Early Sherlockian scholarship: Non/fiction at play

Kate M. Donley

Norwich University, Northfield, Vermont, United States

[0.1] Abstract—Sherlockian scholarship is a display of intellect, wit, and canonical expertise that requires a cunning manipulation of a story world and of nonfiction. This playful style of writing defies easy classification in the terminology of fan and literary studies. Emerging in the early 20th century, Sherlockian scholarship had a tremendous surge in popularity in the late 1920s and early '30s in articles by renowned British and American authors, including Dorothy L. Sayers, Christopher Morley, Sir Desmond MacCarthy, Sir Sydney Castle Roberts, and Ronald A. Knox. The sustained popularity of Sherlockian scholarship owes much to these initial players, whose sparkling prose conjures a bygone era of repartee. In this study, I present a chronological survey of two early periods in Sherlockian scholarship to understand its poetics, popularity, generic identity, and contemporary relevance.

[0.2] Keywords—Arthur Conan Doyle; Fan fiction; The Grand Game; Mock-biography; Modernism studies; Dorothy L. Sayers; Sherlock Holmes

Donley, Kate M. 2017. "Early Sherlockian Scholarship: Non/fiction at Play." In "Sherlock Holmes Fandom, Sherlockiana, and the Great Game," edited by Betsy Rosenblatt and Roberta Pearson, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 23.

[0.3] This essay is not intended for those who have never read or heard of Sherlock Holmes…But for those who have at least a nodding acquaintance with Dr. Watson's writings, it is hoped that the following pages may prove acceptable.

—T. S. Blakeney, Sherlock Holmes: Fact or Fiction? (1932)

1. Introduction

[1.1] Crack open an issue of the Baker Street Journal and you will find wide-ranging fare for enthusiasts of Sherlock Holmes, who are generally known as Sherlockians in North America and Holmesians in Britain. A special highlight of the journal for many Sherlockians is the plentiful analysis of the canon, the preferred term for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 56 short stories and four novels that feature Holmes and Doctor Watson (note 1). Sherlockians' diverse approaches to canonical investigations may be organized into two general types. The first, called Doylean, considers the Sherlock Holmes stories as created by the author Conan Doyle. The Sherlockian approach, however, which is highly specialized and beloved, does not present itself as an analysis of fiction. Sherlockian scholarship considers the canon as the writings of Doctor John H. Watson, whose nonfictional accounts constitute memoirs or biography of Sherlock Holmes.

[1.2] Within a Sherlockian framework (also known as the higher criticism, the writings about the writings, and the Grand Game), Watson and Holmes are people, not characters, whose lives and activities are the subject of formal study. Expository essays and book-length treatments investigate topics within the Sherlock Holmes stories, particularly contradictory, implausible, or missing details. Sherlockian scholars inquire into the curious milk-drinking snake of "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," explain why Dr. Watson's wife calls her husband by the wrong first name in "The Man with the Twisted Lip," and consider whether Holmes attended Oxford or Cambridge. Opposing theories accumulate in "the literature" as authors archly discredit prior claims on major controversies, such as the number of Watson's wives. Despite its formal trappings, scholarly investigations in the Sherlockian tradition playfully contort the conventions of nonfiction in serious demonstrations of whimsy.

[1.3] As a long-standing genre within a thriving international fan community (note 2), this Sherlockian style has produced perhaps thousands of "scholarly papers" that have been delivered orally at meetings or printed in Sherlockian periodicals. Longer investigations have appeared as monographs by niche publishers as well as books for general readers. Scholarship has been featured in numerous Sherlockian retrospectives from specialty and mainstream publishers: 221B: Studies in Sherlock Holmes (Vincent Starrett, 1940), Profile by Gaslight (Edgar W. Smith, 1944), The Incunabular Sherlock Holmes (Edgar W. Smith, 1958), Seventeen Steps to 221B (James Edward Holroyd, 1967), The Baker Street Reader (Philip A. Shreffler, 1984), Sherlock Holmes by Gas-Lamp (Philip A. Shreffler, 1989), and most recently the two-volume set The Grand Game (Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger, 2011–12). Annotated editions of the Sherlock Holmes stories are filled with gems from more than a century of Sherlockian commentary. William S. Baring-Gould's 1967 annotated edition of the canon is considered a Sherlockian treasure. The annotator for this new millennium is Leslie S. Klinger, who has compiled The Sherlock Holmes Reference Library (10 volumes, Wessex Press, 1998–2009) and The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes (3 volumes, W. W. Norton, 2005–6).

[1.4] In 1947, mystery writer Dorothy L. Sayers observed that this "thing" had become "a hobby among a select set of jesters [in Britain] and in America" (vi). As a neophyte Sherlockian, I was somewhat surprised to find an author of Sayers's reputation frequently referenced in discussions of what I perceived to be a contemporary fan genre. I later learned that Sayers was typical of these "select" early scholars, who were predominantly successful British and American authors, journalists, literary critics, and academics. Taking Baring-Gould's definitive introduction to this "highly specialized form of literary criticism" as a point of departure (1967, 23), I concluded that the early writings fall roughly within two periods: an initial decade from 1902 to 1911, and a resurgence in the late 1920s and early '30s. This second period included four books and dozens of articles, an avalanche of materials in the popular press that has not been repeated since. In a chronological survey of these two early periods, I now explore the form and poetics of early Sherlockian scholarship, hoping to clarify its identity within literary studies, fan studies, and Sherlockiana (the community of Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts).

2. The early decade: Ironic, parodic, and satirical literary criticism

[2.1] In 1901, Conan Doyle was writing in a hurry, sending off his manuscript chapters of The Hound of the Baskervilles without keeping reference copies (Veld 2013, 38). The plot was complex, and, unable to refer to his notes, he lost track of some details. By 1902, readers noticed. A headline article in the Cambridge Review started this way: "DEAR DR. WATSON, —Before the appearance of the February number of the Strand Magazine, it is my desire to draw your attention to one or two points in your story." Its author was Frank Sidgwick, a recent graduate and future publisher, and he addressed not Conan Doyle, but rather Watson, the putative writer of the adventure. Purposefully misreading the signals of genre, pretending Watson was a real author of nonfiction, Sidgwick charged him with "inconsistency" in his dating that was an issue of "literary morality" (1902, 137). Sidgwick's use of "literary" is a wonderfully ironic element because "literature" can indicate fiction or nonfiction, which his essay blended.

