Though it’s been glossed over in the new Guy Ritchie-directed movie, Sherlock Holmes had a grizzly drug addiction that shocked readers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels.
The books when first published were in some ways the equivalent of soap operas like Eastenders or Coronation Street, though in STV show The Search for Sherlock Holmes presenter David Hayman doubts that they’d ever dare show drug addiction in as unflinching detail as is reflected in the Holmes stories.
Historian Kate Williams agreed: “Well you’re exactly right David, there’d be an outcry if someone was injecting themselves with morphine and lying back on the sofa.
“I mean, the nearest we get to it is Morse listening to a bit of opera and thinking of his latest ideas - we couldn’t cope with it, because I think we have this vision of Sherlock Holmes as rather dry, as this man in his deerstalker who lives in Baker Street, and someone for all the family.
“But really, this is a scandalous, scandalous man. He’s a drug addict, he breaks the law, he’s wild, he’s bohemian and he lives in an absolute tip.”
She added: “This is a time when we imagine it all being terribly respectable - but really Holmes is living on the edge.”
Kate goes on to discusses the current obsession with celebrity and how it relates to the novels - at the time in Victorian London a way to become one of the biggest celebrities was by committing grisly crimes.
Scottish actor Hayman has become a sleuth himself to examine the truth behind Sherlock Holmes in a new one-off STV documentary.
Showing on STV on Monday December 28 at 9pm, the show will coincide with the release of the latest Sherlock Holmes adaptation directed by Madonna’s ex-husband Guy Ritchie.
The Search for Sherlock Holmes follows Hayman on a fascinating and personal journey to reveal the heart of one of the world’s most significant and loved literary figures, and the most portrayed movie character of all time.