“Oh, he rates my assistance too highly,” said Sherlock Holmes, lightly. “He has considerable gifts himself. He possesses two out of the three qualities necessary for the ideal detective. He has the power of observation and that of deduction. He is only wanting in knowledge; and that may come in time.”
“I then put myself in the place of Small and looked at it as a man of his capacity would. He would probably consider that to send back the launch or to keep it at a wharf would make pursuit easy if the police did happen to get on his track. How, then, could he conceal the launch and yet have her at hand when wanted? I wondered what I should do myself if I were in his shoes. I could only think of one way of doing it…”
The power of constructive imagination is, according to Smith:
always controlled by intellect, an essential quality where there are no more facts to be observed and no further inferences to be drawn. “Doctor Bell and Sherlock Holmes,” (Mostly Murder, 1959, 31).
Dr. Joseph Bell was a professor of clinical surgery at Edinburgh University. Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was Dr. Bell’s outpatient clerk and modeled Sherlock Holmes on Bell, “who had an almost uncanny gift of diagnosing not only disease but occupation and even character from a patient’s appearance,” (Mostly Murder, 1959, 29).
Smith, relates this story about Dr. Bell holding forth at a dinner party to illustrate:
‘Did you enjoy your walk over the golf-links to-day, as you came in from the south side of the town?’ Bell asked another patient, a complete stranger who had never been to him before. Bell’s out-patient clerk, although used to this deductive brilliance, was completely baffled until the surgeon explained. “On a showery day such as this the reddish clay at bar parts of the golf-course adheres to the boot, and a tiny part is bound to remain. There is no such clay anywhere else.’
It was really quite elementary, as Bell himself used to tell friends and social acquaintances after startling them with a demonstration of his remarkable gift. Elementary, my dear Watson…
‘Why,’ said a fellow-guest at a dinner party, ‘Dr Bell might almost be Sherlock Holmes.’
‘Madam,’ Dr Bell replied, “I am Sherlock Holmes.’
So he was. That out-patient clerk whom he loved to puzzle, and who later qualified as doctor himself, was Arthur Conan Doyle, (Mostly Murder, 1959, 29-30).
To the above four abilities,
• the power of observation
• the power of deduction
• the power gained from knowledge of crime, character, and mores, and
• the power of constructive imagination,
I would add the following three. To be a great detective one must also:
• see it as a calling
• have a healthy respect for the law, and
• have a deep and abiding sense of justice
What do you think?