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Transcript of Sherlock Holmes
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 ran his consulting detective service. 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".
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.
Habits and personality
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.
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 inf
ancy at the time Conan Doyle was writing. In many of his reported cases, Holmes frequen
tly 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".
The catchphrase "Elementary, my dear Watson" 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 phrase "Elementary, my dear fellow, quite elementary", though not spoken by Sherlock Holmes, is used in the book Psmith in the City (1909-1910) by P. G. Wodehouse. The first known use of the exact phrase was in Wodehouse's 1915 novel Psmith, Journalist. 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.
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 judgement 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. The court ruled in Klinger's favor on Dec. 23, 2013.
Watson describes Holmes as "bohemian" in habits and lifestyle. Although Holmes is described in The Hound of the Baskervilles as having a "cat-like" love of personal cleanliness, Watson also describes Holmes as 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 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".
Statue of Sherlock Holmes on Picardy Place in Edinburgh, Conan Doyle's birthplace. The statue shows Holmes wearing an Inverness cape and a deerstalker cap.