What does James Windibank of "A Case of Identity" have that I don't have? Sure, he was an amazing enough actor that he could fool his own step-daughter into thinking he was a completely different person. (Traditionally, Sherlockians blame the victim there, rather than praising his amazing talents, but we saw the girl -- she wasn't that brain-dead.) And maybe his acting skill was a part of why he could do something I can't seem to master. And what might that be?
James Windibank could sneer.
I've been trying to sneer all morning, and I'm just not getting it. Maybe a bad Elvis smirk. Maybe something that looks like disfigured comic book cowboy Jonah Hex. But no sneer.
The Jonah Hex thing may be the closest, because the hideous beggar Hugh Boone of "The Man with the Twisted Lip" had a repulsive sneer, and his lip was twisted and all. And I am not the only one with problems mastering it, either, as Professor Coram of "Gold Pince-nez" managed "something like a sneer," according to Watson's accounts, but just wasn't there with it, apparently.
Lord Cantlemere had a distinct sneer in "Mazarin Stone," but as with all things "Mazarin Stone," we have to wonder if that was real or not. That story's just a bit questionable all around.
If we take that Sherlock Holmes was good with a sneer, especially when the topic of "softer passions" came up, whatever they are, and add it to the rest of the data above, I really think one has to conclude that it takes an actor, or someone with good natural acting talent, to pull off a proper sneer.
Windibank, Boone, and Holmes were all masters of disguise/actors. They also could sneer.
I'm not an actor nor a master of disguise. I can't seem to do it.
Of course, in written text, especially in internet comment sections, people seem to be able to sneer very easily these days, like Scotland Yarder Athelney Jones who could sneer with his voice. But to get one to actually appear on your face? That either takes pure talent or the sort of life that I just haven't lived.
So give sneering a try and let me know your results. I am just not getting it.