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Sherlock Holmes (pron.: / / or pron.: / /) is a fictional detective created by author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A London-based "consulting detective" whose abilities border on the fantastic, Holmes is famous for his astute logical reasoning, his ability to adopt 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 The 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 to either Holmes or Watson.
Inspiration for the character of Holmes
Doyle said that the character of Sherlock Holmes was inspired by Dr. Joseph Bell, for whom Doyle had worked as a clerk at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Like Holmes, Bell was noted for drawing large conclusions from the smallest observations. However, some years later Bell wrote in a letter to Conan Doyle: "you are yourself Sherlock Holmes and well you know it." 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.
Explicit 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's 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. Leslie Klinger cites the date as 6 January.
Holmes states that he first developed his methods of deduction while an undergraduate. 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. Watson
Holmes shares the majority of his professional years with his close friend and chronicler Dr. Watson, who lives with Holmes for some time before his marriage in 1887, and again after his wife's death. Their residence is maintained by the 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.
Detection is, or ought to be, an exact science and should be treated in the same cold and unemotional manner. You have attempted to tinge it ["A Study in Scarlet"] with romanticism, which produces much the same effect as if you worked a love-story ... Some facts should be suppressed, or, at least, a just sense of proportion should be observed in treating them. The only point in the case which deserved mention was the curious analytical reasoning from effects to causes, by which I succeeded in unravelling it.—Sherlock Holmes on John Watson's "pamphlet", The Sign of Four.
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:
It was worth a wound; it was worth many wounds; to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation.
In all, Holmes is described as being in active practice for 23 years, with Watson documenting his cases for 17 of them.
'In "His Last Bow", Holmes has retired to a small farm on the Sussex Downs. The move is not dated precisely, but can be presumed to predate 1904, since it is referred to retrospectively in "The Second Stain", first published that year. Here 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 other adventure, " The Adventure of the Lion's Mane", which is narrated by Holmes, takes place during the detective's retirement. The details of his death are not known.
Habits and personality
Watson 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:
Although in his methods of thought he was the neatest and most methodical of mankind ... [he] keeps his cigars in the coal-scuttle, his tobacco in the toe end of a Persian slipper, and his unanswered correspondence transfixed by a jack-knife into the very centre of his wooden mantelpiece ... He had a horror of destroying documents.... Thus month after month his papers accumulated, until every corner of the room was stacked with bundles of manuscript which were on no account to be burned, and which could not be put away save by their owner.
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 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:
[Holmes] had no breakfast for himself, for it was one of his peculiarities that in his more intense moments he would permit himself no food, and I have known him to presume upon his iron strength until he has fainted from pure inanition.
His chronicler does not consider Holmes's habitual use of a pipe, or his less frequent use of cigarettes and cigars, a vice. 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".
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. However, Watson 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 World War I. 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 is 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 inspectors.
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 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.
Although he initially needed Watson to share the rent of his comfortable residence at 221B Baker Street, Watson reveals in " The Adventure of the Dying Detective", 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 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 6,000 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 aristocrats and industrialists and had also been consulted by impoverished pawnbrokers and humble governesses 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.
Relationship with Irene Adler
Irene Adler is a retired American opera singer and actress who appears in " A Scandal in Bohemia". She is one of the most notable female characters in the series, despite appearing in only one story.
Five years prior to the events of the plot of the story, while serving as prima donna in the Imperial Opera of Warsaw, Adler had had a brief liaison with Wilhelm von Ormstein, the King of Bohemia. Having recently become engaged to the daughter of the King of Scandinavia and fearful that should the strictly principled family of his fiancée learn of this impropriety the marriage would be called off, von Ormstein had sought to regain letters and a photograph of Adler and himself together. Von Ormstein retains Holmes to help in locating and obtaining the photograph, but Adler slips away, leaving only a photograph of herself alone for the King and a note addressed to Holmes assuring him that the King had nothing to fear from her and that she was keeping the photograph of them together only as a protection against any action he might take.
The beginning of "A Scandal in Bohemia" describes the high regard in which Holmes held Adler:
To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler...yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.
