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

  • Ann McClellan Plymouth State University
Keywords: Arthur Conan Doyle, Cross-promotion, George Newnes, Strand Magazine


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.

Author Biography

Ann McClellan, Plymouth State University
Department of English Professor and Chair