Holmes's brother Mycroft , seven years his senior, is a government official. Mycroft has a unique civil service position as a kind of human database for all aspects of government policy. He lacks Sherlock's interest in physical investigation, however, preferring to spend his time at the Diogenes Club. Holmes says that he first developed his methods of deduction as an undergraduate; his earliest cases, which he pursued as an amateur, came from fellow university students.
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Watson as a fellow lodger. The two take lodgings at B Baker Street , London, an apartment at the upper north end of the street, up seventeen steps. Holmes worked as a detective for twenty-three years, with physician John Watson assisting him for seventeen. Their residence is maintained by their landlady, Mrs. Most of the stories are frame narratives , written from Watson's point of view as summaries of the detective's most interesting cases.
Holmes frequently calls Watson's writing sensational and populist, suggesting that it fails to accurately and objectively report the "science" of his craft:.
Detection is, or ought to be, an exact science and should be treated in the same cold and unemotional manner. You have attempted to tinge it ["A Study in Scarlet"] with romanticism, which produces much the same effect as if you worked a love-story Some facts should be suppressed, or, at least, a just sense of proportion should be observed in treating them. The only point in the case which deserved mention was the curious analytical reasoning from effects to causes, by which I succeeded in unravelling it.
Nevertheless, Holmes's friendship with Watson is his most significant relationship. When Watson is injured by a bullet, although the wound turns out to be "quite superficial", Watson is moved by Holmes's reaction:. It was worth a wound; it was worth many wounds; to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask.
The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation. Holmes' clients vary from the most powerful monarchs and governments of Europe, to wealthy aristocrats and industrialists , to impoverished pawnbrokers and governesses. He is known only in select profession circles at the beginning of the first story, but is already collaborating with Scotland Yard. However, his continued work and the publication of Watson's stories raises Holmes' profile, and he rapidly becomes well known as a detective; so many clients ask for his help instead of or in addition to that of the police  that, Watson writes, by Holmes has "an immense practice".
The first set of Holmes stories was published between and Wishing to devote more time to his historical novels, Conan Doyle killed off Holmes in a final battle with the criminal mastermind Professor James Moriarty in "The Final Problem" published , but set in Legend has it that Londoners were so distraught upon hearing the news of Holmes' death that they wore black armbands in mourning.
However, there is no known contemporary source for this; the earliest known reference to such events comes from After resisting public pressure for eight years, Conan Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles serialised in —02, with an implicit setting before Holmes's death. In , Conan Doyle wrote "The Adventure of the Empty House", set in ; Holmes reappears, explaining to a stunned Watson that he had faked his death to fool his enemies. Holmes aficionados refer to the period from to —between his disappearance and presumed death in "The Final Problem" and his reappearance in "The Adventure of the Empty House"—as the Great Hiatus.
In "His Last Bow", Holmes has retired to a small farm on the Sussex Downs and taken up beekeeping as his primary occupation. The move is not dated precisely, but can be presumed to be no later than since it is referred to retrospectively in "The Second Stain", first published that year. The story features Holmes and Watson coming out of retirement to aid the war effort.
Only one other adventure, " The Adventure of the Lion's Mane ", takes place during the detective's retirement. Watson describes Holmes as " bohemian " in his habits and lifestyle.
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Described by Watson in The Hound of the Baskervilles as having a "cat-like" love of personal cleanliness, Holmes is an eccentric with no regard for contemporary standards of tidiness or good order. In many of the stories, Holmes dives into an apparent mess to find a relevant item. Although in his methods of thought he was the neatest and most methodical of mankind He had a horror of destroying documents Thus month after month his papers accumulated, until every corner of the room was stacked with bundles of manuscript which were on no account to be burned, and which could not be put away save by their owner.
The detective starves himself at times of intense intellectual activity, such as during " The Adventure of the Norwood Builder "—wherein, according to Watson:. While the detective is usually dispassionate and cold, during an investigation he is animated and excitable. He has a flair for showmanship, preparing elaborate traps to capture and expose a culprit often to impress observers. Holmes derives pleasure from baffling police inspectors with his deductions and has supreme confidence—bordering on arrogance—in his intellectual abilities.
