I recently discovered an article in the Strand Magazine called ‘Some Personalia About Sherlock Holmes by A. Conan Doyle’ written in 1917. In it Conan Doyle describes how readers wrote to him to ask for Sherlock Holmes’ autograph or asked him to solve a case for them. One particular anecdote tickled me, however, more than the others:
“Shortly after I received a knighthood I had a bill from a tradesman which was quite correct and businesslike in every detail save that it was made out to Sir Sherlock Holmes. I hope that I can stand a joke as well as my neighbours, but this particular piece of humour seemed rather misapplied, and I wrote sharply upon the subject. In response to my letter there arrived at my hotel a very repentant clerk, who expressed his sorrow at the incident, but kept on repeating the phrase, “I assure you, sir, it was bonâ fide.”
“What do you mean by bonâ fide?” I asked.
“Well, sir, my mates in the shop told me that you had been knighted, and that when a man was knighted he changed his name, and that you had taken that one.”
I need not say that my annoyance vanished, and that I laughed as heartily as his pals were probably doing round the corner.”
The poor clerk! His friends fooled him and I can quite imagine the wrath of Conan Doyle would make any man cower. Still, Conan Doyle clearly saw the funny side of it eventually.
Another anecdote attests to the ingenuity of Sherlock Holmes fans:
“Upon one occasion, as I was entering the hall to take part in an amateur billiard competition, I was handed a small packet which has been left for me. Upon opening it I found a piece of ordinary green chalk such as is used in billiards. I was amused by the incident, and I put the chalk into my waistcoat pocket and used it during a game. Afterwards I continued to use it until one day, some months later, as I rubbed the tip of my cue, the face of the chalk crumpled in, and I found it was hollow. From the recess thus exposed I drew out a small slip of paper with the words, “From Arsène Lupin to Sherlock Holmes.” Imagine the state of mind of the joker who took such trouble to accomplish such a result!