Sherlock Holmes is a detective and hunter of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who first appeared in publication in 1887. He was also a member of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. A brilliant London-based detective, Holmes is famous for his prowess at using logic and astute observation to solve cases. He is perhaps the most famous detective and one of the most well known hunters, and indeed one of the best known and most universally recognizable characters.
Little is known of Holmes' early life or his family background, save that he is the grand nephew of the French artist Emile Jean Horace Vernet. An estimate of Holmes's age places his year of birth at 1854; the story, set in August 1914, describes him as 60 years of age. It is also known that in his younger years, Holmes attended at least one of the country's leading universities though it cannot be ascertained whether he was an alumnus of Oxford, Cambridge, or both. Sherlock has an older brother, Mycroft, whom the younger Holmes considered to be more intellectually gifted than himself.
Holmes' intelligence allows him to plan attacks and deduce (often correctly) exactly how a scuffle will play out. He is also shown to be proficient in many known martial arts and boxing and had an aggressive, if not slippery, fighting style. His style also involves psychological warfare. He is an adept boxer and was able to hold his own, overwhelm and defeat opponents much larger than himself, or multiple opponents inside and outside the ring. However Holmes is not above cheating, and will often use the environment, and other distractions in order to gain the upper hand when outnumbered, or out sized.
Holmes also liked donning various disguises in order to spy on or obtain specific information from different suspects. So great a master of disguise is Holmes, in fact, that in "A Scandal in Bohemia", Watson is compelled to remark of him, "The stage lost a fine actor, even as science lost an acute reasoner, when he became a specialist in crime."
Holmes is described as "bohemian" in habits and lifestyle. Although Holmes is described as having a "cat-like" love of personal cleanliness, Watson also describes Holmes as an eccentric, with no regard for contemporary standards of tidiness or good order. He alternates between days or weeks of listless lassitude and similar periods of intense engagement with a challenging case or with his hobby, experimental chemistry: "extreme exactness and astuteness... [or a] poetic and contemplative mood", "outbursts of passionate energy... followed by reactions of lethargy."
What was typical of his time is a vice Holmes' habit of smoking (usually a pipe) heavily, nor his willingness to bend the truth and break the law (e.g., lie to the police, conceal evidence, burgle and housebreak) when it suited his purposes. In Victorian England, such actions were not necessarily considered vices as long as they were done by a gentleman for noble purposes, such as preserving a woman's honor or a family's reputation.