When I thought of writing a Sherlock Holmes biography page, at first, I thought of writing a boring, chronological description of Holmes' life.
Then I thought: why not create a fun page that has lots of intriguing questions about the original Sherlock Holmes?
So, I made this list of all sorts of interesting questions I could think of.
This Sherlock Holmes biography is actually a collection of questions. All those 'just curious' questions that pop up when you think of Sherlock Holmes' profile.
So here we go. Some very straightforward questions about Sherlock Holmes. And some clear answers. ;-)
Now, I guess you already know this one, but just in case you don't...
Sherlock Holmes is a character created by Arthur Conan Doyle, who lives in London. He's what you would call these days - a private (consulting) detective.
He's exceptionally great at two things: observing stuff and deducing stuff from what he's observed. To top that - his knowledge of crime is awe-inspiring.
This makes him a mind-blowing detective.
Just about everyone approaches Holmes with their problems: the police, poor people, rich people, really rich people, and anyone else you can think of. Holmes smokes his pipe, observes things no one ever thinks of - and cracks their problems open with his deductions.
Here's a fun graphic that shows you Homes' vital stats.
Well, no one really knows where Sherlock Holmes was born because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle didn't tell us that. He didn't tell us his mom and dad's names either!
But - what he did tell us is - that his grandmother's brother was the French painter - Vernet. Who was Vernet? Well, he was a French artist famous for his battle paintings. His complete name was Horace Vernet.
Here's a painting by Vernet:
Sherlock Holmes also talks about his brother Mycroft Holmes who lives in Pall Mall, London. So he's the second Holmes relative who's mentioned in the stories.
This Mycroft is as much a genius as Holmes - but he's a bit lazy. He's the kind who says: yes, I know I could solve mysteries, but I don't want to move my butt ;-)
He helps the Government of England form its policies - he's in a really
important government position. His mind is this giant processing unit:
when he's told info about India and Africa and this situation and that -
he processes everything and tells the government - do this - this will be the best for the country.
Well honestly, that's all that is mentioned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. That - and the fact that Holmes' ancestors were squires - important public figures with lands.
Many Sherlockians and Holmesians have 'invented' names for Holmes' relatives. But those are all made up by other people - not Conan Doyle.
And - by the way: if you're asking when Sherlock Holmes was born, then January 6, 1854 is the date almost everyone agrees on.
There are a quite a few reasons for that date. Take a peek here if you want to delve deeper into why Sherlock Holmes' birthday is on January 6th and how it is celebrated...
That's an intriguing question, isn't it?
Well, Sherlock Holmes always had his awesome observation and deduction skills - since he was really young. But, he didn't know he could be this guy everyone would come to, for help. And he absolutely hadn't thought of making that a career.
Then, when he was around 21, he decided to spend his holidays with his college friend, Victor Trevor. Victor Trevor's dad was blown away by Holmes' deduction skills! When Holmes told him things like - 'You want to forget someone with the initials 'J.A.', you are afraid of a personal attack' - he was bamboozled. All those things were true!
That's when Victor Trevor's dad asked Sherlock Holmes to become a detective and said:
This is what made Holmes think something like: Wohoo. What if this guy's right?
Victor Trevor's dad died mysteriously soon - and Holmes solved that mystery in style.
Soon, Holmes began taking up more cases.
My guess is, he first solved cases for friends - then for other clients and the police.
He must have started getting more and more cases through word of mouth - and before he realized it - he must have become a famous consulting detective.
It would be interesting to look at Holmes' childhood - but no - there are no childhood pictures of Sherlock Holmes in the original stories.
However, there's this guy called Chris Columbus (the director of two of the Harry Potter movies) - who wrote the movie script for the movie - Young Sherlock Holmes.
That movie has a 'teenager' Sherlock Holmes with a 'teenager' Watson! BUT - these young versions were not created by Conan Doyle.
Here's a picture of the younger Holmes created by Chris Columbus:
Sherlock Holmes doesn't have bosom pals - atleast not in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories.
Yes, if you're talking about a loyal friend who would stand by you - that is John Watson. Watson and Holmes first meet when they want to share an apartment and they soon hit it off pretty well.
One more buddy Holmes has is Victor Trevor - he was a college buddy. Did Holmes really keep in touch after college? Not really.
