SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE NEWS
„Intelligence is not the ability to store information, but to know where to find it.”
News and information are very important for the most famous sleuth of the world. To be the best consulting detective, Sherlock always has to be up-to-date, he must know what happens in the world. This is true for the Victorian era, and in these days being well-informed is still crucial for having a successful and happy life. In this article we examine the sources where the sleuth could turn to gain information, and list the modern information channels. Based on the Canon, we compare the methods of getting information in the Victorian era and in our present day.
By way of introduction let’s talk about news. In our modern age news play a central role, the majority of the people shows interest towards the events of their country and those of the world as well. Being well-informed is crucial, because it makes it easier to lead a happy and successful life. News and information are valuable. It is immensely easy to gather them from printed newspapers, television, radio and from the internet. But the situation was quite different in the Victorian era. During that time newspapers were almost the only sources of data, news and information. Average people were aware only of local news, and of those concerning their home country. World news arrived with more or less delay, and these were not always reliable. Letters and telegrams were the means of keeping contact and inform each other. Holmes kept his unread letters pinned at the mantlepiece with a jack-knife. Holmes keeps his letters in the fore to not forget about them. Other information he writes on the cuff of his shirt and he often uses a board (at Baker Street). Elementary's detective often spreads infos on the ground and on the wall as well.
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Compared with these days Conan Doyle’s hero had quite limited information and news sources. Holmes mentions many times how useful are the advertising sections of newspapers. He also keeps his own index of crimes, criminals and famous people. He can search in it fast and easy for data. As we can read in The Musgrave Ritual:
„He had a horror of destroying documents, especially those which were connected with his past cases, and yet it was only once in every year or two that he would muster energy to docket and arrange them (…)”
He also turns to lexicons, printed lists and registries. Nowadays we only have to search the internet for facts and data, it is the fastest way of getting information. BBC’s Sherlock or the sleuth of Elementary can access enormous amounts of news/information using their smartphones or laptops.
The greatest detective of the world is well up in scientific news, especially in those that he can use in his profession. It helps him to be a successful consulting detective.
But data mean only one side of the coin. Holmes has to store large amounts of information in such a way that they remain accessible fast and easily. His mind palace gives him an incalculable help – this is nothing else than a repository of things he once read and thought they might be useful later. He tells about this in A Study in Scarlet:
“I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it.”
It is important to note that Sherlock Holmes is not a superhero, having special powers – he attained the ability of observing and remembering through long years of practice. Everybody can learn his method, you only have to be determined, patient and assiduous. (Recommended article: You are a natural Sherlock Holmes)
Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft is also a man of great learning. At the same time he is a very influential person, so he can help the younger Holmes in many ways – with information or with using his influences.
Detective inspectors and police officers share their information with Holmes as well. Sometimes the leader of the investigation doesn’t want to involve Sherlock into the case, but most of the times the official police force is grateful for the help of such a genius. Policemen feel honoured if the great Sherlock Holmes shows interest towards their cases. Especially as the sleuth’s work is his reward – he rarely wants his name to be mentioned in connection with solved mysteries.
Holmes has another „secret weapon” in gaining information – the Baker Street Irregulars. He pays for their services, and they are very efficient in gathering news. And in The Sign of Four he enlists the help of Toby, the search dog, while in The Missing Three-Quarter another dog, Pompey accompanies him in his investigation.
Now and then Sherlock visits local pubs for having news. Sometimes he wears a disguise, sometimes he identifies himself (For example in The Solitary Cyclist or in The Priory School). Local people are excellent information sources, and he is very smart in persuading them to talk.
" Sherlock Holmes and the news "
- How does Sherlock Holmes collect information?
- How Sherlock gets news?
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Jeremy Brett: Sherlock Holmes, the Granada series