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Quotes

Quote #1

"Then, how do you know?"

"I see it, I deduce it. How do I know that you have been getting yourself very wet lately, and that you have a most clumsy and careless servant girl?"

"My dear Holmes," said I, "this is too much. You would certainly have been burned had you lived a few centuries ago. It is true that I had a country walk on Thursday and came home in a dreadful mess, but as I have changed my clothes I can't imagine how you deduce it" (Scandal.1.8-10).

"Burned"? What? Watson appears to have just called his best buddy Holmes a witch. But his point is really that Holmes's thought processes are so beyond an ordinary person's that his deductions seem like witchcraft if you don't know his methods. It's like that Arthur C. Clarke quote about all sufficiently advanced technology appearing like magic? For Watson, Holmes's intellect is like a super-advanced machine, a subject of awe and admiration.

Quote #2

My friend was an enthusiastic musician, being himself not only a very capable performer but a composer of no ordinary merit. All the afternoon he sat in the stalls wrapped in the most perfect happiness, gently waving his long, thin fingers in time to the music, while his gently smiling face and his languid, dreamy eyes were as unlike those of Holmes the sleuth-hound, Holmes the relentless, keen-witted, ready-handed criminal agent, as it was possible to conceive. In his singular character the dual nature alternately asserted itself, and his extreme exactness and astuteness represented, as I have often thought, the reaction against the poetic and contemplative mood which occasionally predominated in him (League.156).

Watson's close observation of Holmes's shifting moods proves just how much he admires the guy. But it's also a way of raising our admiration of Holmes through Watson. This passage about Holmes's love of music makes the detective seem like a complex person instead of just a brain on legs – he has thoughts and feelings that we can recognize.

Quote #3

I trust that I am not more dense than my neighbours, but I was always oppressed with a sense of my own stupidity in my dealings with Sherlock Holmes. Here I had heard what he had heard, I had seen what he had seen, and yet from his words it was evident that he saw clearly not only what had happened, but what was about to happen, while to me the whole business was still confused and grotesque (League.159).

Poor Watson, we certainly don't think he's "more dense" than his neighbors. But Holmes is so amazing, says Watson, that even he feels "oppressed" by his stupidity when Holmes is around. Watson repeats this reflection in nearly every story in this collection, subtly underlining for the reader that Holmes is a real cut above ordinary folk in terms of brainpower.

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