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Who is Sherlock Holmes?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated: May 23, 2024

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most popular and well-known fictional characters of all times. A brilliant and eccentric detective, he first appears in the stories and novels of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the late 1800’s, along with his well-trusted companion and biographer, Dr. John H. Watson, who is also a medical doctor. Residing together at 221B Baker Street in London, Holmes, with the assistance of Dr. Watson, solves crimes that the police cannot, coming to the aid of such officers of the law as Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard. They are not above applying methods that are outside the law, such as trespass and theft, in the interests of seeking justice.

Sherlock Holmes works his cases forensically, examining the details of crime scenes and inspecting his clients’ persons for information and then applying a particular method to make deductions about evidence. Although Conan Doyle uses Holmes’s powers of deduction to astonish his clients and readers, Sherlock Homes himself believes that he is being scientific and that others might use the same approach: “You know my methods. Apply them!” he tells Dr. Watson in The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Besides The Hound, some of the best-known tales of Sherlock Holmes include The Sign of the Four, A Study in Scarlet, The Red-Headed League, and A Scandal in Bohemia. The four novels about Holmes were published individually, three of them after being serialized, and the stories were collected into five anthologies.

A number of actors have taken on the challenge of portraying Sherlock Holmes since the first depictions in the very early years of the twentieth century. Those who have played Sherlock Holmes in a series include Eille Norwood in the 1920’s, Basil Rathbone in the 1940’s and 1950’s, Peter O’Toole in the 1980’s, and Jeremy Brett in the 1980’s and 1990’s, as well as John Cleese, Peter Cook, Christopher Plummer, Roger More, Nicol Williamson, Frank Langella, Ian Richardson, Edward Woodward, Charlton Heston, Christopher Lee, and Jonathan Pryce. In fact, from 1914-1923 and 1967-1994, there was at least one television show or film centering around Sherlock Holmes produced, whether dramatization of a Conan Doyle story, parody, translation, extension, or adaptation.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for Language & Humanities, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
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Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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