Was Sherlock Holmes capable of romantic love?

Naturally anything I say on this subject is pure conjecture and Conan Doyle gave us very few clues as to whether this had, or could, ever happen, writes Charlotte Anne Walters.

Personally I believe everyone is capable of feeling love but for some it is a difficult and complex emotion, something to be questioned and resisted rather than simply embraced.  I believe this may have been the case with Holmes; I think he was capable of feeling love, it would just have taken an extraordinary woman to prise it out of him and it would not be an easy emotion for him to cope with.

To suggest him getting married and sitting beside the fire at 221b with 2.4 children at his knee seems very unrealistic.  Though a line Holmes speaks in The Valley of Fear does suggest  a surprising consideration in the direction of marriage – ‘Should I ever marry, Watson, I should hope to inspire my wife with some feeling which would prevent her from being walked off by a housekeeper when my corpse was lying within a few yards of her.’  Clearly not ruling marriage out then?

Despite the general view of Holmes as being a cold, unemotional thinking machine, he does show surprising depths of emotion throughout the original stories.  Take for example his reaction towards Mr Windibank the evil step-father in A Case of Identity.   He is so angered by Windibank’s absence of remorse and the lack of legal repercussions that he goes to whip him with a hunting crop.  And of course, who could forget the strong reaction to the news of John Openshaw’s murder in The Five Orange Pips – ‘It becomes a personal matter with me now, and, if God sends me health, I shall set my hand upon this gang.  That he should come to me for help, and that I should send him away to his death-!”  Hardly the words and actions of a man who always suppresses his emotions.

Holmes’ friendship with Watson is the main proof of his ability to feel emotion , demonstrated strongly in the Three Garridebs upon realising Watson has been shot, and also the line in the Dying Detective in which he implores Watson to hide quickly saying – ‘Quick man, if you love me…’  implying that it is a loving friendship which they share.

But what of sex and romantic love?  Well, as Holmes could clearly feel emotion and be overwhelmed by it at times, we cannot rule out his ability to love.  In my novel I have examined the possibility of Holmes feeling romantic love but struggling against it, eventually capitulating to sexual desire but ultimately running scared from the more emotional side of love.

Purists prefer Holmes to be none-sexual, but is this realistic?  A healthy adult male not having any sexual desires at all?  No, surely not.  I think we can safely assume that he did experience desires just the same as any other man but possibility explored them in a none-committal, emotionally detached way.  Perhaps using the services of prostitutes allowing him to satisfy a physical need without any risk of sentimental attachment?  Controversial but possible.

But the opportunity remained for someone to enter his life who would compel him to feel emotional love.  How he would deal with this situation is something I explore in Barefoot.

For a writer, this was a fascinating aspect of Holmes’ personality to examine though I remained constantly aware that such a subject divides opinion and must be handled very carefully with great sensitivity.  In summary, yes I think Holmes certainly was capable of feeling love but would have been terrified and overwhelmed by it in equal measure.

Agree? Post your comments below.

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About barefootonbakerstreet

Author from Shropshire
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2 Responses to Was Sherlock Holmes capable of romantic love?

  1. leopoldtal says:

    Purists prefer Holmes to be none-sexual, but is this realistic? A healthy adult male not having any sexual desires at all? No, surely not.

    Yes, asexual people exist, including healthy adult male asexuals. In fact Sherlock Holmes is a bit of an ace icon. He doesn’t have to be, and asexuality in general is rare, but there’s a gap between writing an interpretation of him as sexual and denying the existence of a whole sexual orientation.

  2. rouch says:

    ”I pictured to her the awful position of the woman who only wakes to a man’s character after she is his wife – a woman who has to submit to be caressed by bloody hands and lecherous lips” Does it tell anything?

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