To Sherlock Holmes, she
is always the woman.
Perfectly logical though he may seem, Holmes is not above making the
occasional misogynistic remark. In this story, he learns the cost
of underestimating the intelligence and resourcefulness of women.
Opera singer Irene Adler is one of the very few women ever to win
Holmes's interest or respect. No matter how much Conan Doyle's female
readers might have desired it, however, Holmes never falls in love,
not even with Irene. Irene's character has inspired a modern series
of novels by Carole Nelson Douglas, as well as various short stories.
My marriage had drifted us away from each other.
At the end of Conan Doyle's second novel featuring Holmes, The
Sign of Four, Watson married Mary Morstan, whose father's mysterious
past in India is central to the plot. Although Watson never mentions
having married more than once, Sherlockians have found persuasive
evidence that he did. "A Scandal in Bohemia" begins on March 20, 1888,
and The Sign of Four either takes place in July, 1888, (gleaned
from a postmark mentioned in the story) or in September of that year
(based on a remark by Watson). Did Watson have a wife before Mary
Morstan? Or can we chalk the puzzle up to Conan Doyle's habitual carelessness
╔while Holmes, who loathed every form of society
with his whole Bohemian soul╔
Holmes is not a "Bohemian" in the same sense as the King. Because
Gypsies were erroneously thought to have originated in Bohemia, the
country's name came to mean "unconventional." The King, a Bohemian
by birth, is extremely conventional, and judges people by their rank
rather than their qualities, thus earning Holmes's scorn.
╔and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition,
the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen
Holmes rejects middle-class stability in favor of his vocation. When
he has no cases to investigate, he takes cocaineĐat the time, a legal
drugĐas an artificial substitute for the thrill of the chase. In this
conversation from The Sign of Four, Holmes explains his behavior:
he said, "rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work,
give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis,
and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial
stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for
mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession,
or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world."
"The only unofficial detective?"
I said, raising my eyebrows.
"The only unofficial consulting
detective," he answered.
From time to time I heard some vague account
of his doings: of his summons to Odessa in the case of the Trepoff
murder, of his clearing up of the singular tragedy of the Atkinson
brothers at Trincomalee, and finally of the mission which he had
accomplished so delicately and successfully for the reigning family
Conan Doyle often has Watson list Holmes's various cases. Unfortunately,
Conan Doyle (or Watson) neglected to write most of them into stories.
Several (not these) have been used by modern writers as the inspiration
for new Holmes and Watson tales. One of the most suggestive—but,
alas, unwritten by Conan Doyle—titles, mentioned by Holmes
in "The Sussex Vampire," is the strange case of "the giant rat of
Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared."