To what extent is Sherlock Holmes the original, archetypal fictional detective? By Bracken Hampson-Ragg From Poirot to Morse and Creek to Columbo it is thought that Sherlock Holmes is the original detective, the one that most fictional detectives follow. It is his distance from society, assertive manner and observational skills that make his character so well renowned. Many aspects of Holmes’ character can be seen in other fictional detectives such as inspector Morse and Poirot, who, like Holmes, are distanced from society and super-humanly intelligent. Sir Authur Conan-Doyle first wrote Sherlock Holmes in the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s.
It was very popular because it was among the first detective fiction to be written. Since then many other writers have used Holmes’s characteristics, idiosyncrasies and methods of detection as a model for their detectives. Sherlock Holmes is a fascinating character who people enjoy to get to know through his stories. In ‘A Scandal In Bohemia’ Watson, Holmes’s sidekick, narrates the story because he “had no keener pleasure than in following homes in his professional investigation”. Watson tells the reader of Holmes’ “tall, spare figure” and his blunt remarks, for example “you have put on seven and a half pounds”.
This is similar to Inspector Morse, where he calls Lewis, his sidekick, a “fool”. In both situations their sidekicks have simply accepted the insults because they are so used to them and because they are too powerless to answer back. Holmes enjoys “some cold beef and a glass of beer” once in a while, likewise does Morse who says he “likes to let go” and he “always drinks at lunchtime”. However, Poirot likes to drink tea from a teapot “around the tea table”. Holmes is a “late riser” and therefore is sometimes shown as lazy. In Inspector Morse we see his apartment is very messy and unorganised, showing his laziness.
On the contrary, Poirot is perfect, precise and even is seen “carefully straitening the cups and saucers”. Detectives are often looked upon as being outsiders and having a bohemian personality. Holmes fits this description by Watson telling us that Holmes “loathed every form of society”. Watson also tells us that Homes has a “bohemian soul” meaning he was born as an outsider and liked it that way. Morse, although likes a “proper drink” of real ale, lives on his own and does not get close to anybody. Furthermore, the person who Holmes is closest to is Watson, his accomplice, similarly, Morse’s closest friend is Lewis.
Holmes, Morse and Poirot are all very well educated. Holmes is often “buried among old books”. He is multi-lingual, speaking French and Latin German. He plays the violin and often goes to the opera. This is much like Morse who times himself at cross words taking only “12 minutes”, which he says in “not bad, not the record, but not bad. ” He sings in a choir and often watches old French films at the cinema. Poirot is Belgian, but he speaks fluent English and often mixes the two. An example of this is “Eh bien, mon amie, I accept. Le sport, it is the passion of you English”.
This shows his ability to mix languages, which many people find difficult. Holmes often uses sarcasm in his speaking. He refers to one of his cases as “quite a pretty little problem. ” This is exactly what Poirot does in ‘The Disappearance of Mr Davenheim’ where he says his case is “pretty-very pretty-altogether a charming little problem”. Alternatively, Morse hears about the details and says “what the bloody hell” showing his blunt nature and that he is easily irritated. Holmes and Poirot look as though they enjoy the cases, whereas Morse always seems to be in a bad mood, telling Lewis to “learn to do as you’re told”, showing he is agitated.
Holmes is deeply involved in his work. He is always “working as he did for the love of his art than for the requirement of wealth”. By this Watson is telling us that Holmes works because he loves his job and doesn’t do it for money. Morse likes his job so much he often works in his spare time and devotes all his time to his job. Holmes is often “alternating from week to week from cocaine to ambition”. He thought cocaine helped his thinking. This is similar to Morse who thought that a drink at lunchtime helped his imagination. Unlike Holmes and Morse, Poirot drunk tea.
This shows Agatha Christie who wrote the Poirot stories didn’t take this characteristic from Sherlock Holmes. Holmes has a very distinct method and style of detection. In ‘A Scandal In Bohemia’ Holmes knows that there are seventeen steps leading up from the hall because he has “both seen and observed”, whereas, Watson does not know because, as Holmes noticed and said, “you see, but you do not observe” Holmes realised that “it is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data”. By this he means that it is not about guesswork, but about getting the facts strait. Likewise, Morse feels that his “weakness is guesswork”.