“Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore”
Edgar Allan Poe
Detective stories, crime thrillers, and mystery stories make up a thriving genre in literature. The mystery genre is one of the most prolific generators in the literary world of talented authors who create unforgettable characters and enticing stories. Agatha Christie (1890-1976), also known as “The Queen of Crime,” is one of the most well-known mystery writers as well as the third most-sold author and the best-selling novelist in the world. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s (1859 – 1930) detective character Sherlock Holmes is a literary creation that is almost as recognizable as Shakespeare’s characters Romeo and Juliet.
The mystery genre of literature is rich with intriguing characters and stories that have taken the world by storm. Yet, none of this would have ostensibly been possible without the original inspiring mystery stories written by the renowned author Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849).
Edgar Allan Poe is indisputably known as the “Father of the Detective Story.” Poe earned this prestigious, honorary title due to the creation of his fictional French detective character named of C. Auguste Dupin in the early 1840s. Although crime novels date much further back in the history of literature than Poe’s Dupin, it was with this detective character that Poe created the first modern detective novel and thus launching the literary genre of detective fiction into existence.
C. Auguste Dupin appears in three of Poe’s short stories: “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841), “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” (1842), and “The Purloined Letter” (1844). Although Poe did not feature Dupin in many of his works, this is perhaps his most influential character on the world of literature. Poe’s detective stories and fictional detective character laid the groundwork of common elements for the detective novel genre while inspiring future detective characters, including the most well-known fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.
Here are some interesting facts about Dupin and Poe’s legacy as the “Father of the Detective Story”:
C. Auguste Dupin the Pre-Detective
“But it is in matters beyond the limits of mere rule that the skill of the analyst is evinced. He makes in silence a host of observations and inferences…”
Edgar Allan Poe (“The Murders in the Rue Morgue”)
Although C. Auguste Dupin is the first literary fictional detective that established the genre of the modern detective novels, Edgar Allan Poe created this character sometime before the term detective was even coined. Regardless, Dupin was the original model for the detective in literature: a gentleman of leisure uses innovative analytic and deductive skills to assist law enforcement in solving crimes.
Doyle’s Inspiration for Sherlock Holmes
“You remind me of Edgar Allan Poe’s Dupin. I had no idea that such individuals did exist out of stories.”
Dr. John Watson to Sherlock Holmes (A Study in Scarlet)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is extremely vocal on the degree to which Edgar Allan Poe and his detective character C. Agustine Dupin inspired his own creation, Sherlock Holmes. Doyle actually makes hilarious references and jests about the similarities between Dupin and Sherlock throughout his works (such as in A Study in Scarlet and “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box”).
Doyle also highlights Poe’s indelible mark on the literary genre of mystery and crime, having written that Poe’s detective stories are “a root from which a whole literature has developed…where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?”
Model for Literary Criminal Characters and Literary Detectives
In addition to Sherlock Holmes, Edgar Allan Poe’s work inspired the exceptional and famous Agatha Christe “The Queen of Crime” to dabble in the genre of mystery and crime. Her detective character Hercule Poirot was built upon the detective model set forth by Poe with C. Augustine Dupin.
Poe’s detective stories not only set a model for future fictional detective characters and detective stories but it also inspired some criminal characters from the mystery genre. Fyodor Dostoevsky demonstrates this influence of Poe, whom Dostoevsky considered to be “an enormously talented writer,” as he stated that his character Porfiry Petrovich in Crime and Punishment was influenced by Dupin.
Edgar Allan Poe clearly had an impressive impact on one of the most prolific genres in literature. Not only did he breathe life into a new area of literature, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle states, but his detective character inspired some of the most famous fictional detectives and even some famous literary criminals.
With such an indelible impact on mystery and crime in literature, Poe certainly has earned the honorary title of the “Father of the Detective Story.”