. The fantastic London-based "consulting detective", Holmes is famous for his astute logical reasoning
, his ability to take almost any disguise
, and his use of forensic science skills to solve difficult cases
Holmes, who first appeared in publication in 1887, was featured in four novels and 56 short stories. The first novel, A Study in Scarlet
, appeared in Beeton's Christmas Annual
in 1887 and the second, The Sign of the Four, in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine
His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. Of contemporary literature, philosophy and politics he appeared to know nothing.
I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it.
Before turning to those moral and mental aspects of the matter which present the greatest difficulties, let the inquirer begin by mastering more elementary problems.
The theories which I have expressed there, and which appear to you to be so chimerical, are really extremely practical — so practical that I depend upon them for my bread and cheese.
It was easier to know it than to explain why I know it. If you were asked to prove that two and two made four, you might find some difficulty, and yet you are quite sure of the fact.
It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment.
"They say that genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains," he remarked with a smile. "It's a very bad definition, but it does apply to detective work."
You know a conjurer gets no credit when once he has explained his trick; and if I show you too much of my method of working, you will come to the conclusion that I am a very ordinary individual after all.
When a fact appears to be opposed to a long train of deductions, it invariably proves to be capable of bearing some other interpretation.
. The fantastic London-based "consulting detective", Holmes is famous for his astute logical reasoning
, his ability to take almost any disguise
, and his use of forensic science skills to solve difficult cases
Holmes, who first appeared in publication in 1887, was featured in four novels and 56 short stories. The first novel, A Study in Scarlet
, appeared in Beeton's Christmas Annual
in 1887 and the second, The Sign of the Four, in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine
in 1890. The character grew tremendously in popularity with the first series of short stories in Strand Magazine
, beginning with A Scandal in Bohemia
in 1891; further series of short stories and two novels published in serial form
appeared between then and 1927. The stories cover a period from around 1880 up to 1914.
All but four stories are narrated by Holmes's friend and biographer, Dr. John H. Watson; two are narrated by Holmes himself ("The Blanched Soldier
" and "The Lion's Mane
") and two others are written in the third person ("The Mazarin Stone
" and "His Last Bow
"). In two stories ("The Musgrave Ritual
" and "The Gloria Scott
"), Holmes tells Watson the main story from his memories, while Watson becomes the narrator of the frame story. The first and fourth novels, A Study in Scarlet
and The Valley of Fear
, each include a long interval of omniscient narration recounting events unknown both to Holmes and to Watson.
Inspiration for the character of HolmesDoyle said that the character of Sherlock Holmes was inspired by Dr. Joseph Bell
, for whom Doyle had worked as a clerk at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary
. Like Holmes, Bell was noted for drawing large conclusions from the smallest observations. Sir Henry Littlejohn, Lecturer on Forensic Medicine and Public Health at the Royal College of Surgeons, is also cited as a source for Holmes. Littlejohn served as Police Surgeon and Medical Officer of Health of Edinburgh, providing for Doyle a link between medical investigation and the detection of crime.
Early lifeExplicit details about Sherlock Holmes's life outside of the adventures recorded by Dr. Watson are few and far between in Conan Doyle's original stories; nevertheless, incidental details about his early life and extended families portray a loose biographical picture of the detective.
An estimate of Holmes' age in the story "His Last Bow
" places his birth in 1854; the story is set in August 1914 and he is described as being 60 years of age. Commonly, the date is cited as 6 January. However, an argument for a later birthdate is posited by author Laurie R. King
, based on two of Conan Doyle's stories: A Study in Scarlet
and "The Gloria Scott" Adventure
. Certain details in "The Gloria Scott" Adventure indicate Holmes finished his second and final year at university in either 1880 or 1885. Watson's own account of his wounding in the Second Afghan War
and subsequent return to England in A Study in Scarlet
place his moving in with Holmes in either early 1881 or 1882. Together, these suggest Holmes left university in 1880; if he began university at the age of 17, his birth year would likely be 1861.
Holmes states that he first developed his methods of deduction while an undergraduate. The author Dorothy L. Sayers
suggested that, given details in two of the Adventures, Holmes must have been at Cambridge rather than Oxford and that "of all the Cambridge colleges, Sidney Sussex (College)
perhaps offered the greatest number of advantages to a man in Holmes’ position and, in default of more exact information, we may tentatively place him there".
His earliest cases, which he pursued as an amateur, came from fellow university students. According to Holmes, it was an encounter with the father of one of his classmates that led him to take up detection as a profession, and he spent the six years following university working as a consulting detective, before financial difficulties led him to take Watson as a roommate, at which point the narrative of the stories begins.
From 1881, Holmes was described as having lodgings at 221B, Baker Street
, London, from where he runs his consulting detective service. 221B is an apartment up 17 steps, stated in an early manuscript to be at the "upper end" of the road. Until the arrival of Dr. Watson, Holmes worked alone, only occasionally employing agents from the city's underclass, including a host of informants and a group of street children he calls "the Baker Street Irregulars
". The Irregulars appear in three stories: "A Study in Scarlet
," "The Sign of the Four," and "The Adventure of the Crooked Man
Little is said of Holmes's family. His parents were unmentioned in the stories and he merely states that his ancestors were "country squires". In "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter
", Holmes claims that his great-uncle was Vernet
, the French artist. His brother, Mycroft
, seven years his senior, is a government official who appears in three stories and is mentioned in one other story. Mycroft has a unique civil service position as a kind of memory-man or walking database for all aspects of government policy. Mycroft is described as even more gifted than Sherlock in matters of observation and deduction, but he lacks Sherlock's drive and energy, preferring to spend his time at ease in the Diogenes Club, described as "a club for the most un-clubbable men in London".
Life with Dr. WatsonHolmes shares the majority of his professional years with his good friend and chronicler Dr. John H. Watson, who lives with Holmes for some time before his marriage in 1887, and again after his wife's death; his residence is maintained by his landlady, Mrs. Hudson.
Watson has two roles in Holmes's life. First, he gives practical assistance in the conduct of his cases; he is the detective's right-hand man, acting variously as look-out, decoy, accomplice and messenger. Second, he is Holmes's chronicler (his "Boswell
" as Holmes refers to him). Most of the Holmes stories are frame narratives, written from Watson's point of view as summaries of the detective's most interesting cases. Holmes is often described as criticising Watson's writings as sensational and populist, suggesting that they neglect to accurately and objectively report the pure calculating "science" of his craft.
Nevertheless, Holmes's friendship with Watson is his most significant relationship. In several stories, Holmes's fondness for Watson—often hidden beneath his cold, intellectual exterior—is revealed. For instance, in "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs
", Watson is wounded in a confrontation with a villain; although the bullet wound proves to be "quite superficial", Watson is moved by Holmes's reaction:
In all, Holmes is described as being in active practice for 23 years, with Watson documenting his cases for 17 of them.
RetirementIn "His Last Bow
", Holmes has retired to a small farm on the Sussex Downs in 1903–1904, as chronicled by Watson in his preface to the series of stories entitled "His Last Bow." It is here that he has taken up the hobby of beekeeping
as his primary occupation, eventually producing a "Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen". The story features Holmes and Watson coming out of retirement one last time to aid the war
effort. Only one adventure, "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane
", which is narrated by Holmes as he pursues the case as an amateur, takes place during the detective's retirement. The details of his death are not known.
Habits and personalityWatson describes Holmes as "bohemian
" in habits and lifestyle. According to Watson, Holmes is an eccentric, with no regard for contemporary standards of tidiness or good order. In The Musgrave Ritual
, Watson describes Holmes thus:
What appears to others as chaos, however, is to Holmes a wealth of useful information. Throughout the stories, Holmes would dive into his apparent mess of random papers and artefacts, only to retrieve precisely the specific document or eclectic item he was looking for.
