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The View from the East End (53)

By Inspector Hopkins

December 3, 2006

The Character of Holmes – part 4
Holmes and Love

by Inspector Hopkins 

As I alluded to last time, there were some cases in which Sherlock Holmes seemed to be recognizant of what to be in love might mean. The newer reader of the Sherlock Holmes stories will immediately recognize that Holmes felt something about Irene Adler in SCAN, and that this case was about the only one in which we might speculate that Holmes might possibly admit that women were something in which he would be interested . . . .

But was that really love?   Did Holmes ever admit that he was in love?  

The short answer is that no, he did not  . . .  but:

Remember we have established that Holmes was an invincible machine.  Being in love with anyone at all would make him more “human” and therefore more vulnerable.  Speaking outside The Game, ACD was emphasizing the invincibility and objectiveness of our hero. Holmes had to be a single man without the distraction of a wife and a family. Otherwise, he would have been a watered-down version of the world’s greatest consulting detective.  Like Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise, he needed to be completely free of any personal emotional ties, particularly including romantic love, in order for him to totally devote himself to his cause.

Yet we can still get a tantalizing look at this aspect of Holmes’s inner character.

How is that so?

Consider such cases as ABBE, CROO, and DEVI, and others.  A pivotal point in each of these cases was that Holmes recognized the element of love between one character and the victim in the case.  In each of these cases, he also took the law into his own hands. As I mentioned before in the “justice” part of Holmes character, he had to take the feelings of the characters into account in order to effectively administer his justice. Thus, he had to understand the feelings of love described by the characters in those cases.

At the risk of making a circular argument here, I would submit to you that if he were able to do that, then he must have been able to have the capability to be able to feel love; otherwise he would not be able to understand it. 

Holmes also makes Freudian slips here and there throughout the Canon. For example in COPP, he told Watson that he would not “allow his sister” to accept the position that Violet Hunter was contemplating.  Holmes never mentioned anything about his family, so we can assume that he did not in fact have a sister, and was thus just making a rhetorical point to Watson. However, I would further submit to you that his remark still indicates that he could feel protective towards a woman based simply upon a hunch. (And a “hunch” is something that Mr. Spock never had).

Wait, there’s more:

Let’s not forget another tantalizing look at Holmes’s interest in women that Watson described for us in SOLI.  (That time it was Violet Smith instead of Violet Hunter, but no matter). Watson described Holmes’s observations of a young, healthy (and attractive), woman who was engaged to an electrical engineer. In it he seems to disappointedly record that Holmes dropped the woman’s hand as if it were a dead fish after he had examined it.  Yet Holmes immediately recognized that she was indeed engaged: “ ‘Oh, Cyril is his name!’ said Holmes, smiling”. In that statement, he inadvertently admitted to us that he could easily recognize the feelings and blushes of young love.  He knew that she was spoken for. How could that  have been unless he was in tune with the feeling of being “in love”?

My Conclusion:

I am convinced that Sherlock Holmes was much more human than either Watson or his literary agent would have us believe he was. He was also quite capable of having feelings towards women, and if you look hard enough and critically enough at the Canon, you will see what I am talking about here. This may destroy the original intent in portraying the Holmes character, but after all, he is our hero and we spend millions of hours in analysis of him, right?

Speaking of analysis, I find something interesting about how often the name “Violet” appears in the Canon, but I’ll save that for a future column . . .

Until next time, when we will continue looking at the character of the Master, I remain, as always,

Yours faithfully,