Arsène Lupin versus Sherlock Holmes


Cover of Lupin’s complete adventures (C201.d.5905-5907).

Who doesn’t like Sherlock Holmes? The whole world has embraced Sherlock Holmes, from the United States to Soviet Russia; he is the most portrayed character in the history of cinema, and every year brings its share of new adaptations including the latest on BBC1 starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Who could possibly hate Sherlock Holmes?

The answer is, of course: a Frenchman.

In 1905, the French writer Maurice Leblanc wrote the first adventure of Arsène Lupin, a dashing gentleman-thief for whom burglary is one of the fine arts. Several short stories and novels would follow and in 1908, Leblanc introduced two new characters in Arsène Lupin contre Herlock Sholmes: an English detective and his sidekick Dr Wilson. A barely disguised pastiche of Sherlock Holmes, Sholmes was also intended as a caricature of the typical Englishman as seen by the French at the time: red in the face, impassive to the point of apathy and slow of understanding. Lupin of course, was his exact opposite, having every quality of a not-so-respectable Frenchman: chivalrous, terribly charming, and just a little bit cocky. Continue reading