Monday, June 24, 2013

Nothing lasts forever, even a shilling.

I thought the aftershock tremors from Shrefflergate were over.

I thought the manifesto that added the term "elite devotee" to our lexicon was done providing us with new terminology.

I thought wrong, and now I'm a little nervous.

Members of the Baker Street Irregulars of New York were treated to a reminder of that January 2013 scandal this week, along with a brand new term to sit alongside the now-notorious "elite devotee:" The "lapsed Irregular."

Mike Whelan, the Wiggins-in-chief of said group, sent out his 2013 mid-year letter to the membership this week, and came out strongly against the attitude displayed in the infamous article. He didn't name names, he didn't use words as strong as "serious Sherlockian bullshit," which it totally was. But the big man brought the hammer down on not just the writer of the piece, but those involved with its publication.

Referring to them as "lapsed Irregulars," as well as "a tiny group of self-estranged members," he commented on their rampant narcissism, divisive criticisms, "uncivil disruptions" and emphasized the phrase "a final expiration of societal goodwill." Were they kicked out of the Baker Street Irregulars? Hard to say. I don't know if people can get kicked out of the Irregulars, but that's as close to a public exhibition of giving someone the boot from the B.S.I. that I've ever seen.

Later in the letter, Mike discusses the nomination process for new Irregulars and challenges the membership to do two things in the very least: subscribe to The Baker Street Journal and recommend new members for consideration. He comes down on the side of the Free Sherlock movement and the lawsuit to hamstring those who seek to own Sherlock Holmes as intellectual property. And then he does a little more underlining in quoting Edgar Smith:

"More narrowly, a Baker Street Irregular is a member, in good and accepted standing, of that small band of zealots which grouped itself together, one June  evening in the far-gone year of 1934, for the avowed and unashamed purpose of keeping green in perpetuity the name and fame of Sherlock Holmes." 

Good and accepted standing.

Yes, it seems to be come-to-Jesus time in the land of Irregulars, and to tell the truth I'm feeling a bit like a nervous Buddhist. I mean, in no way was I ever on the side of the elite devotee class, but when if comes to narcissists who seem to produce divisive criticism . . . well, I kind of have to hope that Mike Whelan isn't a fan of the TV show Elementary. And the term "lapsed Irregular" already brought me to the mind of one fabulous Sherlockian. No attendance at the B.S.I. dinner in a long time. No articles written for The Baker Street Journal in a long time. No suggestions for membership in a long time. And the occasional open criticism of the group's membership policy on the internet and elsewhere over the years.

But you won't hear me saying, "First they came for the elite devotee, and I said nothing . . . " because I really don't have a problem saying something. Let's cut to the chase: People get thrown out of places all the time for bad behavior. Kicking people out of a club is just the flip side of hand-picking the members, which has been an accepted practice in the B.S.I. forever. If you can justify one, I think you can also justify the other. In fact, I think giving people the boot might even be  more justifiable than only giving select folk the chance to be members. 

If they did actually get kicked out, the elite devotees would probably just declare themselves "the true Baker Street Irregulars," declare only shillings issued by a certain past head of the B.S.I. are valid, or some such silliness.  People have an amazing ability to reconstruct reality to suit them, especially Sherlockians. (Sherlock Holmes really lived on Baker Street, remember?) I'm sure they'll be fine.

And, ironically, most Sherlock Holmes fans these days don't care a whit about everything I just wrote, and of those that do, a few are going to tell you I don't know what I'm talking about. Which may be the case. I live in Peoria, after all, and don't get out nearly as much as I probably should. But I get these mid-year letters, you see . . . well, at least for this year . . . .


  1. There are still a number of Sherlockians who would be honoured to be invited to join the BSI (myself included), so perhaps those who don't want to belong can be let go per their wishes and allow room for more new members to be investitured. Not that I would get in anyway, but why keep people who don't want to be there?

    In addition, I am more than pleased at the support Whelan continues to give the younger fans. There is much hope for the future of the BSI.

  2. Don't know nuthin bout the Jan. 2013 scandal, but don't suppose I missed much. I prefer clubs that allow anyone to join over those in which one needs to be invited into - (I don't join the open clubs, but at least I'm not there because I made that decision.)As long as they keep putting out a good journal, I'll hang around the outer fringes.

  3. "No suggestions for membership in a long time."

    There, see, that can be helped:

    "There are still a number of Sherlockians who would be honoured to be invited to join the BSI (myself included)..."

  4. And then there's my circle of friends, none of whom is remotely interested in Sherlock Holmes. (Probably why I love 'em so much; we're all interested in different things.) So I can't put their names in for invitation to the dinner.

    Speaking of which, it's an expensive weekend, so I haven't gone during these past few lean years. If I pay more than $100 for some food, it'd better be the entire cow and enough to last a fortnight.

  5. The Sherlock Holmes Society of London offers membership -- here
    from the Website: "The minimum age for full membership is 16. Associate membership is open to all. Guests of members, of any age, are usually welcome at our meetings and events. There are several categories of membership, to suit all needs and circumstances."

    Big organizations are almost, by necessity, run by an oligarchy -- and I don't mean that in a pejorative sense, believe it or not. A core group of members could still celebrate themselves by continuing the New York dinner and giving out awards for outstanding Sherlockian scholarship and inviting special guests to join in the festivities.

    However an open membership would sustain interest in Baker Street
    without appearing 'elite', and -- it may be hoped encourage --subscriptions, contributions (literary and financial), visits, and the growth of scions, and perhaps involve more younger men and women who may originally be drawn into the Sherlockian orbit by popular interpretations of the Master.

  6. I for one would like to know more about the January 2013 scandal. Was it aPhilip Schreffler letter I've heard was distributed? I'm in the dark and would love to know more. ~Gael Stahl