Heavy Logix.

Lateral Thoughts on Life.

The Purloined Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes is one of the world’s most loved fictional characters. He has launched several copy cats and spawned a million imitators. Everything from t-shirts, to movies, to comic books, to books (of all genres) and even museums, have used him as an inspiration.

In fact two of TVs most popular characters today, George House and Adrian Monk, both owe a debt of gratitude to the highly rational and eccentric detective. House actually lives at an address referencing the 221B of Baker Street.

The huge popularity of Holmes and ( his loyal “Boswell” ) Watson, has perhaps over shadowed a previous character that was just as important. Who did Holmes and his creator “borrow” from ?

I  speak of Dupin, a character created by Edgar Allan Poe, in fact Dupin’s adventures began the whole detective genre before the word “detective” even existed. Like Holmes, Dupin had a male friend who narrated all his tales and he relied on logical deduction to perform amazing feats like reading people’s minds and of course solving crimes that the ever bumbling police forces could barely comprehend.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, inventor of Sherlock Holmes, realized his debt to Poe by making reference to Dupin in “The Study in Scarlet”, Holmes very first published adventure.

Watson mentions Dupin in passing and Holmes says that Dupin is a rather “inferior fellow” to himself. Doyle later said, “Each [of Poe’s detective stories] is a root from which a whole literature has developed… Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?”

Detective C. Auguste Dupin first appears, in the first detective story ever,”The
Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841). He reappears in “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” (1842) and then in “The Purloined Letter” (1844).

“The Purloined Letter’ by Poe is definitely one of my favorite stories of all time. In this short story Dupin saves the day by being able to understand the mind of his opponent. His opponent is quite formidable, being that rare type of individual who has mastered both Art and Science,  or as Dupin puts it, he’s both “mathematician and poet”.

Also this fearsome opponent is without scruples and honor.

Sherlock Holmes had fearsome opponents also, none moreso than the Evil genius Moriarty.


In fact at one time Moriarty, whom Holmes termed “the Napoleon of Crime”, was feared to have killed Holmes by causing him to fall over the Reichenbach Falls.

Sherlock was able to survive only because he knew a martial art, called Baritsu, in the books. Bartitsu was an actual martial art of the time, developed by Edward William Barton-Wright, and perhaps this was what Doyle was referring to. Bartitsu in fact was like Jeet Kune Do, an eclectic
fighting art which had practical techniques to win at any likely fighting range.

Wikipedia notes, “As detailed in a series of articles Barton-Wright produced for Pearson’s Magazine between 1899 and 1901, Bartitsu was largely drawn from the Shinden Fudo school of koryū (“classical”) jujutsu and from Kodokan judo, both of which he had studied while resident in Japan. As it became established in London, the art expanded to incorporate combat techniques from the Tenjin Shinyō, Fusen and Daito schools of jujutsu as well as British boxing, Swiss Schwingen, French savate, and a defensive la canne (stick fighting) style that had been developed by Pierre Vigny of Switzerland. Bartitsu also included a comprehensive physical culture training system.”

Such details, which Conan Doyle added constantly to the Holmes stories, made the character very life-like and he had many weaknesses too.

For instance although his mind was an efficient computer he was very messy in his personal habits and he is often characterized as Bohemian. Sherlock Holmes also had a Cocaine and possibly a Morphine addiction.

The recently released version of Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jnr. even speculates that Holmes may have had Bipolar disorder. Although many fans will not like this portrayal,  in Holmes first appearance in “Study in Scarlet”, his biographer Watson says ;

Nothing could exceed his energy when the working fit was upon him; but now and again a  reaction would seize him, and for days on end he would lie upon the sofa in the  sitting-room, hardly uttering a word or moving a muscle from morning to night.
This description gives some credence to the possibility.

Another source of inspiration for Sherlock Holmes and perhaps the reason that Watson is a Doctor of Medicine is Dr. Joseph Bell.Bell, who once employed Doyle as a clerk, emphasized the importance of close observation in making a diagnosis. To illustrate this, he would often pick a stranger and, by observing him, deduce his occupation and recent activities. These skills caused him to be considered a pioneer in forensic science (forensic pathology in particular) when science was not often used in the investigations of crimes.

This apparently “psychic” ability, in reality based on keen observation and logical reasoning and sometimes elements of Forensics, was also common in the adventures of both Sherlock and Dupin.

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December 27, 2009 - Posted by | blog, current news, fiction, Lateral Thinking, non fiction, Psychology, writing | , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. Looks like you did a lot of research for this one.

    Comment by Mad Bull | December 28, 2009 | Reply

  2. Yeah many thanx to Wikipedia.

    Comment by heavylogix | December 29, 2009 | Reply

  3. maybe you want to findwalkthrough sherlock holmes criteria and information

    Comment by Newsticker88 | December 30, 2009 | Reply


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