Irene Adler

Black and white illustration of Irene Adler

To Sherlock Holmes she was always The Woman. Many readers see more than meets the eye in Irene Adler, who we are introduced to in the first of the Holmes short stories, "A Scandal in Bohemia." After all, she could captivate the King of Bohemia, so why not a detective? Despite her brief appearance, the New Jersey native continues to fascinate and is the subject of much writing and speculation.

Possible Origins of Irene Adler


As portrayed with a few recent Holmeses . . .

Heavy breathing: Matt Frewer as Sherlock Holmes and Liliana Komorowska as Irene Adler in "The Royal Scandal", Hallmark Channel, 2001; Jeremy Brett as Holmes and Gayle Hunnicutt as Adler, Granada Television, 1984; Robert Downey, Jr., as Holmes and Rachel McAdams as Adler, 2009; Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Lara Pulver as Adler, BBC, 2012.

Did they have an affair?

There's a Sherlockian tradition that Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler met again (don’t know where, don't know when: maybe Montenegro, 1892) and enjoyed a dalliance. They may even have produced a son, who became Nero Wolfe, Rex Stout's great New York detective. Imaginative writings have resulted from this hypothesis, but that's all they are: imaginative.

Another popular tradition is that Irene Adler was in reality the "Aunt Clara" who figures in the 1920s song "We Never Mention Aunt Clara," as sung to the Baker Street Irregulars by Jim Montgomery. It's rather fun to think so. The White Ghost Shivers performed the song in April 2012.