Doyle said that the character of Sherlock Holmes was inspired by Dr. Joseph Bell, a surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh for whom Doyle had worked as a clerk. Like Holmes, Bell was noted for drawing large conclusions from the smallest observations. Some years later Bell wrote in a letter to Conan Doyle: "You are yourself Sherlock Holmes and well you know it". Sir Henry Littlejohn, Chair of Medical Jurisprudence at the University of Edinburgh Medical School, is also cited as an inspiration 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 life
The first appearance of Holmes, 1887
Details about Sherlock Holmes's life, outside of the adventures of the books, 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, an encounter with the father of one of his classmates led him to take detection as a profession, and he spent the six years following university as a consultant, before financial difficulties led him to take Watson as a housemate, at which point the narrative of the stories begins. From 1881, Holmes was described as having lodgings at 221B, Baker Street, London. 221B was an apartment 17 steps up, at the upper end of the road, as stated in an early manuscript. 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 called "the Baker Street Irregulars". The Irregulars appeared in three stories: A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, and "The Adventure of the Crooked Man". 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 "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter", "The Final Problem" and "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans"; he is mentioned in "The Adventure of the Empty House". Mycroft has a unique civil service position as a kind of human database for all aspects of government policy; but he lacks Sherlock's interest in physical investigation, preferring to spend his time at ease in the Diogenes Club. Life with Dr. Watson
Sherlock Holmes and Watson
Holmes shares the majority of his professional years with narrator 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. 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 therefore often depicted criticising Watson's writings as sensational and populist, suggesting that they neglect to accurately and objectively report the "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, as in "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs", wherein Watson is wounded; 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 "The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger", it is said that Holmes was in active practice for 23 years, with Watson co-operating with him for 17. 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". Disguise
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
British Army (Adams) Mark III Model which differed from the Mark II in having a different design of the ejector rod
A Webley Bulldog
An 1868 Webley RIC
Holmes and Watson carry pistols with them, in the case of Watson often his old service revolver—presumably 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. Sword
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. Fist-fighting
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". Martial arts
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. Physical condition
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 eccentric 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, whereas 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. At the end of "A Case of Identity", he quotes Hafez, which is not part of the obligatory education of an Englishman. 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". 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 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 includes 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. Another example of this may be found in "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle", where Holmes obtains information from a salesman by a wager, 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". Ultimately, Holmes retires to the Sussex Downs to take up beekeeping ("The Second Stain") and writes a book 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 that of Wagner ("The Adventure of the Red Circle"). Influence
Sherlock Holmes in "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange."
Microscope by Seibert from the 19th century
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. Scientific literature
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.