Watson frequently makes note of Holmes's erratic eating habits. The detective is often described as starving himself at times of intense intellectual activity, such as during "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder
", wherein, according to Watson:
His chronicler does not consider Holmes's habitual use of a pipe, or his less frequent use of cigarettes and cigars, a vice. Nor does Watson condemn Holmes's willingness to bend the truth or break the law on behalf of a client (e.g., lying to the police, concealing evidence or breaking into houses) when he feels it morally justifiable. Even so, it is obvious that Watson has stricter limits than Holmes, and occasionally berated Holmes for creating a "poisonous atmosphere" of tobacco smoke. Holmes himself references Watson's moderation in "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot
", saying, "I think, Watson, that I shall resume that course of tobacco-poisoning which you have so often and so justly condemned". Watson also did not condone Holmes's plans when they manipulated innocent people, such as when he toyed with a young woman's heart in The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton
although it was done with noble intentions to save many other young women from the clutches of the villainous Milverton.
Holmes is portrayed as a patriot acting on behalf of the government in matters of national security in a number of stories. He also carries out counter-intelligence work in His Last Bow
, set at the beginning of the First World War. As shooting practice, the detective adorned the wall of his Baker Street lodgings with "VR" (Victoria Regina) in bullet pocks made by his pistol.
Holmes has an ego that at times borders on arrogant, albeit with justification; he draws pleasure from baffling police inspectors with his superior deductions. He does not seek fame, however, and is usually content to allow the police to take public credit for his work. It's often only when Watson publishes his stories that Holmes's role in the case becomes apparent. Because of newspaper articles and Watson's stories, however, Holmes is well known as a detective, and many clients ask for his help instead of or alongside the police.
Holmes is pleased when he is recognised for having superior skills and responds to flattery, as Watson remarks, as a girl does to comments upon her beauty.
Holmes's demeanour is presented as dispassionate and cold. Yet when in the midst of an adventure, Holmes can sparkle with remarkable passion. He has a flair for showmanship and will prepare elaborate traps to capture and expose a culprit, often to impress Watson or one of the Scotland Yard
Holmes is a loner and does not strive to make friends, although he values those that he has, and none higher than Watson. He attributes his solitary ways to his particular interests and his mopey disposition. In The Adventure of the Gloria Scott
, he tells Watson that during two years at college, he made only one friend, Victor Trevor. Holmes says, "I was never a very sociable fellow, Watson, always rather fond of moping in my rooms and working out my own little methods of thought, so that I never mixed much with the men of my year;... my line of study was quite distinct from that of the other fellows, so that we had no points of contact at all". He is similarly described in A Study in Scarlet
as difficult to draw out by young Stamford.
Holmes' emotional state/mental health has been a topic of analysis for decades. At their first meeting in A Study in Scarlet, the detective warns Watson that he gets "in the dumps at times" and doesn't open his "mouth for days on end". Many readers and literary experts have suggested Holmes showed signs of manic depressive psychosis, with moments of intense enthusiasm coupled with instances of indolent self absorption. Other modern readers have speculated that Holmes may have Asperger's syndrome based on his intense attention to details, lack of interest in interpersonal relationships and tendency to speak in long monologues. The detective's isolation and near-gynophobic distrust of women is said to suggest the desire to escape; Holmes "biographer" William Baring-Gould and others, including Nicholas Meyer
, author of the Seven Percent Solution, have implied a severe family trauma (i.e., the murder of Holmes' mother) may be the root cause.
Personal hygieneHolmes is described in The Hound of the Baskervilles
as having a "cat-like" love of personal cleanliness. This in no way appears to hinder his intensely practical pursuit of his profession, however, and appears in contrast with statements that, in the first Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, his hands are discoloured with acid stains and Holmes uses drops of his own blood to conduct experiments in chemistry and forensics.
Use of drugsHolmes occasionally uses addictive drugs, especially when lacking stimulating cases. He believes the use of cocaine
stimulates his brain when it is not in use. He is a habitual user of cocaine, which he injects in a seven-per-cent solution
using a special syringe
that he keeps in a leather case. Holmes is also an occasional user of morphine
but expressed strong disapproval on visiting an opium den
. These drugs were legal in late 19th-century England. Both Watson and Holmes are serial tobacco users, including cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. Holmes is expert at identifying tobacco-ash residues, having penned a monograph
on the subject.
Dr. Watson strongly disapproves of his friend's cocaine habit, describing it as the detective's "only vice" and expressing concern over its possible effect on Holmes's mental health
and superior intellect. In later stories, Watson claims to have "weaned" Holmes off drugs. Even so, according to his doctor friend, Holmes remains an addict whose habit is "not dead, but merely sleeping".
", when Holmes was living alone, that "I have no doubt that the house might have been purchased at the price which Holmes paid for his rooms," suggesting he had developed a good income from his practice, although it is seldom revealed exactly how much he charges for his services. In "A Scandal in Bohemia
", he is paid the staggering sum of one thousand pounds (300 in gold and 700 in notes) as advance payment for "present expenses". In "The Problem of Thor Bridge
" he avers: "My professional charges are upon a fixed scale. I do not vary them, save when I remit them altogether".
This is said in a context where a client is offering to double his fees; however, it is likely that rich clients provided Holmes a remuneration greatly in excess of his standard fee. For example, in "The Adventure of the Final Problem
", Holmes states that his services to the government of France and the royal house of Scandinavia had left him with enough money to retire comfortably, while in "The Adventure of Black Peter
", Watson notes that Holmes would refuse to help the wealthy and powerful if their cases did not interest him, while he could devote weeks at a time to the cases of the most humble clients. Holmes also tells Watson, in "A Case of Identity
", of a golden snuff box received from the King of Bohemia after "A Scandal in Bohemia
" and a fabulous ring from the Dutch royal family; in "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans
", Holmes receives an emerald tie-pin from Queen Victoria. Other mementos of Holmes's cases are a gold sovereign from Irene Adler
("A Scandal in Bohemia") and an autographed letter of thanks from the French President and a Legion of Honour for tracking down an assassin named Huret ("The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez
"). In "The Adventure of the Priory School
", Holmes "rubs his hands with glee" when the Duke of Holdernesse notes the 5000 pound sterling sum, which surprises even Watson, and then pats the cheque, saying, "I am a poor man", an incident that could be dismissed as representative of Holmes's tendency toward sarcastic humour. Certainly, in the course of his career Holmes had worked for both the most powerful monarchs and governments of Europe (including his own) and various wealthy aristocrat
s and industrialists and had also been consulted by impoverished pawnbroker
s and humble governess
es on the lower rungs of society.
Holmes has been known to charge clients for his expenses, and to claim any reward that might be offered for the problem's solution: he says in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band
" that Miss Stoner may pay any expenses he may be put to, and requests that the bank in "The Red-Headed League
" remunerate him for the money he spent solving the case. Holmes has his wealthy banker client in "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
" pay him for the costs of recovering the stolen gems and also claims the reward the banker had put for their recovery.
Relationships with womenThe only woman to impress Holmes was Irene Adler
, a character introduced in "A Scandal in Bohemia
" who, according to Watson, was always referred to by Holmes as "the woman". Holmes himself is never directly quoted as using this term and even mentions her name in other cases (although it is worth noting that all of the stories using Adler's name come after "A Scandal in Bohemia
", which was the third tale published about Holmes and the first short story so Holmes may have shifted how he referred to Adler over time. Adler is one of the few women who are mentioned in multiple Holmes stories, appearing in person in only one.
In one story, "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton
," Holmes is engaged to be married, but only to gain information for his case. Although Holmes appears to show initial interest in some of his female clients (in particular, Violet Hunter in "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches
"), Watson says he inevitably "manifested no further interest in the client when once she had ceased to be the centre of one of his problems". Holmes finds their youth, beauty, and energy (and the cases they bring to him) invigorating, distinct from any romantic interest. These episodes show Holmes possesses a degree of charm; yet apart from the case of Adler, there is no indication of a serious or long-term interest. Watson states that Holmes has an "aversion to women" but "a peculiarly ingratiating way with [them]". Holmes states, "I am not a whole-souled admirer of womankind"; in fact, he finds "the motives of women... so inscrutable.... How can you build on such quicksand? Their most trivial actions may mean volumes;... their most extraordinary conduct may depend upon a hairpin".
