A. J. Raffles (character)

  (Redirected from A. J. Raffles)

Arthur J. Raffles (usually called A. J. Raffles) is a fictional character created in the 1890s by E. W. Hornung, brother-in-law to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Raffles is, in many ways, a deliberate inversion of Holmes – he is a "gentleman thief", living at The Albany, a prestigious address in London, playing cricket as a gentleman (or "amateur") for the Gentlemen of England and supporting himself by carrying out ingenious burglaries. He is called the "Amateur Cracksman", and often, at first, differentiates between himself and the "professors" – professional criminals from the lower classes.

A. J. Raffles
The Ides of March 03.jpg
Raffles (right) lock-picking with Bunny's assistance, by John H. Bacon (1898)
First appearance"The Ides of March" (1898)
Created byE. W. Hornung
Portrayed byDavid Niven
Anthony Valentine
Jeremy Clyde and others
OccupationGentleman thief
"Amateur" cricketer

As Holmes has Dr. Watson to chronicle his adventures, Raffles has Harry "Bunny" Manders – a former schoolmate saved from disgrace and suicide by Raffles, whom Raffles persuaded to accompany him on a burglary. One of the things that Raffles has in common with Holmes is a mastery of disguise – during his days as an ostensible man-about-town, he maintains a studio apartment in another name in which he keeps the components of various disguises. He can imitate the regional speech of many parts of Britain flawlessly, and is fluent in Italian.[1]


Hornung was inspired by the Sherlock Holmes stories of his brother-in-law, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Hornung dedicated The Amateur Cracksman to Doyle: "To A. C. D. This Form of Flattery".[2]

The model for Raffles was George Ives, a Cambridge-educated criminologist and talented cricketer, according to Andrew Lycett.[3] Hornung and Ives both played cricket for the Authors Cricket Club. Ives was privately homosexual, and although Hornung "may not have understood this sexual side of Ives' character", Raffles "enjoys a remarkably intimate relationship with his sidekick Bunny Manders." But Raffles is also shown to have romantic relationships with at least two women: the Neapolitan girl Faustina (in "No Sinecure"), and an artist using the name Jacques Saillard (in "An Old Flame").

Biographer Peter Rowland writes that Raffles and Manders were also fictionalised versions of Oscar Wilde and his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas.[4]

Fictional biographyEdit


Raffles (right) with Bunny after the time skip, by F. C. Yohn (1901)

At the start of the series, Raffles has piercing steel blue eyes, curly black hair, pale skin, an athletic build, a strong, unscrupulous mouth, and is clean-shaven.[5][6] Raffles once had a heavy moustache, but shaved it off the day after his first burglary.[7]

After the two-year time skip, Raffles's appearance is considerably aged due to his hardships abroad. His face is more wrinkled and pale than before, he appears weakened, and his hair has turned completely white. His sharp eyes and strong mouth, however, are unchanged.[8] His physical strength later returns to him when he and Bunny move to live in the suburbs, where Raffles also wears clouded spectacles during the day to partially conceal his face.[9]


Raffles is cynical about society, but would settle down permanently if he could just make a big enough haul. At one point, he comments "we can't all be moralists, and the distribution of wealth is all wrong anyway", suggesting that he is less contented with the state of affairs in late-Victorian England than he seems to be. He is aware of the fact that many people who seem to be his friends only like him for his cricket, and he himself has lost all interest in the sport, keeping it up only for its excellent possibilities as a cover for his real occupation (which he considers far more interesting and exciting) and as mental practice. He does have scruples, despite his profession – he will not steal from his host, and he is reluctant to kill, although he does so once and plans to at another time. He also does feel badly about the way he abuses Bunny's loyalty.

Despite the risks he already takes, he is sometimes still a sportsman, and some of his crimes are for motives other than pure profit. In a late story, he steals a gold cup from the British Museum on impulse: when challenged by Bunny as to how he will dispose of it, he posts it to the Queen as a Diamond Jubilee present. In another, he steals money from a tight-fisted Old Boy and donates it all to their former school, merely to spite the man. His last crime, committed just before he goes off to the Boer War, is to steal a collection of memorabilia of his crimes from Scotland Yard's Black Museum.

