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House and Holmes: A Comparison of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. House

Updated on May 29, 2013

Dr. Greg House

Sherlock Holmes

Dr. House was based on Sherlock Holmes.

When I was growing up., Sherlock Holmes was one of my favorite fictional characters. Whether it was the literary Holmes created by Arthur Conan Doyle, or the cinematic Holmes (Played by many talented actors, most notably Basil Rathbone), or the TV Holmes portrayed by Jeremy Brett. Holmes was such a great character, I just couldn't get enough of him.

My current favorite show is House, MD, mostly because of the fascinating protagonist Greg House, magnificently portrayed by Hugh Laurie. After having watched only a few episodes, I noted the many similarities between the brilliant doctor and the brilliant detective.

Therefore, I wasn't surprised at all to learn that the creators of House MD, David Shore and Paul Attanasio, were fans of Sherlock Holmes and deliberately based the character on Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary detective. Also, House's friend and co-conspirator Dr. James Wilson was patterned after Holmes' loyal friend and partner-in-crime-fighting Dr. John Watson.

Never noticed the similarities? Maybe you're not familiar with one or the other of these characters. Let me lay out the similarities (and there are many) for you.

1) The names. House and Holmes. Holmes is very similar to "Homes". Therefore, the TV doctor got the name House, as in "House and Home". Even the sidekicks have similar sounding names (John Watson/James Wilson)

2) Both characters are anti-social narcissists, shunning the company of other people (except their one friend) and looking down at others in their field (police in Holmes case. Other Doctors in House's case) as incompetent morons.

3) Both Holmes and House will reject cases unless they are sufficiently challenging. Easy cases bore them.

4) Both are obsessed with mysteries.They both find intellectual stimulation in unraveling mysteries, be it a medical mystery or a crime. House is a diagnostician and it's his job to figure out what's wrong with a sick patient. Holmes is a detective and he figures out who-done-it.

5) Both have a gift for observation. Holmes can deduce numerous facts about a person with incredible accuracy just by looking at him/her. House can diagnose a serious illness by noticing a tiny gesture, like a yawn or a twitch.

6) Both men are addicted to drugs. Holmes is a cocaine addict, while House is addicted to pain-killers (Mostly Vicodin.)

7) Both are indifferent to their clients/patients as human beings. They are only interested in solving the mystery. They see people more like necessary annoyances that supply them with an intellectual challenge to overcome. Once the case is over, they lose any interest in the person they saved.

8) Both have musical talent. Holmes played the violin, while House plays the guitar and the piano.

9) They have the same street address for their apartment. Both live at 221. (In Holmes' case, its 221-B.)

10) The relationship between Holmes and Watson is similar to the relationship between House and Wilson. Holmes and House are the Alpha-males who control the relationship, while Watson and Wilson are the followers. Both House and Holmes can be abusive, but their loyal friend always tolerates the abuse. Yet Holmes and House are depended on Watson and Wilson because these two meek fellows are the only connection the two geniuses have to the world.

There were occasional little hints and "Easter eggs" dropped into House MD in homage of Sherlock Holmes. For example, the name of the patient in the pilot episode of House MD was Rebbecca Addler. Readers of Sherlock Holmes know that the one woman who ever touched Holmes in an emotional way was Irene Addler. In a later episode, Wilson used the name Irene Addler while talking to House's team of Fellows.

In another episode, House pulls a prank on his team using a book about Doctor Joseph Bell. The real Joseph Bell was a doctor of forensic medicine who practically created the concept of forensic crime scene investigation. Arthur Conan Doyle was a student of Joseph Bell and he modeled Sherlock Holmes after Dr. Bell. (House, like Bell, is a doctor.)

Some aspects of Holmes and Watson were switched when creating House and Wilson. For instance, Watson received a war wound and had a limp. In House MD, House has the limp instead of Wilson. Also, Watson had a military background. In House MD, House was an army brat (His father was in the military) and grew up in various military bases, including one in India, where Watson spent some time during Britain's Indian campaign.

Both are great characters. If Shore and Attanasio needed inspiration to create their character, at least they chose the best to imitate.

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    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for a lovely hub.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      This is an interesting interpretation. Holmes's methods I think may come from the fact that Doyle was a doctor.

    • Robwrite profile image
      Author

      Rob 6 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      Thanks HH. Glad you liked it.

      Dahoglund; Yes that's true, Doyle was a doctor. An optometrist, I believe. That's probably why he made Watson a Doctor. I think Holmes' methods were based largely on Dr. Joseph Bell's methods. Thanks for reading.

