Obituary: Samuel Rosenberg
Friday 19 January 1996
The presence of Friedrich Nietzsche at the Reichenbach Falls in 1877 was the premiss for Rosenberg's theory that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based the character of Professor Moriarty on the German philosopher and that Doyle's detective stories were the "pre-Freudian psycho-dramatic confessions" of a "self-revealing allegorist".
His findings were published in 1974 by Bobbs Merrill (or Boobs Merrill as he referred to them). The book, Naked is the Best Disguise: the death and resurrection of Sherlock Holmes, enjoyed great success in America (where it sold over 25,000 copies in hardback and was on the "Book-of- the-Month" list for several months), and there was success of a different sort in England where Desmond Elliott of Arlington Books was forced to remainder many thousand copies to the delight of bemused Sherlockians, who were able to purchase them for as little as 50p a copy.
Although never an invested Baker Street Irregular and often scornful of "orthodox Sherlockian ducks" and "Bakerstreetniks", he contributed an expanded version of a chapter of his book to Beyond Baker Street (1976), gave several lectures on the "Conan Doyle syndrome", and wrote introductions to facsimile editions of The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Return of Sherlock Holmes published in 1975.
He was born in Cleveland and was an omnivorous reader (omnivorous in more senses than one - his friend Buckminster Fuller described the 6ft 3in, 21-stone Rosenberg as "history's most massive reader"). He first came to New York in the 1930s, when he worked in the theatre. During the Second World War he was employed as a photo-analyst for the Office of Strategic Services and afterwards served as an official photographer at the birth of the United Nations. In the 1960s he found his true calling as a literary consultant for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, by whom he was engaged on account of his prodigious memory to check for plagiarism (a talent which led him to suggest, among other things, that Conan Doyle may have lifted simple sentences from translations made after his death of the works of German philosophers he had not read).
His other essays and studies concentrated on characters such as Frankenstein (the subject of an article in Life magazine in 1968), Herman Melville, St Nicholas, Perseus, Dr Albert Schweitzer, Lot's wife, James Joyce, Medusa, and Sigmund Freud, but it is for his book on Sherlock Holmes - which was not so much "resurrection" as "desecration" - that he will be best remembered.
Richard Lancelyn Green
Samuel Rosenberg, writer: born Cleveland, Ohio 1910; married Angela Nizzardini (one daughter); died New York 5 January 1996.
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