And the world of Sherlock Holmes is a great place to play.
It's also a great place for learning, as my friends in the educational field will tell you. But here's the thing . . . doing both at the same time isn't really the best approach for either. Facts are facts, and fictions are fictions, and blurring those lines is not healthy for anyone. Anyone.
Fiction can be an example, an exploration, an experimental laboratory . . . it's a safe place to play out ideas and potentials without direct harm to anyone. That's what makes it fun. It's a playground, like the sandbox environment many an IT company uses to try out software. The term "sandbox" even tells you that . . . go crazy, kids, build castles!
And the world of Sherlock Holmes is, for those of us on the recreational side of the Canon, a sandbox, a playground to build crazy pastiche-worlds, to concoct wild conspiratorial scholarship, to . . . well, to even build a sex dungeon, if that's your kink. And that's okay.
But every now and then of late, one sees someone taking the playground as something other than what it is. Attempting to apply the wild theories of the playground side of Sherlockiana to the classroom side of Sherlockiana. Proposing the sort of "Watson really meant . . ." theories to be "Doyle really meant . . ." facts. (And the "Doyle really meant . . ." theories, which have always been with us, have always tread a fine line, stepping over far too often.)
John H. Watson can be whatever you want him to be, mean whatever you want him to mean, as long as you allow that everyone else has the same right. Conan Doyle, William Gillette, John Hawkesworth, etc., should be treated with a little more care. And that is where the difference between the classroom and the playground can be seen most sharply. History is, properly written, what we actually were. Fiction is, properly written, what we hope to show about ourselves. The latter is allowed personal interpretation. The former? That is were we must struggle to hold on to the baldest truth possible.
As I said at the beginning, Sherlockiana has always been my playground. I love spinning off onto wild tangents like Sherlock Holmes lusting after ice cream. But every playground can get quiet when one of the kids goes a bit too far or there's a car wreck on the other side of the fence, and both of those seem to be happening on a regular basis of late, at which point, the first reaction is just to stop and stare . . . and then try to figure out what just happened.
And, eventually, get back to playing . . . .