One of the most enduring mysteries, however, is how this most famous of detectives came to be commemorated in Japan, Switzerland and Edinburgh but never by his home at 221B.
The answer, when it finally emerged, was elementary, my dear Watson - nobody had ever got round to it. But now, more than 60 years after the death of author G K Chesterton, who was the first to suggest a statue of the sleuth, planning permission for one has been granted to the Sherlock Holmes Society.
A three-metre-high bronze statue is to be unveiled outside Baker Street Underground Station this autumn. It is thought to be only the second statue of a fictional character in the capital (joining Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens), and is certainly the first time that a self-confessed drug addict has been honoured in this way. Holmes was not only a habitual opium smoker, but also admitted to taking cocaine three times a day when bored.
He is to stand in his customarily haughty pose, pipe in hand and instantly recognisable by - in the words of his creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - "the poise of the head, the squareness of the shoulders, the sharpness of his features".
Peter Horrocks, of the Sherlock Holmes Society, led the campaign for a statue. He said members were adamant that passers-by should immediately know it was Sherlock.
"We wanted him standing up and in a classic and recognisable pose, with the deerstalker, pipe and greatcoat," he said. In fact, the author himself never mentioned any of these items, which originated in the work of the illustrator Sidney Paget.
"We are a literary society and therefore more concerned with the stories, but we were aware of what the public expects when they think of Sherlock Holmes, and we went along with that," Mr Horrocks added.
But some residents are against the pounds 110,000 tribute. The St Marylebone Society fears it will increase congestion and attract vandals. "The statue is in front of Baker Street Tube, which is in Marylebone Road and not very appropriate. It should have been in Baker Street itself, which is much quieter," said a spokeswoman.
The statue was designed by John Doubleday, who also created a monument in Switzerland at the Reichenbach Falls; the scene of Holmes's fight to the death with Professor Moriarty. He said: "They have been talking about this statue for such a long time; it is almost as if people have a subconscious desire to make him real. The work is of a crime-solver on guard over the metropolis, reassuring passers-by that right triumphs in the end."
Professor Moriarty would not have approved. He once spoke of a "dastardly plot to undermine the morale of criminal London" and would doubtless view a permanent statue of his arch enemy in the same way.Reuse content