As Doyle remarked to muse Joseph Bell, "Holmes is as inhuman as a Babbage's calculating machine and just about as likely to fall in love". The only joy Holmes derives from the company of women is the problems they bring to him to solve. In The Sign of the Four, Watson quotes Holmes as being "an automaton, a calculating machine", and Holmes is quoted as saying, "It is of the first importance not to allow your judgement to be biased by personal qualities. A client is to me a mere unit—a factor in a problem. The emotional qualities are antagonistic to clear reasoning. I assure you that the most winning woman I ever knew was hanged for poisoning three little children for their insurance-money". This points to Holmes's lack of interest in relationships with women in general, and clients in particular, leading Watson to remark that "there is something positively inhuman in you at times". At the end of "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot
", Holmes states: "I have never loved, Watson, but if I did and if the woman I loved had met such an end, I might act as our lawless lion-hunter had done". In the story, the explorer Dr Sterndale had killed the man who murdered his beloved, Brenda Tregennis, to exact a revenge which the law could not provide. Watson writes in "The Adventure of the Dying Detective
" that Mrs. Hudson is fond of Holmes in her own way, despite his bothersome eccentricities as a lodger, owing to his "remarkable gentleness and courtesy in his dealings with women". Again in The Sign of the Four, Watson quotes Holmes as saying, "I would not tell them too much. Women are never to be entirely trusted—not the best of them". Watson notes that while he dislikes and distrusts them, he is nonetheless a "chivalrous opponent".
Holmesian deductionHolmes's primary intellectual detection method is induction
, which Holmes rather inaccurately calls deduction
. "From a drop of water", he writes, "a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic
or a Niagara
without having seen or heard of one or the other". Holmes stories often begin with a bravura display of his talent for "deduction
". It is of some interest to logicians and those interested in logic
to try to analyse just what Holmes is doing when he performs his induction. "Holmesian deduction" appears to consist primarily of drawing inferences based on either straightforward practical principles—which are the result of careful inductive
study, such as Holmes's study of different kinds of cigar ashes—or inference to the best explanation. One quote often heard from Holmes is "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth".
Sherlock Holmes's straightforward practical principles are generally of the form, "If 'p', then 'q'," where 'p' is observed evidence and 'q' is what the evidence indicates. But there are also, as may be observed in the following example, intermediate principles. In "A Scandal in Bohemia" Holmes deduces that Watson had got very wet lately and that he had "a most clumsy and careless servant girl". When Watson, in amazement, asks how Holmes knows this, Holmes answers:
In this case, Holmes employed several connected principles:
- If leather on the side of a shoe is scored by several parallel cuts, it was caused by someone who scraped around the edges of the sole in order to remove crusted mud.
- If a London doctor's shoes are scraped to remove crusted mud, the person who so scraped them is the doctor's servant girl.
- If someone cuts a shoe while scraping it to remove encrusted mud, that person is clumsy and careless.
- If someone's shoes had encrusted mud on them, then they are likely to have been worn by him in the rain, when it is likely he became very wet.
By applying such principles in an obvious way (using repeated applications of modus ponens
), Holmes is able to infer from his observation that "the sides of Watson's shoes are scored by several parallel cuts" that:
"Watson's servant girl is clumsy and careless" and "Watson has been very wet lately and has been out in vile weather".
Deductive reasoning allows Holmes to impressively reveal a stranger's occupation, such as a Retired Sergeant of Marines in A Study in Scarlet; a former ship's carpenter turned pawnbroker in "The Red-Headed League
"; and a billiard-marker and a retired artillery NCO in "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter
". Similarly, by studying inanimate objects, Holmes is able to make astonishingly detailed deductions about their owners, including Watson's pocket-watch in "The Sign of the Four" as well as a hat, a pipe, and a walking stick in other stories.
Yet Doyle is careful not to present Holmes as infallible—a central theme in "The Adventure of the Yellow Face
". At the end of the tale a sobered Holmes tells Watson, “If it should ever strike you that I am getting a little over-confident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper ‘Norbury’ in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you”.
DisguiseHolmes displays a strong aptitude for acting and disguise. In several stories, he adopts disguises to gather evidence while 'under cover' so convincing that even Watson fails to penetrate them, such as in "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton
", "The Man with the Twisted Lip
", "The Adventure of the Empty House
" and "A Scandal in Bohemia
". In other adventures, Holmes feigns being wounded or ill to give effect to his case, or to incriminate those involved, as in "The Adventure of the Dying Detective
Weapons and martial artsPistols
- Holmes and Watson carry pistols with them; in the case of Watson often his old service revolverRevolverA revolver is a repeating firearm that has a cylinder containing multiple chambers and at least one barrel for firing. The first revolver ever made was built by Elisha Collier in 1818. The percussion cap revolver was invented by Samuel Colt in 1836. This weapon became known as the Colt Paterson...
. Watson describes these weapons as being used on seven occasions.
- Holmes, as a gentleman, often carries a stick or cane. He is described by Watson as an expert at singlestickSinglestickSinglestick, also known as cudgels, refers to both a martial art that uses a wooden stick as well as the weapon used in the art. It began as a way of training soldiers in the use of swords such as the sabre...
and twice uses his cane as a weapon.
- In "A Study in Scarlet" Watson describes Holmes as an expert with a sword—although none of the stories have Holmes using a sword. It is mentioned in "Gloria Scott" that Holmes practised fencingFencingFencing, which is also known as modern fencing to distinguish it from historical fencing, is a family of combat sports using bladed weapons.Fencing is one of four sports which have been featured at every one of the modern Olympic Games...
- In several stories, Holmes appears equipped with a riding crop and in "A Case of IdentityA Case of Identity"A Case of Identity" is one of the 56 short Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and is the third story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.-Plot summary:...
" comes close to thrashing a swindler with it. Using a "hunting crop", Holmes knocks a pistol from John Clay's hand in "The Red-Headed LeagueThe Red-Headed League"The Adventure of the Red-Headed League" is one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle. It first appeared in The Strand Magazine in August 1891, with illustrations by Sidney Paget. Conan Doyle ranked "The Red-Headed League" second in his list of his twelve favorite...
". In "The Six Napoleons" it is described as his favourite weapon—he uses it to break open one of the plaster busts.
- Holmes is described as a formidable bare-knuckleBare-knuckle boxingBare-knuckle boxing is the original form of boxing, closely related to ancient combat sports...
fighter. In The Sign of the Four, Holmes introduces himself to a prize-fighterProfessional BoxingProfessional boxing, or prizefighting, emerged in the early twentieth century as boxing gradually attained legitimacy and became a regulated, sanctioned sport. Professional boxing bouts are fought for a purse which is divided among the fighters and promoters as determined by contract...
- Holmes engages in hand-to-hand combat with his adversaries on occasions throughout the stories, inevitably emerging the victor. It is mentioned also in "Gloria Scott" that Holmes trained as a boxer, and in "The Yellow Face" Watson comments that "he was undoubtedly one of the finest boxers of his weight that I have ever seen."
- In "The Adventure of the Empty House", Holmes recounts to Watson how he used martial arts to overcome Professor MoriartyProfessor MoriartyProfessor James Moriarty is a fictional character and the archenemy of the detective Sherlock Holmes in the fiction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Moriarty is a criminal mastermind, described by Holmes as the "Napoleon of Crime". Doyle lifted the phrase from a real Scotland Yard inspector who was...
and fling his adversary to his death down the Reichenbach FallsReichenbach FallsThe Reichenbach Falls are a series of waterfalls on the River Aar near Meiringen in Bern canton in central Switzerland. They have a total drop of 250 m . At 90 m , the Upper Reichenbach Falls is one of the highest cataracts in the Alps...
. He states, "I have some knowledge, however, of baritsuBaritsuBaritsu is a fictional martial art, described by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Empty House", the first of The Return of Sherlock Holmes, to explain how Holmes had managed to avoid falling into the Reichenbach Falls with Professor Moriarty as described in...
