Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die
17 October 2014 – 12 April 2015
Delving into the world of the detective described as 'the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen'.
Since he first leapt from the imagination of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 125 years ago, Sherlock Holmes has become something of a global icon. Starring in comics, novels, plays, film, radio and television shows, he was aptly described by Orson Welles as 'a character which continues to endure generation after generation'.
In spite of his incredible popularity, the last London exhibition centred around the detective was at the 1951 Festival of Britain. This show traces Holmes' literary beginnings in 19th century labyrinthine London. Conan Doyle lived and wrote in the city – at the time the world's largest and most populous – and real-life Victorian London played its own role in the Sherlock stories. As Holmes himself put it 'it is a hobby of mine to have an exact knowledge of London'.
On display are authentic objects from the period, as well as paintings, photographs, manuscripts and the earliest documentary film footage of London, all of which are used to chart the detective's intimate connection with the city.
Contemporary artefacts meanwhile - such as Benedict Cumberbatch’s coat and dressing gown - chart Holmes' transcendence onto stage and screen.
Original artwork by Sidney Paget, illustrator of Sherlock Holmes, reveals how the literary character was first brought to life. In fact it was Paget, not Conan Doyle, who gave the detective his famous aquiline profile and trademark deerstalker hat. These are accompanied by Paget's portrait of the Sherlock author, which he painted in 1897.
A particular highlight of the display is the manuscript for The Adventure of the Empty House, in which Conan Doyle resurrected Holmes after his apparent death at the Reichenbach Falls. There is also a chance to see original issues of The Strand Magazine, in which the stories were first published.