[2.2] Sidgwick's discussion of fiction as pretended fact generates irony, a multifaceted literary device that creates a rhetorical effect through contrasts in language, situation, and actuality in either a real or a fictional world. As parody, Sidgwick's essay simultaneously mimics and transforms a particular nonfictional genre, the critical letter to an editor. Sidgwick's parody incorporates satire, humor that is "tendentious" in advocating a point of view (Genette 1997, 86), here that Conan Doyle should pay more attention to his plot. The result is an ironic paradox: Despite its fictionality in addressing Watson, Sidgwick's essay offers real criticism.

[2.3] This creative literary approach blends a factual form and a fictional realm. Watson is neither a historical figure nor the product of Sidgwick's own imagination; he exists within a fictional world developed by Conan Doyle. The connection between the Sherlock Holmes stories and Sidgwick's essay is transtextual. Transtextuality, which Gérard Genette defines as "all that sets the text in a relationship, whether obvious or concealed, with other texts," comprises more specific concepts, including metatextuality, architextuality, hypertextuality, paratextuality, and intertextuality (1997, 1–7), all of which play a role in the parody. Sidgwick's essay illustrates the writerly response to text theorized by Roland Barthes, in which a reader becomes "no longer a consumer, but a producer of the text" (1974, 4). Instead of transforming an individual story, the essay evokes and manipulates the story world created within the Sherlock Holmes series as it existed in 1902. Sidgwick implies the existence of a Doctor Watson who can receive critical feedback from the Cambridge Review—a delightful absurdity. Sherlockians would nod along with Genette's assertion that "the pleasure" of this kind of textual transformation "is also a game," that manipulating a text like the Sherlock Holmes canon is "a way of playing with it, of having fun with it and making fun of it" (1997, 399).

[2.4] During the decade that followed, at least two more nonfictionally styled articles appeared, written as though Watson were the author of accounts of real adventures with Sherlock Holmes. In July 1904, literary critic Andrew Lang, in his regular column "At the Sign of the Ship" for Longman's Magazine, analyzed how Watson "overrates the acuteness of his friend and hero" in Conan Doyle's recently published "The Adventure of the Three Students." Lang concludes that Holmes was duped, a "victim of a college don and an undergraduate," though he evenhandedly concedes that "the mistakes may be Dr. Watson's" (269, 271). This article is humorous and ironic—obviously Watson did not write his own adventures—and Lang's subtle humor does not rely on common parodic signals like Sidgwick's exaggerated styling. Lang's essay does not imitate literary criticism; it is criticism—of Watson's story. Lang's whimsy here sharply contrasts with another article he published in the same month, a comprehensive retrospective for Quarterly Review titled "The Novels of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle."

[2.5] The best-known early essay to discuss the Sherlock Holmes tales as if they had been written by Watson was Ronald Knox's 1911 "Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes," which he presented at meetings of college societies; it was published in Oxford's Blue Book in 1912 and again in Blackfriars in 1920. Like Sidgwick, Knox toys with various meanings of the word "literature." Because Conan Doyle was published in a mass-market periodical intended for commuters, intellectual snobs would have tittered at Knox's suggestion that the Sherlock Holmes adventures were literature. Further, Knox's essay purportedly analyzes the scholarly literature of an imaginary disciplinary community, that of experts in the writings of Doctor Watson. This faux review details the theories of invented experts who spout ridiculous nonsense, like Monsieur Piff-Pouf's Psychologie de Vatson, which notes "very remarkable parallels to the Dialogues of Plato" (1928, 109) in Watson's writings. Knox's scathing satire takes aim at "the modern scholar" and recent developments in literary analysis of Aristophanes, Shakespeare, and the Gospels (98). In the persona of a serious Watsonian, Knox jests that "to write fully on this subject would need two terms' lectures at least. Some time, when leisure and enterprise allow, I hope to deliver them" (120).

3. A canonical origin story

[3.1] Although it seems like we "hear of Sherlock everywhere" these days (see, Sherlock Holmes also had a tremendous media presence during Conan Doyle's lifetime and in the years just after his death. Cursory searches of indexes of British and American newspapers ( and turn up over 36,000 articles mentioning the character. This immense popularity, along with aspects of Conan Doyle's narrative style, enabled Sherlockian scholarship.

[3.2] Between 1902 and 1911, references to the Sherlock Holmes story world proliferated in print media, especially in pastiches, parodies, author interviews, literary criticism, and advertising. Sales of the Strand had surged when The Hound of the Baskervilles was serialized in 1901–2, and shortly afterward Holmes was resurrected from the bottom of the Reichenbach Fall to star in more adventures. Also, Conan Doyle's growing body of work was subjected to increased scrutiny. In their reviews, critics experimented with a range of literary forms, as Lang did in his two articles in July 1904. Knox reportedly chose to write about the Holmes stories because of their fame (Waugh 1959, 122).

[3.3] Two elements of Conan Doyle's stories supported Sherlockian scholarship: their disorganized narrative arc and their pretense of nonfiction. Conan Doyle wrote his stories out of sequence and without much attention to narrative continuity. The inconsistencies that so amused Sidgwick, Lang, and Knox in the early years snowballed over nearly 40 years. Sherlockian scholarship not only attempted to account for gaps, implausibilities, and errors but also sought to establish a chronology.

[3.4] Like other authors of new romance (cf. Saler 2012), Conan Doyle cultivated a playful relationship between fact and fiction within the stories. Consider this compliment paid to Holmes by Mr. Trevor in "The Gloria Scott": "I don't know how you manage this, Mr. Holmes, but it seems to me that all the detectives of fact and of fancy would be children in your hands" (1930, 376). This praise is not only a tidy turn of phrase; it humorously promotes an ironic awareness of fictionality. Conan Doyle teases the reader—is Holmes real or fictional?

[3.5] Numerous Sherlock Holmes stories begin with Watson or Holmes mulling over case files, a formulaic scene-setting exposition that frames the short stories. Holmes uses Watson's role as his "chronicler" or "biographer" as a source of friendly banter: "I am lost without my Boswell" (Conan Doyle 1930, 164). And if Watson is a biographer, then his writings would be nonfiction. A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes story published, presents itself as a nonfictional memoir, "a reprint from the reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D." (15). Readers of the next novel, The Sign of Four, would have chuckled at Holmes's commentary on Watson's first literary effort: "Honestly, I cannot congratulate you upon it" (90). Seemingly nonfictional sources are frequently integrated into the stories through fictionalized newspaper articles and descriptions of reference materials consulted by Holmes or Watson. Conan Doyle also writes with obvious gusto about his characters' compositions, including Holmes's weighty commonplace books, disarrayed papers, and monographs on tobacco and beekeeping.

