Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer of Sherlock: The first meeting.

Even though we're twelve stories into the Summer of Sherlock, with ten left to go, I'm calling this the halftime of this warm weather reading excursion for one reason, and one reason alone: today, July 16th, is the 133rd anniversary of Dr. John H. Watson meeting Mr. Sherlock Holmes for the first time.

"Dr. Watson, Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said Stamford, the man to whom we owe so much.

Has there ever been a moment so deserving of being immortalized that moment in bronze? Three men standing together in a laboratory, one gripping another's hand in an hearty handshake while the third looks on, not knowing that he's just caused a legend to be born.

"How are you?" Sherlock Holmes says to Dr. Watson, followed by what we normally remember as his first words to Watson, "You have been in Afghanistan, I presume."

But let's step back. "How are you?" Sherlock Holmes says to this stranger as he gives him the warmest of handshakes. Sherlock Holmes. The guy people like to wrongly think of as the ultimate cold fish. And here he is, making first contact with Watson with all the energy of a lonely car salesman meeting his first customer in weeks. 

To be fair, Sherlock might not be all that excited by Watson's arrival as the test for blood that he's just discovered works. But what does Sherlock Holmes do in this moment of discovery? Say, "Sorry, I'm busy right now, I have to document this!"? 

No, Sherlock Holmes sets the precedent for his entire relationship with Dr. Watson: He shares in his discovery. He's eager to tell somebody what he's just found out, and Watson responds in just the way he needs:

"It seems to be a very delicate test," Watson says.

"Beautiful! Beautiful!" Holmes cries out in reply, and while we might think he's talking about the test, he could actually be talking about Watson's reaction. Consider the fact that Stamford is also in the room, and he's just standing there silently, bump-on-a-log style.

A simple "Indeed" from Watson gives Holmes enough encouragement to go on, and an eventual "You are to be congratulated" is icing on the conversational cake that Holmes fairly laps up in his increasing enthusiasm. Sherlock Holmes didn't just discover a blood test, he also found the guy bright enough and friendly enough to make such a discovery moment even better.

A few more words are exchanged, and Watson reports, "Sherlock Holmes seemed delighted at the idea of sharing rooms with me."

It's practically bromance at first sight, but if you pay attention to what's going on, it isn't just that Holmes finds Watson a handsome man or observe he's solvent enough to pay half of the desperately needed rent. Watson is actually giving Sherlock Holmes something he needs in that conversation, and it's exactly the same thing Watson will give him throughout their partnership: appreciation, acceptance, and the understanding that what Holmes does is, honestly, quite amazing.

Meanwhile, Stamford, the guy who probably just arranged the moment to see Watson's reaction to the weirdo in the St. Barts laboratory, doesn't seem to get any of it. Yet he's still there to show us that Watson does by way of comparison.

It's a wonderful moment, one well worth a quick re-read (here's a link, just skip right down to the good parts), and even a life-sized bronze statue set. Any sculptors or sculptor benefactors out there willing to get such a thing commissioned? We've got a full two years until the 135th anniversary!

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Holmes does not presume anything - he perceives. (Dang, I don't mean to sound like a snob!)