Then there is Reginald Musgrave - again a college acquaintance. Again - I don't think he keeps in touch with this other guy either.
It is more like: If you have a case or a big problem, call Sherlock Holmes. Otherwise, he just doesn't care ;-)
Holmes has many 'professional friends' though. There is Inspector Lestrade, Athelney Jones, Inspector Baynes, Gregson, and Inspector Hopkins. Of these Inspector Lestrade is really, really famous.
Honestly, Holmes doesn't exactly need these guys - but they provide him with warrants, fascinating cases and sometimes policemen, as he solves a case.
You can clearly see that Holmes keeps in touch with people - only as far as they're connected with a case. Doesn't he feel like chilling out with a friend, just like that?
Here's what Watson says about Holmes:
"Holmes...loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul..."
Ahem. That's something. If Holmes has any need to talk to a friend, once in a hundred blue moons - I guess, Watson is more than enough to fulfill that need.
Another one from Watson:
I know how those quotes make Holmes seem: like he wouldn't be a nice man to know if you didn't care about his cases ;-)
Ah, now we're onto something.
Sherlock Holmes has a huge list of enemies. I mean if you spend your life solving crimes, obviously, there will be a host of criminals ready to pounce on you.
Out of all his enemies - two guys are really famous: James Moriarty and Sebastian Moran. Both of them belong to the same gang and both try really hard to kill Holmes.
Moriarty's fight with Holmes on the top of Reichenbach Falls is almost legendary. And so is Sebastian Moran's plan to shoot Holmes with an air-gun.
What did Moriarty and Moran do in general? Well, they took up contracts to kill people and loot them - but only the really big contracts. Of course, they did all this so cleverly that no one except for Holmes was even able to suspect them.
While there are many others baying for Holmes' blood in the stories, I'll mentioned two of the other toppers: Charles Augustus Milverton - the infamous blackmailer and Culverton Smith - the murderer.
Thank you Enoch Lau, for the original image with 4 'Kings'!
Short answer: No. Definitely not in the original stories! Why not? Well, he just doesn't need that 'special connection' with someone I guess?
As Watson says...
Is Sherlock Holmes gay then? We don't know because during Conan Doyle's time, people didn't talk about sexual orientation.
What about Irene Adler? Honestly, I think Holmes' affair with Irene Adler is quite hyped. He admires her, yes. He thinks she is ;the woman', yes. He is in love with her - not mentioned anywhere.
So, in a way you can call it a 'mini-crush + deep admiration' kind of bond.
And yes, she appears in exactly one Sherlock Holmes story - so she definitely isn't the center of Holmes' life.
There's one more girl that Holmes does admire in one of the stories: Violet Hunter. He admires her in The Copper Beeches and calls her a brave and sensible girl...a quite exceptional woman.
But - that's again because of how she acts in the case. Once the case is over, Watson says:
If you stumble upon Sherlock Holmes when he isn't neck deep in a case, what would you find him doing?
Well, his frequently practised hobbies are: playing the violin, conducting chemical experiments and attending concerts of some of the famous music composers of that time.
So, there's definitely a good chance of him doing these three things when idle.
There's one more thing Holmes keeps doing - I don't know if you can call that a hobby: writing monographs.
When you observe things very minutely like Sherlock Holmes, it is obvious that you'll feel like writing monographs about almost everything around you! Music, tobacco, ears, dogs - Holmes writes monographs on breathtakingly diverse subjects.
knowing something well, but not practising it, mean it's your hobby?
Holmes is good at boxing too - but doesn't really start every day with,
"Hey, who's game for a boxing match?"
OK - now that we're talking about Holmes' hobbies - there's still one more tiny thing he does - again - if you could call it a hobby: he collects agony columns.
In those days, newspapers had these spicy columns through which people used to send secret and interesting messages to each other. Holmes devours these! Of course, his intention is also to catch up on what criminals are saying to each other through the columns...
Holmes also apparently gets bored with these hobbies - for, after retiring,
he actually turns to beekeeping in this place called Sussex Downs.
Where does his interesting in beekeeping come from? I have no freaking
Well, Sherlock Holmes has two kinds of typical days: 'case days' and 'no case days'.
If Holmes has a case on his hand - then there's nothing scheduled. Everything he does is for the case. Sleep is optional. Food is optional. Only - the case, exists.
