20161201

EARLY SHERLOCKIANA - Some Quotes



EARLY SHERLOCKIANA - Some Quotes

1. Sherlockians are Bradleyans
It cannot be denied, further, that in many of Shakespeare’s plays, if not in all, there are inconsistencies and contradictions, and also questions are suggested to the reader which it is impossible for him to answer with certainty. For instance, some of the indications of the lapse of time between Othello’s marriage and the events of the later Acts flatly contradict one another; and it is impossible to make out whether Hamlet was at Court or at the University when his father was murdered. (A. C. Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy, 1904, Lecture II)

2. The Sherlock Holmes revival in the 1930s
When Ronald Knox first attempted the study of Holmes, he did it as a plainly humorous speech, with funny names to make sure it was “Hey, I’m just joking, not crazy, right?” Next came S.C. Roberts with his little biography of Dr. Watson, played completely straight. He saw what Knox had done, went, “Hey, there’s another guy like me — I can do this and people won’t think I’m nuts!” H. W. Bell and T. S. Blakeney saw Roberts’s work and joined in. And so on, and so on. (Brad Keefaufer, 2008, The view from Sherlock Peoria 322)

3. The Watson canon
Here we touch upon the intricate question of Watson canon. Mr. Blakeney’s general view that “all the stories record true events in the life of Holmes, but that the collections in ‘His Last Bow’ and ‘The Case Book’ come to us through the hand of an editor” is commendably cautious, but we confess that we regard with some misgiving his desire for a J. M. Robertson in the Watson field, “sifting the accretions of the pseudo-Watson from the hand of the veritable John Henry.” The prospect of the chaos of textual disintegration which might result from the work of such a commentator is one to which we cannot look forward with equanimity. Mr. Blakeney should reflect on the course taken by Homeric criticism in recent years and, in particular, upon the fact that a distinguished scholar, whom his severest critic would never have accused of conservatism, was led to emphasise of the “increasing number of critics who believe in an original unity of authorship and design.” (S. C. Roberts, “The Watson Problem”, The Observer, Oct. 30, 1932)

4. The dating of the stories and Watson’s marriage
There is no difficulty in dating some of the adventures. We have, for example, in the case of The Speckled Band, Dr. Watson’s definite statement as to when those events occurred: “It was early in April in the year ’83 that I woke one morning to find Sherlock Holmes standing, fully dressed, by the side of my bed.” But in far the greater proportion of cases the dates of events can only be ascertained from some incident or detail mentioned in the course of the narrative, and made perhaps more precise by some reference to the weather or the season.[…] Again, although in the case of The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor, the chronicler is content with saying that the events took place “a few weeks before my marriage” and that “high autumn winds” were blowing, we can discover their date. Sherlock Holmes, on looking up Lord Robert St. Simon in Debrett discovered he was born in 1846. “He is forty-one years of age,” he added, “which is mature for marriage.” The date of these events is therefore the autumn of 1887. This fact is of great importance, because it points to Dr. Watson’s marriage having taken place in the last quarter of that year. And if we can once fix that date we can arrange a great many of the stories in chronological order, for Dr. Watson uses his own marriage as a sort of B.C., or A.D. in recounting events. But, alas, it is precisely this date which it is most difficult to determine. A slight mystery hangs over Dr. Watson’s marriage. (Affable Hawk aka Desmond MacCarthy, “Books in General”, The New Statesman, July 9, 1927, p. 408 reprinted in The Saturday Review of Literature, January 2013)

5. Unsolved questions
(1) At what college of what University was Holmes educated? The only recorded incident of his two undergraduate years is that “young Trevor’s bull-terrier froze on to his ankle on his way to Chapel.” On the strength of this incident I have always mentally claimed him for Balliol, where this sort of accident was not uncommon in my time; but the evidence is inconclusive. Attendance at Chapel was not common.
(2) How comes it that Holmes is in London, solving the mystery of Wisteria Lodge, in 1892? (See His Last Bow.) He spent 1891-1894 shamming dead in Tibet, Mecca and elsewhere. (Final Problem, May, 1891, disappearance: Spring, 1894, reappearance, see the Return.)
(3) Was Watson’s Christian name James (from The Man with the Twisted Lip) or John, as elsewhere passim? Possibly “James” was a pet name of Miss Morstan’s. But she generally calls him “my dear” simply.
(Cyril Asquith, “Sherlock Holmes, Letter to the Editor of The New Statesman”, 10 Sept. 1927, pp. 676-7)

6. Knox’s satire: Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes
I had no clear idea what sort of criticism I was setting out to satirize. A colleague suggested to me afterwards that I must have had in mind A. C. Bradley’s interpretations of Shakespeare. Thus, I divided up the Holmes story as a form of literary art into eleven characteristic divisions, each with its Greek name, and showed how more were present in some stories, fewer in others. I gave an elaborate study of Holmes’s view of life, and a still more elaborate study of Dr. Watson’s. I declared Watson’s bowler hat to be a symbol of almost religious significance. But I did also invent a whole controversy, diversified with the names of various imaginary German scholars, on the question of the authenticity of several stories, showing the reasons for pronouncing some of them, on internal evidence, to be the work of a different hand. The paper was read to at least three societies in Oxford, and one in London. (Ronald Knox, A Spiritual Aeneid, 1918, p. 121-2)

7. Chesterton’s appreciation of Holmes Higher Criticism
In short, though solemn, [Knox’s satire] was very funny; and its author certainly saw the fun of it. But now we may note the appearance of new books which mark the next stage. These books are not only solemn but solid. They are, like very learned reports on purely scientific questions, almost avowedly dull. They also may be written for fun; but they are not funny. They cross-examine poor Watson about every detail of date and weather and topography and time-table, like hanging judges investigating a real murder. They refute him with tables of figures no more amusing than columns in a ledger. They may not really regard it as real history, but they take as much trouble as the greatest scholar would take about real history, unrewarded by a smile. It may be a grim joke; but it is the sort of joke that conceals the joke. But I think myself it is getting beyond a joke. The hobby is hardening into a delusion. Not once is there a glance at the human and hasty way in which the stories were written; not once even an admission that they ever were written. The real inference is that Sherlock Holmes really existed and that Conan Doyle never existed. If posterity only reads these latter books, it will certainly suppose them to be serious. It will imagine that Sherlock Holmes was a man. But he was not; he was only a god. (G. K. Chesterton, “Sherlock Holmes The God”, G. K. Weekly, 21 February 1935 reprinted in The Baker Street Journal, Vol. 15, No. 4, December 1965, pp. 216-7)

No comments:

Post a comment