Sherlock Holmes: The Best Detective Ever

Updated on February 13, 2017

Mr. Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes is one of the greatest fictional detectives ever created, and arguably the most famous. He isn't just a detective; he's also a chemist, a violinist, and a master swordsman. He's famous for his keen observation and deductive reasoning.

The Top Five Reasons Sherlock Holmes is the Best Detective

  • Holmes can tell where you've been just by looking at the mud on your trousers.
  • Holmes is content to let the police take credit for his work; a fascinating case is its own reward.
  • The only thing Holmes seems to fear is boredom.
  • He has his own personal biographer who follows him on all his cases.
  • He almost always manages to unravel every mystery and save the day.

The Quotable Mr. Sherlock Holmes

  • "My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don't know."
  • "You see, but you do not observe."
  • "When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
  • "What one man can invent, another can discover."
  • "I play the game for the game's own sake."
  • "You and I, Watson, we have done our part. Shall the world, then, be overrun by oysters? No, no; horrible!"
  • "Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent."
  • "Education never ends Watson. It is a series of lessons with the greatest for the last."
  • "It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment."
  • "I have frequently gained my first real insight into the character of parents by studying their children."
  • "Any truth is better than indefinite doubt."
  • "It is quite a three pipe problem, and I beg that you won't speak to me for fifty minutes."
  • "Data! Data! Data! I can't make bricks without clay."
  • "The little things are infinitely the most important."
  • "He is as brave as a bulldog and as tenacious as a lobster if he gets his claws upon anyone."
  • "And yet the motives of women are so inscrutable.... Their most trivial action may mean volumes, or their most extraordinary conduct may depend upon a hairpin or a curling-tongs."

What Does Mr. Holmes Look Like?

Sherlock Holmes According to Dr. Watson...

Our dear friend Dr. Watson first described Mr. Sherlock Holmes this way:

"His very person and appearance were such as to strike the most casual observer. In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing, save during those intervals of torpor to which I have alluded; and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision. His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination. His hands were invariable blotted with ink and stained with chemicals, yet he was possessed of extraordinary delicacy of touch, as I frequently had occasion to observe when I watched him manipulating the fragile philosophical instruments."

The Vices of Mr. Sherlock Holmes

Nobody's perfect...

Mr. Sherlock Holmes is a great detective who has a passion for his work, but he is not without his flaws. He readily admitted some of his shortcomings to Dr. Watson in A Study in Scarlet: "I get in the dumps at times, and don't open my mouth for days on end. You must not think I am sulky when I do that. Just let me alone, and I'll soon be right."

Holmes smokes a pipe, but Dr. Watson doesn't consider that a vice, particularly since the good doctor himself is fond of smoking. In those days, they didn't have the Surgeon General telling everyone that smoking is bad for you.

What Dr. Watson does take exception to is Mr. Holmes' habit of using cocaine and morphine. Holmes mostly indulges in narcotics when he's bored stiff and has no interesting problems to occupy his mind. Over time it seems that Holmes is eventually "weaned off" the habit.

Holmes is also a bit arrogant, though frankly he's earned the right to be. His powers of deduction leave Dr. Watson and the police bewildered and dazzled by turns. He secretly enjoys being praised for his cleverness, but doesn't everyone?

Sherlock Holmes is also an untidy and disorganized roommate.

Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Granada Television Series - See Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes!

Many people might cite Basil Rathbone as being the greatest Sherlock Holmes actor. While Rathbone was a fantastic actor and played the role admirably, Jeremy Brett portrayed a much more complex and nuanced Holmes in the Granada TV series. We could say that both actors were true to the character, but Brett added depth to Holmes.

If you're a die-hard Sherlock Holmes fan, the Sherlock Holmes Granada television series is worth watching and owning. The acting is superb, and the sets are wonderfully true to the period.

Holmes and Women

"Now, Watson, the fair sex is your department."

Beyond the problems that they bring to him, Holmes never seems especially interested in women. If anything, he has an aversion to any romantic feelings that could muck up his calculating mind. Love? How distracting. There are cases to be solved!

