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)
  • christopherb-kut
    4/30/2017 - 08:07 p.m.

    When they refore to sherlock holmes before sherlock holmes
    they are talking about how shurlock home wasn't a detective and wasn't nown

  • mckenziec-kut
    4/30/2017 - 08:21 p.m.

    I've actually gained a recent liking to Edgar Allen Poe and his work is fascinating. So reading this article about this 'story' is very intriguing to the mind.

  • dominickc-kut
    4/30/2017 - 08:41 p.m.

    Dupin is referred as Sherlock Holmes because he is an influential figure in the creation of the character Sherlock Holmes. They do carry many similarities like being very intelligent, and being better then The police. So, Edgar allen poe's Dupin is referred as Sherlock.

  • jordanb1-bur
    5/01/2017 - 12:46 p.m.

    Dupin is referenced to as Sherlock Holmes before Sherlock Holmes was popular, by having people believe that Edgar Allen Poe's Auguste Dupin gave the idea of Sherlock Holmes to Arthur Conan Doyle. This is because they share many similarities. They both are detectives, who use skills to solve mysteries. I can relate because I like the Sherlock Holmes T.V series and maybe Auguste liked the figure Sherlock Holmes.

  • connoro-bur
    5/01/2017 - 12:46 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, especially because of all the facts that were stated with this.

  • nicholasg-bur
    5/01/2017 - 12:59 p.m.

    C. Auguste Dupin was referred to as the "Sherlock Holmes before Sherlock Holmes" because the character Dupin, made by Edgar Allan Poe, was created before Sherlock Holmes but carried the same detective-like traits as Holmes. I've heard about Sherlock Holmes and even have a game about him, but now that I've read this article I know that Dupin is Holmes' descendant and they are both alike.

  • jasmineb1-bur
    5/01/2017 - 01:00 p.m.

    Dupin was referred to Sherlock Holmes before Sherlock Holmes because he was the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle saw Dupin as a great inspiration for Sherlock.

  • leylal-bur
    5/01/2017 - 02:10 p.m.

    Dupin is referred to as Sherlock holms because people thought Edgar's idea gave Sherlock Holmes to Arthur Conan Doyle's. This reminds me of investigation shows.

  • andreass-bur
    5/01/2017 - 02:14 p.m.

    Why is Dupin referred to as "Sherlock Holmes before Sherlock Holmes". because he gave the idea before Sherlock he wrote about a character named c. i never heard of sherlock holmes

  • nicoler1-pla
    5/01/2017 - 11:22 p.m.

    In this article, Kat Eschner details the way that Edgar Allan Poe created the basis for modern detective stories. Poe's dark imagination, classic characters, and captivating sequence continue to appear in modern mysteries. Without Poe, Eschner writes, we may never have experienced such tales as Sherlock Holmes. I found this article incredibly interesting because Edgar Allan Poe is my favorite author. I love his work, so I found it exciting to learn more about how he essentialy shaped an entire genre. I think this connects to civic engagement because literature is a vital part of society. It helps us record history, learn new things, and express our creativity! As citizens, literature can teach us greatly about ourselves and the world around us.

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