By the time you read this the fourth season of BBC‘s Sherlock will be airing and we will have an answer to a two-year-old mystery, is James Moriarty dead or alive? While the character of Professor Moriarty and/or characters based on him are real in the Sherlock and Elementary universes and in scores of other Sherlock Holmes adaptations, some Sherlockians have been asking themselves for decades, if “The Napoleon of Crime” ever really existed at all?
The character is first mentioned in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Final Problem first published in the December 1893 issue of The Strand Magazine, and latter included in the collection of short stories entitled The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes though Moriarty may or may not have been anonymously referred to in a few previous cases. In the story, set in 1890, Holmes asks Watson, “You have probably never heard of Professor Moriarty?” When Watson says no, Holmes then tells him, “Aye, there’s the genius and the wonder of the thing! The man pervades London, and no one has heard of him. That’s what puts him on a pinnacle in the records of crime. I tell you, Watson, in all seriousness, that if I could beat that man, if I could free society of him, I should feel that my own career had reached its summit, and I should be prepared to turn to some more placid line in life.”