Scholarly matters

In the EC, the entire work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle enjoyed copyright protection until 31 December 2000.

After that date, a number of characters created by the author will enjoy trademark protection.

In the US, the Sony Bono Copyright Extension Act of 1997 (105th Congress, 1st Session H.R. 604 ) has extended the renewal term of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works among others for an additional 20 years.

This means that all works published after December 31, 1922 are protected for 95 years following the date of publication.

For further information see


Since the author's death, professional and amateur Sherlockians have discussed endlessly the expansion of this canon, to include other works by Doyle, including works in other media, into the current complete adventures. Rumours have always surrounded lost works, and in recent years further investigations have revealed more to the traditionally collected canon. The number varies, but as many as eighteen works have been cited. These works include plays, poems, essays on the character, and even short stories.

The two works which speak most on this subject were both published in the late 1980s, Penguin Books' The Uncollected Sherlock Holmes edited by Roger Lancelyn Green, and Warner BooksThe Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes edited by Peter Haining.

An earlier work which covered similar ground was Sherlock Holmes: The Published Apocrypha by Jack Tracy. The following is a short description of each part of the supposed canon, with a summary of the evidence of canonicity provided by these authors, and by other Sherlockian references listed below. In the majority of cases there is no proof as to whether or not such items can be counted as canon, though the first five items particularly are worthy of an honourable mention.

Possible canonical works

Short stories, etc.

"The Field Bazaar" (1896)

"The Field Bazaar" was written for an

Edinburgh University fundraising event. Holmes and Watson share breakfast, and Holmes quite correctly deduces Watson’s thoughts. It is told from Watson’s first person perspective; Watson explains he wants to write this as a story for a magazine. It bears similarity to conversations in A Study in Scarlet, among others.

"How Watson Learned the Trick" (1924)

This story, just 503 words long, was written by Conan Doyle (it was published in the UK in his lifetime) for manufacturing as a miniature book in The Queen’s Dolls' House, and was later published in ‘‘The Book of the Queen's Dolls' House Library’’. Though written twenty-eight years after "The Field Bazaar", this is almost a sister piece to that story. Like the "The Field Bazaar", this story is a breakfast scene and there is a continuing cricket theme. Watson attempts to mimic Holmes's style, and fails. Since Watson is being rather cruel, some[specify] have suggested it is the morning following the scene described in "The Field Bazaar". However, "How Watson Learned the Trick", unlike "The Field Bazaar", is told in third person, rather than Watson's traditional first person narrative, and there is no mystery to solve.

"The Lost Special" and "The Man with the Watches" (both 1898)

"The Man with the Watches" and "The Lost Special" both appear in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Tales of Terror and Mystery, first published in 1923. They are quite ordinary detective stories though in both the detectives fail to solve the mystery. The plots follow the same pattern, detailing an inexplicable mystery followed by a proposed solution provided in the form of a letter by "an amateur reasoner of some celebrity", whom most Sherlockians[specify] assume is Holmes himself. The famous[citation needed] "once one has eliminated the impossible" quote used in "The Lost Special" seems to confirm this. The style of the stories bears a strong resemblance to "The Mazarin Stone" and "His Last Bow",[citation needed] two Holmes tales also written in the third person. In both stories the logical approach fails to catch the criminals, who are ultimately revealed by their written confessions; they would thus seem to be the first cases which Sherlock Holmes fails to solve (though he is 'beaten' in some of the canonical stories, he always discovers the correct solution eventually).

Both "The Man with the Watches" and "The Lost Special" were published in The Strand, which also published all the canonical short stories and two of the novels. The stories were written during the "hiatus" between the stories collected as The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes and The Return of Sherlock Holmes, and presumably set during the period when Holmes was "believed to be dead"; diehard fans[specify] suppose that Holmes wrote the letters "whilst in hiding".

The two stories have been cited as canonical by Green, Tracy and Haining, and have for years appeared in French editions of the complete adventures.

"The Adventure of the Tall Man" (c. 1900)

When searching through Conan Doyle’s papers, his biographer came across this, the stub of an uncompleted story, complete with plan and quotes. Various authors have attempted to complete the story and put it alongside the canon. Some are very close to Doyle’s plot, others include variations, and one copy attempts to complete the manuscript by absorbing elements from "The Field Bazaar" and "How Watson Learned the Trick". None of these attempts were ever officially recognised by Conan Doyle’s estate, though it has been speculated that if Adrian Conan Doyle had completed the work (as Christopher Tolkien completed The Silmarillion), it would have been recognised as canon.

"The Man Who Was Wanted" (c. 1900)

This mystery, a completed Sherlock Holmes story, was also found by a biographer, Hesketh Pearson, searching through a box of Doyle’s papers. However, the short story was not at first published by the Doyle estate, and when it was published it was revealed that the story was originally written by Arthur Whitaker, who had sent it to Conan Doyle in hope of a collaboration. Though Green and Tracy agree that Whitaker wrote the story, Haining still claims that “the opening scene between Holmes and Watson betrays the hand of the master,” and that the story is partly written by Conan Doyle. A point we should not gloss over, however, is that Conan Doyle did not want the story published, so it perhaps should not be recognised as canon. General opinion is that this story is non canonical, though we shall probably never know who wrote which parts.

