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 The Real Sherlock Holmes - and other real people behind their fictional counterparts

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nordmann
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PostSubject: The Real Sherlock Holmes - and other real people behind their fictional counterparts   Sun 24 Jun 2012, 17:00

Arthur Conan Doyle in his memoirs at last answered a question which he had studiously avoided answering for many years beforehand. When asked previously if there was a real person on whom Holmes, his great fictional detective, was based he had either prevaricated or denied as much. In his 1924 "Memories and Adventures" however, a personal reminiscence of his life, he finally revealed publicly that Holmes was heavily influenced by Dr Joseph Bell, a lecturer at the medical school of The University of Edinburgh. In fact so much was he based on Bell that were one to place a violin in a younger Bell's hands then one immediately had to perfection the description of Holmes in Doyle's stories of the tall angualr faced strong-jawed detective. The only difference would be the violin itself - Bell's idiosyncrancies tended towards bird watching, athletics and poetry.

Doyle actually worked for Bell at one point so had ample opportunity to study the man close-up. But as a student under Bell he had already been terribly impressed by his teacher's use and application of observation as part of the deductice process. This was a skill Bell encouraged in all his medical students, not just when deducing disease from symptoms, but also in deducing any salient facts about the patient. The more complete a picture one could draw of the patient's whole existence the more likely a correct diagnosis could be made.

In an era when the term forensic science had yet to be invented, let alone put to work in criminal cases, Bell had already established his reputation to the point that the Edinburgh police invited him several times to assist in their investigation of certain crimes proving difficult to resolve. So successful did this prove and so well respected was he for this work that he was called in to help the London police then investigating the Jack the Ripper crimes. As Bell himself related (though infuriatingly without elaboration) his work on that crime had led him to deduce the name of the killer which he had of course given to the investigators. Coincidentally (or not) the crimes stopped occurring from that point on.

Bell's deductive powers were such that he rather quickly suspected where Doyle's Holmes had originated and he wrote to Doyle for confirmation. Doyle admitted his inspiration had been his old teacher, a fact which apparently pleased Bell immensely though he modestly made no public comment. By then Bell himself was combining his lecture duties with the role of personal physician to Queen Victoria when in residence at Balmoral. Public notoriety was not something to be courted.

A life of Bell would, I feel, make as interesting a story as any his fictional version might have featured in. Which begs a question; how many other "real" people have been immortalised through fictional variations (with or without due credit) over the years and who maybe now deserve to be eulogised in their own right?
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Real Sherlock Holmes - and other real people behind their fictional counterparts   Mon 25 Jun 2012, 06:54

The real George Smiley - but not such an interesting a character as Bell:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/8344925/John-le-Carre-the-real-George-Smiley-revealed.html
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PostSubject: Re: The Real Sherlock Holmes - and other real people behind their fictional counterparts   Mon 25 Jun 2012, 09:55

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PostSubject: Re: The Real Sherlock Holmes - and other real people behind their fictional counterparts   Mon 25 Jun 2012, 13:30

The poet William Ernest Henley ( Invictus, is his best known work ) had suffered from TB of the bone as a teenager and had had his left leg amputated below the knee,otherwise he was a fairly robust character with a big red beard.
One of his literary acquaintances was Robert Louis Stevenson , and Stevenson used Henley as his model for Long John Silver.
In a double for the Henley family, another friend, J M Barrie, used Henley's sickly daughter, Margaret, as his inspiration for Wendy in Peter Pan.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The Real Sherlock Holmes - and other real people behind their fictional counterparts   Mon 25 Jun 2012, 14:21

Now THAT I didn't know!

Dug out some pics - hope you don't mind Trike.


Long John Silver


Wendy Darling
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PostSubject: Re: The Real Sherlock Holmes - and other real people behind their fictional counterparts   Mon 25 Jun 2012, 17:20

Dill (Charles Baker Harris) in "To Kill a Mockingbird" was based on Harper Lee's childhood friend, the young Truman Capote.
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PostSubject: Re: The Real Sherlock Holmes - and other real people behind their fictional counterparts   Wed 27 Jun 2012, 12:31

Russo-French professional wrestler Maurice Tillet, who suffered from a condition known as acromegaly, and the fictional character he inspired;

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PostSubject: Re: The Real Sherlock Holmes - and other real people behind their fictional counterparts   Wed 27 Jun 2012, 14:50

Thanks for that Trike.

I always thought it was Wayne Rooney who was the inspiration for Shrek
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PostSubject: Re: The Real Sherlock Holmes - and other real people behind their fictional counterparts   Thu 28 Jun 2012, 08:34

I think it was the comedian Frankie Boyle who started the Rooney/Shrek references, ID.

The most obvious one of all, which I had completely forgotten about;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Selkirk
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PostSubject: Re: The Real Sherlock Holmes - and other real people behind their fictional counterparts   Thu 28 Jun 2012, 12:24

There are two possibles for Dickens' Fagin, or Fagin is a n amalgam of both.

The first is Ikey Solomon, a "fence" of stolen property and the second, Henry Murphy, gangmaster of a group of children kept in squalid conditions. Both were trial cases in the 1830's, just before Oliver Twist was written;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ikey_Solomon

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2069538/Was-Charles-Dickens-Fagin-based-60-year-old-black-child-stealer-Henry-Murphy.html

While the book was still running as serial, there occurred on 26th May 1838, the murder of Eliza Grimwood, a shocking crime which predates the Jack the Ripper killings by 50 years. Dickens used this crime in his description of Bill Sikes' murder of Nancy.
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PostSubject: Re: The Real Sherlock Holmes - and other real people behind their fictional counterparts   Thu 12 Jul 2012, 14:09

Caro's mention of Master and Commander on the Sin Eaters thread, brings to mind Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, and at least partly the insipiration behind Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey as well as C S Forester's Horatio Hornblower

http://www.royalnavalmuseum.org/info_sheets_thomas_cochrane.htm

The author, Bryan Perrett, suggests another officer for Hornblower in the shape of Sir James Gordon

http://camberpete.co.uk/sailing_pages_new/the_real_hornblower.html

Forester probably used the careers and exploits of several officers to create Hornblower.

Frederick Marryat was a midshipman aboard Cochrane's HMS Imperieuse from 1806 to 1809, no doubt Marryat used Cochrane as well.
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PostSubject: Re: The Real Sherlock Holmes - and other real people behind their fictional counterparts   Fri 13 Jul 2012, 14:57

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PostSubject: Re: The Real Sherlock Holmes - and other real people behind their fictional counterparts   Fri 13 Jul 2012, 21:36

Where fact is stranger than fiction… the whale ship ‘Essex’… Herman Melville’s inspiration for Moby-Dick.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essex_(whaleship)
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PostSubject: Re: The Real Sherlock Holmes - and other real people behind their fictional counterparts   Mon 23 Jul 2012, 16:19

Moll Flanders, the heroine of Defoe's fine book of the same name, was apparently based on a real London thief called Calico Sarah. As her name suggested, she liked stealing people called Sarah. Hang on - might have got that the wrong way round.........

Regards,

AR
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PostSubject: Re: The Real Sherlock Holmes - and other real people behind their fictional counterparts   Fri 17 Aug 2012, 13:45

Not a person, but a shark. Peter Benchley based his best selling novel Jaws on a real series of shark attacks along the New Jersey coast in 1916;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jersey_Shore_shark_attacks_of_1916
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