Like Holmes, Bell was noted for drawing broad conclusions from minute observations. Littlejohn, who was also Police Surgeon and Medical Officer of Health in Edinburgh, provided Conan Doyle with a link between medical investigation and the detection of crime. In this novel sixteen years before the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes , Henry Cauvain imagined a depressed, anti-social, opium-smoking polymath detective, operating in Paris,    it is not known if Conan Doyle read the novel, but he was fluent in French.
Details about Sherlock Holmes' life are scarce in Conan Doyle's stories. Nevertheless, mentions of his early life and extended family paint a loose biographical picture of the detective. An estimate of Holmes's age in " His Last Bow " places his year of birth at ; the story, set in August , describes him as sixty years of age,  his parents are not mentioned in the stories, although Holmes mentions that his "ancestors" were "country squires ".
Holmes's brother Mycroft , seven years his senior, is a government official. Mycroft has a unique civil service position as a kind of human database for all aspects of government policy, he lacks Sherlock's interest in physical investigation, however, preferring to spend his time at the Diogenes Club.
Holmes says that he first developed his methods of deduction as an undergraduate; his earliest cases, which he pursued as an amateur, came from fellow university students. Watson as a fellow lodger.
The two take lodgings at B Baker Street , London, an apartment at the upper north end of the street, up seventeen steps. Holmes worked as a detective for twenty-three years, with physician John Watson assisting him for seventeen,  they were roommates before Watson's marriage and again after his wife 's death. Their residence is maintained by their landlady, Mrs. Most of the stories are frame narratives , written from Watson's point of view as summaries of the detective's most interesting cases.
Holmes frequently calls Watson's writing sensational and populist, suggesting that it fails 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.
Nevertheless, Holmes's friendship with Watson is his most significant relationship; when Watson is injured by a bullet, although the wound turns out 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. Holmes' clients vary from the most powerful monarchs and governments of Europe, to wealthy aristocrats and industrialists , to impoverished pawnbrokers and governesses , he is known only in select professional circles at the beginning of the first story, but is already collaborating with Scotland Yard. However, his continued work and the publication of Watson's stories raises Holmes' profile, and he rapidly becomes well known as a detective; so many clients ask for his help instead of or in addition to that of the police  that, Watson writes, by Holmes has "an immense practice".
The first set of Holmes stories was published between and Wishing to devote more time to his historical novels, Conan Doyle killed off Holmes in a final battle with the criminal mastermind Professor James Moriarty in "The Final Problem" published , but set in Legend has it that Londoners were so distraught upon hearing the news of Holmes' death that they wore black armbands in mourning.
However, there is no known contemporary source for this; the earliest known reference to such events comes from After resisting public pressure for eight years, Conan Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles serialised in —02, with an implicit setting before Holmes's death. In , Conan Doyle wrote "The Adventure of the Empty House", set in ; Holmes reappears, explaining to a stunned Watson that he had faked his death to fool his enemies.
Holmes aficionados refer to the period from to —between his disappearance and presumed death in "The Final Problem" and his reappearance in "The Adventure of the Empty House"—as the Great Hiatus; the earliest known use of this expression is in the article "Sherlock Holmes and the Great Hiatus" by Edgar W.
In "His Last Bow", Holmes has retired to a small farm on the Sussex Downs and taken up beekeeping as his primary occupation; the move is not dated precisely, but can be presumed to be no later than since it is referred to retrospectively in "The Second Stain", first published that year. The story features Holmes and Watson coming out of retirement to aid the war effort.
Only one other adventure, " The Adventure of the Lion's Mane ", takes place during the detective's retirement. Watson describes Holmes as " bohemian " in his habits and lifestyle.
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Described by Watson in The Hound of the Baskervilles as having a "cat-like" love of personal cleanliness, Holmes is an eccentric with no regard for contemporary standards of tidiness or good order. In many of the stories, Holmes dives into an apparent mess to find a relevant item. Although in his methods of thought he was the neatest and most methodical of mankind 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.
The detective starves himself at times of intense intellectual activity, such as during " The Adventure of the Norwood Builder "—wherein, according to Watson:. While the detective is usually dispassionate and cold, during an investigation he is animated and excitable, he has a flair for showmanship, preparing elaborate traps to capture and expose a culprit often to impress observers.
