Created by Arthur Conan Doyle, in the late 19th century, the character of Sherlock Holmes is one of the best surviving of the period. As a ‘consulting detective,’ Holmes investigates various mysteries and is most often accompanied by Dr. Watson, a close friend and the narrator of the stories. These characters have had a profound influence on both past and present stories in the detective genre, and their cases have been adapted for film and TV many times in the past century.
High-Profile Clients, Assisting the Authorities
Holmes’ keen observation skills, logical reasoning and widespread knowledge of forensic science made him the most likely choice for clients when they had a difficult case to be solved. Many times, he would be employed in addition to, or instead of, the police. When working alongside Scotland Yard, Holmes enjoys proving his intellectual superiority. He does not go out of his way to get recognition, often allowing the police to take the credit for solving a mystery, but takes immense pleasure in any that is given.
Throughout his career, Holmes works for several high-profile clients. This includes a Prime Minister and the King of Bohemia who visit him at his home, to personally request his services. Public honors bestowed upon the detective include The Legion of Honor, by the French government, and a knighthood (which he declines) for unrevealed services rendered to the crown. The Vatican becomes a client twice, as well as The King of Scandinavia. Regardless of a client’s wealth or power, however, Holmes would refuse any case that did not interest him.
Death, Resurrection, Retirement
Most of the Sherlock Holmes stories take place between 1880 and 1914, and intricate details of the detective’s life are revealed in each one. Holmes first began using his superior sleuthing ability while attending university, when other students would ask him to solve cases for them. After graduating he spent six years as a consultant before financial difficulties forced him to take in a lodger in 1881. This became the beginning of a lifelong friendship, between himself and Dr. Watson. The documents kept at their house at 221B Baker Street become a significant part of their investigations, and Holmes is often described as rummaging through his items to locate one of grave importance to the current case.
Holmes’ career was cut short in 1891 when he plunges to his death along with criminal mastermind, James Moriarty, in The Final Problem. He resurfaces in The Adventure of the Empty House, set in 1894, explaining to a stunned Watson that he faked his death to fool his enemies. This period, when Holmes is presumed to be dead, is referred to as The Great Hiatus.
Even though the detective can be charming when necessary, Dr. Watson is his only devoted friend and he likes a solitary lifestyle. He described himself as preferring to mope about his college room, rather than to socialize. His lifestyle after retiring, continues to reflect this as Holmes moves to Sussex Downs, and takes up beekeeping as a hobby. He comes out of retirement to solve two cases, once in His Last Bow to ‘aid in the war effort,’ and again in The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane.