Holmes also differs from Peirce by stressing not the originality and creativity of abduction, but its close conformity to recognized codes and laws. An important effect of Doyle's fictional project is to reassure readers of the reliability of such codes and to render logical the social order that they imply. Holmes's conclusions are "elementary" (CROO, 412) because his method is nothing "but systematized common sense" (BLAN, 1011). Doyle reinforces this view by having Watson repeatedly admit how "ridiculously simple" (SCAN, 162) is Holmes's reasoning once explained (e.g., DANC, 511). Holmes's investigations relentlessly transform what might be merely "subjective" guesses into "objective" facts (SUSS, 1042) and thus reaffirm the transparency of his logic and the "common sense" assumptions it is based upon. (5)
The myth of rationality that Doyle constructs in the Holmes stories
relies heavily on the posited but seldom tested validity of in-
dexical codes of body and behavior that allow Holmes infallibly to deduce character and predict actions from gesture and appearance. Doyle modeled Holmes's method on that used by his professor at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Dr. Joseph Bell, for diagnosing not just his patients' medical ills but also their recent or habitual behavior. (6) Linking such "symptoms" to Freudian slips and the trademark techniques of particular artists, Carlo Ginzburg has underlined the importance of their being unconscious and difficult to dissemble, so that the body can't help but betray its secrets to the "scientific" specialist. (7) Holmes "claimed by a momentary expression, a twitch of a muscle or a glance of an eye, to fathom a man's inmost thoughts. Deceit, according to him, was an impossibility in the case of one trained to observation and analysis" (STUD, 23). He is constantly searching for "traces of . . . individuality" (SIGN, 112), but these are interpretable precisely because they can always be
referred to quite deterministic codes of class, gender, and ethnicity that are always already there to render true "individuality" an iilusion; Holmes "never make[s] exceptions. An exception disproves the rule" (SIGN, 96). What Allan Sekula suggests about nineteenth-century physiognomy and phrenology is equally true of the more elaborate typologies based upon them in the Holmes stories: they create the distinctions that they purport to observe, in effect constructing categories of the normative while appearing merely to interpret them. Such typologies can be seen as playing all important part in the increasing specification of individuality that for Michel Foucault is directly proportional to the social control exercised in modern disciplinary systems; as power becomes more anonymous, those most subject to it become less so--they are in effect controlled by having all aspects of their identities subject to surveillance and measured against posited norms of behavior. By being able to reduce even the most bizarre details to their proper place in such typologies, Holmes helps enforce the fixity and naturalness of the social ordering that rests upon them. The effect of his "trade" in "facts" is to protect social order by a continual reiteration of normalcy. As D. A. Miller puts it, the detective's "super vision" creates "the prospect of an absolute surveillance under which everything would be known, incriminated, policed." (8)
It is important to note that it is not just the criminal body, but the entire social body that must be coded in the Holmes adventures, since discipline, as Foucault points out, "individualizes bodies" not by a fixed position but by their relative position in a ranked order, a network of relations through which they circulate (Discipline and Punish, 145-46). If we accept Sekula's formulation of the two major models for criminal investigation in the late nineteenth century--one focused on the specification of the characteristic criminal body, the other on identifying the actual bodies of specific criminals guilty of specific crimes (18)--we can see that Doyle in effect applies both models to the entire social order. The "individuality" of clients and criminals is equally subject to specifying codes, codes that in turn assume the existence of fixed behavioral types. Everyone in the Holmes universe becomes Foucault's "calculable man" (Discipline and Punish, 193).
My main objective in examining the sources and elaboration of such codes in the Holmes canon is to consider Doyle's use of various nineteenth-century typologies to give "scientific" support to a particular social order and to focus on instabilities in the classification of class and gender that betray Doyle's ideological investments. Catherine Belsey, following Pierre Macherey, has noted the ways feminine sexuality eludes the rational solution of mystery promised by the Holmes stories; my concern lies more with evasions of coding that similarly expose the incompleteness of Doyle's positivistic enterprise. (9) Although in theory the order of the Holmesian universe rests on the inescapable typing of all classes, in practice the upper classes are more likely to elude the determinism of such typing, just as they more successfully resist the exposure of their secrets and escape the penal ties of the criminal justice system. Holmes's purported success at assuming new personalities through disguise (BLAC, 559) is the best example of this evasion; it exposes the artificiality of such codes--for how can behavior so presumably natural be so easily counterfeited?--and in the process makes clear the unequal subordination to social control that ideology wishes to conceal.
Moreover, despite Holmes's assertions that logic and imagination are incompatible (EMPT, 495), it is "the scientific use of the imagination" that allows him to "balance probabilities and choose the most likely" (HOUN, 687). Many of his solutions depend, like his mind-reading, upon his ability to imagine what others would have done or thought under particular circumstances. Inspector Gregory in "Silver Blaze" and Officer Lestrade in "Norwood Builder" fail not because they lack logic, but because they are vulgarly commonsensical. They lack the comprehensive grasp of human experience that presumably allows Holmes to imagine how a suspect behaved (SILV, 344; NORW, 501). "You know my methods" he reminds Watson in "The Musgrave Ritual":
[ . . . ]
In these codings of others, Doyle relies upon the authority of a variety of Victorian strategies for demonstrating the physical bases of difference. Watson assumes and Holmes endorses virtually every scientific and pseudoscientific system of bodily signs available in the nineteenth century, with the usual effect of blurring the line between the voluntarily or culturally influenced and the biologically programmed. Holmes advocates the kind of hereditary determinism common in the late nineteenth century, solving "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box" by detecting a family resemblance in the ears of victim and client, for instance, or realizing that Stapleton must be a Baskerville by his resemblance to the portrait of the evil Sir Hugo (CARD, 896; HOUN, 750). More importantly, moral traits are considered similarly inheritable, so that the abnormal cruelty of a child can incriminate his parents in "The Copper Beeches" (330). Holmes's theory that "the individual represents in his development the whole procession of his ancestors, and that such a sudden turn to good or evil stands for some strong influence which came into the line of his pedigree" (EMPT, 494) is employed most usefully to explain the criminal "stain" in men like Moriarty (FINA, 470-71) or his second in command, Moran (EMPT, 494). But for Holmes as well, the artist's blood that he shares with Mycroft plays a larger role in accounting for their shared genius in detection than does the training each has received (GREE, 435). Of course, the alleged biological determinism of that genius deflects no credit from Holmes, any more than the inherited criminality of Moriarty and Moran absolves them from moral responsibility for their crimes. (16) Biology may be destiny, but free will remains the foundation for moral judgment in Doyle's world.
Doyle's similar reliance on ethnic stereotyping reflects the widespread
interest in "racial" differences in late Victorian science.(17) Some
kinds of cultural signs are strictly conventional, like the letters printed
by Germans (STUD, 33), the calls by which Australians communicate (BOSC,
213), or the blowpipes, tropical snakes, and other exotic artifacts that
so often lead Holmes to the guilty. But bodies betray "racial" essences
as well, in their feet (SIGN, 127), but more often in their typically African
(YELL, 361), Greek (GREE, 438), Italian (NAVA, 449), Old English (DANC,
513) or Sussex (LION, 1085) faces. In the later and less inspired stories,
such ethnic stereotyping hardens into a prop, whereby deviance from the
English "type" invariably signals criminal propensities. The most
common sign of the "strange, outlandish blood" (LION, 10~4) that conduces
to violence is dark skin, which signals the "tropical" imbalance of the
Tiger of San Pedro (WIST, 884) and of several South American wives (SUSS,
1038; THOR, 1066), the "almost Oriental" depravity of the Baron Gruner
(ILLU, 996), as well
as the presumed inferiority of the American black (3GAB, 1023; but compare YELL, 361).
The logic behind such ethnic essentialism also informs Doyle's class
and criminal typologies: signs of moral and intellectual
"nature" were indelibly inscribed on the surface of the body, and particularly on the face. Such assumptions were underpinned by still vigorous popular traditions of physiognomy and its related branches of pathognomy and phrenology, which gave varying degrees of quasi-scientific status to reading the face and head in the nineteenth century. Although Doyle does incorporate some references to phrenology--in the anthropometrical interests of James Mortimer (HOUN, 672) or in Moriarty's surprise that Holmes lacks "frontal development" (FINA, 472), for instance-physiognomical conventions provided him a wider and more various range of possibilities for social coding. It is usually Watson's "quick eye for faces" (RETI, 1116) that records and interprets their appearances, but Holmes and the occasional third person narrator clearly follow the same conventions (e.g., BLAN, 1001; MAZA, 1015-16). Holmes's ability to read Watson's mind rests largely on the validity of pathognomy, the reading of emotions from facial expression. In claiming that "the features are given to man as the means by which he shall express his emotions" (RESI, 423), Holmes leaves conveniently ambiguous the sanction for such correspondences: was the
face, as Johann Caspar Lavater had claimed, shaped by God to reveal one's moral state, or shaped by adaptation through the process of evolution, as Darwin's 1872 The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals had argued?'" Either explanation renders changes in facial expressions transparent and unambiguous when "scientifically" interpreted: Holmes easily determines whether contorted features signify guilt (RESI, 430), terror (DEVI, 957), agony (LION, 1084) or hatred (SUSS, 1043).
