by Jonathan B. Perry
Yeah, I know Sherlock Holmes is a character of fiction. OR IS HE? No, he is. But Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote so many Sherlock Holmes mysteries that I sometimes feel I personally know Holmes or at least that he was a real historical figure. He’s one of my favorite characters and is easily recognizable not only by his clever private detective work and astute observations, but also by his funny deerstalker hat, cape, and pipe. I’ve even named my dormant rock band, The Musgrave Ritual, after one of his cases. The Scottish Conan Doyle wrote 56 short stories and four novels about this London-based consulting detective, and bachelor, set in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Most of the stories were narrated by Holmes sidekick Dr. Watson, who lived with Holmes for many years before Watson married, then again after Mrs. Watson died. See, Watson was married, so don’t get any ideas.
A life-long bachelor (except in fan fiction), Sherlock Holmes does take an interest in Irene Adler, who he mentions in several cases, but only appears in “A Scandal In Bohemia“. In that story she outwits Holmes and escapes (it was complicated). For one of his other cases, Holmes is briefly engaged to be married, but only in order to uncover clues for his case, which is the excuse I’d use. At one point Holmes says, “I am not a whole-souled admirer of womankind“. Also, he found “the motives of women… so inscrutable… How can you build on such quicksand? Their most trivial actions may mean volumes… their most extraordinary conduct may depend upon a hairpin.” Such wisdom.
Though he earned a good deal of money from his cases, especially from doing work for Europe‘s royal families, and could have retired young, he lived modestly in his London bachelor pad on Baker Street. Watson described Holmes as being quite disorganized, leaving notes and experiments from old cases lying around the room, but able to find what he needed quickly from his organized chaos. I seem to have inadvertently modeled myself after him in this organizational respect.
Sherlock Holmes does have a major vice: drugs. Frequently using cocaine, and sometimes morphine, especially when his cases were understimulating, he still looked down on the use of opium. The use of such drugs was legal at that time in England, what with so much understimulation. Dr. Watson sometimes suspected that drug use was involved when Holmes stayed up all night. Later Watson believed he weaned Holmes off the junk.
Despite the drug use, Sherlock Holmes stands as a paragon of the modern detective as well as an interesting bachelor specimen. I wish I could go out on a case with him, maybe do some experiments. Go skeet shooting. But he’s dead. I mean, if he’d been real, he’d be dead. Rest in peace, fictional dude.
By the way, there are two new Sherlock Holmes movies in the works. One will star Robert Downey Jr as Holmes with Guy Ritchie directing and the other has Borat’s Sacha Baron Cohen as Holmes and Will Ferrell as Dr. Watson in a comedy by Judd Apatow. Pretty excellent! Can’t wait.
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