The Adventure of the Stradivarius: Victorian Violins, Forgery and Literary Influence in the Sherlock Holmes Canon

Durkin, Rachael (2019) The Adventure of the Stradivarius: Victorian Violins, Forgery and Literary Influence in the Sherlock Holmes Canon. Journal of Victorian Culture. ISSN 1355-5502 (In Press)

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Abstract

The Stradivarius violin of the Sherlock Holmes canon has escaped scholarly attention; typically regarded as a simple characterisation tool for the cerebral protagonist. However, as a key part of Victorian domestic music-making, and an item capitalized on by the instrument forgery trade, the inclusion of the violin provides a source of character and contextual information that would be recognized by the readership of the novels and short stories. In addition, the violin also casts light on another precursory Scottish detection writer, William Crawford Honeyman, laying the foundations for further research into Honeyman’s impact on detective fiction.

This article views the canon through the lens of the violin, and proposes that Doyle included the instrument and Holmes’s musicality to help characterize Holmes as the archetypal middle-class Victorian gentleman. Attention is paid to the Victorian forgery market, and questions the authenticity of Holmes’s Stradivarius violin, particularly in light of its origins in a pawnbroker’s shop. Through consideration of the original notes for A Study in Scarlet (1887), being the first tale of the canon, the source of inspiration for Sherlock Holmes beyond the commonly-acknowledged Dr Joseph Bell is investigated, and the author-violinist William Crawford Honeyman is identified as another plausible source of influence. The article concludes with a brief consideration of Honeyman’s work, in particular The Romance of a Real Cremona (1884), and calls for further research into Honeyman’s impact on both Doyle and the wider short detective fiction market in the UK in the late nineteenth century

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sherlock Holmes; Stradivarius; Stradivari; Arthur Conan Doyle; William Crawford Honeyman; James McGovan; Victorian forgery; violin; music
Subjects: Q300 English studies
W300 Music
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
Depositing User: Paul Burns
Date Deposited: 08 Apr 2019 13:43
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2019 08:01
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/38832

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