Sherlock Holmes is the legendary fictional detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who featured in 60 stories between 1887 and 1927. Holmes was famous for his extra-keen powers of observation and deduction, which he used to solve perplexing crimes and mysteries. He operated from his flat at 221b Baker Street in London, assisted by his friend Dr. Watson.
In a story set in 1914, Holmes is described as being 60. He is over 6ft tall, with black hair, grey eyes, thin lips and a ‘hawk-like’ nose. Dr. Watson describes Holmes as ‘bohemian’ in his habits and lifestyle, scrupulously clean and always dressed neatly but with no regard for tidiness or good order.
In his early professional career, Holmes was collaborating with Scotland Yard on cases. However once Watson began documenting and publishing Holmes’ cases in the national newspapers, his profile was raised, establishing him as a well-known, ‘go to’ detective.
Holmes continued his investigations for 23 years, before retiring to the Sussex Downs. The details of his death are unknown.
The distinctive appearance of Sherlock Holmes was created by the artist Sydney Paget, who illustrated the original stories in The Strand Magazine. Paget’s version of Holmes, in particular the legendary deerstalker hat – which is never mentioned in the stories, was so strong that it has survived over 100 years.
Holmes’ other trademark is his curved or ‘calabash’ pipe and like the deerstalker, is not mentioned specifically in the stories either. This addition is thought to be by actors who preferred a curved pipe when playing Holmes because it allowed them to speak without putting undue strain on their teeth.
It must also be added that Sherlock Holmes never uttered the words “Elementary, my dear Watson” either!
The stories of Sherlock Holmes introduced three new devices into detective fiction: the so-called ‘idiot friend’ who must have everything explained to him (thus informing the reader). The ‘arch criminal’ who is far too clever for regular police (Professor Moriarty in the Holmes stories), and ‘forensic science’ as a means of cracking cases (Holmes tested for blood stains and fingerprints). All went on to become major conventions in the genre.