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Publisher's PDF

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Victorian Literature and Culture



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In 1893, overwhelmed by readers' insatiability for Sherlock Holmes stories, Arthur Conan Doyle killed his detective off at the height of his popularity. Writing to a friend in 1896, Doyle described how literally sick he was of the figure he had created: “I have had such an overdose of him that I feel towards him as I do towards pâté de foie gras, of which I once ate too much, so that the name of it gives me a sickly feeling to this day” (Chabon 17). Holmes's (first) literary demise was marked by his creator with a culinary simile, one which recalls that his literary debut was made under the name that, above all others, stood for the culinary in late nineteenth-century Britain: Isabella Beeton. The first Sherlock Holmes story, “A Study in Scarlet,” appeared in the 1887 edition of Beeton's Christmas Annual. Three other editors had rejected the story before the Beeton Annual accepted it. This Doyle-Beeton publishing encounter was an instance of one publishing phenomenon recognizing another one and ushering it into the limelight. When Doyle's reflections on his huge publishing success turn to a gustatory memory of overindulgence in a purposefully overdeveloped organ, it raises the following question: what were the relationships between the mass market, the culinary, and the production and adjudication of judgment and refinement in the nineteenth century?