Without Edgar Allan Poe, we wouldn't have Sherlock Holmes Illustration to "The Purloined Letter" by E. A. Poe. (Dmitry Rozhkov/Wiki Commons/Billy Hathorn/Wiki Commons)
Without Edgar Allan Poe, we wouldn't have Sherlock Holmes
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When Edgar Allan Poe first introduced the world to C. Auguste Dupin, he hit on a winning formula.
 
Dupin was Sherlock Holmes before Sherlock Holmes. Dupin was a genius detective. He first appeared in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." It was published in 1841. In that story, two women are dead. The game's afoot, as Holmes might say. Poe didn't give Dupin a nifty catchphrase.
 
The roots of the detective story go as far back as Shakespeare, write historians Helena Markovic and Biliana Oklopcic. But Poe's tales of rational crime-solving created a genre. His stories, they write, mix crime with a detective narrative. They revolve around solving the puzzle of the "whodunit," inviting readers to try to solve the puzzle too.
 
The key figure in such a story is the detective. Poe's detective, who also appears in "The Mystery of Marie Roget" and "The Purloined Letter," set the stage for that character. Dupin is a gentleman of leisure. He has no need to work. Instead, he keeps himself occupied by using "analysis" to help the real police solve crimes. The real police are absolutely incompetent. They are similar to Inspector Lestrade and Scotland Yard to Holmes.
 
Like his literary descendant, Dupin smokes a meerschaum pipe. He is generally strange. He's also unnaturally smart and rational, a kind of superhero who uses powers of thinking to accomplish great feats of crime-solving. And the story's narrator, who is literally following the detective around, is his roommate. Dupin's roommate, unlike John Watson, remains a nameless "I" throughout the three stories. However, he is equally ordinary.
 
In the Dupin tales, Poe introduced a number of elements. One is the friendly narrator that would remain common to detective stories, write Markovic and Oklopcic.
 
"The elements Poe invented, such as the reclusive genius detective, his 'ordinary' helper, the impossible crime. The incompetent police force, the armchair detection, the locked room mystery, etc., have become firmly embedded in most mystery novels of today," the historians write.
 
Even Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock, had to acknowledge Poe's influence.
 
"Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?" he wrote.
 
Poe's formula appealed in the 19th century. That's because detective stories promised that reasoning could hold the answer to every question. At the same time, with spooky overtones, they appealed to 19th-century readers' obsessions with the occult.
 
The detective story, writes Ben MacIntyre for The Times of London, was particularly appealing. It promised that intellect will triumph. The crook will be puzzled by the rational sleuth. Science will track down the troublemakers and allow honest souls to sleep at night. 

At the same time, MacIntyre writes, 19th-century anxieties about the Industrial Revolution and new ways of living supported the idea that evil was anonymous. And, it was everywhere. These two instincts - "faith in reason and mistrust of appearance" - are what made Victorians love detective stories. That love endures today.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is Dupin referred to as "Sherlock Holmes before Sherlock Holmes?"
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (34)
  • annakatew-bur
    4/27/2017 - 06:38 p.m.

    Dupin is referred to as Sherlock Holmes before Sherlock Holmes because people believe that Edgar Allen Poe's Auguste Dupin gave the idea of Sherlock Holmes to Arthur Conan Doyle. This is because Dupin shares a lot of characteristics with Holmes. They both are detectives who use their intelligence to solve unsolvable mysteries. They also both smoke a pipe. I can relate because I love Sherlock Holmes and I'm sure that I'd love Auguste Dupin too.

  • noemig-bur
    4/27/2017 - 08:18 p.m.

    he could do what Sherlock homes could do in his time day.that is pretty cool so says me.

  • sarahy-bla
    4/28/2017 - 09:34 a.m.

    Before Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the famous series "Sherlock Holmes" Edgar Allan Poe wrote a similar story that inspired the Holmes stories. Poe's story was about an intelligent detective named C. Auguste Dupin who helped the police with crimes that they could not solve. This is similar to Sherlock Holmes who helped Detective Lestrade solve crimes. They both even smoked a pipe. I think that Dupin was referred to as "Sherlock Holmes before Sherlock Holmes" because the stories are almost identical and the Holmes stories were said to be inspired by Poe. In my opinion I think this article was very interesting.

  • beveritt-gon
    4/28/2017 - 10:19 a.m.

    cus he propble wus a dutectev

  • dfarrell-gon
    4/28/2017 - 10:20 a.m.

    pepple thot he stole sherlock holmes

  • anastasiag-kut
    4/28/2017 - 10:57 a.m.

    I don't get it. Is the article trying to say that, before Sherlock Homes that Auguste Dupin played the roll of him in Edguar Allen Poe's show?

  • vval-gon
    4/28/2017 - 11:42 a.m.

    I'm starting to like this story.

  • amore-gon
    4/28/2017 - 11:46 a.m.

    Because he was smart .

  • kayau-bla
    4/28/2017 - 12:13 p.m.

    Dupin is referred to as "Sherlock Holmes before Sherlock Homes" because he was. Poe created the first "Sherlock Holmes" but he had a creepier vibe. Dupin was first then came Sherlock, even the creator of Sherlock said, "Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?" Poe's story was the influence for Evens. This was a good article very entertaining.

  • lbri-gon
    4/28/2017 - 03:55 p.m.

    He first appeared in The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

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