Study Guide

The Return of Sherlock Holmes Admiration

By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


With a confused brain, but with a heart into which some warmth of hope was returning, I accompanied my friend in a walk round the garden. (Norwood Builder.150)

This sentence really sums up Watson's relationship with Holmes. Though he's often "confused," Watson worships Holmes so much that he willingly follows him anywhere and roots for him even when he doesn't quite know what's happening.

It amused me to see how the detective's overbearing manner had changed suddenly to that of a child asking questions of a teacher. (Norwood Builder.204)

People often adopt the role of the admiring student when they are around Holmes, even the "overbearing" Lestrade.

He introduced himself as Inspector Martin, of the Norfolk Constabulary, and he was considerably astonished when he heard the name of my companion.


"I should be proud to feel that we were acting together, Mr. Holmes," said the inspector, earnestly. (Dancing Men.88-93)

Inspector Martin is a good example of a Holmes fanboy, and he also helps to demonstrate how Holmes's reputation has spread outside of London. The man has fans everywhere, particularly in law enforcement.

The strong, masterful personality of Holmes dominated the tragic scene, and all were equally puppets in his hands. (Solitary Cyclist.111)

Over-the-top passages like this really help to emphasize Watson's hero-worship of Holmes. The image of "puppets" is also really interesting here since it has some negative connotations, or associations. Holmes isn't just dominating, he's also rather controlling.

Holmes, however, like all great artists, lived for his art's sake, and [...] I have seldom known him to claim any large reward for his inestimable services. (Black Peter.1.1)

This statement is part of one of the most unusual story introductions in this collection. Holmes opens this tale with a defense of Holmes's actions at the end of the previous story, the "Priory School," where Holmes accepted a huge financial reward. Watson's concern with Holmes's image and reputation really comes out here.

[Stanley Hopkins] professed the admiration and respect of a pupil for the scientific methods of the famous amateur. (Black Peter.13)

Hopkins is Holmes's student, but we can see definitely elements of hero-worship in his dealings with Holmes. He views Holmes with more than just respect.

"I understand now, what I should never have forgotten, that I am the pupil and you are the master." (Black Peter.109)

Hopkins is basically Holmes's Jedi Padawan here. It's interesting that their relationship never seems to change though – Hopkins is sort of like an eternal "pupil" to Holmes.

It was at such moments that for an instant he ceased to be a reasoning machine, and betrayed his human love for admiration and applause. (Six Napoleons.144)

This is a major passage in terms of Holmes's character development. Though he is often likened to a "machine," he is very human in his occasional need for recognition and "admiration." Out of all the "human" qualities that Holmes could display, it's interesting that Watson latches onto his love of admiration as an example. How might that be significant?

It was strange, in the very depths of the town [...] to feel the iron grip of Nature, and to be conscious that to the huge elemental forces all London was no more than the molehills that dot the field. (Pince-Nez.2)

Though Watson generally reserves his admiration for Holmes, he occasionally strays and admires something else, in this case the power of "Nature." This passage is also a great example of Watson's literary style, and his use of metaphor.

Yet even without knowing his brilliant record one could not fail to be impressed by a mere glance at the man, the square, massive face, the brooding eyes under the thatched brows, and the granite moulding of the inflexible jaw. A man of deep character, a man with an alert mind, grim, ascetic, self-contained, formidable - so I read Dr. Leslie Armstrong. (Three-Quarter.113)

This type of description is actually rather typical for Watson. He frequently speaks admiringly, and at length, of the various clients he and Holmes encounter. The use of the word "read" is also notable. Holmes might analyze or dissect people like a scientist, but Watson "reads" people like a romantic writer.

[B]ut since he has definitely retired from London and betaken himself to study and bee-farming on the Sussex Downs, notoriety has become hateful to him. (Second Stain.1)

Holmes as a bee-keeper is a hilarious image. This sentence also implies that Holmes fame just kept growing over the years and eventually drove him into retirement and away from "notoriety."