, or the Japanese systemJapanese martial artsJapanese martial arts refers to the enormous variety of martial arts native to Japan. At least three Japanese terms are often used interchangeably with the English phrase "Japanese martial arts": , literally meaning "martial way", , which has no perfect translation but means something like science,...
of wrestlingGrapplingGrappling refers to techniques, maneuvers, and counters applied to an opponent in order to gain a physical advantage, such as improving relative position, escaping, submitting, or injury to the opponent. Grappling is a general term that covers techniques used in many disciplines, styles and martial...
, which has more than once been very useful to me". The name "baritsu" appears to be a reference to the real-life martial art of BartitsuBartitsuBartitsu is an eclectic martial art and self-defence method originally developed in England during the years 1898–1902. In 1901 it was immortalised by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes mystery stories...
, which combined jujitsu with Holmes' canonical skills of boxing and cane fencing.
- In several stories, Holmes is described or demonstrated as having above average physical strength. As an example, in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band", Dr. Roylott, 6 feet tall and wide as a doorframe, demonstrates his strength by bending a fire poker in half. After the Doctor leaves, Holmes "said laughing. 'I am not quite so bulky, but if he had remained I might have shown him that my grip was not much more feeble than his own.' As he spoke he picked up the steel poker and, with a sudden effort, straightened it out again."
- In "The Yellow Face" Watson comments of Holmes, that "Few men were capable of greater muscular effort."
Knowledge and skills
, something of Holmes's background is given. In early 1881, he is presented as an independent student of chemistry
with a variety of very curious side interests, almost all of which turn out to be single-mindedly bent towards making him superior at solving crimes. (When he appears for the first time, he is crowing with delight at having invented a new method for detecting bloodstains; in other stories he indulges in recreational home-chemistry experiments, sometimes filling the rooms with foul-smelling vapours.) An early story, "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott
", presents more background on what influenced Holmes to become a detective: a college friend's father richly complimented his deductive skills. Holmes maintains strict adherence to scientific methods and focuses on logic and the powers of observation and deduction.
Holmes also makes use of phrenology
, which was widely popular in Victorian times but now regarded as pseudo-scientific: In "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
", he infers from the large size of a man's hat that the owner is intelligent and intellectually inclined, on the grounds that “a man with so large a brain must have something in it”.
In A Study in Scarlet, Holmes claims he does not know that the Earth revolves around the Sun, as such information is irrelevant to his work. Directly after having heard that fact from Watson, he says he will immediately try to forget it. He says he believes that the mind has a finite capacity for information storage, and so learning useless things would merely reduce his ability to learn useful things. Dr. Watson subsequently assesses Holmes's abilities thus:
Knowledge of Literature – nil.
Knowledge of Philosophy – nil.
Knowledge of AstronomyAstronomyAstronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...
Knowledge of Politics – Feeble.
Knowledge of BotanyBotanyBotany, plant science, or plant biology is a branch of biology that involves the scientific study of plant life. Traditionally, botany also included the study of fungi, algae and viruses...
– Variable. Well up in belladonna, opiumOpiumOpium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy . Opium contains up to 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The latex also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine...
and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening.
Knowledge of Geology – Practical, but limited. Tells at a glance different soils from each other. After walks, has shown me splashes upon his trousers, and told me by their colour and consistence in what part of LondonGeology of LondonThe geology of London comprises various differing layers of sedimentary rock upon which London, England is built.-Oldest rocks:The oldest rocks proved through boreholes to exist below London are the old, hard rocks of the Palaeozoic. These consist of Silurian mudstones and sandstones, generally...
he had received them.
Knowledge of ChemistryChemistryChemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....
Knowledge of AnatomyAnatomyAnatomy is a branch of biology and medicine that is the consideration of the structure of living things. It is a general term that includes human anatomy, animal anatomy , and plant anatomy...
– Accurate, but unsystematic.
Knowledge of Sensational LiteratureSensationalismSensationalism is a type of editorial bias in mass media in which events and topics in news stories and pieces are over-hyped to increase viewership or readership numbers...
– Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century.
Plays the violin well.
Is an expert singlestickSinglestickSinglestick, also known as cudgels, refers to both a martial art that uses a wooden stick as well as the weapon used in the art. It began as a way of training soldiers in the use of swords such as the sabre...
player, boxer and swordsman.
Has a good practical knowledge of British law.
--Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in ScarletA Study in ScarletA Study in Scarlet is a detective mystery novel written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, introducing his new character of Sherlock Holmes, who later became one of the most famous literary detective characters. He wrote the story in 1886, and it was published the next year...
At the very end of A Study in Scarlet itself, it is shown that Holmes knows Latin
and needs no translation of Roman epigrams in the original—though knowledge of the language would be of dubious direct utility for detective work, all university students were required to learn Latin at that time.
Later stories also contradict the list. Despite Holmes's supposed ignorance of politics, in "A Scandal in Bohemia
" he immediately recognises the true identity of the supposed "Count von Kramm". Regarding nonsensational literature, his speech is replete with references to the Bible, Shakespeare, even Goethe. He is able to quote from a letter of Flaubert to George Sand
and in the original French.
Moreover, in "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans
" Watson reports that in November 1895 "Holmes lost himself in a monograph which he had undertaken upon the Polyphonic Motet
s of Lassus"—a most esoteric field, for which Holmes would have had to "clutter his memory" with an enormous amount of information which had absolutely nothing to do with crime-fighting—knowledge so extensive that his monograph was regarded as "the last word" on the subject. The later stories abandon the notion that Holmes did not want to know anything unless it had immediate relevance for his profession; in the second chapter of The Valley of Fear
, Holmes instead declares that "all knowledge comes useful to the detective", and near the end of "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane
" he describes himself as "an omnivorous reader with a strangely retentive memory for trifles".
Holmes is also a competent cryptanalyst. He relates to Watson, "I am fairly familiar with all forms of secret writing, and am myself the author of a trifling monograph
upon the subject, in which I analyse one hundred and sixty separate cipher
s". One such scheme is solved using frequency analysis
in "The Adventure of the Dancing Men
Holmes's analysis of physical evidence is both scientific and precise. His methods include the use of latent prints such as footprints, hoof prints and bicycle tracks to identify actions at a crime scene (A Study in Scarlet, "The Adventure of Silver Blaze", "The Adventure of the Priory School", The Hound of the Baskervilles, "The Boscombe Valley Mystery
"), the use of tobacco ashes and cigarette butts to identify criminals ("The Adventure of the Resident Patient
", The Hound of the Baskervilles), the comparison of typewritten letters to expose a fraud ("A Case of Identity
"), the use of gunpowder residue to expose two murderers ("The Adventure of the Reigate Squire"), bullet comparison from two crime scenes ("The Adventure of the Empty House
"), analysis of small pieces of human remains to expose two murders (The Adventure of the Cardboard Box
) and even an early use of fingerprints ("The Norwood Builder"). Holmes also demonstrates knowledge of psychology in "A Scandal in Bohemia
", luring Irene Adler into betraying where she had hidden a photograph based on the "premise" that an unmarried woman will seek her most valuable possession in case of fire, whereas a married woman will grab her baby instead.
Despite the excitement of his life (or perhaps seeking to leave it behind), Holmes retired to the Sussex Downs to take up beekeeping ("The Second Stain") and wrote a book on the subject entitled "Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with Some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen". His search for relaxation can also be seen in his love for music, notably in "The Red-Headed League
", wherein Holmes takes an evening off from a case to listen to Pablo de Sarasate
He also enjoys vocal music, particularly Wagner
("The Adventure of the Red Circle
The film Young Sherlock Holmes
(1985), which speculates about Holmes's youthful adventures, shows Holmes as a brilliant secondary school student, being mentored simultaneously by an eccentric professor/inventor and his dedicated fencing instructor.
