The Real Professor Moriarty

The arch-villain Professor Moriarty, in the Sherlock Holmes stories has been described as the great detective's nemesis. However, the character has only actually featured in two of the many tales, The Final Problem and The Valley of Fear. He is mentioned in passing, usually as reminiscences by Holmes, in five others. Conan Doyle's skill was of course in making Moriarty such a strong character.

It is commonly believed that Doyle invented Moriarty for the sole purpose of killing off Sherlock Holmes, who, despite making Doyle famous and wealthy, had become somewhat of a burden to the author, who wished to concentrate on other projects. Of course, we all know the outcome. Fans of Sherlock Holmes were outraged at the supposed demise of their hero, and campaigned vigorously for his return. Doyle may perhaps have had an inkling of the strength of feeling for Holmes as he did in fact leave it open for him to bring the detective back by having Holmes and Moriarty fall over the Reichenbach Falls, but with no bodies recovered. Sherlock Holmes was therefore duly resurrected. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Doyle may eventually have brought back Moriarty also, however he never did.

There have been several candidates for the inspiration for the creation of Professor James Moriarty. The name itself was quite possibly based upon the fact that Doyle went to school (Stoneyhurst College) with two boys called Moriarty. The best candidate (in my opinion) for the character himself is probably Adam Worth (1844-1902), a prolific criminal on both sides of the atlantic, who was actually dubbed the Napoleon of the criminal world by Scotland Yard detective of the time Robert Anderson. The very words paraphrased by Sherlock Holmes in The Valley of Fear.

Worth (possibly born Werth) was born in Germany. When he was five years old his family emigrated to Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. He ran away from home at the age of ten, and ended up in New York, via Boston. When he was seventeen the Civil War broke out. By lying about his age he enlisted in the Union army, being promoted to sergeant after only two months. Wounded in the second battle of Bull Run in August 1862, he was hospitalized at Georgetown Hospital, Washington DC. Upon learning that he had been listed as killed in action he deserted., thus beginning a long criminal career. Starting in New York, and ending in Europe. Including four years imprisonment in Belgium ( he was sentenced to seven, but was released early for good behaviour) for a botched robbery. He died in London, and was buried in Highgate Cemetery under the name of Henry J. Raymond. A slippery customer to the last.

Chris Haycock is an information publisher, and a real fanatic about early detective fiction. Having amassed a large collection of early detectivemystery novels. A particular favourite is Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. For more information, and details of an offer not to be missed why not go now to