Sunday, 28 December 2014

221B Baker Street

I would gladly barge in this address, and nothing would please me more than being greeted by a man in his trademark deerstalker cap, pipe and cape-backed overcoat. He would then proceed to tell me (although never having met me before that day) what I did for a living, and probably deduce why I was there to see him. I would be surprised, yes, but that would not be unanticipated, for I would be talking to none other than Sherlock Holmes, perhaps the greatest detective ever created in English literature.

The creator of this legendary ‘consulting’ detective was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a Scottish doctor who had more success writing than as a physician. Sherlock Holmes first appeared in the novel A Study in Scarlet in the year 1887. In the other 3 novels and 56 short stories that followed, Holmes turned out to be the masterful detective that amused and intrigued readers alike. According to Doyle, the inspiration for Holmes was drawn from Joseph Bell, a surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, who was adept at drawing conclusions through minute observations. And when Sir Doyle decided to kill him off in The Final Problem, he met with such vehement protests that he was forced to resurrect the much loved British detective in The Adventure of the Empty House.
When we first meet Holmes, he is busy in his attempts to invent a fool-proof test for blood stains, and does so quite successfully. While his knowledge of literature, philosophy, astronomy is nil (yes, he was not aware that the earth moves round the sun), he is quite well-informed about chemistry, anatomy and sensational literature. His living is governed by logic: whether the sun moved round the earth or vice versa does not make an ounce of difference to him. He proceeds to explain the theories he has propounded, that of The Science of Deduction and Analysis. In this context, I would like to quote Holmes: 
By a man’s finger-nails, by his coat-sleeve, by his boots, by his trouser-knees, by the callosities of his forefinger and thumb, by his expression, by his shirt-cuffs – by each of these things a man’s calling is plainly revealed.”  
Holmes never fails to amuse us by his logical deductions drawn from careful observation. The beauty of Doyle’s writing is not confined to the storyline alone; the very endearing character of Holmes keeps us glued to the tales. He has an in-depth knowledge of only what he requires in his trade, and interestingly, does not feel the need to clutter his head with information that would never aid him. Holmes is no ordinary detective, but a legend in himself – apart from the afore mentioned areas, he is an excellent violin player as well. He is not free of vices, though: tobacco smoking and addiction to tobacco and morphine.
Sherlock Holmes is clearly not interested in romantic involvements, the nearest we get is when he encounters Irene Adler - the only person to outdo him – in A Scandal in Bohemia. Though never explicitly mentioned, Watson notes that “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.” More than romantic love, the author hints at Holmes’ immense admiration at her cleverness.
It is interesting to note that the very popular phrase “Elementary, My dear Watson” is not once mentioned in any of the stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. What, in fact, we find is this in the short story The Crooked Man:
Excellent!” I cried.
Elementary,” said he.
Sherlock Holmes shall continue to enchant people in the time to come; such is his appeal to the young and old alike. His crown as the greatest detective is likely to remain unchallenged, and I say that with wicked delight. So how do I conclude that with such certainty?
Elementary, my dear Watson.