Forensic scienceSherlock Holmes remains a great inspiration for forensic science, especially for the way his acute study of a crime scene yields small clues as to the precise sequence of events. He makes great use of trace evidence
such as shoe and tire impressions, as well as fingerprint
and handwriting analysis, now known as questioned document examination
. Such evidence is used to test theories conceived by the police, for example, or by the investigator himself. All of the techniques advocated by Holmes later became reality, but were generally in their infancy at the time Conan Doyle was writing. In many of his reported cases, Holmes frequently complains of the way the crime scene
has been contaminated by others, especially by the police, emphasising the critical importance of maintaining its integrity, a now well-known feature of crime scene
Owing to the small scale of the trace evidence (such as tobacco ash, hair or fingerprint
s), he often uses a magnifying glass
at the scene, and an optical microscope
back at his lodgings in Baker Street. He uses analytical chemistry
for blood residue
analysis as well as toxicology
examination and determination for poison
s. Holmes seems to have maintained a small chemistry laboratory in his lodgings, presumably using simple wet chemical methods for detection of specific toxins, for example. Ballistics
is used when spent bullets can be recovered, and their calibre measured and matched with a suspect murder weapon.
Holmes was also very perceptive of the dress and attitude of his clients and suspects, noting style and state of wear of their clothes, any contamination (such as clay on boots), their state of mind and physical condition in order to infer their origin and recent history. Skin marks such as tattoos could reveal much about their past history. He applied the same method to personal items such as walking stick
s (famously in The Hound of the Baskervilles
) or hats (in the case of The Blue Carbuncle), with small details such as medallions, wear
yielding vital indicators of their absent owners.
An omission from the stories is the use of forensic photography
. Even before Holmes' time, high quality photography was used to record accident scenes, as in the Tay Bridge disaster
of 1879, murders in 1888.
In 2002, the Royal Society of Chemistry
bestowed an honorary fellowship of their organisation upon Sherlock Holmes, for his use of forensic science and analytical chemistry in popular literature, making him the only (as of 2010) fictional character to be thus honoured.
Role in the history of the detective story
's C. Auguste Dupin and Émile Gaboriau
's Monsieur Lecoq
), his name has become a byword for the part. His stories also include several detective story characters such as the loyal but less intelligent assistant, a role for which Dr Watson has become the archetype
. The investigating detective became a popular genre
with many authors such as Agatha Christie
and Dorothy Sayers after the demise of Holmes, with characters such as Hercule Poirot
and Lord Peter Wimsey
. Forensic methods became less important than the psychology of the criminal, despite the strong growth in forensics in use by the police in the early 20th century.
Scientific literatureSherlock Holmes has occasionally been used in the scientific literature. John Radford (1999) speculates on his intelligence. Using Conan Doyle’s stories as data, Radford applies three different methods to estimate Sherlock Holmes’s IQ, and concludes that his intelligence was very high indeed, estimated at approximately 190 points. Snyder (2004) examines Holmes’ methods in the light of the science and the criminology of the mid to late 19th century. Kempster (2006) compares neurologists’ skills with those displayed by Holmes. Finally, Didierjean and Gobet (2008) review the literature on the psychology of expertise by taking as model a fictional expert: Sherlock Holmes. They highlight aspects of Doyle’s books that are in line with what is currently known about expertise, aspects that are implausible, and aspects that suggest further research.
Fan speculationThe fifty-six short stories and four novels written by Conan Doyle are termed the "canon
" by Sherlock Holmes fans. Early scholars of the canon included Ronald Knox
in Britain and Christopher Morley
in New York, the latter having founded the Baker Street Irregulars
, the first society devoted exclusively to the canon of Holmes, in 1934.
Writers have produced many pop culture references to Sherlock Holmes
, Conan Doyle, or characters from the stories in homage, to a greater or lesser degree. Such allusions can form a plot development, raise the intellectual level of the piece, or act as Easter eggs
for an observant audience.
Some have been overt, introducing Holmes as a character in a new setting, or a more subtle allusion, such as making a logical character live in an apartment at number 221B. One well-known example of this is the character Gregory House
on the show House M.D, whose name and apartment number are both references to Holmes. Often the simplest reference is to dress anybody who does some kind of detective work in a deerstalker
However, throughout the entire novel series, Holmes is never explicitly described as wearing a "deerstalker hat". Holmes dons "his ear-flapped travelling cap" in "The Adventure of Silver Blaze". Sidney Paget
first drew Holmes wearing the deerstalker cap and Inverness cape
in "The Boscombe Valley Mystery
" and subsequently in several other stories.
"Elementary, my dear Watson"A third major reference is the oft-quoted but non-canonical catchphrase: "Elementary, my dear Watson". This phrase is never actually uttered by Holmes in any of the sixty Holmes stories written by Conan Doyle. In the stories, Holmes often remarks that his logical conclusions are "elementary", in that he considers them to be simple and obvious. He also, on occasion, refers to Dr. Watson as "my dear Watson". The two fragments, however, never appear together. One of the closest examples to this phrase appears in "The Adventure of the Crooked Man
", when Holmes explains a deduction:
The first known use of this phrase was in the 1915 novel, Psmith Journalist, by P. G. Wodehouse. It also appears at the very end of the 1929 film, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, the first Sherlock Holmes sound film. William Gillette
, who played Holmes on stage and radio, had previously used the similar phrase, Oh, this is elementary, my dear fellow. The phrase might owe its household familiarity to its use in Edith Meiser's scripts for The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
radio series, broadcast from 1939 to 1947.
The Great Hiatus
" and his reappearance in "The Adventure of the Empty House"—as "the Great Hiatus". It is notable, though, that one later story ("The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge
") is described as taking place in 1892.
Conan Doyle wrote the first set of stories over the course of a decade. Wanting to devote more time to his historical novels, he killed off Holmes in "The Final Problem," which appeared in print in 1893. After resisting public pressure for eight years, the author wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles, which appeared in 1901, implicitly setting it before Holmes's "death" (some theorise that it actually took place after "The Return" but with Watson planting clues to an earlier date). The public, while pleased with the story, was not satisfied with a posthumous Holmes, and so Conan Doyle revived Holmes two years later. Many have speculated on his motives for bringing Holmes back to life, notably writer-director Nicholas Meyer
, who wrote an essay on the subject in the 1970s entitled "The Great Man Takes a Walk". The actual reasons are not known, other than the obvious: publishers offered to pay generously. For whatever reason, Conan Doyle continued to write Holmes stories for another 24 years.
Some writers have come up with other explanations for the hiatus. In Meyer's novel The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
, the hiatus is depicted as a secret sabbatical following Holmes's treatment for cocaine addiction at the hands of Sigmund Freud
, and presents Holmes making the light-hearted suggestion that Watson write a fictitious account claiming he had been killed by Moriarty, saying of the public: "They'll never believe you in any case".
In his memoirs, Conan Doyle quotes a reader, who judged the later stories inferior to the earlier ones, to the effect that when Holmes went over the Reichenbach Falls, he may not have been killed, but was never quite the same man. This is contradicted in part by Watson's evaluation in "The Adventure of Black Peter" that "I have never known my friend to be in better form, both mental and physical, than in the year '95," which would have been 4 years after the fall over Reichenbach Falls. The differences in the pre- and post-Hiatus Holmes have in fact created speculation among those who play "The Great Game" (making believe Sherlock Holmes was a historical person). Among the more fanciful theories, the story "The Case of the Detective's Smile" by Mark Bourne, published in the anthology Sherlock Holmes in Orbit, posits that one of the places Holmes visited during his hiatus was Alice's Wonderland. While there, he solved the case of the stolen tarts, and his experiences there contributed to his kicking the cocaine addiction.
SocietiesIn 1934, the Sherlock Holmes Society, in London, and the Baker Street Irregulars
, in New York were founded. Both are still active (though the Sherlock Holmes Society was dissolved in 1937 to be resuscitated only in 1951). The London-based society is one of many worldwide who arrange visits to the scenes of the Sherlock Holmes adventures, such as the Reichenbach Falls
in the Swiss Alps
The two initial societies founded in 1934 were followed by many more Holmesians circles, first of all in America (where they are called "scion societies"—offshoots—of the Baker Street Irregulars), then in England and Denmark. Nowadays, there are Sherlockian societies in many countries, such as India and Japan.
MuseumsDuring the 1951 Festival of Britain
, Sherlock Holmes's sitting-room was reconstructed as the masterpiece of a Sherlock Holmes Exhibition, displaying a unique collection of original material.
