Why Sherringford?
Written by Diane N. Tran. <escottish140@hotmail.com>

Publication for this GMD site © 06 October 2000
UPDATED 28 March 2003

(Editor's Note: Rebroadcast, redistribution, or reproduction of this document, in whole or in part, is prohibited without prior, written permission. For educational use only.)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's First Notes
A page of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's first notes for The Study in Scarlet, his first book about his soon-to-be-famous detective. As you can see his original thoughts for names were "Ormond Sacker" and "Sherrinford Holmes"!
In my pastiches, I often refer Basil of Baker Street as Sherringford Basil. I have often been asked "Why Sherringford?" for the first name of Basil of Baker Street. Apparently, this placement of his first name is my doing. It is not some fanciful name I made up out of the blue for use of my pastiches; no, it has an origin and a logic. Please allow me to explain:

A Tip Before Reading. Before you start reading this essay, I recommend reading Basic Sherlock Holmes: For You Beginners beforehand, because certain terminology I use which may escape non-Sherlockians and/or very new Basilian fans. Why? Because I'm not going insult your intelligence by explain every little thing if you already know it all, it's long-winded and unnecessary. In writing this, I will assume you know "The Basics". So enjoy!

Origin and History. In Arthur Conan Doyle's first writing notes in making his soon-to-be-world-famous crime stories, the originally intended name of his detective was Sherringford Holmes and his assistant Ormond Sacker. But Doyle later found that the name were too obscure and awkward, so he changed them the assistant's to John Watson because it accordingly dull, and his star Sherlock Holmes.

Theories in Sherlockia. I make what I can to read up on essays written by Sherlock Holmes scholars around the world. Sherlockians play a type of game known as Sherlockia, where the aim is that all the characters and even the events in The Sacred Writings are real. There are millions of Sherlockian essays if you care to read them, that play this game -- much like what I'm doing now in this essay:

  • Some Sherlockians say Holmes' real name was Sherringford Holmes and "Sherlock" was merely a nom -- devised by Watson and/or Doyle -- to hide his true identity.
  • Others say Sherringford is his mother's maiden name: Violet Sherringford. Doyle had a fondness for the name Violet, and in writing there are three Violets in The Sacred Writings: Violet Smith, Violet Hunter, and Violet de Merville. All the Violets were exceptional women -- strong willed and courgeous. It appeared that Holmes had a slight affection towards the name, many Sherlockians believe this may be due to a familiarity of the name Violet in course of a mother.
  • And then another theory suggested that Holmes had a second brother, perhaps one older than Mycroft, was named Sherringford Holmes. According to Victorian law, the eldest son inherits the family estate from the father; since neither Mycroft nor Sherlock claimed it, the theory of the third brother aroused.

  • © Sidney Paget
    Original illustration of Mycroft Holmes by Sidney Paget, first published in The Strand magazine. Less is known about Mycroft than Sherlock outside of The Canon.
    "Basil" Is A Surname. Now consider "proper" Victorian etiquette towards the address another. In England (even today), it is more proper to address another by their surname. You say Mr. Holmes, never Mr. Sherlock -- that is very bad form.

    In The Sacred Writings, no one -- not even his dearest friend Watson -- addresses Holmes by first name, save Holmes' elder brother, Mycroft. To address one by surname alone is "very British."
    In the Titus Canon and the Great Mouse Detective film, for the most part, the mice address their detective as either Basil or Mr. Basil. Therefore it's obviously logically that his surname is Basil. For some odd reason Basilians still fail to believe Basil is a last name because this is mostly because it is the first name of Basil Rathbone, whose played Holmes for over thirty years. So for those non-believers, I'll go even further. In Eve Titus' Basil in the Wild West, Basil confesses he has/had a sister name Brynna Basil.
    But what about Basil's first name? Honestly, nobody knows for certain what is! It's seems to be, well, just "Basil."

    Vat's wong? Con't ou spull? In several Sherlockian references, there is a conflict over spelling the name, is it Sherringford? Or is it Sherrinford? The difference only in a letter "g". Accordingly, Doyle himself first spelled it Sherrinford in his notes, then later Sherringford, before changing it to Sherlock. Ever since, there has been conflict over the addition or subtraction of a single letter "g".