[3.6] Located within a fictional context, nonfictional cues are implausible and foster an ironic "ambivalent suspense of two meanings" (Burke 1994, 42). Readers thus perceive "factual" framing scenarios as "fictional nonfiction" or "fake real." The instability of the fact/fiction paradox invites readers to scrutinize the familiar, treasured Sherlock Holmes canon at the most basic level: its identity as fiction. Sidgwick, Lang, and Knox took the bait and engaged with the stories as though they were nonfiction. They established a precedent in their literary criticism: pretend Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are (or, later, were) real people, consider the Sherlock Holmes stories as Watson's nonfictional accounts, and analyze Watson's writings using expository genres that are associated with nonfiction.

[3.7] One major difference between the Sherlockian scholarship of the first period and that of today is a shared conceit called the Game, the Sherlockian pretense of a historical Holmes and Watson. Within fan studies, the Game would be considered part of a "collective strategy, a communal effort to form interpretive communities" (Gray, Sandvoss, and Harrington, 2007, 2). Verbal and written conversation can also be part of the Game, which nowadays is visible in text form on the Internet, on e-mail lists (Pearson [1997] 2014), Web sites, blogs, and microblogging platforms such as Twitter. Sherlockians communicate in many styles, not just within the Game, but contemporary Sherlockian scholarship arises from this pretense and is understood within it. These initial works of the first period reference Holmes's prominence in popular culture rather than connecting it to a specific interpretive community.

4. The second period: A golden age

[4.1] In contrast, authors in the second period, from 1927 to 1934, were linked through networks that promoted the development of an interpretive community. "Golden age" seems an appropriate name for this rich epoch (Guilielmo 2013, 3), acknowledging the contributions to Sherlockian scholarship by authors such as Sayers, Helen Simpson, Knox, and A. G. Macdonell, who wrote their own detective fiction during that genre's golden age. Several Sherlockian writers belonged to the Detection Club, an exclusive professional and social society (Edwards 2015). It is impossible to discuss this golden age of Sherlockian scholarship without crediting the influence of numerous professional, social, and familial networks that connected authors: the Detection Club, the Double Crown Club for publishers, the Bloomsbury Group, the Morley brothers, the Knox brothers, and Christopher Morley's various informal luncheon and cocktail clubs in the early 1930s. Morley's clubs were the forerunners of the Baker Street Irregulars (BSI), an influential Sherlockian society that met for the first time in 1934. Morley was a literary celebrity and best-selling author, but these days he is better remembered as the founder of the legendary BSI. His regular column "The Bowling Green" in the Saturday Review of Literature became a bully pulpit for the nascent Sherlockian community.

5. Golden age scholarship: Literary reviews, narrative exploration, and biography

[5.1] The golden age of the late 1920s and early 1930s began with a few key articles by Sir Desmond MacCarthy, A. G. Macdonell, and Sir Sydney Castle Roberts; books by H. W. Bell, T. S. Blakeney, and Vincent Starrett; a volume of essays edited by Bell; and dozens of articles in the popular press on both sides of the Atlantic. In the 1930s, Sherlockian scholarship appeared in the Bookman, the Cambridge Review, the Colophon, Real Detective, the Cornhill Magazine, the New Statesman, the Times Literary Supplement, the Lancet, the American Journal of Surgery, the Oxford Magazine, Guy's Hospital Gazette, and the Saturday Review of Literature. I developed my collection of golden age scholarship with the assistance of Baring-Gould, citations in The Universal Sherlock Holmes online (De Waal and Vanderburgh 1994), reprints of several articles by MacCarthy in a Sherlockian publication (Guilielmo 2013), and by following citations within the texts themselves. Because of space limitations, I discuss here only the first few articles and books of the golden age, but they are enough to demonstrate new trends and document the important influence on them of modernist fiction.

[5.2] Between 1927 and 1931, British authors MacCarthy, Roberts, and Macdonell used the Sherlockian pretense in critical reviews of Conan Doyle's works and experimented with biographical writing about the characters. In 1927, the pseudonymous New Statesman columnist Affable Hawk mulled over issues of chronology in the Sherlock Holmes stories (Guilielmo 2013). Hawk's column appears under the heading "Current Literature," and thus it is likely positioned as a review of The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes even though it does not mention the book. Hawk explains that he has been "re-reading those books in which are recorded all we know of the adventures and achievements of Sherlock Holmes" (5), and he seeks to address chronological "perplexities." Alas, the insurmountable task has "not increased [his] confidence in [himself] as a researcher." Hawk's review is affable indeed, a parody of formal scholarship without the bite of satire.

[5.3] One of the most fanciful elements is Hawk's pretension of scholarly limitations. In particular, he is stymied by the dating of Watson's marriages, and he states that "the biographer of Dr. Watson will no doubt clear this matter up…I confess I am looking forward with some curiosity—there is a small mystery here—to Mr. Desmond MacCarthy's life of Dr. Watson." This hint of a forthcoming biography is intriguing, because "Affable Hawk" is a pseudonym for MacCarthy himself, a popular columnist, drama critic, and literary editor of the New Statesman.

[5.4] Three months later, the New Statesman printed a humorous letter to the editor addressing problems in Affable Hawk's column (Guilielmo 2013, 6). Reader Cyril Asquith's letter is full of humorous grandstanding about Affable Hawk's "sloppy Watsonology" (7), including a recommendation that he refer to the third volume of a fictitious book titled, in French, The Love Life of Doctor Watson (6). The format of a letter to the editor is similar to Sidgwick's earlier work, and the reference to a fictitious book is reminiscent of Knox. The Asquith family knew MacCarthy well and were perhaps aware of his identity as Hawk. MacCarthy responded to Asquith's criticism in a subsequent column with a chronological study of Watson's marriage to Mary Morstan. Again, MacCarthy (as Affable Hawk) brings up his fictional Life of Watson. He writes, "I am sure that no one awaits more impatiently and respectfully the publication of that book than I do" (7). In 1928, MacCarthy left the New Statesman to begin a new literary magazine, Life and Letters. In a few short years, MacCarthy would publish a Watsonian biography by a different author in this periodical.