At that time, his 'to-do' list in his head reads something like this:
This continues until Holmes stumbles upon one clue, then the next and the next!
If things work out well during a case, Holmes sort of chills out. He completely detaches his thoughts from the case and starts conducting chemical experiments or playing the violin or even attends a concert.
If things don't work out well though, well - ahem...
Holmes smokes his pipe like crazy. He stops sleeping. He stops eating. And goes mad solving the case.
And what if there is no case? Well, then his day might look something like this:
This schedule could go on for a few days with some concerts and violin playing sprinkled in. Then, Holmes might get frustrated. And, he may just start thinking of cocaine...
I know, NOT a good idea.
According to the Sherlock Holmes books, this is how Holmes looks:
You think, the quote's too long? Well, this picture depicts it better.
What about Sherlock Holmes' dress?
In the stories, Holmes sometimes wears an ulster and a cravat when it is very cold outside. He wears an overcoat often - that's the long coat you see Holmes wearing. Many Sherlock Holmes fans like to think that this overcoat is an inverness cape.
When it rains, he wears a waterproof and galoshes (shoe covers).
Sometimes, Holmes even wears a tweed suit with a cloth cap.
When he's travelling, he might wear an ear-flapped travelling cap. That's the standard deerstalker cap Holmes is generally shown wearing!
Sidney Paget - the famous illustrator gave the typical 'deerstalker cap' look to Holmes based on the 'ear-flapped travelling cap' mentioned in the stories.
Now, if you're feeling bamboozled by all these Victorian terms I've used: relax, and take a peek at the picture below :-)
Thanks to Cyril Thomas, Robert Hendry and Cotswolds Tailor for contributing to this picture!
You must have heard of the famous 'Sherlock Holmes and Watson Go Camping' joke. You haven't?
This picture says it all!
Is Sherlock Holmes rich? Quite.
Does he take up cases to make money? Nope. Then how does he make his money?
The short answer is this: Sherlock Holmes takes up cases that are interesting and challenging to him - whether they pay well or not. However, he earns enough money from a few of his cases to last him a lifetime.
This helps him chill out and take up other cases which pay nothing, easily.
Here's a picture that shows Sherlock Holmes' highest paying cases.
Now, obviously with that kind of money from some cases, Sherlock Holmes isn't exactly needy when it comes to money ;-)
He can afford to choose the cases he likes because he's already got way too much money from a few other cases.
Here's an interesting quote by Holmes about not choosing cases for money:
Sherlock Holmes has some really cool skills but if you had to look at just one, it would be this:
SKILL 1: Observing the minutest details around him, asking himself - 'what are all the possible reasons for this detail to be present?' and then coming up with the most probable deduction.
Holmes is a master of observing and then deducing.
Here's an interesting example from 'Silver Blaze':
Look at how Holmes observes a fact - the fact that a pet dog did nothing even when a thief came.
No one notices this fact until Holmes observes and then deduces: the dog did nothing because it knew the thief!
SKILL 2: Knowledge of tens of subjects that comes from observation.
Take a peek at this quote:
Sherlock Holmes is crazy about writing monographs. In the Sherlock Holmes stories, he talks about his monographs on...
Wow. That's quite some variety.
SKILL 3: The power to detach his mind.
Imagine you are in the middle of a case that looks pretty crazy.
You and Sherlock Holmes are exploring all day, interviewing people, figuring out things - and then suddenly, Holmes says: How about going to a concert?
But - that's exactly what Holmes does! Right in the middle of a case, he forgets everything and plays his violin. Or attends a concert. Or starts chemical experiments. It's mind-blowing - literally - his ability to detach from a case at will!
This quote makes it all completely clear:
SKILL 4: Being able to disguise himself masterfully.
Simply put: Sherlock Holmes is the 'Big Daddy' of disguise.
The number of times he fools Watson, who lives with him - is crazy. He's a book collector in The Empty House, he's a rough guy in the village, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, he's a clergyman in A Scandal in Bohemia, a plumber in Charles Augustus Milverton - and what not!
Here's an interesting picture that shows many of his fascinating disguises.
There is quite some 'goody-goody' stuff that Holmes does, you know, the kind that makes you say - "Here's a good man."
1 He keeps secrets. If you take him into your confidence, he doesn't tell anyone.
He even says to a client's wife who wants to get 'extra information' out of him..