After the 1951 exhibition closed, items were transferred to the Sherlock Holmes Pub, in London, and to the Conan Doyle Collection in Lucens (Switzerland). Both exhibitions, each including its own Baker Street Sitting-Room reconstruction, are still open to the public.
In 1990, the Sherlock Holmes Museum
opened in Baker Street London and the following year in Meiringen, Switzerland another museum opened; naturally, they include less historical material about Conan Doyle than about Sherlock Holmes himself. The Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street, London was the first Museum in the world to be dedicated to a fictional character.
A private collection of Conan Doyle is also housed in the Portsmouth City Museum which has a permanent exhibit, due to his importance in the city where he lived and worked for many years.
Adaptations and derived worksThe enduring popularity of Sherlock Holmes has led to hundreds of works based on the character – both adaptations into other media and original stories. The copyright
in all of Conan Doyle's works expired in the United Kingdom in 2000 (1980 in Canada and Australia) and they are therefore in the public domain
throughout most of the world (where the expiry term is 50 or 70 years following the year of death). All works published in the United States prior to 1923 are in the public domain; this includes all Sherlock Holmes stories with the exception of some of the stories contained within The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
. For works published after 1923 but before 1963, if the copyright was registered, its term lasts for 95 years. The Conan Doyle heirs registered the copyright to The Case Book (published in the USA after 1923) in 1981.
Stage and screen adaptationsThe Guinness World Records
has consistently listed Sherlock Holmes as the "most portrayed movie character" with 75 actors playing the part in over 211 films. Holmes' first screen appearance was in the Mutoscope film Sherlock Holmes Baffled
in 1900, albeit in a barely-recognisable form.
’s 1899 play Sherlock Holmes, or The Strange Case of Miss Faulkner was a synthesis of several stories by Doyle, mostly based on A Scandal in Bohemia adding love interest, with the Holmes-Moriarty exchange from The Final Problem, as well as elements from The Copper Beeches and A Study in Scarlet. By 1916, Harry Arthur Saintsbury
had played Holmes on stage more than a thousand times. This play formed the basis for Gillette's 1916 motion picture, Sherlock Holmes.
In a 1924 comedy film "Sherlock Jr." Buster Keaton
's character longs to be a detective.
starred as Sherlock Holmes, alongside Nigel Bruce
as Dr Watson, in fourteen US films (two for 20th Century Fox
and a dozen for Universal Pictures
) from 1939 to 1946, as well as a number of radio plays. It is these films that produced the iconic though noncanonical line, "Elementary, my dear Watson".
starred in 39 episodes of the Sherlock Holmes 1954 American TV series
with Howard Marion Crawford as Watson. The storylines deviated from the books of Conan Doyle, changing characters and other details.
appeared as Sherlock Holmes in the musical Baker Street
, which ran on Broadway between 16 February and 14 November 1965. Peter Sallis
portrayed Dr. Watson, Inga Swenson
appeared as The Woman, Irene Adler
, and Martin Gabel
played Moriarty. Virginia Vestoff
, Tommy Tune
, and Christopher Walken
were also members of the original cast.
In The Return Of Sherlock Holmes, a TV movie aired in 1987, Margaret Colin
stars as Dr. Watson's great-granddaughter Jane Watson, a Boston private eye, who stumbles upon Sherlock Holmes' (played by Michael Pennington
) body in frozen suspension and restores the Victorian sleuth to life in the 1980s. The film was intended as a pilot for a TV series which never materialised. A similar plot line was used in Sherlock Holmes Returns: 1994 Baker Street where Dr Amy Winslow (played by Debrah Farentino
) discovers Sherlock Holmes frozen in the cellar of house in San Francisco owned by a descendant of Mrs Hudson. Holmes (played by Anthony Higgins
) froze himself in the hopes that crimes in the future would be less dull. He discovers that consulting detectives have been replaced by the police department's forensic science lab and that the Moriarty family are still the Napoleons of crime.
is generally considered the definitive Holmes, having played the role in four series of Sherlock Holmes, created by John Hawkesworth
for Britain's Granada Television
, from 1984 through to 1994, as well as depicting Holmes on stage. Brett's Dr Watson was played by David Burke (pre-hiatus) and Edward Hardwicke
(post-hiatus) in the series. Jeremy Brett wished to be the best Sherlock Holmes the world had ever seen and conducted extensive research into the character and the author that created him. He strove to bring passion and life to the role and in his obituary it was said, "Mr. Brett was regarded as the quintessential Holmes: breathtakingly analytical, given to outrageous disguises and the blackest moods and relentless in his enthusiasm for solving the most intricate crimes."
portrayed Holmes in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
with Robert Duvall
playing Watson and featuring Alan Arkin
as Sigmund Freud
. The 1976 adaption was written by Nicholas Meyer
from his 1974 book of the same name, and directed by Herbert Ross
directed Christopher Plummer
an James Mason
in the 1979 created film Murder by Decree
, which followed Holmes, hunting Jack the Ripper
Between 1979 and 1986, Soviet television broadcast a series of five made-for-TV films in a total of eleven parts, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, starring Vasily Livanov
as Holmes and Vitaly Solomin
starred as Holmes in three screen adaptions, namely Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace
(1962), Incident at Victoria Falls
(1991) and Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady
(1992) together with Morgan Fairchild
as "The Woman".
In 2002 made-for-television movie Sherlock: Case of Evil, James D'Arcy
starred as Holmes in his 20s. The story noticeably departs from the style and backstory of the canon and D'Arcy's portrayal of Holmes is slightly different from prior incarnations of the character, psychologically disturbed, an absinthe
, a heavy drinker and a ladies' man
television series House
contains numerous similarities and references to Holmes. Show creator David Shore
has acknowledged this "subtle homage".
In the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes
, based on a story by Lionel Wigram
and images by John Watkiss
, directed by Guy Ritchie
, the role of Holmes is performed by Robert Downey, Jr. with Jude Law
portraying Watson. It is a reinterpretation which heavily focuses on Holmes's more anti-social personality traits as an unkempt eccentric with a brilliant analytical mind and formidable martial abilities
, making this the most cynical incarnation of Holmes. Robert Downey Jr. won the Golden Globe Award
for his portrayal. Downey Jr. will return in the 2011 sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Independent film company The Asylum
released the direct-to-DVD film Sherlock Holmes
in January 2010. In the film, Holmes and Watson battle a criminal mastermind dubbed "Spring-Heeled Jack", who controls several mechanical creatures to commit crimes across London. Holmes (Ben Syder) is portrayed as considerably younger than most actors who have played him, and his disapproval of Scotland Yard
is undertoned, though things like his drug additction remain mostly unchanged. The film features a brother of Holmes's called Thorpe, who was invented by the producers of the film out of creative liberty. His companion Watson is played by Torchwood
actor Gareth David-Lloyd
plays a modern-day version of the detective in the BBC One
TV series Sherlock, which premiered on 25 July 2010. The series changes the books' original Victorian
setting to the shady and violent present-day London. The show was created by Mark Gatiss
and Steven Moffat
, best known as writers for the BBC television series Doctor Who
. Says Moffat, "Conan Doyle's stories were never about frock coats and gas light; they're about brilliant detection, dreadful villains and blood-curdling crimes – and frankly, to hell with the crinoline. Other detectives have cases, Sherlock Holmes has adventures, and that's what matters."