[5.5] New releases of other books connected to Sherlock Holmes prompted a landmark review in the Sherlockian style by Sydney Castle (S. C.) Roberts. Like MacCarthy, Roberts was hooked into the literary scene. In his role as a publisher at Cambridge University Press, Roberts was acquainted with a wide array of writers, publishers, and visiting scholars. Fascinated by Samuel Johnson and his own university, Roberts authored numerous books of history and biography on these two subjects. In 1928, the editor of the Cambridge Review passed S. C. Roberts two books, The Complete Sherlock Holmes Stories and Ronald Knox's Essays in Satire, a collection that included his 1911 "Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes." Rather than discuss Knox's mock-scholarly approach, Roberts imitated it. His review "A Note on the Watson Problem" (1929) satirically criticizes Knox's analysis and adopts Knox's own practice of citing fabricated experts. The enthusiastic response to this brief review encouraged Roberts to develop his inquiries into the Sherlock Holmes stories in a "more methodical" way (1966, 228) and in the biographical style that had also intrigued MacCarthy.

[5.6] Another Sherlockian thesis came from A. G. Macdonell, a Scottish journalist, detective novelist, and humorist. His article "The Truth about Professor Moriarty" ran in the New Statesman in late 1929 in the column "Miscellany" and is not a literary review. After an initial description of Moriarty, Macdonell cites evidence from the tales to examine Holmes's Period of Stagnation, his Period of Minimum Intellectual Activity, and his Period of Maximum Activity. Macdonell concludes that Moriarty was created by Holmes as an excuse, a fiction that would allow him to get some rest after his Period of Maximum Activity (1929, 776–77). This ponderous term reflects Macdonell's gentle parody of academic "inquiry."

6. MacCarthy, Roberts, and modern biography

[6.1] In 1927, just as MacCarthy resurrected Sherlockian scholarship in what would become its golden age, Virginia Woolf wrote a critical essay called "The New Biography" that praised innovative biographies that borrowed techniques from fiction. In particular, Woolf singled out accomplishments of the prominent English biographer Lytton Strachey, the French biographer André Maurois, and Harold Nicolson, whose new book Some People defied traditional genres by blending elements of fiction, biography, and autobiography. Woolf was connected to MacCarthy through their association with the Bloomsbury Group of modernist intellectuals. Nicolson and MacCarthy were also regular broadcasters on the BBC, both discussing literature, modernist fiction, and contemporary issues on the air (Avery 2006). In 1929, Woolf, Nicolson, and MacCarthy contributed to a BBC radio series called "Miniature Biographies"; transcripts were printed in the BBC circular The Listener (cf. Davison, forthcoming). Nicolson and Woolf each chose quirky historical figures for their installments. MacCarthy's subject was more peculiar: a fictional character, Doctor Watson.

[6.2] Biography is a thematic element in MacCarthy's essay and is mentioned multiple times. In his first paragraph, he explains that "old-fashioned" methods of biography are inadequate for "writ[ing] the life of the most representative Englishman of the latter end of the nineteenth century—I mean, of course, Dr. Watson." MacCarthy alludes to his own "forthcoming and profusely illustrated" (and nonexistent) biography of the character, giving an extract from it in the style of the new "incognito method." His satire of modern biography is just as damning as Knox's satire of literary and biblical criticism; as he reviews the path of Watson's life, speculating on a childhood in Australia and on his marriages, he skewers the modern biographer's "privilege of recording conversations which did not take place," looseness with facts, penchant for setting a tone, and ponderous persona (see Donley 2017 for a close reading of this essay).

[6.3] MacCarthy's interest in biography and his new literary magazine Life and Letters attracted the attention of S. C. Roberts, who was working on another cutting-edge project in biography. In 1928, the famous biographer André Maurois had given a series of lectures on biography at Cambridge. The university press aimed to publish the lecture series, but Maurois had prepared his manuscript notes in French. The translator was none other than S. C. Roberts. Maurois's Aspects of Biography (1929) is significant in biography studies and remains in print. Soon after translating Maurois's treatise, Roberts combined his own expertise in biographical form with the Sherlock Holmes canon. His first attempt, the impressively titled "Prolegomena to the Life of Doctor Watson," was published in 1930 by MacCarthy's Life and Letters and was later included in Argonaut Press's anthology Essays of the Year (1929–30).

[6.4] One publisher who noted Roberts's parodic biography of Watson was Frank V. Morley (Christopher Morley's brother) of Faber & Faber, who invited Roberts to expand his essay into an appropriate length for the Criterion Miscellany monograph series (Roberts 1966, 228). Morley's editorship of the Miscellany was supervised by T. S. Eliot, the modernist poet, critic, and editor of the quarterly literary journal Criterion. In 1931, Criterion Miscellany also published works by James Joyce and Eliot; like MacCarthy's satire, Roberts's Doctor Watson (1931) was in elevated literary company.

[6.5] Doctor Watson establishes itself as a parody from the first page with its overly ponderous subtitle, "Prolegomena to the study of a biographical problem, with a bibliography of Sherlock Holmes." It opens with an appropriately literary quote from Carlyle and then invokes Roberts's own favorite biographer: "to render manifest the whole circumstances of Watson's first appearance in [sic] this planet is a task before which Boswell himself might well have quailed" (Roberts 1931, 7). The reference to Boswell is highly transtextual, linking Boswell (the most famous practitioner of the genre of biography), Watson (called "Boswell" in the canon), and Roberts himself (a specialist in Samuel Johnson, Boswell's famous subject). The 22-page essay consisted of two parts, portraits of Watson's life before and after his first marriage. Roberts's biographer persona strives for academic responsibility, emphasizing the need to "give proper consideration," "clear one's mind of sentiment," "endeavor to do justice," and "review our data." The text's style is heavily academic: "To claim definite certainty for such a solution would be extravagant; but as a working hypothesis it has claims which cannot be lightly dismissed" (18).

[6.6] This monograph introduced what has become a hallmark of Sherlockian scholarship: citation of the members of a discourse community. Fabricated experts are absent; instead, plentiful footnotes cite a range of sources and experts including the Sherlock Holmes stories, prior articles by Knox and MacCarthy, nonfictional sources such as histories of the Afghan war and the Northumberland Fusiliers, and personal communications from a network of acquaintances pursuing their own canonical research. An appendix presents a bibliography of Sherlock Holmes's own writings, under the headings "Reminiscences," "Publications," and "Projected or Unfinished Works," those that Holmes had given "serious thoughts" to writing (32). The amusing idea of Sherlock Holmes having a forthcoming publication matches the overall tone, which is parodic but not satirical. Doctor Watson was the first to feature several of the numerous playful paratextual elements that are highlights of book-length Sherlockian scholarship, such as ironic subtitles, prefatory notes, dedications, introductions, and footnotes (discussed more fully in Donley 2016).

