancelyn Green Bequest, Portsmouth City Library, Portsmouth, UK, for their help and support during a research visit in summer 2014. I would also like to thank Plymouth State University for generously providing the grant funding that made this research possible.

10. Notes

1. Many issues of the Strand Magazine can be read on the Internet Archive ( I consulted Tit-Bits in the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, Richard Lancelyn Green Bequest, Portsmouth City Library, Portsmouth, UK.

2. Kate Jackson has published several authoritative works on the life and career of George Newnes, and much of my work here is indebted to her excellent research.

3. Even Tit-Bits' contests indicated a clear class identity. As Kate Jackson explains, "Payments offered in Tit-Bits were expressed in guineas, a fact which implied a class of reader in possession of a salary (middle class or professional) as opposed to a wage (always expressed in pounds, shilling, and pence)" (2001, 57).

4. Newnes is credited with the creation of New Journalism in a series of articles titled "The Leading Publishers" appearing in 1904 (Jackson 1996, 3); however, poet and critic Matthew Arnold is credited with coining the term "New Journalism," in a May 1887 article for Nineteenth Century.

5. Kate Jackson, along with Joel Weiner, maintains that "New" Journalism was not entirely new. Many of the changes attributed to New Journalism magnates like Newnes and Harmsworth actually originated earlier in the century. Jackson mentions the "success of the Sunday papers from the 1840s onwards,…the influence of sub-literary forms (chapbooks, almanacs, broadsheets) and of cheap fiction upon popular culture, and…a general expansion of the press resulting from the repeal of the taxes on knowledge." While "the so-called 'bohemian journalism' of journalists such as George Augustus Sala, Frederick Greenwood and Edmund Yates in the decades after 1850 laid the foundations for the New Journalism," Newnes's focus on participatory activities, on making readers part of a community of readers and contributors, is a notable advancement, and even more illuminating in the light of contemporary research on participatory culture (Jackson 2001, 45).

6. For more information on George Newnes's role in creating new audiences, see Kate Jackson's "George Newnes and the Loyal 'Tit-Bitites'" (2000). Jackson argues that "the creation of reading communities, defined as 'categories of readers linked together by a common experience or expectation of reading, and by common social, political, ideological or cultural objectives or binds rather than by physical proximity" was at the heart of Newnes's publishing enterprise. Tit-Bits' success was largely due to "Newnes's creation of a relationship between himself as paternal editor and the readership of the magazine (Pittard 2007, 1).

7. Beetham argues that bound copies or microfilm versions of Victorian periodicals are texts as "closed" as bound novels, finite publications, and the like. Publishers often cut off the covers and ancillary advertising materials when binding multiple issues of a periodical into a single volume, which changed the periodical's format. Similarly, by placing several issues together in one bound volume, we change the boundaries of the text itself. No longer do we read a given issue as finite, one that both stands alone and refers to previous and future issues of the same title, but rather it becomes part of a single, larger text, thus creating the impression that the volume is a finite text, published at a singular moment in time and space.

8. Interestingly, before he became famous, Conan Doyle himself once submitted a story to Tit-Bits and was reportedly offended by its rejection, although not so offended as to refrain from purchasing shares in the periodical (Gibson and Green 1981, 11).

9. While Freeman's research on cross-promotion primarily focuses on early 20th-century American fiction by L. Frank Baum and Edgar Rice Burroughs, one can identify similar practices even earlier, in late 19th-century British New Journalism.

10. Michael Saler (2003, 610) and Winnie Chan (2007, 16) also discuss Newnes's "internal advertisements" (e.g., cross-promotional strategies) and the role both Tit-Bits and the Strand played in promoting Sherlock Holmes's popularity.

11. Contemporary magazines similarly solicit content from readers. Pop culture magazines like Entertainment Weekly have tapped into fan culture by publishing articles about, and excerpts from, fan fic and fan art, such as in Entertainment Weekly's (2015) recent fandom contest. And of course citizen and grassroots journalism rely on contributions from readers.

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