Glasgow, Scotland, UK • December 2012 • Length of Read: 2 Minutes
If I were to ask you who the most portrayed literary character in TV and film ever is, would Sherlock Holmes have been in your selection of guesses? Well, the self-confessed ‘consulting detective’ has been depicted on screen a whopping 254 times, keeping Hamlet in second by 48 appearances. Holmes is the mastermind of Scottish author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and since his first appearance in 1887 went on to be the subject of four novels and 56 short stories.
All but four of these tales are narrated by Holmes’ trusty companion Dr. John Watson, who often struggles to interpret Holmes lightening quick through processes and astute logical reasoning. This leaves the reader ever in suspense of how Holmes inevitably manages to solve seemingly implausible crimes until the man himself explains his reasoning in the dying lines of each story. In fine print, the edition of the Complete Works that I purchased ran for 1408 pages, a daunting task for any bookworm. Fortunately, however, the stories were short and sweet, never dragging on much more than 20 pages. Interestingly, the often quoted catchphrase “Elementary, my dear Watson” is never actually uttered by Holmes, despite the word “elementary” being used with alarming frequency. Also, despite being portrayed in great length on screen, “the woman” Irene Adler only appears in one story, and Holmes brother, Mycroft, makes only one appearance more than that.
Only through reading the entire syllabus can you also get a real perception of Holmes intelligence. He is a master of disguise, armed and unarmed combat, tobacco ash and bicycle tyre treads among many others. He appears as asexual, has a limited group of friends and is also an occasional user of heroin, quite the unique character. In ‘A Study in Scarlet’ Watson gives us the following assessment of Holmes abilities:
- 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 single-stick player, boxer and swordsman.
- Has a good practical knowledge of British Law.
I do not wish to spoil any of the stories as I could not recommend them more, so will refrain from going into any plot analysis. After completion however, I even found myself attempting to use some methods of Holmesian Deduction in day-to-day life... unfortunately to no avail.