7. Golden age books

[7.1] Four full-length books quickly followed Roberts's monograph. While previous biographers had focused on Watson, T. S. Blakeney contributed Sherlock Holmes: Fact or Fiction (1932). The book includes a spirited introduction in the persona of a researcher intent on "breaking new ground" (v). Blakeney has great praise for Roberts's Doctor Watson, saying that "no work on the Holmes-Watson association reaches a higher level as literature" and that, if he must contradict Roberts, "such differences in no way detract from [his] admiration for this excellent piece of work" (46). He cites liberally from Roberts, Knox, and others, in both text and footnotes, as he discusses Holmes's life, career, and relationship with Scotland Yard. Appearing concerned about the numerous "blunders" in the later collections of Sherlock Holmes stories (39), Blakeney advances an amusing theory that Watson's authentic records have been the victim of "a third hand," an editor (40–41).

[7.2] Archaeologist H. W. Bell displayed an academic's eye for detail in Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson: The Chronology of Their Adventures (1932), the most ambitious effort to order the stories. The book's plentiful footnotes cite Roberts, previous Sherlockian scholars, the Sherlock Holmes stories, and information from historical and reference works that support his conjectures. In its ludic introduction, Bell explains that "some lurking demon tempted me in an idle moment to test one of Watson's dates," with predictably infuriating results; his struggle to establish a chronology has meant that "for months I have been a hagridden wretch" (v). In the acknowledgment, he honors Roberts and other enthusiasts who have assisted him (ix). Bell's chronology divides Holmes and Watson's cases into seven periods. The appendix lists cases that he could not date, in the "[hope] that other students will be successful in tracking them down and dating them, so that the world may at last possess a complete chronological record of all the known cases which brought into play the 'flame-like' genius of Sherlock Holmes" (128).

[7.3] Chicago author and literary columnist Vincent Starrett revealed his preoccupation with biography in an article for the Bookman called "Sherlock Holmes: Notes for a Biography" (1933) in which he foretells that "the day will come, one fancies, when Sherlock Holmes will be assumed to have left this mortal life behind" (166). Starrett ruminates on the available materials for researching Holmes's life and then appends a list of Holmes's own publications, exhorting readers, "Look well, then, for all these rare and difficult titles, Bookmen, for your own shelves" (171). This article (retitled as "Ave Sherlock Morituri et Cetera") found a home in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, a collection of essays by Starrett published later in the year (1933). Within the book, Starrett teasingly moves in and out of the Sherlockian style: some chapters are written in a Sherlockian pretense, while others describe Conan Doyle in depth.

[7.4] In 1934, H. W. Bell produced the first edited volume of Sherlockian scholarship, Baker Street Studies. It contained essays by a number of well-known writers, including Sayers, Helen Simpson, Vernon Rendall, Starrett, Knox, Macdonell, and Roberts. Bell was a demanding editor, insisting on editorial consistency and academic rigor. Thus Knox had to restrain himself from inventing new, cleverly named experts in his contribution, "The Mystery of Mycroft," and offered instead two citations of Bell. In this watershed volume, Bell assembled a group of real authors engaged in Watsonian debate, making real what Knox had satirically imagined in 1911.

[7.5] Several of the authors who were united in Bell's Baker Street Studies attended significant parties in New York and London that were milestones in the history of the Sherlockian fan community. In 1934, A. G. Macdonell gathered a group of Holmesians at a "sherry party" (Roberts 1966, 229). Other attendees included Bell, Frank V. Morley, Roberts, Sayers, and Simpson (Gunn 1990, 97). S. C. Roberts recollects that "those present declared themselves to be the Sherlock Holmes Society" (1966, 229). At this spirited event, guests drank a wine of which Watson would have approved, acted out scenes from the canon, engaged in canonical disputations, and enjoyed the arrival of a hansom cab (Gunn 1990). This group celebrated annually for 3 years and then disbanded (Roberts 1966, 230). In 1951 Roberts became the first president of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, a subsequent group that became more organized and still exists today ( Desmond MacCarthy supported this society as an honorary member (Guilielmo 2013, 3). Also in 1934, Christopher Morley hosted several Holmes-themed dinners in New York as he developed the Baker Street Irregulars. A sort of annual meeting was held in December that year, with approximately 20 celebrants, including Sherlockian authors Starrett, Elmer Davis, Bell, and Macdonell, along with famed Sherlock Holmes actor William Gillette and illustrator Frederic Dorr Steele (Leavitt 1989, 373–74). Thus, authors of Sherlockian scholarship were involved in the most prominent Sherlockian societies in the United States and Britain from their inception.

[7.6] Blakeney's, Bell's, and Starrett's books triggered a flood of Sherlockian articles in British and American periodicals by stimulating critics to write their own Sherlockian-styled book reviews and cultivating the audience for new Sherlockian scholarship. In 1932, the Times Literary Supplement presented a book review by an anonymous author (widely believed to be MacCarthy) in the Sherlockian style. In the same year Knox reviewed Bell's and Blakeney's works in the New Statesman and Nation, with references to Sherlockian scholarly contributors both real (Roberts and MacCarthy) and fictitious (M. Papier Mâché). In addition to these reviews, other authors published original theses in the popular press, such as Sayers's "The Dates in the Red-Headed League" in the Colophon (1934) and Christopher Morley's "Was Sherlock Holmes an American?" in the Saturday Review (1934).

[7.7] During the golden age, the ambit of Sherlockian scholarship expanded. In addition to offering literary criticism, authors used it to investigate narrative by exploring the fascinating borderland of what I will call "non/fictionality." Sherlockians' ironic, parodic, or satirical Barthian rewritings of the Holmesian story world were aimed at both general readers and other enthusiasts who were familiar with the style. Contemporary Sherlockian scholarship also functions primarily as narrative exploration intended for aficionados.

8. A case of identity

[8.1] In the nearly 70 years since Sayers first referred to this "thing," not much progress has been made in identifying the genre of Sherlockian scholarship. Applying a label is challenging because its prose seems simultaneously fictional and nonfictional, making Sherlockian scholarship difficult to place in the usual taxonomy of literary species. Varying interpretations of this style demonstrate the shifting identities of mediated texts for authors and readers in different theoretical frameworks (Hellekson and Busse 2014, 19–25). My survey leads me to describe Sherlockian scholarship's identity from three perspectives: those of literary studies, fan studies, and Sherlockiana.

[8.2] Most categorizations of Sherlockian scholarship privilege its style as either nonfiction or fiction. The label "pseudo-scholarship" emphasizes its nonfictional aspect, and it has been applied by Sherlockians, by academics who study the genre, and also by the genre's critics. Sayers may have drawn attention to this term by warning that criticism or biography produced in the manner of Sherlockian scholarship would yield "unscrupulous pseudo-scholarship…and not as a game" (1947, vi). As Sayers points out, true pseudo-scholarship is harmful, completely contrary to the spirit and practice of Sherlockian scholarship. A connection to a prominent trend in modernist fiction has yielded a new term that I prefer: mock-scholarship.