Holmes derives pleasure from baffling police inspectors with his deductions and has supreme confidence—bordering on arrogance—in his intellectual abilities. While the detective does not actively seek fame and is usually content to let the police take public credit for his work,  he is pleased when his skills are recognised and responds to flattery. Except for that of Watson, Holmes avoids casual company. In "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott " , he tells the doctor that during two years at college he made only one friend: "I was never a very sociable fellow, Watson I never mixed much with the men of my year"; the detective is similarly described in A Study in Scarlet.
As shooting practice during a period of boredom, Holmes decorates the wall of his Baker Street lodgings with a "patriotic" VR Victoria Regina in "bullet-pocks" from his revolver. Holmes occasionally uses addictive drugs, especially in the absence of stimulating cases, he uses cocaine , which he injects in a seven-percent solution with a syringe kept in a Morocco leather case.
Although Holmes also dabbles in morphine , he expresses strong disapproval when he visits an opium den ; both drugs were legal in 19th-century England; as a physician, Watson strongly disapproves of his friend's cocaine habit, describing it as the detective's "only vice", and concerned about its effect on Holmes's mental health and intellect. Watson and Holmes both use tobacco, smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. Although his chronicler does not consider Holmes's smoking a vice per se , Watson—a physician—occasionally criticises the detective for creating a "poisonous atmosphere" in their confined quarters.
The detective is known to charge clients for his expenses and claim any reward offered for a problem's solution, such as in " The Adventure of the Speckled Band ", "The Red-Headed League", and " The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet ". In " The Problem of Thor Bridge ", the detective says, "My professional charges are upon a fixed scale.
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I do not vary them, save when I remit them altogether". In this context, a client is offering to double his fee, and it is implied that wealthy clients habitually pay Holmes more than his standard rate. Although when the stories begin Holmes needed Watson to share the rent for their residence, by the time of "The Final Problem", he says that his services to the government of France and "the royal family of Scandinavia" had left him with enough money to retire comfortably. As Conan Doyle wrote to Joseph Bell, "Holmes is as inhuman as a Babbage 's calculating machine and just about as likely to fall in love".
How can you build on such quicksand? Their most trivial actions may mean volumes Women are never to be entirely trusted—not the best of them". Watson says in " The Adventure of the Copper Beeches " that the detective inevitably "manifested no further interest in the client when once she had ceased to be the centre of one of his problems".
In " The Lion's Mane ", Holmes writes, "Women have seldom been an attraction to me, for my brain has always governed my heart," indicating that he has been attracted to women in some way on occasion, but has not been interested in pursuing relationships with them. Ultimately, however, in " The Adventure of the Devil's Foot ", he claims outright that "I have never loved". At the end of The Sign of Four , Holmes states that "love is an emotional thing, and whatever is emotional is opposed to that true cold reason which I place above all things.
I should never marry myself, lest I bias my judgement. Despite his overall attitude, Holmes is adept at effortlessly putting his clients at ease, and Watson says that although the detective has an "aversion to women", he has "a peculiarly ingratiating way with [them]". Hudson is fond of Holmes because of his "remarkable gentleness and courtesy in his dealings with women, he disliked and distrusted the sex, but he was always a chivalrous opponent". Although this is her only appearance, she is one of only a handful of people who best Holmes in a battle of wits, and the only woman.
For this reason, Adler is the frequent subject of pastiche writing; the beginning of the story describes the high regard in which Holmes holds her:. To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman.
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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 Five years before the story's events, Adler had a brief liaison with Crown Prince of Bohemia Wilhelm von Ormstein; as the story opens, the Prince is engaged to another. Adler slips away before Holmes can succeed, her memory is kept alive by the photograph of Adler that Holmes received for his part in the case, and he refers to her from time to time in subsequent stories.
Shortly after meeting Holmes in the first story, A Study in Scarlet generally assumed to be , though the exact date is not given , Watson assesses the detective's abilities:. Subsequent stories reveal that Watson's early assessment was incomplete in places and inaccurate in others, due to the passage of time if nothing else.