    • Pinkchic18 profile image

      Sarah Carlsley 6 years ago from Minnesota

      Very well done, Sherlock! I love House and I've never even noticed all the similarities, but you're exactly right! Great hub!

    • Robwrite profile image
      Author

      Rob 6 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      Thank you, pinkchic. Its a pleasure to hear from you. thanks for the kind words.

    • profile image

      Theodore Krulik 6 years ago

      I've spoken to friends about these similarities. As a Holmes fan, I've enjoyed pointing out most of these same similarities to others not versed in the Canon. However, there really is ONE marked difference that you allude to that needs clarification. Dr. House is, of course, rude and unsympathetic where women are concerned; but S. Holmes, being part of the British Upper Class, was always most courteous toward women. House's treatment of every woman as an object (either of derision, indifference, or sex),would certainly NOT be countenanced by Holmes. Holmes was ALWAYS polite in his dealings with women.

    • Robwrite profile image
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      Rob 6 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      You have a good point, Theodore. Holmes was polite to women, but only to their face. Behind their back, he had little to say about them that was good. Holmes once said "The most winning women I ever met was hanged for killing her children". That doesn't say much about his opinion of females.

      But you're correct when you say he was polite to them, for the most part. Perhaps condescending at some points, but polite. He certainly never objectified them the way House does, because Holmes never gave any outward indication of sexual thoughts, not even to his best friend. (Holmes would never be caught reading porno. House, on the other hand, brazenly flaunts his erotic interests.)

      There are differences between the two, to be sure. House doesn't have a smarter older brother, for instance. (It might be fun for a Mycroft House to show up, though.)

      Thank for reading and the the input, Theodore.

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Irwin 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      wow I didn't know all that stuff. I was hooked on Dr.House for a while, but couldn't take the weird health things after a while- I get creeped out by that, but I loved House. He was great.

    • Robwrite profile image
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      Rob 6 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      House is a great character. Thanks for taking the time to comment, izetti.

    • profile image

      Mbshine 6 years ago

      Great observation my dear Watson, or Wilson. Isn't Dr. Cuddy the ultimate Mrs Hudson cleaning up all Dr House's wreckage? Wonderful HUB!

    • Robwrite profile image
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      Rob 6 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      I see Cuddy more as LeStrade. LeStrade was a member of the establishment and Holmes felt he was a tool who blindly obeyed the rules. Holmes also felt he was totally superior to LeStrade, skill-wise. That's pretty much how House sees Cuddy, except that Cuddy is an attractive woman.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Mbshine.

    • ltfawkes profile image

      ltfawkes 6 years ago from NE Ohio

      Didn't Hugh Laurie play Holmes in a BBC Sherlock Holmes series?

      Anyway, nice hub. I never spotted the similarities. Now I'll be able to watch with new appreciation.

      L.T.

    • Robwrite profile image
      Author

      Rob 6 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      I don't recall Laurie playing Holmes but I'll look into it. Thanks for stopping by to comment.

    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 6 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      I never knew the two were connected. Thanks for writing this!

    • Robwrite profile image
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      Rob 6 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      You're welcome, Silver Poet. Thanks for reading.

    • Topmodelof2011 profile image

      Topmodelof2011 6 years ago

      NICE BRO

    • Robwrite profile image
      Author

      Rob 6 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      Thanks.

    • crystolite profile image

      Emma 6 years ago from Houston TX

      Nice hub,thanks

    • Robwrite profile image
      Author

      Rob 6 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      Glad you liked it.

    • profile image

      cathoo 5 years ago

      Reserch : Several people are (and was) Sherlock Holmes in reality : look at their common points

      --»Study their biography, they all have these common points :

      To Sherlock Holmes, it’s criminology.

      --»they are so conscious of reality they can not lie to themselves, they accept their death as naturally as their life

      They died : To Nietzche, i twas philosophy and poetry. To Mozart and Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon, it was music. To Claude Rifat, i twas conscious dreams. To Henry Blake, i twas horses. To Mother Theresa,it was love, to Jesus too. To Vincent Van Gogh, i twas peint.

      --»they live intensely « me-here-right now », never let others control their mind. And they have so much to give.

      They are alive : To Shaun Ellis and Helen Jeffs, it’s wolves. To Lydia Renoir (alias Johanne Verdon) it’s novels and she’s also a naturopathe clinician. To Patch Adams, it’s medecine. To Michel Lauzière, it’s creation of musical instruments. To Jill Pruetz, it’s primatology. To Lynn V Andrews, it’s Amerindian shamanism.

