The Hound of the Baskervilles: Top Ten Quotes

“You know my methods. Apply them!” – Holmes to Watson, Ch. 1 (p. 15)Holmes challenges Watson to emulate his methods of observation in order to ascertain facts about a walking stick’s owner. The incident, in the book’s first chapter, serves to establish Holmes as a master of logical reasoning and mental agility.

“Now is the dramatic moment of fate, Watson, when you hear a step upon the stair which is walking into your life, and you know not whether for good or ill” – Holmes to Watson, Ch. 1 (p. 17)Somewhat pretentious language from Holmes that nonetheless captures the excitement generations of readers have felt upon beginning any new adventure with the detective and Dr. Watson. The quote sets the stage for the mystery to follow, inviting readers to set aside presuppositions and to be open, as is Holmes, to the different and unusual (but always, ultimately, the reasonably explained).

“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes” – Holmes to Watson, Ch. 3 (p. 37)One of Holmes’ maxims, a guiding principle that leads him to unravel mysteries that others cannot, or incorrectly attribute to supernatural explanations.

“I think anything out of the ordinary routine of life well worth reporting.” –Holmes to Sir Henry, ch. 4 (p. 46)These words, too, could well serve as a mission statement for the consulting detective. They reinforce the paramount importance he places on observation. Careful observation is usually the key to solving the mysteries with which he is confronted.

“Dear me! It is a stake for which a man might well play a desperate game.” – Holmes, Ch. 5 (p. 57)Holmes articulates one of the eternal motivations for crime: wealth. Sir Charles’ estate is a prize a criminal might well take great risks to gain.

“I tell you, Watson, this time we have got a foeman who is worthy of our steel.” – Holmes, Ch. 5 (p. 63)Holmes expresses admiration for their anonymous adversary. The words reflect the detective’s ability to appreciate intelligence, even when it is used to nefarious ends. 

“Life has become like that great Grimpen Mire, with little green patches everywhere into which one may sink and with no guide to point the track” – Watson to Beryl Stapleton (Ch. 7, p. 86).Watson is commenting on his confusion when confronted, not only with Beryl’s refusal to fully explain her urgent warning to leave, but also the state of affairs surrounding the Baskerville family in general. He is using the moor and mire as a metaphor for his lack of certainty and his inability to determine in which way to continue his investigation. His words may also reflect a broader fin-de-siècle (end of the century) malaise as the late Victorian society in which Conan Doyle wrote struggled to move from the inherited certainties of the past to the unknowns of a new century.

“It is murder, Watson—refined, cold-blooded, deliberate murder.” – Holmes to Watson, Ch. 12 (p. 144)Holmes summarizes the crime at the heart of the Baskerville mystery. Although in its “particulars” the case has proved vexing, Holmes’ words show that, at its core, it is one of the oldest crimes known to humankind. These words (some of the most often quoted from the book) display the detective’s talent for incisively determining the crux of the cases that confront him.

He burst into one of his rare fits of laughter… I have not heard him laugh often, and it has always boded ill to somebody. – Watson about Holmes, Ch. 13 (p. 156)Watson gives a sharp insight into Holmes’ character, painting him as a man not given to merriment, but who does find delight in pursuing and capturing criminals, ensuring that justice is meted out to them.

“The more outré and grotesque an incident is the more carefully it deserves to be examined, and the very point which appears to complicate a case is, when duly considered and scientifically handled, the one which is most likely to elucidate it.” – Holmes to Watson, Ch. 13 (p. 179)These words articulate one of Holmes’ guiding investigative principles. His maxim means that the unusual or bizarre details involved in a mystery generally contribute to arriving at its proper solution. The words reinforce Holmes’ faith in the rational, scientific method, and thus contribute to the triumph of reason and critical thinking over superstitious fear and belief in the supernatural, a conflict that runs throughout the novel