Study Guide

The Return of Sherlock Holmes Respect and Reputation

By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Respect and Reputation

The growing fame of Sherlock Holmes is a major concern in all of these stories, perhaps more so for Watson than Holmes. Which seems weird. But Watson has had to directly deal with Holmes's fame, and Holmes's reluctance for fame, in publishing these stories. The media-shy Holmes actually refused to let Watson publish any of their cases for nearly a decade, before he finally agreed to it. Holmes may not like his growing fame, but these stories show that respect and a good professional reputation are important to him. Holmes seems to relish recognition from fellow law-enforcement officers and from friends, such as Watson. However, he has little patience for the sort of mindless adoration he receives from average people who look at him like a sort of wizard.

This lack of patience with society on the whole is reflected in Holmes's weird lifestyle. In a strict Victorian society, where loss of a good reputation was a very serious thing, it's notable that Holmes doesn't seem to care what society thinks of him. Holmes lets his work build respect and a reputation for him, not his eccentric and often rude behavior. As with a lot of heroic figures, Holmes can get away with acting like a nut because of his crime solving skills. But this is not to say that Holmes isn't sensitive to other people's reputations; in fact he often goes out of his way to preserve people's privacy and to help them avoid reputation-destroying scandals.

Questions About Respect and Reputation

  1. The stories often note that Lestrade takes credit for a lot of the cases Holmes solves, at the insistence of Holmes usually. What does this tell us about Lestrade's character and how he views issues of reputation?
  2. Scandals are a major concern for a lot of Holmes's clients. In which cases are scandals a major issue and what can these cases, and the people involved, tell us about how scandals and reputations worked in late Victorian England?
  3. In the Milverton case, Watson tells Holmes that "other people have self-respect, and even reputations" (Milverton.1.76) before they go break in to Milverton's house. What does Watson mean by this statement?

Chew on This

The way Holmes deals with his clients and views justice is heavily influenced by the importance placed on reputation, and the fear of scandal, in Late Victorian society.

The only reason Holmes isn't totally shunned by society at large for being an oddball is because of his professional success.

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