Sherlock Holmes - The Final Problem Quotes

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will look at some of the notable quotes from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's story 'The Final Problem' about the battle to the death between Sherlock Holmes and his arch nemesis, Moriarty.

Announcing the Death of Sherlock Holmes

John begins the story of 'The Adventure of the Final Problem' hinting at Sherlock's impending death, 'It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen to write these the last words in which I shall ever record the singular gifts by which my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes was distinguished.' He goes on to explain that Moriarty's brother is attempting to defame and dishonor Sherlock, so Watson wants to clear his friend's reputation. 'It lies with me to tell for the first time what really took place between Professor Moriarty and Mr. Sherlock Holmes.'

The story then progresses into flashback to the events leading to Sherlock's death. Holmes arrives to see Watson unexpectedly, after having increasingly fewer adventures together over the previous few years, and he was in a bit of a state. 'It was with some surprise, therefore, that I saw him walk into my consulting-room upon the evening of April 24th. It struck me that he was looking even paler and thinner than usual.'

Holmes closes and bolts the shutters in fear of 'air-guns.' He seems dismissive of Watson's surprise though. 'I think that you know me well enough, Watson, to understand that I am by no means a nervous man. At the same time, it is stupidity rather than courage to refuse to recognise danger when it is close upon you.' This might be perceived as a response to Watson's typically brave demeanor being visibly shaken at the sight of Holmes. 'He held out his hand, and I saw in the light of the lamp that two of his knuckles were burst and bleeding.'

Clearly something was happening and Holmes doesn't mince words ''I must apologise for calling so late,' said he, 'and I must further beg you to be so unconventional as to allow me to leave your house presently by scrambling over your back garden wall.''

Introducing Moriarty

The Latin translation of Moriarty is roughly 'the art of dying,' so that should provide some glimpse into the character. 'The Final Problem' gives a more detailed view into the consulting criminal mastermind with Holmes telling Watson about him. The first thing we learn is that part of his villainy lies in his elusive anonymity. John has never heard of him, and Sherlock isn't surprised.

'Aye, there's the genius and the wonder of the thing!' he cried. 'The man pervades London, and no one has heard of him. That's what puts him on a pinnacle in the records of crime. I tell you, Watson, in all seriousness, that if I could beat that man, if I could free society of him, I should feel that my own career had reached its summit, and I should be prepared to turn to some more placid line in life.'

Sherlock seems to be equally in awe of Moriarty as he explains the man's role in crime.

'He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organiser of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city. He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them. He does little himself. He only plans. But his agents are numerous and splendidly organised. . .'

'You know my powers, my dear Watson, and yet at the end of three months I was forced to confess that I had at last met an antagonist who was my intellectual equal.'

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