2 He is righteous - Sherlock Holmes is ready to die for a good cause. Yes - ready to die.
This is what he says to Moriarty when Moriarty threatens him with death if he (Moriarty) is exposed...
He's basically saying: If my death means your death Moriarty, I am ready to die. Brave!
3 Sherlock Holmes plays fair. He never grabs an unfair advantage over the police. He always leaves evidence for the police, and does not tamper with it.
“It is not for me, my dear Watson, to stand in the way of the official police force. I leave them all the evidence which I found."
4 He is very empathic and polite all the time!
Look at how charming he can be when he approaches a woman to question her about a case...
Anyone would want to open up after that.
5 Holmes often gives the credit of the case to others. He doesn't mind that his name won't appear in the case!
Awesome qualities - all of these.
Sherlock Holmes has some great qualities, but who doesn't have vices? Our dude has quite a few. For instance...
1 He does drugs. Sometimes. Atleast in the beginning of his career.
In A Sign of Four, here's what Sherlock Holmes says to Watson:
Yes, I know cocaine was legal in the Victorian era, but nope, not a wise thing to do.
2 He smokes a lot. Especially when he isn't getting anywhere with respect to a case.
In fact, there are times when Watson comes home
to find so much smoke in the apartment, he is hardly able to
Now, I know Holmes rocks with respect to his deductions - but smoking like that? Not great.
Here's a dialogue from The Red Headed League:
Does this dialogue have style? Of course. Is it a good thing to do - to finish off three pipes while thinking about the problem?
Not really ;-)
3 He keeps his surroundings incredibly untidy!
In fact, he even misses the untidiness when it isn't there. Now, I can't blame Holmes there because I am myself not perfect when it comes to keeping my surroundings clean. BUT - a flaw is a flaw!
Here's a quote to sum up Holmes' untidiness:
Every guy (and girl) has an idiosyncrasy. For instance, I keep singing songs by changing their lyrics - almost throughout the day! I keep ....Shh.
Well, you get the point - we all have our quirks. What are Holmes' quirks?
1 Sherlock Holmes doesn't talk much when solving a mystery.
Rarely, he shares details of the case with Watson, but generally - he's just quiet and doesn't want to be disturbed.
I am not saying that's bad - I'm just saying his reticence is quirky.
2 Holmes suddenly detaches himself from a case and has loads of fun!
Now this is quirky. Imagine you have a problem and you really want to solve it. You've started discovering hints and you think you will reach the solution soon. What will you do?
a) Eagerly await any new developments and remain excited.
b) Chill, listen to music, play music and conduct chemical experiments.
Holmes chooses 'b' most of the time! When the case is making headway, and he gets some free time - he detaches completely.
3 Gets bored and irritated at times because he is way ahead!
Sherlock Holmes is intelligent. OK, super-intelligent. So when he sees others acting relatively dumb, he gets irritated at times.
In A Scandal in Bohemia, when Holmes feels that his client is beating about the bush giving all the dumb details - and not the crux of the case - this is what happens:
And here's a nice 'compliment' that Holmes pays to Inspector Hopkins in The Golden Pince-Nez:
4 Holmes gets completely transformed when on a trail...
When Sherlock Holmes is investigating a case and examining the venue - he's less a man and more a hound.
He lies down. He is super-attentive. This quote says it all:
This picture sort of clarifies what I mean when I say Holmes becomes transformed when on a trail...;-)
5 He skips food when he can't solve a case!
When was the last time you skipped food because you were so, so engrossed in work?
If you put this question to Holmes, he would say, "Why, that was just last week!" Give him a case that's tough and expect him to forget about food for a while.
6 He can be quite dramatic and boastful!
Now, Sherlock Holmes is cool. No one can doubt that. But what's 'typical' about Holmes is that he flaunts his 'coolness'.
If he comes up with a mind-blowing solution, you can
rest assured that he won't just show it to you. He will present it with
such elegance and drama, that your eyes will pop out.
In The Six Napoleans, when Holmes finally presents the missing 'bust' no one is able to find, he does it in style...
Remember I also said 'boastful'?
Well, this quote from Holmes himself - from 'A Study in Scarlet' - removes all doubts about Holmes being boastful...
Ahem. Not exactly humble.
