Thursday, June 9, 2016

Read if convenient, if inconvenient . . . well, I'm sure you've got better things to do.

"Come at once if convenient -- if inconvenient, come all the same -- S.H."

The paragraph that follows Watson's relating of that brief message in "The Adventure of the Creeping Man" is an interesting one. Watson speaks of their relationship being "peculiar." Holmes has "less excusable" habits and seems to find Watson irritating. The year is 1902 and according to most commentators, Holmes is approximately 48 and Watson 50, roughly the time in life when all the bad habits of a lifetime start to catch up to one . . . which can lead to the beginnings of crankiness.

As much as Sherlockians like to quote Holmes's summons with a wink and a smile, one truly has to wonder if Holmes's tone was more of a "Dammit, Watson get over here and let's get this over with!"

Watson is humble. Holmes is curled up and vexed. He makes Watson sit in silence for thirty minutes. Then, in the first minute of finally speaking, Sherlock Holmes is citing one of Watson's Strand Magazine story by the doctor's title choice. That doesn't seem to help Watson's mood, as the doctor is quickly shutting down Holmes's first thesis and moods and dogs.

"Surely, Holmes, this is a little far-fetched." Heck, Watson, it sounded reasonable to me. But Holmes just ignores him.

Peculiar relationship indeed.

I went back to look at that quote because I was considering how inconvenient it has been of late for me to get to most Sherlockian functions I've enjoyed in the past. But, man, after really reading the context of that quote again, this little essay took a turn.

Were the Holmes and Watson of September 1902 in a friendship much in need of repair? Holmes is still seeming a bit angry with Watson for "deserting me for a wife" in January of 1903, and when this case itself is done, he is anxious to hop the next train to London and be done with it, Holmes's sudden thoughts about "Copper Beeches" a good ten years after its publication are weird and, combined with the later deserting-for-a-wife comment, give a passing thought that Miss Violet Hunter might have wound up stealing Watson away . . . this tale just has peculiarity all around.

It was a different day from A Study in Scarlet, when Watson wrote that Holmes "always apologized to me for putting me to this inconvenience." (Sending Watson to his room when clients showed up.) By 1902 it was all "If inconvenient, come all the same . . . though I might not speak to you for a half hour when you get here." So weird, especially for those who believe in either a steadfast friendship or true love between the two men.

One might even find it convenient to declare the case a non-Canonical pastiche, were it not for the compelling and realistic mystery Holmes and Watson investigate . . . oh, wait, this is the story about the man who drinks monkey juice and starts to turn into a monkey, isn't it?

How convenient -- and if inconvenient, maybe we ignore it all the same.

(Just kidding! It's Canon! Canon, do you hear? Canon!)

(P.S. Yes, there is a syringe there, but we still don't know for sure that he injected the monkey juice . . . though he probably did and I'm just covering a slip-up. It is more amusing to think of him drinking the serum of langur, though.)

1 comment:

  1. I had similar thoughts when reading it a few months ago.