Cumberbatch's Holmes was described by the BBC as
brilliant, aloof and almost entirely lacking in social graces. Sherlock is a unique young man with a mind like a 'racing engine'. Without problems to solve, it will tear itself to pieces. And the more bizarre and baffling the problems the better. He has set himself up as the world's only consulting detective, whom the police grudgingly accept as their superior.He also uses modern technology, such as texting and internet blogging, to solve the crimes, and in a nod towards changing social attitudes and broadcasting regulations, he has replaced his pipe with multiple nicotine patch
Related and derivative worksIn addition to the Sherlock Holmes corpus, Conan Doyle's "The Lost Special
" (1898) features an unnamed "amateur reasoner" clearly intended to be identified as Holmes by his readers. His explanation for a baffling disappearance, argued in Holmes's characteristic style, turns out to be quite wrong—evidently Conan Doyle was not above poking fun at his own hero. A short story by Conan Doyle using the same idea is "The Man with the Watches". Another example of Conan Doyle's humour is "How Watson Learned the Trick
" (1924), a parody
of the frequent Watson-Holmes breakfast table scenes. A further (and earlier) parody by Conan Doyle is "The Field Bazaar". He also wrote other material, especially plays, featuring Holmes. Many of these are collected in Sherlock Holmes: The Published Apocrypha edited by Jack Tracy
, The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes edited by Peter Haining
and The Uncollected Sherlock Holmes compiled by Richard Lancelyn Green
In 1907, Sherlock Holmes began featuring in a series of German booklets. Among the writers was Theo van Blankensee. Watson had been replaced by a 19 year old assistant from the street, among his Baker Street Irregulars, with the name Harry Taxon, and Mrs. Hudson had been replaced by one Mrs. Bonnet. From number 10 the series changed its name to "Aus den Geheimakten des Welt-Detektivs". The French edition changed its name from "Les Dossiers Secrets de Sherlock Holmes" to "Les Dossiers du Roi des Detectives".
Sherlock Holmes's abilities as both a good fighter and as an excellent logician have been a boon to other authors who have lifted his name, or details of his exploits, for their plots. These range from Holmes as a cocaine
addict, whose drug-fuelled fantasies lead him to cast an innocent Professor Moriarty as a super villain (The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
), to science-fiction plots involving him being re-animated after death to fight crime in the future (Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century
Some authors have supplied stories to fit the tantalising references in the canon to unpublished cases (e.g. "The giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared" in "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire
"), notably The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes
by Conan Doyle's son Adrian Conan Doyle
with John Dickson Carr
, and The Lost Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Ken Greenwald, based rather closely on episodes of the 1945 Sherlock Holmes radio show that starred Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce and for which scripts were written by Dennis Green and Anthony Boucher
. Others have used different characters from the stories as their own detective, e.g. Mycroft Holmes in Enter the Lion by Michael P. Hodel and Sean M. Wright (1979) or Dr James Mortimer (from The Hound of the Baskervilles) in books by Gerard Williams.
Laurie R. King
recreates Sherlock Holmes in her Mary Russell series (starting with The Beekeeper's Apprentice
), set during the First World War and the 1920s. Her Holmes is (semi)retired in Sussex, where he is literally stumbled over by a teenage American girl. Recognising a kindred spirit, he gradually trains her as his apprentice. the series includes nine novels and a novella tie-in with a book from King's present-time Kate Martinelli series, The Art of Detection
Carole Nelson Douglas
' series, the Irene Adler
Adventures, is based on the character from Doyle's "A Scandal in Bohemia
". The first book, Good Night, Mr. Holmes, retells that tale from Irene's point of view. The series is narrated by Adler's companion, Penelope Huxleigh, in a role similar to that of Dr. Watson.
The film They Might Be Giants
is a 1971 romantic comedy based on the 1961 play of the same name (both written by James Goldman
) in which the character Justin Playfair, played by George C. Scott
, is convinced he is Sherlock Holmes, and manages to convince many others of same, including the psychiatrist Dr. Watson, played by Joanne Woodward
, who is assigned to evaluate him so he can be committed to a mental institution.
The film Young Sherlock Holmes
(1985) explores adventures of Holmes and Watson as boarding school
The Japanese anime series "Detective Conan", also called "Case Closed
" in English, is an homage to Doyle's work.
The 2002 film The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire
is loosely based on Doyle's story "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire
In the 1980s Ben Kingsley
played Dr. Watson in Without a Clue
. In this film, the comic premise is that Dr. Watson is actually a brilliant detective, and that he has hired an actor, Sherlock Holmes (Michael Caine
), to take credit for the cases that Watson has been writing about, to draw attention away from himself. The powerful criminal Dr. Moriarty is said to know that Sherlock Holmes has no abilities as a detective whatsoever.
The novel A Dog About Town by J. F. Englert makes reference to Sherlock Holmes, comparing the black Labrador retriever narrator, Randolph, to Doyle's detective as well as naming a fictitious spirit guide after him.
The Final Solution is a 2004 novel by Michael Chabon
. The story, set in 1944, revolves around an 89-year-old long-retired detective who may or may not be Sherlock Holmes but is always called just "the old man", now interested mostly in beekeeping
, and his quest to find a missing parrot, the only friend of a mute Jewish boy. The title references both Doyle's story "The Final Problem" and the Final Solution
, the Nazis' plan for the genocide of the Jewish people.
In 2006, a southern California "vaudeville-nouveau" group known as Sound & Fury began performing a theatre in the round parody show entitled "Sherlock Holmes & The Saline Solution" which depicts Holmes as a bumbling figure guided by a slightly less clueless Watson. The show ran in Los Angeles as well as the Edinburgh and Adelaide
Fringe Festivals through 2009.
In a novella "The Prisoner of the Tower, or A Short But Beautiful Journey of Three Wise Men" by Boris Akunin
published in 2008 in Russia as the conclusion of "Jade Rosary Beads" book, Sherlock Holmes and Erast Fandorin
oppose Arsène Lupin
on 31 December 1899.
In June 2010 it was announced that Franklin Watts
books, a part of Hachette Children's Books are to release a series of four children's graphic novels by writer Tony Lee
and artist Dan Boultwood in spring 2011 based around the Baker Street Irregulars
during the three years that Sherlock Holmes was believed dead, between The Adventure of the Final Problem
and The Adventure of the Empty House
. Although not specifying whether Sherlock Holmes actually appears in the books, the early reports include appearances by Doctor Watson, Inspector Lestrade
and Irene Adler
On 17 January 2011, it was announced that the Conan Doyle estate had commissioned Anthony Horowitz
, author of the Alex Rider
novels, The Power of Five
and TV's Foyle's War
, to write a brand new, authorised Sherlock Holmes novel to be published by Orion Books in September 2011. "The content of the new tale – and indeed the title – remain a closely guarded secret."
The original storiesThe original Sherlock Holmes stories consist of fifty-six short stories and four novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
- A Study in ScarletA Study in ScarletA Study in Scarlet is a detective mystery novel written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, introducing his new character of Sherlock Holmes, who later became one of the most famous literary detective characters. He wrote the story in 1886, and it was published the next year...
(published 1887, in Beeton's Christmas Annual)
- The Sign of the Four (published 1890, Lippincott's Monthly Magazine)
- The Hound of the BaskervillesThe Hound of the BaskervillesThe Hound of the Baskervilles is the third of four crime novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes. Originally serialised in The Strand Magazine from August 1901 to April 1902, it is set largely on Dartmoor in Devon in England's West Country and tells the story of an...
(serialised 1901–1902 in The Strand)
- The Valley of FearThe Valley of FearThe Valley of Fear is the fourth and final Sherlock Holmes novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The story was first published in the Strand Magazine between September 1914 and May 1915, and the first book edition was published in New York on 27 February 1915.- Part I: The Tragedy of Birlstone...
(serialised 1914–1915 in The Strand)
Short storiesFor more detail see List of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes short stories.
The short stories, originally published in periodicals, were later gathered into five anthologies:
- The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of twelve stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, featuring his famous detective and illustrated by Sidney Paget....
(contains stories published 1891–1892 in The Strand)
- The Memoirs of Sherlock HolmesThe Memoirs of Sherlock HolmesThe Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, originally published in 1894, by Arthur Conan Doyle.-Contents:The twelve stories of the Memoirs are:*"Silver Blaze"...
(contains stories published 1892–1893 in The Strand as further episodes of the Adventures)
- The Return of Sherlock HolmesThe Return of Sherlock HolmesThe Return of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of 13 Sherlock Holmes stories, originally published in 1903-1904, by Arthur Conan Doyle.-History:...
(contains stories published 1903–1904 in The Strand)
- The Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes (including His Last Bow)His Last BowHis Last Bow is a collection of seven Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as the title of the last story in that collection...
