There's a scene at the end of "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" where Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson encounter celebrities of their day.
"By Jove, Watson! I've got it!" Holmes cries excitedly and gets Watson to rush out of 221B with him. Watson records it like this:
"He hurried at his top speed down Baker Street and along Oxford Street, until we had almost reached Regent Circus. Here on the left hand there stands a shop window filled with photographs of celebrities and beauties of the day. Holmes eyes fixed themselves upon one of them . . . ."
This was apparently what one did if one wanted to see celebrities in the Victorian era, apart from buying a ticket to their show. Go to see a photograph in a shop window.
Sure, if a celebrity attained enough prominence, and one had the spare cash, a print could be obtained, as Watson did with his portraits of Henry Ward Beecher and General Gordon in "Cardboard Box." And there were always little renderings in magazines like The Strand which one could cherish.
But as I see this weekend's Twitter feed rolling out photos of celebrities posing with fans from London's "SHERLOCKED: The Official Convention" this morning, it seems like we've come such a long way from celebrity photos in a shop window as Holmes and Watson ran to see after the Milverton case.
And the fact that the greatest celebrity photo catch of all is the face of Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch, or that the Cumberbatch parents have now added to their celebrity for parenting a Sherlock . . . and thus become photo-worthy . . . well, it's all quite a mind-boggler in context.
When the original Sherlock Holmes fans started organizing and celebrating the great detective back in the 1930s (the ones we have documented, not the anecdotal fans of the 1890s), part of their love of the Holmes stories was their own ties to those details from an era in which they once lived.
Now that Twitter is our shop window, and we can see dozens of individual fans posing right next to someone like our latest Lestrade, Rupert Graves (who seems to be a champion of celebrity photo interactions), those details of the original Canon seem so very far away. But seeing the face of Lestrade smushed up against the face of someone we might know or have seen at a con makes the new BBC Sherlock Canon seem so much closer to us.
And one final side note: Looking at those pictures and imagining it's Sherlock, Mycroft, Lestrade, etc., actually doing photo ops is kind of hysterical. It would be a great creative writing exercise to have people do fan fiction based on the thought that it's the character and not the actor in a single fan photo and explain the events therein.