Physiognomical conventions were more important than pathognomical ones
in determining character since they were presum-
ably more permanent, while enjoying the same kind of sanction: Watson identifies the cruel mouth that disfigures Baron Gruner's otherwise handsome face as "Nature's danger-signal, set as a warning to his victims" (ILLU, 996). Holmes similarly identifies moral character with physical appearance when he pronounces Mortimer Trengennis's "foxy face and small, shrewd, beady eyes" the signs of a particularly unforgiving disposition (DEVI, 966). This process of physiognomical correspondence is extended by Doyle to lend a quasi-biological justification to a whole range of bodily signs linked to class and gender. Although Holmes allows that "finesse is usually the product of "higher education" (SIGN, 135), the distinction between acquired and innate traits is often ambiguous. Take handwriting, for instance. It seems plausible enough to detect in it the writer's level of education (e.g., CARD, 891; CREE, 1073, 1082). But for Holmes it just as infallibly reveals traits less subject to conscious cultivation: strength or weakness of character, for instance (SIGN, 96; REIG, 407), or the writer's gender (WIST, 874; CARD, 891; REDC, 906). "Bearing" presents similar problems. Former officers have a military air about them (STUD, 24), a
certain "carriage" (STUD, 26) or "cut" of their figures (BLAN, 1000) or an "expression of authority" (GREE, 437) that infallibly reveals their profession to Holmes. These signs could perhaps result from an internalization of disciplinary training, not unlike the marks of trade on the worker's body; but when one considers that many officers were still self-selected from the middle and upper classes, their air of authority could just as easily be the outward manifestation of an inward superiority.
For class has its own bearing and physiognomy; good "breeding," as the term suggests, is a process of transmitting essences born in the blood and inscribed in face and body. It creates "exceedingly aristocratic" (MUSG, 388) as well as refined and cultured faces (3GAB, 1024), and gives gentlemen an unequivocal bearing (NORW, 497-98; HOUN, 685). John Scott Eccles provides the perfect alibi in "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge," for his features and manner mark him as "the very type of conventional British respectability"; neither inspector dreams of questioning his extraordinary story (870, 876). For Doyle as for most later Victorians, however, true gentility required not just an accident of birth, but an inherent moral superiority. (19) Doyle betrays the typical bourgeois suspicion of aristocratic decadence in having Watson characterize Lord Holdhurst as one of "that not too common type, a nobleman who is in truth noble" (NAVA, 459). Mary Morstan's "spiritual" eyes give evidence of her "refined and sensitive nature" (SIGN, 94), notwithstanding her relative poverty, and the "innate nobility of character" in Grace Dunbar's face convinces even the usually unsusceptible Holmes of the governess's innocence, despite the weight of incriminating evidence against her (THOR, 1065-66). When a middle-class person is involved, Doyle usually endorses Watson's conviction that previous evidence of "character" always "goes for something" in mitigating suspicion (BRUC, 922).
Such intangible signs of class refinement naturally outweigh more grossly
physical signs or the marks of objects in determining
status: Violet Smith, the "Solitary Cyclist," has fingers that could belong to either a typist or a musician, but Holmes knows that the "spirituality" of her face is such that "the typewriter does not generate" (527). Similarly, Lord Mount-James has a manner that commands attention despite his shabby appearance (MISS, 626), and the "Creeping Man," Professor Presbury, remains "dignified" even while under the influence of animal hormones (1081). The middle and upper classes have more control over physical signs in another sense as well, in that by convention they have more control over their bodies. Aristocrats constitute a caste who do not lightly show emotion," and seldom expose the "natural man" behind the "aristocratic mask" (SECO, 657, 652). Gentlemen may fly into rages, but are capable of reducing the "hot flame of anger" to "frigid" indifference by their "supreme self-conmand" (THOR, 1059), especially when confronted by Holmes's even greater coolness and self-assurance (DEVI, 967; SHOS, 1111). Appearances can be deceiving, as Holmes reminds Watson (SIGN, 96), but it is almost always characters from the higher classes who successfully counterfit themselves: it is the most outwardly respectable of the "Three Students" who proves guilty (600), and the "refined-looking" Neville St. Clair who disguises himself as the hideous "Man with the Twisted Lip" (242). Stapleton, the rogue Baskerville, is also able to elude Holmes through disguise (HOUN, 690).