    Personally, I selected Sherringford with a "g". It is simplier to pronounce for me and simply better to look at as well. Plus, in my research, Sherringford was the first spelling of the name I encountered, and most of the references I have read seem to spell it that way. It is simply personal preference of mine.

    My Personal Need of Sherringford. If one has skimmed through my Pastiched GMD Cast list. There is a character whom is explained as Basil's elder brother, who is the equivalent of Mycroft Holmes (Sherlock Holmes' elder brother). Since his creation, for the longest time, he was know only as Basil's Brother; he had NO NAME whatsoever for over two years, because it was uncertain if the younger Basil even had a Christian name! And after two years, I finally got sick and tried of called my character "Hey you", therefore as a result, I went into some thinking and I figured Sherringford Basil would be perfect to use.

    In deciding Sherringford for Basil of Baker Street, I have been thinking of simply Mycroft -- straight from the text of the Canon -- for his elder brother. But Mycroft is a dull name comparing side-to-side to Sherringford. So after skimming through my pocket name-book and the local phone book for ideas, I decided to expanded Doyle's original to Myerricroft for the final name of the elder brother.

    What's In A Name? I actually placed in the effort of searching for the meaning of their eccentric names, just for fun. Everyone usually likes to know what their name means and/or translates to.

  • Myerricroft.
    Myerri- is likely an Angelicised form of Myer, which is an English alternate of the Hebrew Mayer, Meir, and/or Meyer: all meaning "bright one."
    -Croft is a chiefly British term [Old English] for either two things:
    1. "A small enclosed field or pasture near a house."
    2. "A small [tenant] farm." Or even "a cabin."
    Subsequently, Myerricroft could be "bright one of a small pasture," "bright farming house," "small bright cabin," or "small bright field."
  • © Sidney Paget
    Original illustration of Sherlock Holmes by Sidney Paget, first published in The Strand magazine. Doyle orginally wanted Walter Paget as the illustrator, but the letter went to the wrong Paget brother! Sidney used his brother Walter as his model for The Great Detective.
  • Sherringford.
    The root for Sherring- can translated in two paths:
    1. It could be another Angelicised version of the name Sherwin, coming from scir wynne, an Old English phrase meaning "bright friend."
    2. An eccentric version of feminine Sherri, which is the English phonetic spelling of the French word chèrie, meaning "dear."
    -Ford derives from the name which is Old English for "river crossing," something like a bridge. Or just simply "road/road crossing [over a river or stream]."
    Consequently, Sherringford could be "dear river crossing/bridge," "bright friend of a river crossing/bridge," "dear road [over a river/stream]," "bright friend of the road [over a river/stream]."
  • Oh, if you are curious to the meaning of Brynna, Basil's sister according to the Eve Titus' Wild West novel, it is an Angelicised spelling of the Gaelic Brianna for "exalted and high minded." (And if you are wondering what I do with Brynna in my pastiches, I unfortunately had her pass away during Sherringford's and Myerricroft's childhood. She was probably six or seven when she passed away. This does not apply to other fanfictional writings, just mine.)

    One can just say that their parents were unconventional Victorians, and thus scarred their children for life with bizarre names (with the possible exception of the daughter). All the names seem to all encircle about the value of "brightness" and "mindness" and "intelligence."

    Sherringford Basil vs. Basil of Baker Street. Yet there is the question of the Basil of Baker Street title? Why would they call him Basil of Baker Street instead of Mr. Sherringford Basil?

    In the Titus Canon, the mice affectionately nickname Basil The Sherlock Holmes of the Mouse-World. Now the idealism of the individualism is an importance note, it is something that should be important to everyone, I believe. Holmes was a Bohemian, a individual, a person like no other. Basil, for the most part, is like that as well. He may live under Sherlock's shadow, but he must grow apart from his idol and be himself! So I figured The Sherlock Holmes of the Mouse-World was thrown out for Basil of Baker Street. Basil is his family name (a proud family name, perhaps) and Baker Street hints to his profession to the obvious! He is not JUST another Holmes, he is just Basil -- himself. You can say it is his "professional name."
    It is typical to say "[name] of [location of residence or other location of importance]" -- like Jonas Oldacre of Lower Norwood, or Hilton Cubitt of Derbyshire, or Mycroft Holmes of the Diogenes Club, or Inspector Bradstreet of Scotland Yard, or just as simply done, Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street.

