||One night—it was on the twentieth
of March, 1888—I was returning from a journey to a patient (for
I had now returned to civil practice), when my way led me through
In the year 1881, Holmes and Watson meet in A Study in Scarlet
because they both need roommates. Holmes has already rented an apartment
at 221B Baker Street, and Watson agrees to share it. Holmes's financial
situation must have improved by the end of The Sign of Four,
since he is able to go on renting the lodgings alone when Watson marries
Miss Mary Morstan (an heiress) and goes off to live with her.
Although Watson is a doctor, he does not practice his profession in
A Study in Scarlet or The Sign of Four because he
is still recuperating from a war wound received in Afghanistan.
Éand indicated a spirit case and a gasogene in the corner.
Also called a "tantalus," a spirit case holds crystal decanters of
spirits (whiskey, brandy, etc.) so that they are visible and yet inaccessible
to the servants when the bar holding the stoppers is locked down.
This puts the servants in the same position as Tantalus from Greek
mythology, a son of Zeus who was tortured in the underworld with burning
hunger and thirst that he could not assuage, despite the water and
fruit that seemed almost within his reach.
A "gasogene," or "gazogene," is the Victorian equivalent of a seltzer
bottle: it uses a canister of carbon dioxide under high pressure and
forces the gas into plain water to make sparkling water for use in
"I see it, I deduce it. How do I know that you have been getting
yourself very wet lately, and that you have a most clumsy and careless
Here, Holmes spells out his method for Watson. From observation of
small details, he builds a theory that fits the facts. Of course,
Holmes also likes to begin with a startling pronouncement that makes
him look prescient in the eyes of those not "in the know." As Watson
says several times, it all seems simple when you know how it's done.
Holmes often prefers to defer explanation, and thus to maintain an
aura of mystery as long as possible.
"You would certainly have been burned, had you lived a few
As a witch, that is. Witch burnings in England took place mostly in
the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
"Hence, you see, my double deduction that you had been out
in vile weather, and that you had a particularly malignant boot-slitting
specimen of the London slavey."
A "slavey" was a maidservant performing the most menial duties in
a Victorian household.
"You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear."
Holmes's method depends upon enlightened observation: thinking about
and remembering what he sees as he sees it.
"I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize before
one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories,
instead of theories to suit facts."
This is one of Holmes's most famous pronouncements, and might explain
why he is often unwilling to share a theory before he has the facts
to prove it.