The “You Brute” Letter: A Sherlock Style Deduction.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a short essay called “Some Personalia about Mr. Sherlock Holmes.” This essay is reprinted in both The Sherlock Holmes Scrapbook and The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

In it ACD talks about all of the fan mail that he received in regards to Holmes. One letter really stands out. ACD does not reprint the whole letter but just the salutation line. The letter, received after the publication of “The Final Problem,” began with “You brute.” ACD states that the letter writer was a woman but gives us no other details.

My first thought was, “Wow really deluded fan!” But then it occurred to me that if this woman had believed in Sherlock as a real person with Arthur Conan Doyle as a pen name for John Watson then she would have sent condolences, not insults. So we now know that she accepts the stories for the fiction they are. Second observation: With the etiquette of letter writing drilled into Victorian/Edwardian Lady, why would a woman sitting down to the thought full task of writing a letter choose to open with “You Brute?” Answer she was under such emotional strain that no matter how calm she became she still thought of him as a Brute. But why such emotion over the death of a character that she knew to be fictional? Perhaps someone she knew was not as rational as herself and so took Holmes death at Reichenbach Falls rather hard.

One more deduction before I reveal what I believe would have been in the original letter. I think that this woman must have been an American because no proper British lady would have used the word You in place of a proper title. An English lady would have began it with Dr. Brute (The Sir was added after this) or, if she was ignorant of his profession, Mr. Brute.

 And now my logically thought out reproduction of the “You Brute” letter:

You Brute,

Did you even stop to think how news of Holmes death might effect other people? If you didn’t want to write anymore about Holmes then just stop writing. To just Kill him so heartlessly is beyond reason. Would you have still done him in if you had known just how truly devoted and attached Holmes’s fans really are? My own poor Husband has been barely been able to eat or sleep since reading of Holmes untimely demise. I do believe that he loved Holmes as a brother. Nay he loves him more than his own Brother. I can not ask you to revive The honored detective but do please write to my husband and try to help him see reason. You created this problem so I ask you now to fix it.

 Sincerely,

Mrs. Hope Sherrington of New York

Doyle’s reply must have read thusly:

Dear Madam,

I recommend that your husband, and all other mourners, seek psychiatric counseling.

Sincerely,

 Arthur Conan Doyle

P.S. Do your utmost to keep Cocaine away from your husband. I would hate for any poor soul to become addicted to the stuff for love of anything that I had written.

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