A Study in Scarlet, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s first novel featuring his legendary detective Sherlock Holmes — which was first published in 1887 — has been removed from the sixth-grade reading curriculum by the county school board of Albemarle, VA, after voting on it last Thursday for reasons that have attracted controversy to the famed mystery in the past, according to an article at the Los Angeles Times’ Nation Now blog.
Doyle’s extremely negative portrayal of Mormonism as a religion dominated by those who would commit acts of murder, kidnapping, and enslavement to protect their ideals has long been criticized by followers of the Mormon religion. But according to several sources, including Doyle’s own daughter and Levi Edgar Young, a descendant of Mormon leader Brigham Young, Doyle had admitted in the years following the publication of A Study in Scarlet that at the time he wrote it his attitude toward the Church of Latter-Day Saints had been swayed by how the Church was being portrayed in the press. The author had even apologized.
In 1923, while on a lecture tour of the United States, Doyle was invited to speak at the University of Utah. At a luncheon following his lecture, Doyle was moved by the occasion to say, “We are profoundly grateful for the tolerance and cordiality with which we have been received. Frankly, I did not expect to be allowed to speak in the Mormon Tabernacle.”
But that didn’t stop Brette Stevenson, the parent of a student at Albemarle’s Henley Middle School, from reigniting the controversy, according to The Daily Progress.
“A Study in Scarlet has been used to introduce students to the mystery genre and into the character of Sherlock Holmes,” Stevenson said to the school board. “This is our young students’ first inaccurate introduction to an American religion.”
Stevenson suggested replacing the book with another of Doyle’s Holmes mysteries, The Hound of the Baskervilles, which was published fifteen years after A Study in Scarlet.
But there was no shortage of a response to this latest act of local censorship. According to The Daily Progress, more than twenty students turned out to oppose the school board’s decision. Ninth-grader Quinn Legallo-Malone of Western Albemarle High School called A Study in Scarlet “the best book I have read so far” and said he looked forward to reading the book again should it be added to a high school reading list, which members of the Albemarle school board are considering doing in the future.
You can purchase copies of A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at Amazon.