The lower classes, on the other hand, are not only marked by physical
signs that cannot be concealed by behavior, but are also
more easily read and manipulated by Holmes. Their secrets are as open to surveillance as their bodies. Whereas the upper classes are "naturally" reserved, the London message-boy cannot help telegraphing his state of mind through every twitch of his body (SIXN, 585). It is true that their very social negligibility (and that they are children) gives Holmes's ragged crew of street arabs, the "Baker Street Irregulars," access to information that would be withheld from "an official-looking person"; but it is also significant that their potentially subversive ability to "go everywhere and hear everything" is transformed by Holmes's superior bourgeois "organization" into more useful "work"--that is, more effective social control--than the official police could produce (STUD, 42; see also SIGN, 127). Holmes similarly advises Watson that the village pub when properly exploited is always a more profitable source of specific information about locals than an official like the rental agent Watson consults in "The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist" (532).
Holmes is, as Watson reports, "a past-master in the art of putting a humble witness at his ease," and uses this "ease" to "extract" (MISS, 624) all relevant information from sacked employees and carefully "cultivated" village gossips (WIST, 879, 882), and inn-keepers (SHOS, 1108). The main objective in dealing with "people of that sort," Holmes explains in "The Sign of Four," is to prevent them from realizing the value of their information: "never . . . let them think that their information can be of the slightest importance to you. If you do they will instantly shut up like an oyster. If you listen to them under protest, as it were, you are very likely to get what you want" (124). Giving the witness a false sense of superiority by volunteering incorrect information also proves useful in eliciting correct descriptions from hotel clerks (HOUN, 692), and helps trick even the most hostile servant into admitting precisely what he or she wishes to conceal (e.g., 3GAB, 1026, 1031). Susceptibility to the same kind of ruse exposes "John Garridebs" as the common criminal, Killer Evans, rather than the more respectable Counselor at Law he pretends to be (3GAR, 1045, 1047), and cements the reader's contempt for the suspiciously foreign and vulgar Count Sylvius in "The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone" (1015-16). Lower-class talk involuntarily incriminates "the humble" in this fictive world: even their anonymous confessions in the "agony columns" of the local newspapers can be turned to profit against them by Holmes (e.g., REDC, 904).
Significantly, women are portrayed as more vulnerable than men to manipulation
by Holmes. He possesses a "peculiarly ingratiating way with women"--particularly
lower-class women--that readily establishes "terms of confidence with them"
(GOLD, 617), as well as "an almost hypnotic power of soothing" them--that
is, of making them feel at ease enough to reveal what he wants to know
(REDC, 902). The malleability of women is in keeping with Doyle's tendency
to subject a much wider range of female (as opposed to male) behavior to
typing. It is not just conventional stereotypes about women that Doyle
exploits--their "pertinacity" and "cunning" (REDC, 901), for instance,
or their greater capacity for hatred when spurned (ILLU, 990). Holmes cites
gender as his authority for an implausibly specific array of female conduct:
when a woman "oscillates" upon the pavement, it always means she has "an
affaire de coeur" on her mind (IDEN, 192); when a woman is agitated,
she demands her tea (CROO, 417); a devoted wife would let no one prevent
her from viewing her husband's dead body (VALL,
801); no woman would send a reply-paid telegram instead of coming herself (WIST, 870). The common thread in these examples seems to be the assumption that women in general (like the lower classes) have less control over their emotions. That assumption also underlies Holmes's somewhat contradictory complaint that the "motives" of women are "inscrutable" precisely because they lack rationality: "Their most trivial action may mean volumes, or their most extraordinary conduct may depend upon a hairpin or a curling tongs" (SECO, 657; see also ILLU, 988). Belsey argues that women's sexuality, so often the motive behind Doyle's plots but so seldom acknowledged or confronted, betrays by its very absence from the tales the gaps in the author's pretensions to a scientific determinism that can account for all forms of behavior. (20) A similar analysis could be applied to women's lack of logic: it disrupts the predictability of "man in the aggregate," upon which Holmes's deductions depend. Doyle's uneasiness with such exceptions to the rule is signaled in the strained plausibility of the "rules" for females in the aggregate that Holmes does come up with.