Short answer: Holmes' creation was 'inspired' by others but he wasn't based on anyone.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle says that he was inspired by Dr. Joseph Bell - a doctor who deduced stuff just like Holmes. Conan Doyle worked under this doctor and he put Bell's qualities - to deduce things by looking at a patient - in Holmes.
Doyle was apparently also influenced by Henry Littlejohn. Littlejohn was a Scottish surgeon and forensic scientist - who gave stellar evidence in many court cases. He too had some mind-blowing powers of observing details and making stunning deductions.
Here's an interesting picture that shows both Dr. Joseph Bell and Henry Littlejohn.
Thanks to Edinburghnews.com for Sir Henry Littlejohn's picture!
FACT 1: Sherlock Holmes' IQ is 190. Atleast - that's what John Radford says!
It's true that Sherlock Holmes never attempts any IQ test, but this guy called John Radford - used three different techniques to establish that Holmes' IQ is around 190.
The IQ of the average human being is around 90-110. The IQ of Albert Einstein is estimated to be around 160.
An IQ greater than 130 is considered to be pretty awesome.
FACT 2: Sherlock Holmes does not know that the earth revolves around the sun!
I was stunned when I read that! In A Study in Scarlet, Watson is pretty amazed when Holmes tells him that he does not know that the Earth revolves around the Sun.
To top that, Holmes says:
FACT 3: Sherlock Holmes is the only fictional character to receive an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Society of Chemistry.
This also means that from 2002 onwards, you should actually call Holmes - Sherlock Holmes, FRSC - Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. In fact, even Wikipedia introduces Holmes as Sherlock Holmes, FRSC.
Interesting! (By the way, talking of facts, have you checked out the Sherlock Holmes quiz here?)
There are way too many Sherlock Holmes quotes out there.
These three are my favourites:
I know I'm repeating the one below, but it's really good. I love it.
And here comes the third...
Here's the complete list of my most favourite Sherlock Holmes quotes ever.
Let's do the math here.
In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes mentions that he's tackled around 500 cases till then. The Hound of the Baskervilles takes place around 1889 - and Holmes is active till 1904!
Around 53 of Sherlock Holmes' cases in the books occur after The Hound of the Baskervilles. Around 35 other cases are also mentioned but not described in the books - and these cases occur after The Hound...
What's the crux? Holmes tackled at the very least - 500 + 35 + 53 = 588 cases, atleast.
But that's only based on what is mentioned. Watson keeps saying that he lists only interesting cases and not all of them.
So, I would estimate Holmes' total number of cases at around 1000.
Sherlock Holmes never really says in the books: "Guys, this is my best case."
But Conan Doyle did say that! He said that 'The Speckled Band' was the best story he wrote.
There have been many opinion polls conducted by famous journals as well. According to four polls conducted by The Baker Street Journal and The Sherlock Holmes Journal in 1944, 1954, 1989, 1999 - the best case is...
The Speckled Band from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
Obviously, if you had to pick just one case out of all the ones - it has to be this!
Holmes apparently retires around 1904 or so, in the stories. He takes up beekeeping as his main hobby. Beekeeping means maintaining bee colonies to produce honey and other products from them.
Where does Holmes do all this? He practises beekeeping in Sussex Downs. Sussex Downs is an incredibly beautiful place in South East England.
Here's a picture of where it is.
Where does Holmes get the money to buy a place here and retire? I am sure he saves up enough from his cases - take a peek here to estimate how much he might have saved up.
Now, coming to that crucial question - how did Holmes die?
Honestly, we don't know. It's not mentioned anywhere in the original books.
However, William Baring-Gould, a famous 'Sherlockian' who loved creating interesting facts related to Holmes - says that Holmes died on January 6, 1957.
That would make Holmes 103 years old at the time of his death!
Is that true? Well, I don't know. :-) It's not mentioned anywhere. Period!
William Baring-Gould is of course, playing a game here. He's assuming that Holmes was a real person - that's why he's telling us the date of Holmes' death. Some Sherlockians and Holmesians play this game.
They call it - The Great Game.
Well, so that's it about Sherlock Holmes for now.
If you've actually read this far, well done! You're an untiring Holmes fan ;-)
Is there any question about Sherlock Holmes' profile that's still lurking in your mind?
Just about anything about Holmes you're curious about? Why not ask me a 'Holmes question' right away...
Have a great day!