While Raffles often takes advantage of Bunny's relative innocence, he knows that Bunny's bravery and loyalty are to be relied on utterly. In several stories, Bunny saves the day for the two of them after Raffles gets into situations he cannot get out of on his own.


Kyrle Bellew in the Broadway production of Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman (1903)



John Barrymore (right foreground) in Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman (1917)


  • Raffles was voiced by Frederic Worlock in a CBS radio production, Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman (1934).[16]
  • Malcolm Graeme voiced Raffles in a radio adaptation of "The Ides of March" broadcast on 9 December 1941 on the BBC Forces Programme.[17]
  • Horace Braham voiced Raffles in CBS radio productions between 1942 and 1945.[16]
  • Raffles was voiced by Frank Allenby in six radio episodes broadcast on the BBC Light Programme between 3 December 1945 and 14 January 1946.[18]
  • Austin Trevor voiced Raffles in a radio adaptation of Mr. Justice Raffles that aired on the BBC Home Service on 8 February 1964.[19]
  • Jeremy Clyde voiced Raffles in the 1985–1992 BBC 4 Raffles radio series,[20] and in the 1993 radio adaptation of Graham Greene's play "The Return of A. J. Raffles".[21]



  1. ^ "The Last Laugh"
  2. ^ Hornung, E. W. (2003) [1899]. "Introduction". In Richard Lancelyn Green (ed.). Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman (Reprinted ed.). London: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-1856132824.
  3. ^ Lycett, Andrew (2008). The Man who Created Sherlock Holmes: The Life and Times of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. New York: Phoenix Books. pp. 229–30. ISBN 978-0-7538-2428-3.
  4. ^ Rowland, Peter (2004). "Hornung, Ernest William (1866–1921)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/37572. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  5. ^ Hornung, The Amateur Cracksman, chapter "Nine Points of the Law", page 160.
  6. ^ Hornung, The Amateur Cracksman, chapter "The Ides of March", page 11.
  7. ^ Hornung, The Amateur Cracksman, chapter "Le Premier Pas", page 146.
  8. ^ Hornung, The Black Mask, chapter "No Sinecure", page 17.
  9. ^ Hornung, The Black Mask, chapter "The Wrong House", pages 214–215.
  10. ^ Lachman, Marvin (31 October 2014). The Villainous Stage: Crime Plays on Broadway and in the West End. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0786495344.
  11. ^ Rowland, Peter (1999). Raffles and His Creator: The Life and Works of E. W. Hornung. London: Nekta Publications. p. 261. ISBN 0-9533583-2-1.
  12. ^ a b c d e Hornung, E. W. (2003) [1899]. "Further Reading". In Richard Lancelyn Green (ed.). Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman (Reprinted ed.). London: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-1856132824.
  13. ^ "Eille Norwood", Who's Who in the Theatre, Volume 3, ed. John Parker, Boston: Small, Maynard, and Co., 1912, p. 372
  14. ^ "The Return of A J Raffles". Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  15. ^ a b Pitts, Michael R. (1991). Famous Movie Detectives II. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press. p. 116. ISBN 978-0810823457.
  16. ^ a b Pitts, Michael R. (2004). Famous Movie Detectives III. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 301. ISBN 978-0810836907.
  17. ^ "The Ides of March". BBC Genome. BBC. 2019. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  18. ^ "Frank Allenby as 'Raffles'". BBC Genome. BBC. 2019. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  19. ^ "Saturday-Night Theatre". BBC Genome. BBC. 2019. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  20. ^ "EW Hornung – Raffles". BBC Radio 4. BBC. 2019. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  21. ^ "Raffles". Old Time Radio. 20 May 2004. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  • Hornung, E. W. (1899). The Amateur Cracksman. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  • Hornung, E. W. (1901). The Black Mask. Auckland, New Zealand: The Floating Press. ISBN 978-1-775415-09-1.

Further readingEdit