This "memory" is kept alive by a photograph of Irene Adler, which had been left for the King which Holmes had asked for and received as his payment for his part in the case.
Relationships with other women
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 female clients (in particular, Violet Hunter in " The Copper Beeches", Violet Smith in " The Solitary Cyclist", and Helen Stoner in " The Speckled Band" ), 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 him) invigorating, distinct from any romantic interest. These episodes show Holmes possesses a degree of charm. 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 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". 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 Holmes dislikes and distrusts them, he is nonetheless a "chivalrous opponent".
Methods of detection
Holmes's primary intellectual detection method is abductive reasoning. "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 "deductions." "Holmesian deduction" appears to consist primarily of drawing inferences based on either straightforward practical principles—which are the result of careful observation, 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" stands for some observed evidence and "q" stands for 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:
It is simplicity itself ... My eyes tell me that on the inside of your left shoe, just where the firelight strikes it, the leather is scored by six almost parallel cuts. Obviously they have been caused by someone who has very carelessly scraped round the edges of the sole in order to remove crusted mud from it. Hence, you see, my double deduction that you had been out in vile weather, and that you had a particularly malignant boot-slitting specimen of the London slavey.
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 can make astonishingly detailed deductions about their owners, including Watson's pocket-watch in "The Sign of the Four" and 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".
Holmes 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" and "A Scandal in Bohemia". In the latter work, Watson remarks that "The stage lost a fine actor..., when [Holmes] became a specialist in crime" in means of describing how perfect he was in the art of disguises, and how often Watson himself fell for them.
Weapons and martial arts
Holmes and Watson carry pistols with them, in the case of Watson often his old service revolver—a Mk III Adams Revolver, as was issued to British troops in the 1870s. Watson describes these weapons as being used on seven occasions: in The Sign of the Four, they both fire at the Andaman Islander. In The Hound of the Baskervilles, both Holmes and Watson fire at the hound. In " The Adventure of the Copper Beeches", Watson fires at and kills the mastiff. In " The Adventure of the Empty House", Watson pistol-whips Colonel Sebastian Moran. In " The Adventure of the Three Garridebs", Holmes pistol-whips Killer Evans after Watson is shot. In " The Musgrave Ritual", Doyle has Holmes decorate the wall of his flat with a patriotic "V.R." (for "Victoria Regina") in bullet holes. In " The Final Problem", Holmes keeps a pistol close at hand in his interview with Professor Moriarty; likewise Holmes levels a pistol at Sir George Burnwell in " The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet". In " The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist", " The Adventure of Black Peter", and " The Adventure of the Dancing Men" Holmes and/or Watson employ a pistol to capture the criminals. In " The Problem of Thor Bridge", Holmes uses Watson's revolver in a reconstruction of the crime. The following revolvers have been connected with Holmes and Watson:
- A Webley Bulldog (carried by Holmes)
- A Webley RIC
- A Webley-Government "WG" Army Revolver
Holmes, as a gentleman, often carries a stick or cane. He is described by Watson as an expert at singlestick 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 fencing.
- Riding crop
In several stories, Holmes appears equipped with a riding crop and in " A Case of Identity" 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 League" and drives away the adder in " The Adventure of the Speckled Band". 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-knuckle fighter. In The Sign of the Four, Holmes introduces himself to a prize-fighter as:
"The amateur who fought three rounds with you at Alison's rooms on the night of your benefit four years back." McMurdo responds by saying, "Ah, you're one that has wasted your gifts, you have! You might have aimed high, if you had joined the fancy."
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 Moriarty and fling his adversary to his death down the Reichenbach Falls. He states, "I have some knowledge, however, of baritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling, 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 Bartitsu, which combined jujitsu with 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
In the first story, A Study in Scarlet, 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.
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' abilities thus:
- Knowledge of Literature – nil.
- Knowledge of Philosophy – nil.
- Knowledge of Astronomy – nil.
- Knowledge of Politics – Feeble.
- Knowledge of Botany – Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium 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 London he had received them.
- Knowledge of Chemistry – Profound.
- Knowledge of Anatomy – Accurate, but unsystematic.
- Knowledge of Sensational Literature – Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century.
