Sunday, November 2, 2014

Would Holmes have been a good teacher?

Although, for me, the new series did not get off to a good start, it did however leave us with several good points to ponder.
James made some very good ones in the comments of my review a couple of posts ago.

In the latest episode we find, at least for the time being, Holmes as found his 'purpose in life'.
That being he now believes his purpose is that of teacher or mentor to future consulting detectives.
He feels, rightly or wrongly, that that has been the case with Watson, and will now be the case with Kitty.
In the story line of the possibility of the up coming episodes, I don't think that will prove to be the case with Kitty, and I am not all that sure how well Watson will do in that area either.

But lets look at the Canonical Holmes.
Would Sherlock Holmes have made a good teacher, or would he have been too impatient to have been successful, much like the way Holmes is portrayed in 'Sherlock'.
We see in the Canon and most modern adaptions of Watson, a Watson that is looking mostly for a flat mate, with the bounded relationship taking place over a period of time.
Only in 'Elementary', and several written adaptions, do we see the story line of Watson becoming a protege of Holmes.

But it does bring up a good point. Would Holmes have been a could teacher.

I think, if the student was one of an observant nature, learning from watching Holmes, it may have worked out.
If the student was one who had to ask a lot of questions I don't see it being a good exercise.

Canonically Watson was never meant to be more than a biographer and sounding board.

What do you think? Would Holmes have made a good teacher?


  1. We do get a hint of Holmes the teacher--just a small hint--in Mercer [CREE]. "Mercer is since your time," said Holmes. "He is my general utility man who looks up routine business." There's also Shinwell Johnson [ILLU] "I have not had occasion to mention Shinwell Johnson in these memoirs because I have seldom drawn my cases from the latter phases of my friend's career. During the first years of the century he became a valuable assistant. Johnson, I grieve to say, made his name first as a very dangerous villain and served two terms at Parkhurst. Finally, he repented and allied himself to Holmes, acting as his agent in the huge criminal underworld of London, and obtaining information which often proved to be of vital importance. Had Johnson been a `nark' of the police he would soon have been exposed, but as he dealt with cases which never came directly into the courts, his activities were never realized by his companions. With the glamour of his two convictions upon him, he had the entrée of every night-club, doss-house, and gambling-den in the town, and his quick observation and active brain made him an ideal agent for gaining information." Mercer and Johnson, working alongside Holmes, would no doubt received instruction and helpful hints. There's also Holmes statement in ABBE "I propose to devote my declining years to the composition of a textbook which shall focus the whole art of detection into one volume" that shows Holmes saw value in passing on his accumulated knowledge. Whether he would be a good teacher or not, I'm not sure. The quality of the student is also of importance. I think the Canonical Watson was also a protégé of Holmes', but it is hard to gauge how well "Watson learned the trick" since I feel Watson at times hid his perspicacity from the reader in order to highlight Holmes' brilliance.

    1. Ah, but were any actual protege's of Holmes. It is one thing to teach someone only what they need to know to do the task you wish them to do, but to actually train someone in the skill or trade you have is quite another.

  2. In A Scandal in Bohemia, Dr Watson writes about Holmes: “Holmes, who loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul, remained in our lodgings in Baker Street, buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature. He was still, as ever, deeply attracted by the study of crime, and occupied his immense faculties and extraordinary powers of observation in following out those clues, and clearing up those mysteries which had been abandoned as hopeless by the official police.”

    I would say, the Canonical Holmes would not have been a good teacher, since that would require him to become genuinely interested inn another human being. And except for Dr Watson, Irene Adler (and possibly Maud Bellamy), Holmes has never really connected with any one else in the Canon.


  3. Good points from both of you. One could argue that Stanley Hopkins was a close to a protégé that we have in the Canon. "It was young Stanley Hopkins, a promising detective, in whose career Holmes had several times shown a very practical interest." [GOLD] Hopkins shows a deference to Holmes and his methods in those case in which we have records. Holmes could have been a good teacher with the right student. All we can do is speculate and that's the fun we can have with the Canon.

  4. I believe it was George Bernard Shaw, in 'Man and Superman', who said, "People who are able to do something well can do that thing for a living, while people who are not able to do anything that well make a living by teaching." If one goes by that idiom, and we say Holmes does detection better than anyone else, I'd have to say he would probably have been a bad teacher. As a teacher he would have been, Bored, Bored, Bored. “Dear God. What is it like in your funny little brains? It must be so boring.”

  5. Good comments all. Thanks for stopping by!