The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes | Study Guide

Arthur Conan Doyle

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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes | Quotes


He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer.

Dr. John Watson, A Scandal in Bohemia

Dr. John Watson describes Sherlock Holmes, explaining that because Holmes is such a creature of reason, he looks down on emotions and feelings, seeing them as shortcomings of the unreasonable or immature.


I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.

Sherlock Holmes, A Scandal in Bohemia

Sherlock Holmes refuses to hypothesize about a crime until he has a strong base of good facts. To speculate without knowing the facts is a surefire way to fail. He repeats his belief in good "data" in many of the stories in the book.


As a rule ... the more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious it proves to be.

Sherlock Holmes, The Red-Headed League

In Sherlock Holmes's view sensational crimes have so many novel aspects that they easily reveal their clues. Conversely, common crimes are much more difficult to interpret.


I have seen too much not to know that the impression of a woman may be more valuable than the conclusion of an analytical reasoner.

Sherlock Holmes, The Man with the Twisted Lip

Sherlock Holmes says this to Mrs. St. Clair, the wife of Neville St. Clair. His argument is that "a woman's intuition" has a special power of detection. This idea is repeated in many of the stories throughout the book.


On the contrary, Watson, you can see everything. You fail, however, to reason from what you see. You are too timid in drawing your inferences.

Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Speckled Band

Sherlock Holmes mildly criticizes Dr. John Watson for putting too little effort into his observations. If Watson would only concentrate harder on reasoning, he would increase his observational power. He says this to his friend while they are inspecting the hat Commissionaire Peterson dropped off at Holmes's house.

Dr. Grimesby Roylott spits this sentence at Sherlock Holmes while he is in Holmes's office berating the detective for speaking with his stepdaughter, Helen Stoner. The sentence is a perfect encapsulation of Holmes's life and work.


The mystery clears gradually away as each new discovery furnishes a step which leads on to the complete truth.

Dr. John Watson, The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb

Watson explains how crime-solving proceeds: one clue at a time. That clue opens up another clue, and eventually the crime or the culprit is revealed.


I believe in hard work and not in sitting by the fire spinning fine theories.

Lestrade, The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor

Lestrade criticizes Sherlock Holmes for being an armchair detective. The Scotland Yard inspector believes crime-solving is a physical process requiring getting outside and hunting for clues. Holmes does hunt for clues, but he likes to think first about how he will go hunting.


My God, what shall I do! I have lost my honour, my gems, and my son in one night.

Alexander Holder, The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet

Holder expresses utter despair over the theft of the Beryl Coronet and highlights the stakes of Sherlock Holmes's crime-solving. Holder's cry is particularly dramatic, but the victims in each story undoubtedly feel the same sense of hopelessness as he does until Holmes is able to help them.


Well, yes, of course the pay is good—too good. That is what makes me uneasy.

Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches

Holmes warns Miss Violet Hunter, the young governess who has asked him for advice, that the job she is considering is suspicious. His years of experience have taught him if something seems too good to be true, it most likely is.

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