Way back in 1891, Sherlock Holmes died. Viewers of BBC Sherlock had it easy compared to readers of The Strand Magazine, because when that Sherlock took the fatal fall, even Arthur Conan Doyle was convinced he was dead and gone. So dead and gone was Holmes that Doyle even allowed him to go to the afterlife created by John Kendrick Bangs in his A House-boat on the Styx series of novels. (Sherlock appears in The Pursuit of the Houseboat and The Enchanted Type-writer.)
In Bangs's Styx novels, the whole point of the after-life records was to show how various characters from history might interact with each other, and it's a joyous mash-up. Sherlock, Socrates, Noah, Sir Walter Raleigh . . . you never know who will turn up in the afterlife, and that's half the fun of it.
Which brings me to a few happy little tears I felt welling up today.
As mentioned earlier in the week, we lost a great Sherlockian friend on Monday, and I saw "we" because even if you hadn't met Gordon Speck of Waterloo, Illiniois, had you met him, you most likely would have called him friend. He was that sort of guy, friendly like the world was his home and his was just being a gracious host. And at his memorial service today, as at many a memorial service, there was some mention of the afterlife.
Which put me in mind of Bangs's houseboat on the river Styx and all the souls that showed up there . . . ALL the souls. The pastor speaking of the afterlife quoted a popular passage about all the rooms there, and it made me think of a hotel, like the Algonquin hotel, where the Sherlockians gathered in New York every year for Holmes's birthday made their headquarters for many, many years. And if Bangs could have a houseboat on the Styx, then why not a hotel . . . a version of the Algonquin more like the Royal York in Toronto, with its seemingly endless hallways?
And who would be in such an Algonquin on the Styx?
Every Sherlockian ever.
Ronald Knox. Newt Williams. Dorothy Sayers. Marlene Aig. William Gillette. Jack Tracy. Edith Meiser. William S. Baring-Gould. Vincent Starrett. John Bennett Shaw. Bob Burr. Eve Titus. Bart Simms. The list would go on and on, through the famous, the infamous, the local, the international, more than any of our poor brains could handle.
And when I thought of the one man I know who would be equipped to walk into the lobby of such a place, this Algonquin on the Styx, and start happily interacting with this crazy quilt of Sherlockian post-humanity?
Gordon R. Speck.
Never was a man so perfect for a teaming afterlife cocktail party of Sherlockians from all of history. I may be a little biassed, 'tis true, but the thought of Gordon in the midst of a heavenly host of Sherlockians just felt so, so utterly perfect. And the fact that I had this thought amidst a very great presence of Sherlockians from five or six Holmes societies at his memorial just made it resonate all the more.
Unlike Sherlock, Gordon isn't going to show up in a few years with some cockamamie story about llamas in the Alps, but you know what? If Sherlock had stayed in that houseboat on the Styx, we'd still love him all the same. Not the same as having him around with us, but if we can't have him, or Gordon, the thought that they're surrounded by fascinating folk is a sweet one to hold on to.