Despite Holmes's supposed ignorance of politics, in "A Scandal in Bohemia" he immediately recognises the true identity of "Count von Kramm", his speech is peppered with references to the Bible, Shakespeare , and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe , and the detective quotes a letter from Gustave Flaubert to George Sand in the original French. In The Hound of the Baskervilles, the detective recognises works by Martin Knoller and Joshua Reynolds : "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 says that "Holmes lost himself in a monograph which he had undertaken upon the Polyphonic Motets of Lassus ", considered "the last word" on the subject; to be able to do that, Holmes must have had a very specific and detailed musicological knowledge, which could not be of any use in detecting crime.
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In A Study in Scarlet , Holmes claims to be unaware that the earth revolves around the sun since such information is irrelevant to his work; after hearing that fact from Watson, he says he will immediately try to forget it; the detective believes that the mind has a finite capacity for information storage, and learning useless things reduces one's ability to learn useful things. The later stories move away from this notion: in The Valley of Fear , he says, "All knowledge comes useful to the detective", and in "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane", the detective calls himself "an omnivorous reader with a strangely retentive memory for trifles".
Holmes demonstrates a knowledge of psychology in "A Scandal in Bohemia", luring Irene Adler into betraying where she hid a photograph based on the premise that an unmarried woman will save her most valued possession from a fire. Another example is in " The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle ", where Holmes obtains information from a salesman with a wager: "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 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".
Maria Konnikova points out in an interview with D. Grothe that Holmes practices what is now called mindfulness, concentrating on one thing at a time, and almost never "multitasks. Though the stories always refer to Holmes' intellectual detection method as " deduction ", he primarily relies on abduction : inferring an explanation for observed details. In "A Scandal in Bohemia", Holmes infers that Watson had got wet lately and had "a most clumsy and careless servant girl"; when Watson asks how Holmes knows this, the detective answers:. It is simplicity itself 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. Watson compares Holmes to C. Auguste Dupin , Edgar Allan Poe's fictional detective, who employed a similar methodology.
Alluding to an episode in " The Murders in the Rue Morgue ", where Dupin determines what his friend is thinking despite their having walked together in silence for a quarter of an hour, Holmes remarks: "That trick of his breaking in on his friend's thoughts with an apropos remark This methodology allows Holmes to learn a stranger's occupation and other details, he observes the dress and attitude of his clients and suspects, noting skin marks such as tattoos , contamination such as ink stains or clay on boots , emotional state, and physical condition in order to deduce their origins and recent history.
The style and state of wear of a person's clothes and personal items are also commonly relied on; in the stories Holmes is seen applying his method to walking sticks,  pipes,  hats,  and other objects. Holmes does employ deductive reasoning as well; the detective's guiding principle, as he says in The Sign of the Four and other stories, is: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth".
Despite Holmes' remarkable reasoning abilities, Conan Doyle still paints him as fallible in this regard this being a central theme of " The Adventure of the Yellow Face ". Though Holmes is famed for his reasoning capabilities, his investigative technique relies heavily on the acquisition of hard evidence. Many of the techniques he employs in the stories were at the time in their infancy for example, Scotland Yard's fingerprint bureau opened in Because of the small scale of much of his evidence, the detective often uses a magnifying glass at the scene and an optical microscope at his Baker Street lodgings, he uses analytical chemistry for blood residue analysis and toxicology to detect poisons; Holmes's home chemistry laboratory is mentioned in "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty".
Ballistics feature in "The Adventure of the Empty House" when spent bullets are recovered and matched with a suspected murder weapon.
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Holmes displays a strong aptitude for acting and disguise. In the latter story, Watson says, "The stage lost a fine actor Holmes and Watson often carry pistols with them—in Watson's case, his old service weapon probably a Mark III Adams revolver , issued to British troops during the s. As a gentleman, Holmes often carries a stick or cane, he is described by Watson as an expert at singlestick and uses his cane twice as a weapon. The detective is described or demonstrated as possessing above-average physical strength.
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Roylott demonstrates his strength by bending a fire poker in half. Watson describes Holmes as laughing, "'if he had remained I might have shown him that my grip was not much more feeble than his own. Holmes is an adept bare-knuckle fighter; "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott " mentions that Holmes trained as a boxer. In The Sign of the Four , he introduces himself to McMurdo, 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. You might have aimed high if you had joined the fancy.