For some reason, I decided to pick Unpopular Opinions by Dorothy Sayers off the bookshelf last night for a read. I've always liked that title, for one, being a spouter of certain unpopular opinions myself, and am, at this juncture, finding an even more splendid perspective in reading it.
After another healthy dose of Benedict Cumberbatch, one always sees a few comments from elder male Sherlockians dismissing female Holmes fans almost entirely for the large enthusiasm for the current screen Sherlock. Going back and reading Dorothy Sayers kicking Sherlockian scholarship ass in the 1930s, admiring her detailed reasoning and ability to call her Sherlockian peers on their faulty conclusions, one has a rock-solid reminder that the notion that gender discrimination belongs nowhere in the cult of Sherlock Holmes fandom.
Sayers' works collected in Unpopular Opinions, "Holmes' College Career," "Dr. Watson's Christian Name," "Dr. Watson, Widower," "The Dates in The Red-Headed League," and "Aristotle on Detective Fiction" were written in the prime of Sherlockian scholarship, some as early as 1934. She gave us Dr. Watson's best middle name, to oh-so-perfect "Hamish." She was a part of the original Sherlock Holmes Society of London at a time when their New York counterparts weren't exactly sure where they stood on female Irregulars. (Ever consider how one of the first "female" contributors to the BSJ was Morley's "Jane Nightwork"? Thank God he wasn't Norm MacDonald or we'd have been saddled with "Jane Crackwhore.") But I digress . . . .
. . . or do I? Also included in Unpopular Opinions is Sayers' talk "Are Women Human?" a fascinating take on women's rights that is still worth reading today. Sayers was a great thinker (do we have great thinkers any more?) and goes deep in considering the many aspects of an issue, whether it was a serious matter like a woman's place in society or something frivolous like Sherlock Holmes's choice of college.
Looking back on a day when a long, well-considered paper on Holmes was more common than four hundred word blog posts on our friend Sherlock gives one a sense of perspective to start with, but there is so much more to see when one goes back to our Sherlockian predecessors and their assorted works. It is definitely a trip worth taking, now and then.
Can we have a blog post that just lists what's on your bookshelves? It seems like a fascinating rabbit hole to go down.ReplyDelete
That sounds like work! You should just come up for a visit, so you could look for yourself.Delete
If this an invitation to Peoria, there's a good chance I will take you up on it!Delete
I havent had a chance to read any of Sayers' work yet, but it seems like the battle of the sexes (justified or imagined) hasn't gone away in Sherlockiana. Last week, a lady was trolling IHOSE about their web design and when Scott responded, the argument ended up with her saying something along the lines of "Well I'm just a girl and all of you Sherlockians think we are gross anyway."Delete
Tis an invitation indeed. Gives me a reason to clean the Sherlock room!Delete
Sayers' letters are also well worth reading. She willing engaged with readers who had questions about religion and the Bible, carefully explaining doctrine that was generous and compelling. She really had a first-class mind.ReplyDelete
Are the letters collected in a book somewhere?Delete
Oh, there is s battle of the sexes among today's Sherlickians all right, but I'm not sure both sides are actually fighting it.ReplyDelete