- Plays the violin well.
- Is an expert singlestick player, boxer and swordsman.
- Has a good practical knowledge of British law.—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet
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. Indeed, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes is able to recognise works by Martin Knoller and Joshua Reynolds as such, saying, "Excuse the admiration of a connoisseur .... Watson won't allow that I know anything of art, but that is mere jealousy, since our views upon the subject differ." He goes on to explain, "I know what is good when I see it."
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 Motets 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 ciphers". 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 several occasions, such as in "A Scandal in Bohemia", where he lures 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. Another example of this may be found in " The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle", where Holmes is able to obtain information from a salesman by a wager rather than by interrogation or bribery, remarking, "When you see a man with whiskers of that cut and the 'Pink ’un' protruding out of his pocket, you can always draw him by a bet ... I daresay that if I had put 100 pounds down in front of him, that man would not have given me such complete information as was drawn from him by the idea that he was doing me on a wager."
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 play violin.
He also enjoys vocal music, particularly Wagner (" The Adventure of the Red Circle").
Sherlock Holmes remains a great inspiration for forensic science in literature, 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 fingerprints, ballistics 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 examination.
Owing to the small scale of the trace evidence (such as tobacco ash, hair or fingerprints), 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 poisons. 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 The Adventure of the Naval Treaty. Ballistics is used when spent bullets can be recovered, and their calibre measured and matched with a suspected murder weapon, as in The Adventure of the Empty House.
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 history. He applied the same method to personal items such as walking sticks (famously in The Hound of the Baskervilles) or hats (in the case of The Blue Carbuncle), with small details such as medallions, wear and contamination yielding vital indicators of their absent owners.
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
Although Sherlock Holmes is not the original fictional detective (he was influenced by Edgar Allan Poe's C. Auguste Dupin and Émile Gaboriau's Monsieur Lecoq, for both of whom the character openly expressed disdain or contempt), 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.
Sherlock 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's 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) reviewed the literature on the psychology of expertise by taking as model a fictional expert: Sherlock Holmes. They highlighted 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.
The 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.
According to Morley, Holmes's birthday was January 6, 1854.
Author Laurie R. King has speculated about Holmes's birth date, 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.
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's position and, in default of more exact information, we may tentatively place him there".
Holmes's emotional state and mental health have 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 depression, 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's mother) may be the root cause.
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. 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 a writer can make is to portray anybody who does some kind of detective work in a deerstalker and Inverness cape. 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 catchphrase: "Elementary, my dear Watson", which 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: "'Excellent!' I cried. 'Elementary,' said he."
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.
Holmes aficionados refer to the period from 1891 to 1894—the time between Holmes's disappearance and presumed death in " The Final Problem" 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).
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 four years after the fall over Reichenbach Falls.
In 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 Australia, India and Japan.
During 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.
The London Metropolitan Railway named one of its 20 electric locomotives deployed in the 1920s after Sherlock Holmes. He was the only fictional character so honored, alongside fellow eminent Britons such as Lord Byron, Benjamin Disraeli, and Florence Nightingale.
Adaptations and derived works
The 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 1980 and are public domain there. 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 through the Copyright Act of 1976.
On February 14, 2013, noted Holmes scholar Leslie S. Klinger filed a declaratory judgment suit against the Conan Doyle estate in the Northern District of Illinois, asking that the court acknowledge that the characters of Holmes and Watson are in the public domain, no longer protected by copyright in the U.S.
Stage and screen adaptations
The Guinness World Records has consistently listed Sherlock Holmes as the "most portrayed movie character" with more than 70 actors playing the part in over 200 films. Holmes's first screen appearance was in the Mutoscope film Sherlock Holmes Baffled in 1900, albeit in a barely recognisable form.
William Gillette'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.
From 1921 to 1923, Stoll Pictures produced a series of silent black-and-white films based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. Forty-five short films and two feature length films were produced featuring Eille Norwood in the role of Holmes and Hubert Willis cast as Dr Watson with the exception of the final film, The Sign of Four, where Willis was replaced with Arthur Cullin.