"The Adventure of the Two Collaborators" (first published 1923)

This is not claimed by any serious critic to be a Conan Doyle work. It is listed here due to a popular misconception that this was a parody written by Doyle and his friend, JM Barrie (of Peter Pan fame). This is a misapprehension, and perhaps comes from the fact that it was written by Barrie for Doyle following a period of the two of them working together on a play. The story itself is a Sherlock Holmes parody, and is mentioned as Doyle’s favourite piece of Holmes apocrypha.

Sherlock Holmes on Stage

The Speckled Band (aka The Stoner Case) (1902)

The Crown Diamond: An Evening With Mr Sherlock Holmes (1921)

These two plays written by Doyle are merely alternate versions of the two short stories, and thus have no place in the canon. However, due to their successful performance runs, they are of interest to Sherlockians, specifically the latter, which predates its counterpart ‘‘The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone’’, and could be counted as an alternate version

Sherlock Holmes: A Drama in Four Acts (a.k.a. Sherlock Holmes) (1899)

This, a play written by Arthur Conan Doyle and William Gillette had a successful run of over thirty years. It has many original parts which are not found in the short stories, but unfortunately is ineligible for canon due to it borrowing many events from the canonical adventures, namely "A Scandal in Bohemia" and "The Final Problem". Also, it had elements from "A Study in Scarlet", "The Sign of Four", "The Boscombe Valley Mystery" and "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter".

The Painful Predicament of Mr Sherlock Holmes (1905)

This is a short comedy sketch performed by William Gillette as a curtain raiser to an unrelated play. It involves a mute Sherlock Holmes, and a very talkative client. In Haining and Tracy’s books, they speculate as to whether or not this play was written by Arthur Conan Doyle. Certainly Gillette would have needed Doyle’s consent to write an original work involving Sherlock Holmes, as the character was under copyright, but it is presumed by most Sherlockians that Gillette wrote the whole thing himself. Haining, however claims that Gillette may have asked Doyle to ‘whip up something quickly for him’. The canonicity of this work is then unclear, but as no manuscript exists in Doyle’s hand, and no reference of the play is left by him, it has been assumed by most that it is little more than a William Gillette curiosity.

Angels of Darkness (c. 1889)

Unpublished until 2000, this play was written shortly after A Study in Scarlet was published. It is essentially a rewrite of the American chapters of a Study in Scarlet, with the London action moving to in San Francisco. Holmes is not present, but Watson is, in a very different form. He acts discreditably, and even marries another woman. It is of course apocryphal, as it contradicts A Study in Scarlet. This play is however probably the only piece of Holmes related literature to be suppressed, Doyle’s biographer, John Dickson Carr states that it would do no good for the public to read this, a view that Haining endorses readily. The play has only recently been published, and is notable for its comic scenes.

Early versions of Sherlock Holmes

The Mystery of Uncle Jeremy’s Household (1887)

The Mystery of Sasassa Valley (1879)

Peter Haining includes these stories in his book as they include what he claims to be archetypes of Holmes characters and situations. Though interesting, they are not additions to the Holmes canon, and it has been suggested that stories such as these were used as padding for Haining’s book.

Conan Doyle on Holmes

Though Haining and Green collect together many examples of Arthur Conan Doyle speaking of Holmes, these are mere curiosities, and can hardly be admitted to the canon, however, they are of importance for Conan Doyle enthusiasts, given the rarity of the author to provide interviews and such like. The following is a list of Conan Doyle essays and interviews on his character that Haining and Green have added to their books:

A Gaudy Death (1901)

Subtitled ‘Conan Doyle Tells The True Story of Sherlock Holmes’s End’, this appeared in a weekly magazine ‘Tit-bits’, a publication related to The Strand Magazine. It is an interview which is given by Doyle during the great hiatus, and mentions inklings to write more Holmes adventures.

Some Personalia about Sherlock Holmes (1917)

This essay was featured in The Strand Magazine as a Christmas treat to its readers. It talks of the way Holmes had caught the public imagination, and Conan Doyle’s view on his character.

The Truth About Sherlock Holmes (1923)

An Essay from Collier’s magazine, in which Doyle explains exactly where Holmes came from. It was followed in the magazine by JM Barrie’s ‘‘The Adventure of the Two Collaborators’’, and this may be the reason why many assumed it to be an apocraphyl Holmes tale by Doyle himself.

Mr Sherlock Holmes to his Readers (1927)

This appeared in the Strand Magazine to introduce a competition to name the best Sherlock Holmes adventures. The same essay, with a paragraph cut, appears as the preface to the Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. In this form it is occasionally admitted into canon, though there is no logical reason for this.

My Favourite Sherlock Holmes Adventures (1927)

The sequel to the above article, Conan Doyle resolved the question of what he thought were the best Holmes adventures. The list is available in the main article on

Sherlock Holmes

To An Undiscerning Critic (1924)

A final curiosity known as ‘‘To an Undiscerning Critic’’ by Green, and ‘‘The Case of the Inferior Sleuth’’ by Haining, is a poetic work by Doyle in which he defends himself, after being attacked for Holmes’ criticism of Dupin and Lecoq. This is again a fun curiosity, but not canonical.