The Sign of the Four (1890), also called The Sign of Four, is the second novel featuring Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle wrote four novels and 56 stories starring the fictional detective. As with the first story, A Study in Scarlet, produced two years
previously, The Sign of the Four was not particularly successful to
start with. It was the short stories, published from 1891 onwards in
Strand Magazine, that made household names of Sherlock Holmes and his
It presents the detective's drug habit and humanizes him in a way that had not been done in A Study in Scarlet. It also introduces Doctor Watson's future wife, Mary Morstan.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle describes how he was commissioned to write the story over a dinner with Joseph M. Stoddart, managing editor of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, at the Langham Hotel in London on 30 August 1889. Stoddart wanted to produce an English version of Lippincott?s with a British editor and British contributors. The dinner was also attended by Oscar Wilde, who eventually contributed The Picture of Dorian Gray to the July 1890 issue. Doyle discussed what he called this "golden evening" in his 1924 autobiography Memories and Adventures.