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Monday, November 28, 2011

Quintessential Quote #27

"My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don't know."
-- Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle"

This is one situation, it seems to me, where taking a quote out of context does it no disservice. One of the many fascinating things about Sherlock Homes throughout the Canon, not just in this confrontation with James Ryder, is what he knows -- some of which other people don't.

For those of us who know our Holmes, Dr. Watson's efforts in Chapter 2 of A Study in Scarlet to quantify "Sherlock Holmes -- his limits" comes across as laudable but laughable. Right off the bat the good doctor lists Holmes's knowledge of literature and philosophy as nil. Later we find out that Holmes has more than a nodding acquaintance with both.

In that first adventure, Holmes talks about keeping his brain-attic clear of information unhelpful to his profession. He may have been sincere, but he did not hint at the wide scope of subjects that fit into that category. Recall, for example, how helpful was Holmes's knowledge of German in A Study in Scarlet and Italian in "The Adventure of the Red Circle."

This week's quintessential quote, however, nods more toward special knowledge not then taught in any school. Subjects useful to detective work upon which Holmes knew enough to write monographs or articles included tobacco ashes, tattoos, ears, footprint tracing, ciphers, the dating of documents, and how the trade influenced the shape of the hand.

That's some brain attic!

What's your favorite quote from the world of Sherlock Holmes?

1 comment:

  1. And it's inconceivable that Watson was perfectly correct in Holmes's limits in 1881, but that Holmes learned all that stuff later over the next 20 years worth of stories, because...?