Wednesday, July 9, 2008


“It’s a wicked world, and when a clever man turns his brain to crime it is the worst of all.”—The Adventure of the Speckled Band

There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion. It can be build up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”—The Adventure of the Naval Treaty

“Why does fate play such tricks with poor helpless worms? ‘There, but for the grace of God, goes Sherlock Holmes.’”—The Boscombe Valley Mystery

A direct descendant, but decided improvement, on Edgar Allan Poe’s Dupin is Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Few characters of fiction have had such an impact on popular culture. The character holds the record for most cinematic adaptations for one thing.

The world of Sherlock Holmes is really that—a whole self-contained world. The 60 narratives penned by Doyle, called the canon by the fans, are studied and debated in depths that few other works of popular fiction are. Many fans (including those in the academic world) play at speculating about Holmes and Watson as if they were real people.

The fact is that the stories of Sherlock Holmes are great entertainment, and valuable reading. They present an evil world. But there is god in that world as well. This is the classic battle of good versus evil. The mysteries are always made clear; but the evil doer does not always come to justice. The heroes are not perfect, and their problems feel real in spite of their often strange nature. Holmes has a high sense of right and wrong, but it is not determined by society. He does not respect the law of man the way he guards the truth.

Over time, this clear understanding of reality has eroded. Today there is too often a desire to justify everyone’s guilt. No one is willing to call evil… evil; no one owns up to being wrong. The flip side is just as true. No one acknowledges the good in the world. An absolute affirmation of good or God or Providence is watered down to being just a cultural opinion.

Understanding, tolerance, and pity are good in their place, but there are still truths that should not be demoted to beliefs.


  1. Being a VERY enthusiastic fan of mysteries, I loved this post...and yesterday's also.


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