While the detective does not actively seek fame and is usually content to let the police take public credit for his work,  he is pleased when his skills are recognised and responds to flattery. Except for that of Watson, Holmes avoids casual company. In "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott " , he tells the doctor that during two years at college he made only one friend: "I was never a very sociable fellow, Watson I never mixed much with the men of my year". The detective is similarly described in A Study in Scarlet.
As shooting practice during a period of boredom, Holmes decorates the wall of his Baker Street lodgings with a "patriotic" VR Victoria Regina in "bullet-pocks" from his revolver. His enjoyment of vocal music, particularly Wagner , is evident in " The Adventure of the Red Circle ". Holmes occasionally uses addictive drugs, especially in the absence of stimulating cases.
He uses cocaine , which he injects in a seven-percent solution with a syringe kept in a Morocco leather case. Although Holmes also dabbles in morphine , he expresses strong disapproval when he visits an opium den ; both drugs were legal in 19th-century England. As a physician, Watson strongly disapproves of his friend's cocaine habit, describing it as the detective's "only vice", and concerned about its effect on Holmes's mental health and intellect.
Watson and Holmes both use tobacco, smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. Although his chronicler does not consider Holmes's smoking a vice per se , Watson—a physician—occasionally criticises the detective for creating a "poisonous atmosphere" in their confined quarters. The detective is known to charge clients for his expenses and claim any reward offered for a problem's solution, such as in " The Adventure of the Speckled Band ", "The Red-Headed League", and " The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet ". In " The Problem of Thor Bridge ", the detective says, "My professional charges are upon a fixed scale.
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I do not vary them, save when I remit them altogether". In this context, a client is offering to double his fee, and it is implied that wealthy clients habitually pay Holmes more than his standard rate. Although when the stories begin Holmes needed Watson to share the rent for their residence, by the time of "The Final Problem", he says that his services to the government of France and "the royal family of Scandinavia" had left him with enough money to retire comfortably.
As Conan Doyle wrote to Joseph Bell, "Holmes is as inhuman as a Babbage 's calculating machine and just about as likely to fall in love". How can you build on such quicksand? Their most trivial actions may mean volumes Women are never to be entirely trusted—not the best of them".
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Watson says in " The Adventure of the Copper Beeches " that the detective inevitably "manifested no further interest in the client when once she had ceased to be the centre of one of his problems". In " The Lion's Mane ", Holmes writes, "Women have seldom been an attraction to me, for my brain has always governed my heart," indicating that he has been attracted to women in some way on occasion, but has not been interested in pursuing relationships with them.
Ultimately, however, in " The Adventure of the Devil's Foot ", he claims outright that "I have never loved".
At the end of The Sign of Four , Holmes states that "love is an emotional thing, and whatever is emotional is opposed to that true cold reason which I place above all things. I should never marry myself, lest I bias my judgement. Despite his overall attitude, Holmes is adept at effortlessly putting his clients at ease, and Watson says that although the detective has an "aversion to women", he has "a peculiarly ingratiating way with [them]".
Hudson is fond of Holmes because of his "remarkable gentleness and courtesy in his dealings with women. He disliked and distrusted the sex, but he was always a chivalrous opponent". Although this is her only appearance, she is one of only a handful of people who best Holmes in a battle of wits, and the only woman. For this reason, Adler is the frequent subject of pastiche writing. The beginning of the story describes the high regard in which Holmes holds her:. To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name.
In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler As the story opens, the Prince is engaged to another. Adler slips away before Holmes can succeed. Her memory is kept alive by the photograph of Adler that Holmes received for his part in the case, and he refers to her from time to time in subsequent stories. Shortly after meeting Holmes in the first story, A Study in Scarlet generally assumed to be , though the exact date is not given , Watson assesses the detective's abilities:.
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