(contains stories published 1908–1913 and 1917)
- The Case-Book of Sherlock HolmesThe Case-Book of Sherlock HolmesThe Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes is the final collection of Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. Originally published in 1927, it contains stories published between 1921 and 1927....
(contains stories published 1921–1927)
- "Holmes-ian" Detection:
- Forensic chemistryForensic chemistryForensic chemistry is the application of chemistry to law enforcement or the failure of products or processes. Many different analytical methods may be used to reveal what chemical changes occurred during an incident, and so help reconstruct the sequence of events...
- Forensic engineeringForensic engineeringForensic engineering is the investigation of materials, products, structures or components that fail or do not operate or function as intended, causing personal injury or damage to property. The consequences of failure are dealt with by the law of product liability. The field also deals with...
- HOLMES2HOLMES2HOLMES 2 is an Information Technology system that is predominantly used by UK Police forces for the investigation of major incidents such as serial murders and multi-million pound frauds....
(police computer system)
- Forensic chemistry
- List of actors who have played Sherlock Holmes
- List of Holmesian studies
- Other Arthur Conan Doyle characters:
- Professor ChallengerProfessor ChallengerGeorge Edward Challenger, better known as Professor Challenger, is a fictional character in a series of science fiction stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle...
- Professor Challenger
- Adaptations of Sherlock Holmes
- SherlockSherlock (video game)Sherlock is a 1984 text adventure developed under the lead of Philip Mitchell by Beam Software. It was published by Melbourne House. Five programmers worked for 18 months on the title and a Sherlock Holmes expert was employed full-time for a year to advise the team on accuracy.Technically, the...
(1984) (Philip Mitchell) (PC text adventure)
- 221B Baker Street (1987) (DatasoftDatasoftDatasoft, Inc. was a video game developer and publisher founded in 1980 by Pat Ketchum. Based out of Chatsworth, California, Datasoft ported games from arcade systems to personal computers and acquired licenses for games from famous movies and TV shows....
) (PC and Mac)
- Sherlock: The Riddle of the Crown JewelsSherlock: The Riddle of the Crown JewelsSherlock: The Riddle of the Crown Jewels is an interactive fiction computer game designed by Bob Bates and published by Infocom in 1988. Like most titles Infocom produced, the use of ZIL made it possible to release the game simultaneously for many popular computer platforms, including the Apple II,...
(1988) (InfocomInfocomInfocom was a software company, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that produced numerous works of interactive fiction. They also produced one notable business application, a relational database called Cornerstone....
- Sherlock Holmes: Consulting DetectiveSherlock Holmes: Consulting DetectiveSherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective is a full motion video based video game predicated on a book-based game of the same name. It was first developed by ICOM Simulations for the FM Towns computer and later ported to DOS, Apple Macintosh, Commodore CDTV, TurboGrafx-CD and Sega CD with all versions...
(1991) (ICOM SimulationsICOM SimulationsICOM Simulations was a software company based in Wheeling, Illinois. It is best known for creating the MacVenture series of adventure games including Shadowgate.Following the foundation in 1983 a number of game titles for the Panasonic JR-200 were produced...
- Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective Vol. IISherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective Vol. IISherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective Vol. II is the title of a full motion video computer game released for the Sega CD, TurboGrafx-CD, and DOS...
(1992) (ICOM Simulations)
- Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective Vol. IIISherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective Vol. IIISherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective Vol. III is the title of a full motion video computer game released for the DOS. The game is a sequel to Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective Vol...
(1993) (ICOM Simulations)
- The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Serrated ScalpelThe Lost Files of Sherlock HolmesThe Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes is an adventure game series developed by Mythos Software and published by the American computer game company Electronic Arts for DOS in the 1990s...
(1992) (Electronic Arts)Electronic ArtsElectronic Arts, Inc. is a major American developer, marketer, publisher and distributor of video games. Founded and incorporated on May 28, 1982 by Trip Hawkins, the company was a pioneer of the early home computer games industry and was notable for promoting the designers and programmers...
- The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Rose TattooThe Lost Files of Sherlock HolmesThe Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes is an adventure game series developed by Mythos Software and published by the American computer game company Electronic Arts for DOS in the 1990s...
(1996) (Electronic Arts) (PC)
- Sherlock Holmes seriesAdventures of Sherlock Holmes seriesThe Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series is a series of adventure games, developed by the independent game development studio Frogwares, based on Arthur Conan Doyle's famous work The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, featuring the famous detective and his companion Dr. John H. Watson. To date, five...
: (FrogwaresFrogwaresFrogwares is an independent adventure game development studio, having branches in Ukraine, Ireland and France. Its president is Waël Amr.It is best known for its ongoing Sherlock Holmes series of adventure computer games starring Sherlock Holmes and Dr...
- Sherlock Holmes: Mystery of the Mummy (2002) (Frogwares) (PC)
- Sherlock Holmes: Secret of the Silver EarringSherlock Holmes: Secret of the Silver EarringSherlock Holmes: The Case of the Silver Earring is a computer game developed by Frogwares and published in 2004 on two CD-ROMs for Microsoft Windows by Digital Jesters in Europe and Ubisoft in North America...
(2004) (Frogwares) (PC)
- Sherlock Holmes: The AwakenedSherlock Holmes: The AwakenedSherlock Holmes: The Awakened is an adventure game developed by Frogwares and published in 2006 for Microsoft Windows. The game follows an original plotline as Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr. John H...
(2006) (Frogwares) (PC)
- Sherlock Holmes versus Arsène LupinSherlock Holmes versus Arsène LupinSherlock Holmes versus Arsène Lupin is an adventure game, developed by the game development studio Frogwares. The fourth game in the Adventure of Sherlock Holmes series of adventure games developed by Frogwares, it was released in the October of 2007 and is published by Focus Home Interactive...
(2007) (Frogwares) (PC)
- Sherlock Holmes: The Mystery of the Persian Carpet (Frogwares) (PC)
- Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the RipperSherlock Holmes vs. Jack the RipperSherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper is an adventure game for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360, developed by Frogwares. It is the fifth game in the Sherlock Holmes series of adventure games developed by Frogwares...
(2009) (Frogwares) (PC)(X360)
- Fenoli Marc, Qui a tué Sherlock Holmes ? [Who shot Sherlock Holmes ?], Review L’Alpe 45, Glénat-Musée Dauphinois, Grenoble-France, 2009. ISBN 978-2-7234-6902-9
- Lieboe, Eli. Doctor Joe Bell: Model for Sherlock Holmes. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1982; Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin PressUniversity of Wisconsin PressThe University of Wisconsin Press is a non-profit university press publishing peer-reviewed books and journals. It primarily publishes work by scholars from the global academic community but also serves the citizens of Wisconsin by publishing important books about Wisconsin, the Upper Midwest, and...
, 2007. ISBN 978-0-87972-198-5
- "For the Heirs to Holmes, a Tangled Web" - New York Times article
- "The Burden of Holmes"- Wall Street Journal article
- The Sherlock Holmes Museum 221b Baker Street, London England.
- The Sherlock Holmes Society of London London society founded 1951
- Bert Coules' website (BBC Radio 4 canonical and original stories, 1989–2004)
- Discovering Sherlock Holmes at Stanford University
- Sherlock Holmes Special Collections
- The Sherlock Holmes Collections at the University of MinnesotaUniversity of MinnesotaThe University of Minnesota, Twin Cities is a public research university located in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, United States. It is the oldest and largest part of the University of Minnesota system and has the fourth-largest main campus student body in the United States, with 52,557...
Special Collections and Rare Books
- Chess and Sherlock Holmes essay by Edward WinterEdward Winter (chess historian)Edward Winter is an English journalist, archivist, historian, collector and author about the game of chess. He writes a regular column on that subject, Chess Notes, and is also a regular columnist for ChessBase.-Chess Notes:...
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle audio books by Lit2Go from the University of South FloridaUniversity of South FloridaThe University of South Florida, also known as USF, is a member institution of the State University System of Florida, one of the state's three flagship universities for public research, and is located in Tampa, Florida, USA...