There is but one woman that Holmes showed any interest in that bordered on romantic: Irene Adler. She is perhaps the only woman to have ever gotten the better of Holmes on a case. According to Watson, Holmes always refers to her as The Woman.

But Wait! Holmes Kisses a Girl?!

Well, all right, the Granada TV series took a few liberties in one episode: The Master Blackmailer. The stoic, calculating detective kisses a girl!

This episode is based on the story entitled The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton. Holmes has to deal with a man who makes it his business to blackmail well-to-do men and women. This fellow, Mr. Milverton, has gotten a hold of some letters written by Lady Eva Blackwell, the contents of which would break off her engagement and leave her scandalized. Milverton threatens to show them to her fiancé, and he won't give them back unless she pays £7000.

So what does Holmes do? He disguises himself as a plumber and cases Milverton's house. In both the TV episode and the original story, Holmes endears himself to Milverton's maid and even becomes engaged to her-- just to pump her for information, you understand. In the story you only hear Holmes mention it, but in the episode you see him interact with her. He even shows her affection, though he's very awkward about it.

At some point in the episode, Aggie the maid jumps Holmes and converses with him while he stares up at her. Holmes seems very moved when she kisses him. Although he could have been pretending to be a swooning lover, you never know.

Top Five Rules of Sherlock Holmes Mysteries

  • The police are always wrong.
  • Dr. Watson's first guess is always wrong.
  • The most likely suspect is always innocent.
  • If a man is murdered, there's a fair chance that he deserved it.
  • When the suspect is caught, he will obligingly confess everything.

Fun Facts

  • Contrary to popular belief, Sherlock Holmes never said, "Elementary, my dear Watson." But he has said "Elementary!" and "My dear Watson" on separate occasions.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, believed in Spiritualism and fairies.
  • Sherlock Holmes has an older brother named Mycroft Holmes. Astoundingly, Mycroft has an even greater capacity for deductive reasoning! However, he lacks the ambition and energy to be a detective like his younger brother. Instead, Mycroft works for the government.
  • People write fan mail to Sherlock Holmes all the time. There is even a permanent "secretary to Sherlock Holmes" who handles all the mail addressed to the great fictional detective. You can read more about it on Wikipedia.

Questions & Answers

    Your turn: Am I right?

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      • Sher Ritchie profile image

        Sher Ritchie 5 years ago

        I love Sherlock Holmes! I love the way "my work is it's own reward" (Holmes might deny it, but he has empathy - and that's what makes him so likeable and human) and I love the way he investigates the crime scene thoroughly. He might have some interim deductions, but he can look beyond all the presumptions (and assumptions) to find the truth. Horray for Sherlock Holmes!

      • jordanmilesbask profile image

        jordanmilesbask 6 years ago

        I love Sherlock Holmes and I am a great fan..Cheers!

        please come and visit my lens -

      • Laddoo LM profile image

        Lloyd Pinto 8 years ago from Mumbai

        You've put together quite and awesome lens and I enjoyed reading every bit of it. It does of course help that I am a great fan of Sherlock holmes too. Rated. Faved and lensrolled to my lens on the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection

      • purplelady profile image

        purplelady 8 years ago

        I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes; but I always give the edge to a woman in the category if there is one. And in this case, I have to go with Miss Marple--main character of the Agatha Christie mysteries. She rocks!

      • VictoriaNeely1 profile image

        VictoriaNeely1 10 years ago

        Maybe, but Holmes wouldn't admit it; he sneers in Dupin's general direction.

      • profile image

        Grasshoppa 10 years ago

        This is all well and good, but I've heard that Holmes actually learnt a thing or two from C. Auguste Dupin...

      • VictoriaNeely1 profile image

        VictoriaNeely1 10 years ago

        Book_Garden: Well, we all have our favorites. :) Thanks for commenting!

      • TheBookGarden1 profile image

        TheBookGarden1 10 years ago

        Personally I prefer Perry Mason as the greatest Fictional Crime Character, but I'll let Holmes have the best detective sub-category!