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Sherlock Holmes

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The description of Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes, fictional character created by the Scottish writer Arthur Conan Doyle. The prototype for the modern mastermind detective, Holmes first appeared in Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887. As the world’s first and only “consulting detective,” he pursued criminals throughout Victorian and Edwardian London, the south of England, and continental Europe. Although the fictional detective had been anticipated by Edgar Allan Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin and Émile Gaboriau’s Monsieur Lecoq, Holmes made a singular impact upon the popular imagination and has been the most enduring character of the detective story.

Conan Doyle modeled Holmes’s methods and mannerisms on those of Dr. Joseph Bell, who had been his professor at the University of Edinburgh Medical School. In particular, Holmes’s uncanny ability to gather evidence based upon his honed skills of observation and deductive reasoning paralleled Bell’s method of diagnosing a patient’s disease. Holmes offered some insight into his method, claiming that “When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” His detecting abilities become clear, though no less amazing, when explained by his companion, Dr. John H. Watson, who recounts the criminal cases they jointly pursue. Although Holmes rebuffs praise, declaring his abilities to be “elementary,” the oft-quoted phrase “Elementary, my dear Watson,” never actually appears in Conan Doyle’s writings. (See also Sherlock Holmes: Pioneer in Forensic Science.)

Watson’s narrations describe Holmes as a very complex and moody character who, although of strict habit, is considerably untidy. His London abode at 221B, Baker Street, is tended by his housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson. Holmes appears to undergo bouts of mania and depression, the latter of which are accompanied by pipe smoking, violin playing, and cocaine use. Throughout the four novels and 56 short stories featuring Holmes, a number of characters recur, including the bumbling Scotland Yard inspector Lestrade; the group of “street Arabs” known as the Baker Street Irregulars, who are routinely employed by Holmes as informers; his even wiser but less ambitious brother, Mycroft; and, most notably, his formidable opponent, Professor James Moriarty, whom Holmes considers the “Napoleon of crime.”

Claiming that Holmes distracted him “from better things,” Conan Doyle famously in 1893 (“The Final Problem”) attempted to kill him off; during a violent struggle on Switzerland’s Reichenbach Falls, both Holmes and his nemesis, Professor Moriarty, are plunged over the edge of the precipice. Popular outcry against the demise of Holmes was great; men wore black mourning bands, the British royal family was distraught, and more than 20,000 readers cancelled their subscriptions to the popular Strand Magazine, in which Holmes regularly appeared. By popular demand, Conan Doyle resurrected his detective in the story “The Adventure of the Empty House” (1903).

Holmes remained a popular figure into the 21st century. Among the most popular stories in which he is featured are “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” (1892), “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” (1892), “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons” (1904), and the novel The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902). Holmes’s character has been translated to other media as well, and he is widely known on both stage and screen. The earliest actor to have essayed the role is William Gillette (a founding member of the New York Holmes society still known as the Baker Street Irregulars), who gave several popular theatrical portrayals at the turn of the 20th century. Those who appeared as Holmes on-screen include Basil Rathbone, Peter Cushing, Jeremy Brett, Robert Downey, Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch, and Jonny Lee Miller. Ironically, two of the emblems of Holmes, his meerschaum pipe and deerstalker hat, are not original to Conan Doyle’s writings.........
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