      --»People think it’s genius or exceptionnal. But we all can do what they do if we become aware that’s worth fighting for.

    • Robwrite profile image
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      Rob 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      Thanks for reading.

    • Mitch Alan profile image

      Mitch Alan 5 years ago from South Jersey

      Great to see someone else making the connections...A fellow fan of both says "hat's off"...

    • Robwrite profile image
      Author

      Rob 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      Thanks Mitch. I appreciate the thought.

      Rob

    • Shinkicker profile image

      Shinkicker 5 years ago from Scotland

      I love the comparisons between the 2 characters. Fascinating.

      I'm glad you mentioned Dr Joseph Bell who Conan Doyle encountered as a medical student at the University of Edinburgh.

      Cheers Rob.

    • Robwrite profile image
      Author

      Rob 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      Hi Shinkicker; They're both great characters and its fun to examine the similarities and connections between the two. Dr. Joseph Bell was Doyle's inspiration for Holmes.

      Thanks for stopping by,

      Rob

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I never realized that House was based on the character of Sherlock Holmes. But now that I read your hub I see the similarity.

      Having read through your list was absolutely amazing to me. I'm surprised that I never picked up on any of it before while watching the show. The most obvious was the name. As you explained House was named so because Sherlock Holmes' last name is almost like home. House vs. Home.

      House is my favorite TV show too. I wish that all doctors would function on his level. Really enjoyed your hub and voted up.

    • Robwrite profile image
      Author

      Rob 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      Hi Glenn; glad you liked it. Once you realize the two characters are related, the similarities become apparent. I think that House is a much better modern update of Sherlock Holmes than the new show "Elementary".

      Thanks for reading,

      rob

    • profile image

      BR 4 years ago

      There are a few more similarities...

      In "It's a Wonderful Lie", House receives a second-edition Arthur Conan Doyle as one of his Secret Santa gifts.

      also, in the finale, everyone thinks House dies, and only Wilson finds out the truth.. that he escaped.. This is exactly what happens with Holmes in "The return of Sherlock Holmes"..

      anyways, nice work. Awesome show. Cheers.

    • Robwrite profile image
      Author

      Rob 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      Hi BR;

      Good points. The final episode hadn't come out yet when I wrote this but it's another good example.

      Thanks for reading,

      Rob

    • profile image

      Jumpin Joe 2 years ago

      For the Negative 5 Cents it's worth.....

      I 100% agree with the person that said Cuddy is Lestrade.

      I also 100% agree with the person that said Cuddy is Mrs. Hudson.

      As a Doctor, Lisa Cuddy is a more competent and equally career driven G. Lestrade, meaning she is House's liaison in their respective professional worlds. Plus, she loves what her famous diagnostician's success record does for the record of the hospital and her career...for the first six seasons at least.

      (Episode "5 to 9" shows a rare glimpse of Cuddy doing her thing as an administrator. She performs under the gun in much the same way a star quarterback, even under the gun, still somehow always manages to come up with the win)

      It helps that both Lestrade and Cuddy have strong enough egos to admit Holmes/House are incredible, but not be crushed or offended by their insults, etc. Plus, they can admire and respect Holmes/House without turning into mindless sycophants whom neither the great detective or great doctor would tolerate. Also, like Rupert Graves' 21st Century Detective Inspector Lestrade, Dr. Cuddy is the only member of her profession that keeps the wider world of House's professional peers (Doctors and London Policemen) from burning him at the stake.

      AT THE SAME TIME.....

      As an Administrator Cuddy is Mrs. Hudson....though it is a more empowered Mrs. Hudson than Doyle's. Dean of Medicine Cuddy spends a significant portion of her life sorting out the wreckage left in House's wake as he does his thing in the hospital. Baker street is where Holmes lives and has a home office. Most of his real work happens outside the home, but he does spend days on end indoors living like a cross between an abandoned 12 year old boy and a schizophrenic Rock Star. Mrs. Hudson tolerates this and cleans up after him, the same way Cuddy tolerates and cleans up after House does similar physical and social damage inside of Princeton-Plainsboro. Both women make sure their angry genius is functional on some basic level.

      Finally, the trio of House, Wilson and Cuddy further points to Cuddy being a Mrs. Hudson, because like Watson and Hudson, they have to team up/relay to keep their special narcissistic genius alive and working lest he destroys himself from the inside out.

      Of course, at a certain point in the show Dr. Lisa Cuddy transcends both the rolls of G. Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson.

    • joejagodensky profile image

      joejagodensky 5 months ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Excellent. I loved every word of this because I've enjoyed both characters. Thanks for a well-done hub.

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