The first sound film to feature Sherlock Holmes was the sound-on-disk The Return of Sherlock Holmes, written by Basil Dean, and filmed in New York City in 1929. It starred Clive Brook as Sherlock Holmes. A silent version of the film was also produced to accommodate theaters which did not feature sound.
Basil Rathbone 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 the radio show " The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" on the Mutual Broadcasting System from 1939 to 1946 before passing the role to Tom Conway. The 1939 20th Century Fox Hound of the Baskervilles contains an unusually direct reference to Holmes's drug use in the last line of the film, "Watson, the needle". The Universal Pictures are distinctive for being set in the then contemporary post-World War II era.
Ronald Howard 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.
In 1959 Peter Cushing starred in Hammer Film Productions' The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), marking Holmes's first screen appearance in colour. He would return to the role several times in both film and television performances.
Fritz Weaver 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.
Roger Moore played the detective in the 1976 film Sherlock Holmes in New York alongside Patrick Macnee as Watson.
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's (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 1994 Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes Returns 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.
Jeremy Brett is considered by critic Julian Wolfreys to be 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.
Nicol Williamson 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.
Bob Clark directed Christopher Plummer and 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 as Watson. In 2006, Queen Elizabeth awarded Livanov an MBE(Order of the British Empire) for his work as Sherlock Holmes.
Christopher Lee 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".
Related and derivative works
In 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.
Starting in 1907, Sherlock Holmes was featured 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 an excellent logician has 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 and subsequently marries her. As of 2012 the series includes twelve 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 pupils.
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 1984-1985 Japanese anime series Sherlock Hound adapted the Holmes stories for children and had the characters portrayed as anthropomorphic dogs. The series was co-directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who later went on to direct the Oscar winning film Spirited Away. 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 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 addicted, a heavy drinker and a ladies' man.
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 the book "Jade Rosary Beads", Sherlock Holmes and Erast Fandorin oppose Arsène Lupin on 31 December 1899.
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 focuses on Holmes's more anti-social personality traits as an unkempt eccentric with a brilliant analytical mind and formidable martial abilities. Robert Downey Jr. won the Golden Globe Award for his portrayal. Both Downey Jr. and Law returned in the 2011 sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
Holmes featured in the episode "Trials of the Demon" from Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays a modern-day version of the detective, with Martin Freeman as Watson, 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:
He also uses modern technology, such as texting and blogging, to solve crimes, and in a nod towards changing smoking legislature, he has replaced his pipe with multiple nicotine patches, as London has forbidden smoking in most public areas, yet this interpretation of Holmes still finds nicotine to help the cognitive process.
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 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.
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 addiction remain mostly unchanged. Throughout the film, Holmes is hinted to be strongly addicted to tobacco even with such a case that requires his analytical skills. 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.
Sherlock Holmes has also appeared in video games. Most successful to date is the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes video game series which comprises six main titles. Holmes in this video game series was based upon Jeremy Brett, and presents an original story and plot that isn't based upon any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works.
In 2011, Anthony Horowitz, author of the Alex Rider novels, The Power of Five and TV's Foyle's War, published a new "authorised" Sherlock Holmes novel: The House of Silk, commissioned by the Conan Doyle estate. The novel is presented as a continuation of Conan Doyle's work and is narrated by Dr. Watson.
On 27 September 2012, Elementary, premiered on CBS. It takes place in modern day New York starring Jonny Lee Miller as recovering British drug addict Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson.
The original Sherlock Holmes stories consist of fifty-six short stories and four novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
- A Study in Scarlet (published 1887, in Beeton's Christmas Annual)
- The Sign of the Four (published 1890, Lippincott's Monthly Magazine)
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (serialised 1901–1902 in The Strand)
- The Valley of Fear (serialised 1914–1915 in The Strand)
The short stories, originally published in periodicals, were later gathered into five anthologies:
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (contains stories published 1891–1892 in The Strand)
- The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (contains stories published 1892–1893 in The Strand as further episodes of the Adventures)
- The Return of Sherlock Holmes (contains stories published 1903–1904 in The Strand)
- The Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes (including His Last Bow) (contains stories published 1908–1913 and 1917)
- The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (contains stories published 1921–1927)