The famous fictional detective by the name of Sherlock Holmes was first introduced to the public domain in eighteen eighty seven. In the years that followed Sherlock Holmes became a household name, much loved by the public. Holmes was the creation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who at one point in time announced he would not be writing any further cases for the detective. However, due to continued pressure by the media and the British public he continued to write mysteries for the detective, right up until his death in nineteen thirty. Something about the Sherlock Holmes series struck a chord in the hearts of so many readers.
In the following essay I will review the key characteristics of Sherlock Holmes. I will then, with the use of evidence from a variety of the stories, analyse whether Sherlock Holmes was an archetypal Victorian gentleman. Before we can begin to analyse the characteristics of Sherlock Holmes it is important that we understand the environment he lived and worked in. Victorian London was a place of disturbing contrasts and divides where the middle-class folk drank tea in comfortable drawing rooms, whilst those less fortunate lived in cramped conditions plagued by epidemics of typhoid and cholera.
Crime was far more prevalent in Victorian London and was considered a way of life and a form of income; the misty, dense smog, paired with the eerie flicker of the gas lamps providing the perfect cover for criminals. Police levels on the streets were minimal and the Police force was shadowed by corruption across the force. It was far from the wide paved streets of today, with narrow cobbled streets and dark and poorly lit alleyways. Sherlock Holmes was a man of prosperity and wealth. He lived in comfortable surroundings and does not work for the money, but more as a means of passing the time.
In the “Final Problem”, Holmes states that his services to the government of France and the royal house of Scandinavia had left him with enough money to “retire comfortably”. Holmes also portrays many characteristics which are a clue to his wealth. An example is when in the “Speckled Band” Watson says: “He was a late riser, as a rule”. In the Victorian times those who frequented the early hours of the morning were usually the working-class of society. Therefore when Watson describes Holmes as a “late riser”, it is another example which supports the idea that Holmes was an affluent Victorian Gentleman.
Victorian England was a deeply religious, Christian country. Although Holmes never uses a religious means to solve a crime or find answers; he does give some suggestions to his religious beliefs. In “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” when a criminal asks Holmes for forgiveness Holmes replies: “Well, it is not for me to judge you,”. This is open to interpretation, as it is unclear whether Holmes is referring to God or to the courts. Holmes only rarely gives us insight into his religion and it is only discussed on a handful of occasions. However, this does not necessarily suggest that Holmes was without religion.
It shows that Holmes’ work ethos was to keep such views separate from his cases and instead of looking to the heavens for support, use his powerful reasoning and intellect to solve the crimes. Another example can be found at the end of “The Boscombe Valley Mystery”; his closing statement reads: “I pray that we may never be exposed to such a temptation. ” This is another example which suggests that religion played a part in Holmes’ life and his moral decisions. The religious side of Holmes is another attribute which portrays him as an “Archetypal Victorian Gentleman”.
One of Sherlock Holmes’s greatest attributes is his astute observation and ratiocination. Holmes’s uses these powerful skills throughout his cases and they certainly are one of the key reasons for his success. An example is when Holmes is faced with a client by the name of Violet Smith. Through his skills of observation and deduction, Holmes deduced that Violet Smith likes cycling, as there are slight markings on her shoe soles caused by the friction with the pedals. He also notes the ladies “spatulated finger-ends” suggesting that she plays a musical instrument.