Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Sherlock Holmes vs. Robert Audley’s detective skills

When looking at The Hound of the Baskervilles through a lens of Lady Audley’s Secret, I realized that both novels include a main character as the “detective”, but more interestingly the characters use different methods.

Robert Audley, from Lady Audley’s Secret and Sherlock Holmes, from The Hound of the Baskervilles both try to uncover the mystery presented to them. They use their resources such as letters and people of interest to ask questions. The interesting difference is that Sherlock Holmes is a well-known detective who knows none of the people is his case personally. While Robert Audley is not an actual detective, and his case involved people with whom he was emotionally attached to.

Sherlock Holmes, being the well-known detective said, “the world if full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes” (Doyle, 36). This quote made me wonder, are things obvious to Sherlock Holmes because he has no emotional tie to the case, or because he is a professional, and experienced detective? Does Robert Audley take a while to realize the obvious in his case because he was emotionally attached to the people in it, or because he wasn’t experienced?

It’s interesting because Sherlock Holmes, being the experienced detective uses the word “obvious” a lot, for example, “obvious conclusion” (Doyle, 4), and “obviously” (Doyle, 5). This made me infer that he uses deductive reasoning as his method to uncover the case, because deductive reasoning points out the general information or what is “obvious” and makes more specific or particular claims later. The word “obvious” infers that these things that Holmes notices are easy to observe, while they might not be for others, “things which nobody by any chance ever observes.” I think Robert Audley fits into that category of “nobody by chance ever observes.” Robert Audley, on the other hand has to use his circumstantial evidence in a chronological order to make a claim or theory (inductive reasoning), “1. I write to Alicia…. 2. Alicia writes…”(Braddon, 104).

I think it takes Robert a long time to realize the culprit in his case because he was emotionally attached to Mr. Talboys, Alicia, Lucy, and Sir Michael. I infer that he didn’t want to believe his evidence, and that his judgment was impaired. On the other hand Holmes has no emotional ties getting in the way, he just has the facts, so his judgment is not impaired and he can notice the “obvious.”

1 Comment

  1. I definitely agree with your idea of Robert being an emotionally attached detective as opposed to Sherlock Holmes who tends to avoid emotional attachment for this reason specifically. What I wonder, however, is how an emotional attachment on the part of Holmes would effectively change his success in the detective work since he has already mastered a certain work style. Wouldn’t his experience be enough to rely on? What would happen if Sherlock Holmes had to solve a case that involves a person he is actually quite close to? As an example, I was thinking of the BBC Sherlock Holmes adaptation starring Benedict Cumberbatch. In this particular adaptation, the friendship of Holmes and Watson has been adapted to contemporary standards and both men are quite close friends. Would this relationship influence and shape Holmes’ detective work? And if so – in what way and to what extent?

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