    Etiquette - Forms of Address. When one encounters both brothers at the same time, how do you adress them? Simple! You address them both as Mr. Basil -- there is NO way one should address them solely Mr. Myerricroft or Mr. Sherringford -- that's reserved for women. For unmarried daughters or sister, you properly address the eldest with Miss and the family's surname; the other daughters or sisters will be addressed by their first name. For sons and brothers, this doesn't exist. You address BOTH as Mr. Basil. Facing the brother which one wishes to address assists in confusion is best, or one could simply address them fully as Mr. Myerricroft Basil and Mr. Sherringford Basil to avoid confusion.

    No one in the The Sacred Writing calls Holmes by his first name, except his brother Mycroft. Therefore I personally have only two characters that ever address Basil by his first: his brother, Myerricroft, and then his old friend, Oscar Milde.
    © Paul Galdone
    Original illustration of Basil of Baker Street by Paul Galdone from the first Basil of Baker Street book by Eve Titus.
    Myerricroft, for obvious reasons, should address his own brother by the first name. It would be rather awkward if both siblings called each other the same Basil. A "Hi, Basil." "Hi, Basil." discussion does not make very much sense for siblings, and also why would parents address their children by their surnames as well? Again it makes no sense.
    I allowed my character, Oscar Milde, who was Sherringford Basil's friend in university, to address the young brother by his first name. His friendships were not treated in the usual Victorian strictness. Historically, the real Oscar Wilde preferred that his closer friends address him by his first name basis and he, in turn, often address these friends by their first name as well. He often made pet-names for his friends at university, and I have made them meet at Oxford University. Oscar would be the only one to addressed Sherringford with the shorten Sherri. He means this as a term of endearment, rather like affectionate pun for chèrie.

    Links to Character Biographies.

  • Sherringford Basil.
  • Myerricroft Basil.
  • Oscar Milde.

    References Used:

    1. babynamer.com.
    2. Baring-Gould, William S. Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street: A Life of the World's First Consulting Detective. Bramhall House, New York, 1962.
    3. Bunson, Matthew E. Encyclopedia Sherlockiana: The Complete A-Z Guide to the World of The Great Detective. Macmillan, New York, 1994.
    4. Censor. Don't: A Manual of Mistakes and Improprieties more or less prevalent in Conduct and Speech. Griffith and Farran, London, circa 1880.
    5. dictionary.com.
    6. Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan. Complete Sherlock Holmes, The. Doubleday, New York, 1927.
    7. Fido, Martin. World of Sherlock Holmes: The Facts and Fiction Behind the World's Greatest Detective, The. Adams Media, Holbrook, Massachusetts, 1998.
    8. Hart-Davies, Rupert, ed. Letters of Oscar Wilde, The. Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, 1962.
    9. Haining, Peter, ed. Sherlock Holmes Companion, A.
    10. ---------, ed. Sherlock Holmes Scrapbook, The. Crescent, London, 1973.
    11. Mitchell, Sally. Daily Life in Victorian England. Greenwich Press, London, 1996.
    12. Morley, Chistopher. Introduction. Adventure of the Speckled Band and Other Stories of Sherlock Holmes, The. By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
    13. Starrett, Vincent, ed. 221B: Studies in Sherlock Holmes. Macmillan Publishing, New York, 1940.
    14. ---------, ed. Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, The. Macmillan Publishing, New York, 1933.
    15. thesaurus.com.
    16. Titus, Eve. Basil of Baker Street. Whittlesey House/McGraw-Hill, New York, 1958.
    17. ---------. Basil in Mexico. Whittlesey House/McGraw-Hill, New York, 1976.
    18. ---------. Basil in the Wild West. Whittlesey House/McGraw-Hill, New York, 1982.
    19. ---------. Basil and the Lost Colony. Whittlesey House/McGraw-Hill, New York, 1964.
    20. ---------. Basil and the Pygmy Cats. Whittlesey House/McGraw-Hill , New York, 1971.
    21. Tracy, Jack. Ultimate Sherlock Holmes Encyclopedia: A Universal Dictionary of Sherlock Holmes and His Biographer, Dr. John H Watson, The. Gramercy Books, New York, 1977.
    22. Weller, Philip, and Christopher Roden. Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes, The. Studio Editions, London, 1992.

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