9. Literary studies

[9.1] The link between Watsonian biography, Maurois, and the hybrid genres of Woolf and Nicolson locates Sherlockian scholarship in 20th-century modernist fiction. Modernism was a massive philosophical movement lasting roughly from the late Victorian era through the 1940s, overlapping Conan Doyle's writing career. It has been associated with numerous elements of the Sherlock Holmes stories, such as their emphasis on rationality, deduction, evidence, technology, and the British colonial empire. Historian Michael Saler has discerned an appetite for literary enchantment among readers of the 1920s and 1930s, which he considers to be a response to modernism. This appetite, he believes, accounts for the widespread popularity of imaginary worlds in these decades, and in "Clap If You Believe in Sherlock Holmes," chapter 3 of his As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality (2012), he captures the zeitgeist of the developing fan community. Saler's view of enchantment and ironic imagination broadly connects modernism to the early enthusiasts who wrote Sherlockian scholarship. However, MacCarthy's and Roberts's ironic biographies and their collaborations with prominent figures in modern biography (such as Woolf, Nicolson, and Maurois) establish a strong relationship to a specific movement within literary modernism, one that blended fictional realms with nonfictional forms.

[9.2] Max Saunders, in Self Impression: Life-Writing, Autobiografiction, and the Forms of Modern Literature (2010), mentions Woolf in connection with mock-biography, a manipulation of the biographical form "for satiric or parodic purposes, which can include satire or parody of the auto/biographic subject, the biographer, or the form." Saunders considers Woolf's Orlando (1928) "the best, and best-known," example of mock-biography (218), which intertwines fictional and biographical forms. He explains that autobiografiction developed as a result of modernists' engagement with "im/personality," in which "the relation between autobiographical subjectivity and aesthetic objectivity is being reinvented" (23). Sherlockian scholarship can be understood similarly as "non/fictionality," a critical engagement with both fictional and nonfictional discourse. In this view, Sherlockian scholarship could be classified as mock-scholarship, a playful use of nonfictional genres to investigate a fictional story world.

[9.3] The literary territory of Orlando and Some People was trendy during the late 1920s and '30s. This period saw not only biography blended with fiction but also popular experiments with ironic autobiographies (Saunders 2010). Notable works include the 1927 rerelease of James Weldon Johnson's formerly anonymous Autobiography of an Ex-colored Man; Woolf's Flush (1933), a biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's pet spaniel; the infamous Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, by Gertrude Stein (1933); and the sensational success of Robert Graves's historical mockery I, Claudius (1934). A later Sherlockian mock-autobiography references that classic: Michael Harrison's I, Sherlock Holmes (1977).

[9.4] Knox, Morley, Sayers, Simpson, and Macdonell contributed to this fad of non/fictionality outside their writings about Sherlock Holmes. Memories of the Future, 1915–1972 (1923), a mock-autobiography set in the future, was "edited by" Knox but narrated by the fictitious Opal, Lady Porstock. Christopher Morley's Human Being: A Story (1932) is a metabiography—a biography of a biography—and was so successful it was reissued in a Modern Library edition in 1940. A. G. Macdonell's romp The Autobiography of a Cad (1938) is still available in paperback. Sayers, Simpson, Knox, and other members of the Detection Club experimented with form and media beyond detective fiction through innovative BBC broadcasts and collaboratively written book fund-raisers (Edwards 2015). Their nonfiction anthology The Anatomy of Murder (1936) addressed fiction and fact as its contributors analyzed real crime from the perspective of mystery writers.

[9.5] The alignment of Sherlockian scholarship with commercially successful modernist-era experiments in non/fictionality may partially account for Sherlockian scholarship's burst of popularity during the 1930s. At this moment, elements in literary culture coincided with milestones in the life and publications of Conan Doyle. The appearance of the final Sherlock Holmes stories in the Strand magazine (1926–27), the publication of The Complete Sherlock Holmes Stories (1928) and The Complete Sherlock Holmes (1930), the publication of Conan Doyle's last stories and his Spiritualist works, his death in 1930, and memorials of him in the press, along with popular Sherlock Holmes adaptations in theater and film, created a vast public awareness of the fictional world of Sherlock Holmes. This media context occurred at a time when literary publishers were receptive to blended genres.

[9.6] Orlando does not possess the same transtextuality as MacCarthy's and Roberts's Watsonian biographies, yet they are all easily recognizable as experiments with fictional subjects and biographical form. Sherlockian scholarship interacts with Conan Doyle's narrative despite its lack of plot. Scholarly theories manipulate characters and events from the Sherlock Holmes stories, filling in the gaps in the canon, ordering and reordering its chronology, and altering characters and the relationships between them. As they substantiate their claims, scholars sometimes create crossovers by citing fiction from outside the Sherlock Holmes story world. Blakeney does this when he references an event from Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone (1868) as historical record (1932, 22). Scholarly assertions about a character might permanently transform the view of a character in a way Conan Doyle never envisioned—for example, that Watson spent his childhood in Australia (MacCarthy 1929) or that Mrs. Hudson's first name is Martha (Starrett [1934] 1995). Scholars' numerous and contradictory claims ripple through the story world of Sherlock Holmes and can be incorporated into adaptations, pastiche, and fan fiction.

[9.7] The pretense that Watson is the actual author of the Sherlock Holmes stories opens up fascinatingly varied possibilities concerning the existence of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In an interesting practical demonstration of Roland Barthes's "death of the author," early Sherlockian texts generally ignored Conan Doyle. Later, Sherlockian scholarship and pastiche developed a natural fictional role for him as Watson's literary agent, who has at times been blamed, tongue in cheek, for the quirks in the canon. Any representation of Conan Doyle in which he is not the creator of Sherlock Holmes is necessarily fictional and involves characterization. Knox was the first to hint at an alternative identity for Conan Doyle in "Studies." Through a clever aside, Knox implies that Conan Doyle has expertise in the publication (not the creation) of the tales (1928, 100). MacCarthy also included a clever nod to Conan Doyle by naming him a "Sherlock Holmes scholar" along with Knox and Sidgwick (Guilielmo 2013, 5). In "Notes for a Biography," Starrett portrays Conan Doyle as a close acquaintance of Holmes's, one who could forward his mail (1933, 167). These early papers hint at the fanciful, fictional ways future Sherlockians would honor Conan Doyle within a conceit that denied him the role of author.

