Study Guide

The Return of Sherlock Holmes Respect and Reputation

By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Respect and Reputation

"At last, when you had all formed your inevitable and totally erroneous conclusions, you departed for the hotel, and I was left alone." (Empty House.1.32)

Holmes often speaks disrespectfully to and great shows disdain for other people. Here he notes that it's "inevitable" that other people, namely Watson, would be wrong without his guidance.

"Well, well, such is fame! But then, if I remember right, you had not heard the name of Professor James Moriarty, who had one of the great brains of the century." (Empty House.2.11)

This gives us some insight into why Holmes doesn't appreciate fame and prefers instead recognition from peers. Fame for Holmes is often very stupid and unaware. In Holmes's mind, the genius Moriarty should have been more "famous" than he actually was.

"Not at all. The work is its own reward. Perhaps I shall get the credit also at some distant day, when I permit my zealous historian to lay out his foolscap once more - eh, Watson?" (Norwood Builder.194)

Again, this dialogue shows how rudely Holmes often speaks to Watson, even in jest, or in a joke. It's interesting that Holmes states that his work is it's "own reward." Recognition and respect go along with work for Holmes, while credit seems to be associated more with fame and notoriety, which Holmes avoids.

"I appreciate your conduct in coming here before you spoke to anyone else," said he. "At least, we may take counsel how far we can minimize this hideous scandal." (Priory School.2.53)

"Minimizing" scandal is a primary concern for tons of Holmes's clients, and for Holmes himself at times. People guarded their reputations in this era and any hint of a scandal could be completely disastrous for people socially.

As a flash of lightning in the night shows up in an instant every detail of a wild landscape, so at one glance I seemed to see every possible result of such an action - the detection, the capture, the honoured career ending in irreparable failure and disgrace, my friend himself lying at the mercy of the odious Milverton. (Milverton.1.64)

Watson's use of metaphor and imagery crops up again in this passage. It's notable that Watson panics more over Holmes's reputation and career than he does his own, even though he's as likely to go to jail as Holmes is if the two get caught burgling Milverton's house.

"Between ourselves, Watson, it's a sporting duel between this fellow Milverton and me. He had, as you saw, the best of the first exchanges, but my self-respect and my reputation are concerned to fight it to the finish." (Milverton.1.71)

Holmes's reference to a "duel" helps to shed light on how he views his fight with Milverton. Holmes sees it as a competition and, as with any duel, his own respect, reputation, and honor are on the line.

"Well," said Lestrade, "I've seen you handle a good many cases, Mr. Holmes, but I don't know that I ever knew a more workmanlike one than that. We're not jealous of you at Scotland Yard. No sir, we are very proud of you, and if you come down to-morrow, there's not a man [...] who wouldn't be glad to shake your hand. (Six Napoleons.150)

Lestrade gives us some great insight into how Holmes is viewed by other law enforcement officers; Holmes is a sort of living legend and the other officers respect his skills. It's notable that Lestrade gets this piece of dialogue as well, since he was the one with whom Holmes had a rather childish competition in the "Dancing Men."

"When once the law is invoked it cannot be stayed again, and this is just one of those cases where, for the credit of the college, it is most essential to avoid scandal. Your discretion is as well known as your powers, and you are the one man in the world who can help me." (Three Students.5)

The law seems to be some sort of runaway boulder, a la Indiana Jones, here. Or like someone eating Pringles – once it starts, it can't be stopped. It's also interesting that the law seems blind to scandal in this scenario.

For years I had gradually weaned him from that drug mania which had threatened once to check his remarkable career. (Three-Quarter.4)

This is one of the few instances where Watson highlights his own actions and even notes them with pride. Again, we see how protective Watson is of Holmes's reputation. He's like his PR agent.

"[S]o long as there is nothing criminal I am much more anxious to hush up private scandals than to give them publicity." (Three-Quarter.194)

Holmes may be rude to people, but he has a huge amount of respect for people's right to privacy.