A closer examination of Doyle's treatment of "women in general" suggests, however, that in actual practice, class and ethnicity have much the same predictive value as they do for men. The jealousy that is axiomatic in female nature is intensified by foreign, especially more or less "Celtic" strains of blood, for instance. The "fiery and passionate" Welsh blood of the wronged maidservant in "The Musgrave Ritual" leads Holmes naturally to assume that to revenge herself she trapped the butler, Brunton, in a secret chamber (396); Holmes surmises that Stapleton's Spanish wife in "The Hound of the Baskervilles" similarly decided to betray him only when she finally discovered his infidelity (766). The "fiery tropical blood" of Peruvian and Brazilian wives helps account for the intensity of their jealousy in later stories (SUSS, 1038; THOH, 1057). English-women, especially those of the higher classes, exercise more self-control and can conceal their emotions--and their secrets--more effectively. Working-class women are doubly marked for exploitation: the same class conventions that make their bodies available for sexual consumption by gentlemen govern the taking of information as well, as is clear when Holmes chides Watson for not exploiting all possible sources of information about the suspect in "The Adventure of the Retired Colourman":
[ . . . ]
The crimes that Doyle fears are less violations of the official law than challenges to the social and sexual conventions that insured order in his world. Holmes's discrete interventions are sometimes necessary to readjust the balance of power in this world, but order itself need never be seriously threatened so long as its conventions are biologically inscribed in members of society. The realistic novel teaches us as readers to be "compulsive pursuers of significant design"; nowhere is this truer than in detective fiction, where we are constantly reacting to the pressrure of clues that must he interpreted. (27) The Holmes stories were calculated to provide their Victorian and Edwardian readers with hypotheses to guide this interpretation, the same hypotheses about human behavior that Holmes follows in deducing an entirely predictable social world. With its wealth of concrete detail, the Holmes canon, like the novel in general, offered a surrogate source of experiential data about that world; specifically, it assured its audience that the same positivistic exactitude that had proved valid in much nineteenth-century natural science could be reliably extended to confirm that the social order rested on a deeper biological order. (28) The value of codes rests in their putative universality, their ability to produce a predictable world. Yet the higher classes benefit from the biologizing of their inherent superiority, while they escape from the limitations that biology would impose, remaining less calculable, less constrained by social discipline, and more in control of the secrets that could give others power over them.
Behind the almost compulsive insistence on orderliness in the Holmes
stories we can feel the anxious pressure of instability and disorder. In
the assertion that class superiority had a biological basis, that social
identity was transparent to the trained viewer, that the higher classes
could be counted upon to police themselves, we can sense many of the insecurities
of the late Victorian period. Jacqueline Jaffe notes the recurrent
imagery of the Holmes stories: Holmes and Watson leave the snug civility
of the Baker Street rooms to penetrate the dark, dirty, dangerous world
without and restore it to order. (29) As the modern city revealed
by sociological investigators increasingly seemed like a jungle, inhabited
by savages whose motives were unintelligible and whose potential for violence
was unrestricted by common decencies, a key to reading social identity
was all the more needed to provide some degree of control over the unknown.
As crimes like the Jack the Ripper murders enlarged the imaginable limits
of violence in frightening ways, what a comfort to see Sherlock Holmes
demonstrating again and again that even the most bizarre cases could be
"logically" contained. In a late Victorian society rocked by scandals,
how necessary was the reassurance that Holmes and Watson would protect
the upper classes from blackmail and publicity, and give them the opportunity
to settle their accounts in private. (30) And what better antidote
to the threatening sexuality of the New Woman than not to acknowledge it
at all--to offer the reassuring spectacle of woman's predictable unpredictability
controlled by chivalric conventions, either imposed from without for their
own good or internalized by the women themselves. Faced with increasing
evidence of the disruptive power of the irrational and the unconscious,
these tales strive to preserve the unified, fully intelligible self of
realism by insisting that people remain totally predictable, or that at
least among those deserving of social power, the desire that could undermine
logic and predictability would be self-policing. Uncoding the social
body of the Sherlock Holmes stories reveals the ideological work performed
by positivistic science, which could soothe such anxieties by rendering
natural and self-evident the social order that generated them.