[9.8] Other poetic elements tie Sherlockian scholarship to fiction, including authorial persona, point of view, and setting. Authors write as though they inhabit a version of Conan Doyle's story world that exists in their own time, and they investigate the people and events of the Sherlock Holmes stories as history. The persona of the researcher/author is thus a character in the story world just as much as Holmes and Watson are. The fictive addressee of the Sherlockian scholar also exists within the story world, which creates an ironic identity for the actual reader.

[9.9] The Sherlockian scholar's investigations of the Holmes canon serve to confirm the existence of Sherlock Holmes. Scholarly discourse immerses the reader in a fictional world that has been authenticated by citation and an academic tone. Authors who are cited in text must also live within this fictional realm where Holmes and Watson exist, and so the totality of the discourse community of Sherlockian scholarship is displaced into Conan Doyle's story world. This subtle collision of the real and fictional worlds within the discourse of nonfiction is a massive paradox and may be responsible for the transgressive nature of Sherlockian scholarship, which toys with nonfiction's fundamental precepts.

[9.10] In foregrounding non/fictionality, Sherlockian scholarship finds kindred spirits in Jorge Luis Borges's delicate fantasies of impossible books (such as "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote" [1939] and "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" [1940]) and in later non/fictional scholarship, including Nabokov's Pale Fire (1962) and Hildesheimer's Marbot (1983). From a literary perspective, these two early periods of Sherlockian scholarship presage postmodernism and offer fascinating documentation of modernist-era experiments with transtextuality and non/fictionality.

10. Fan studies

[10.1] As transtextual critical or exploratory non/fictional investigations of a story world, Sherlockian scholarship easily falls into the category of transformative work, a term that is handily neutral about genre, authorial identity, and media. However, it is surprisingly difficult to pin down Sherlockian scholarship within a fan studies framework. Descriptions of fan discourse typically identify two types of literary style: fan fiction and meta. Contemporary Sherlockian scholarship could potentially be classified as either, yet neither truly suits these older works.

[10.2] Sherlockian scholarship in the Baker Street Journal has been associated with fan fiction (Laredo 2012). Hellekson and Busse (2014, 5) explain that the term "fan fiction" is evolving and that it is sometimes used to mean "imaginative interpolations and extrapolations…of existing literary worlds," which certainly describes what Sherlockian authors accomplish with their papers. Jeanette Laredo observes the effect of the author's and the readers' intradiegetic point of view within the story world, noting, "As fan fiction, [writings in the Baker Street Journal] reify a connection to the fictional world by making the reader/fan an active participant in creating that world" (2012). However, two further aspects of fan fiction make the term an awkward fit. Hellekson and Busse note that "if [fan fiction] requires an actual community of fans who share an interest, then Sherlock Holmes would easily qualify as the first fandom" (2014, 6). Yet the earliest authors of mock-scholarship about Sherlock Holmes predate an organized fan community. Another description of fan fiction, as "derivative amateur writing" (5), does not apply to early works written by professional authors and published for general readership. Early Sherlockian scholarship also challenges common assumptions about the typical gender of fan fic authors (female) and that their writing is a means of resisting marginalizing social structures (Derecho 2006).

[10.3] Fans' analytical "meta" texts are critical explorations of "meaning and historical, conceptual, and theoretical issues in fandom" (Derecho 2006, 61–62). Sherlockian Lyndsay Faye has referred to Sherlockian scholarship as "meta-scholarship" and suggests that it is connected to fictional yet nonnarrative writings in other fandoms, including fan-created reference works about Middle-earth or the Klingon language (2012). Recently I corresponded with Kizzia, the author of "Meta: A Timeline for Sherlock Series 3" (2014). Kizzia's chronology of events in the BBC program Sherlock (2010–) relies on the dates shown on the BBC's online tie-in The Personal Blog of Dr. John H. Watson ( and reflects Kizzia's version of the Sherlockian Game: the pretense that the Sherlock episodes are documentary records of real events. Kizzia's time line is evidence for Faye's argument that Sherlockian inquiries are forms of metascholarship.

[10.4] Faye raises an important point: meta exists in numerous fan communities. There is a link between fan meta and the distinction between Doylean and Sherlockian perspectives of textual analysis. These approaches have been influential beyond Sherlockiana. The terms "Watsonian" (in-universe) and "Doylist" (extradiegetic) have been adopted by other fandoms to describe different kinds of fan analysis. My investigations, though brief, indicate that fan meta uses both intra- and extradiegetic perspectives, suggesting that more specific terms are needed to differentiate the two.

[10.5] Blended genres like mock-biography and non/fictional parody are typically discussed only within specialized niches of literary studies rather than in general overviews of fiction. This tendency may have affected the perception of fiction within fan studies. Nonfictionally styled fiction has not been specifically identified as a type of fan fiction (Hellekson and Busse 2006, 2014), although it has been mentioned in connection to certain domains of fan expository writing, especially wikis. Karen Hellekson (2008) discusses wikis as a prominent genre of fictional reference that "have at their core the idea of fact." She presents one Star Trek wiki, Memory Alpha, that contains articles from several perspectives, some written as though the site is a real archive on a Federation library planet. This pretense is similar to Sherlockian scholars' intradiegetic point of view within the Holmes story world and the non/fictional texts they produce from that perspective. Hellekson concludes that "we ought to seek fiction in all wikis through the creation of a set of bits of information presented factually."

[10.6] Like Sherlockians, other fans are engaging with nonfiction through fictional universes. Fans have varying opinions about the appropriateness of intradiegetic content and how it should be labeled, as is demonstrated by Jason Mittell's 2009 "Sites of Participation: Wiki Fandom and the Case of Lostpedia." Paul Booth considers narratology, non/fictionality, and extra- and intradiegetic points of view in Digital Fandom (2010), his discussion of fan genres. Further research using this approach may develop a theoretical basis for assigning Sherlockian scholarship to the category of either fan fiction or meta. Meanwhile, I will defer to Louisa Ellen Stein and Kristina Busse, who observe, "Regardless of terminology and self-understanding, diverse Sherlock fans share many key impulses, investments, and practices" (2012, 15). One Sherlockian practice, the documentation and exploration of a story world through non/fictionality, is vibrant and diverse across fandoms.

