Holmes’ Humo(u)r: Comics, Art, News & Ads

Quirky and just weird late Victorian humor from real magazines and newspapers landing in 221B’s mailbox.

Photo by Alvaro Prieto

In The Strand 1891 the Royal Mail dares to share the creative ways some customers address their postcards. Meanwhile, Holmes meets Moriarty in The Final Problem.

The Ladies’ Home Journal 1898 reveals how American writer Mark Twain and U.S. President Grant are too shy to talk, as Holmes sets about solving The Dancing Men code.

The Journal reports that the two Americans shook hands and fell into a long silence, as Twain tried to think what he could say. Finally, he said, “Mr. President, I feel a bit embarrassed. Do you?” The President could not help smiling, but the writer gave his place in line to others.

Ten years later, when statesman and humorist met again, Grant said, before Twain had a chance to utter a word: “Mr. Clemens, I don’t feel at all embarrassed. Do you?”

The Illustrated London News 1890 claims that Poe’s famous raven poem, “Nevermore” turns well adjusted puppies to sentimental mush and tears, as Holmes questions another dog’s behavior in in Silver Blaze.

Holmes is caught up in a case involving an unhappy marriage, an odd burglary, and possible murder at The Abby Grange as Punch Magazine August 1905 prepares to publish this cartoon at a time when cameras were obviously as omnipresent and preoccupying as cell phones are today.

Punch, August 23, 1905


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Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable


As World War I ends, British law declares Holmes’ cocaine use illegal and, hoping to end his habit, he fills out entry papers at a psychiatric clinic on the Normandy coast. Confronted by a question asking for his “treatment goals,” he hesitates, suddenly aware that his real goals far exceed the capacity of this or any clinic. The inscrutable words he scribbles, never before encountered by his doctor, churn interlocking mystery and desperate action into the lives of friends and enemies both.

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