11. Sherlockiana

[11.1] Sherlockians demonstrate their intellect, wit, and knowledge of the canon through publishing or presenting Sherlockian papers. Knowledge of the "writings on the writings" indicates that one is a dedicated collector of Sherlockian lore. Because of the Game, Sherlockians can be coy about acknowledging the fictionality of Sherlockian scholarship. As a result of its nonfictional form, Sherlockian scholarship is distinguished from plot-driven fictional texts—pastiche, parody, and fan fiction—and associated with research, which is divided into two types, Doylean (nonfictional) and Sherlockian (fictional). This classification demonstrates a nuanced awareness of fictionality and nonfictional form.

[11.2] However, the term "Sherlockian" is polysemous, indicating variously the content of a text about Sherlock Holmes, use of the pretense of the Game, or personal identification. The convenience of the term creates ambiguity: is a particular text Sherlockian because of its content or because the author is affiliated with a fan community? What about the work of Andrew Lang, for example? If I label his text "Sherlockian scholarship," am I indicating that he is part of an interpretive community? This labeling issue is particularly interesting as it applies to Knox, a writer and satirist of enormous talent and productivity who wrote several "Sherlockian" essays and pastiches as well as numerous other satires and pastiches, detective fiction, literary criticism, radio broadcasts, and biblical translations. Knox's relationship to Sherlockiana is complex. He commented later, "I can't bear books about Sherlock Homes…It is so depressing that my one permanent achievement is to have started a bad joke. If I did start it" (Waugh 1959, 122).

[11.3] Within the community, debates about the history of Sherlockian scholarship can have high stakes (cf. Lellenberg, n.d.). Because of the prominent role of early Sherlockian writers in developing the legendary societies, a contemporary fan's preference for Knox, MacCarthy, Morley, or Roberts is significant. Lang's and Sidgwick's early texts are widely known but less discussed than Knox's "Studies." The status of Knox's essay as "the cornerstone" text of Sherlockian scholarship is controversial. Its centennial in 2011 was celebrated by several publications within the Sherlockian community: King and Klinger's two-volume anthology The Grand Game; Ronald Knox and Sherlock Holmes: The Origin of Sherlockian Studies (Ronald A. Knox and Michael J. Crowe, 2011); and a special Christmas edition of the Baker Street Journal, "From Piff-Pouff to Backnecke: Ronald Knox and 100 Years of 'Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes'" (Nicholas Utechin, 2010). These works offered close readings of "Studies," additional historical material, and distinguished opinions about the value of Knox's contributions. In the Sherlock Holmes Journal, on the other hand, Jon Lellenberg (2011) debunked Knox's influence and endorsed Roberts as the originator of Sherlockian scholarship in the contemporary style.

[11.4] Enthusiasm for Knox's essay within the Sherlockian circle has misled some readers outside of it. "Ways of Reading Sherlock Holmes: The Entrenchment of Discourse Blends," by Vera Tobin (2006), is one of a few academic articles that include a discussion of Sherlockian scholarship. Within a larger investigation of reader responses to Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, Tobin compared Sherlockian scholarship in the early years to a few contemporary examples in the Baker Street Journal. The fame of Knox's text led her to select it as her only example of early scholarship. Not surprisingly, Tobin observed a change in tone between the two periods, remarking that there were "no striking formal indices of non-seriousness" in the Baker Street Journal articles, while Knox's work was "patently humorous." She concluded that this change was a result of the genre's becoming conventionalized within Sherlockiana (86). However, Lang's 1904 essay also avoids satire; together with Knox and Sidgwick, a range of tone and style exists from the very first examples. Contemporary texts, such as the outrageous Ms. Holmes of Baker Street (C. Alan Bradley and William A. S. Sarjeant, 1989) and the hoaxical parody "The Case of J" (by Donald K. Pollock and Andrew Solberg in the Baker Street Journal, 2003), also illustrate diverse approaches and tone. Tobin's groundbreaking study identifies important linguistic features of Sherlockian scholarship yet also illustrates the importance of sampling methodology.

[11.5] Sherlockians' fascination with the past influences the community's aesthetic judgment of its long-standing traditions. Gender, generational differences, new media, fan identity, queer readings of the canon, and affiliation with specific media adaptations at times divide Sherlockians, who are notoriously concerned with legitimacy (Redmond 2016). Some Sherlockians would not recognize Kizzia's time line as scholarship, especially because it concerns Sherlock rather than Conan Doyle's stories and is published on a fan Web site.

[11.6] In this community that looks back at 1934 nearly as often as it does to 1895, the early history of Sherlockian scholarship is relevant and can be controversial. Does Sherlockian scholarship begin with Sidgwick, who was the first to put this pretense into print? Or with Knox's "Studies," which was by far the most popular early work? Or with Roberts's style of scholarship using genuine sources, which is still followed today? Or in the 1930s, with Christopher Morley and the new fan societies? By considering these options and others, Sherlockians further define their shared history and vision of their interpretive community.

12. Conclusion

[12.1] Through Sherlockian scholarship, authors and readers investigate the lives that Christopher Morley claimed were "too real to be fiction" (1936). The pretense of an authorial Watson creates a dynamic realm for non/fictional play. The initial player was Conan Doyle himself through the teasing simulation of nonfiction in the Sherlock Holmes tales. In the first decade, isolated instances of the Sherlockian pretense appeared in literary criticism that creatively incorporated irony, parody, and satire. Golden age texts reflected experiments in literary form as much as fandom, thriving off a synergy of popular culture, modernist literature, and the new interpretive community. In 1932, T. S. Blakeney declared that "there is still ample room for further investigations about Sherlock Holmes" (viii); this claim certainly holds true today for Sherlockian scholarship.

13. Acknowledgments

[13.1] I am grateful to Kristina Busse, Kizzia, Jon Lellenberg, Dalyn Luedtke, Ginny Moran, Jeffrey Olson, Donald K. Pollock, Steven Rothman, Lea Williams, Ed Wiltse, and the librarians of the Kreitzberg Library at Norwich University.

14. Notes

1. Lellenberg (2011) describes the use of "Canon" and "canon" by early Sherlockians and mentions that the term is often misattributed to Ronald A. Knox's early essay "Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes" (1911), which does not actually include the word. Transformative Works and Cultures presents literary terms in lowercase as a matter of house style.

2. The label "fan" is anachronistic for the authors I am discussing here, and some Sherlockians find it distasteful, preferring to be known as "devotees" (cf. Pearson 2007). "Enthusiast" was S. C. Roberts's term of choice. Personally, I consider myself a novice Sherlockian fan, just a few years into the Game that many play for a lifetime, and I am most familiar with the North American fan community. In this essay, I will at times use the terms "interpretive community" and "Sherlockiana" for Sherlockian fandom. The label "Sherlockian" is easily applied to all the texts I mention because of its ambiguity, a feature I discuss in section 11.

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