Somehow the subject of old cranks seems appropriate of late. Crankiness, a malady that many of us suffer from as we age, is something longtime Sherlockians know pretty well. We've always had more than a few within our ranks at any given time. Heck, I might even be one now!
Crankiness, that condition wherein a person is more easily irritated than normal, can come from a number of sources: physical discomfort, boredom, or even suffering from some other mental upset that one is in denial about and just lashing out at the nearest potential irritant. Sherlockiana is a great place to see crankiness come out, as there aren't a lot of serious life-or-death issues in our hobby that truly require righteous anger or outrage. Unless we're getting spillover from some actual serious issue from the outside world, crankiness is old school Sherlockiana's great rouser. Oh, those kids and their Benetwitch Cumbercue!
But for a properly Sherlockian exploration of crankiness, we must always turn to the prime crank of the Sherlockian Canon: old Frankland of The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Old Frankland the crank, bestowed with that title by John H. Watson himself.
We're not quite sure why old Frankland was such an absolute bastard to his neighbors, given to the seemingly random use of legal power and wealth to restrict them from going where they want and allowing them to go where others would rather they didn't. Since his own daughter has deserted him for reasons that seem quite plain, it would seem his only means of interacting with people in a way that they acknowledge his existence . . . much like a modern internet troll.
We can see how desperately lonely he is when he is standing by his garden gate, ready to invite Dr. Watson in for a glass of wine, after plainly having seen Watson moving along the road with his telescope. Frankland has plainly heard of Watson, and if he has read Watson's work, he knows John H. Watson is most famous for relating how he impressed he is was a genius to the reading public.
So it's not surprising when Frankland spends his whole time with Watson bragging about his victories and his cleverness at tracking the escaped criminal . . . the old crank is such a narcissist that he probably thinks Watson will write his success up in The Strand Magazine, where the world will see that he's easily the equal of Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
Watson practically has to peel Frankland off him like Elvis getting rid of a bobby-soxer (Signs someone might be a crank? Extremely dated pop culture references.) just to get on his way alone.
The truly troubling thing about Frankland, however, isn't is attempt to monopolize Watson, though. That's just where we learn what might be ailing him. The serious problem with Frankland is his complete abuse of wealth and power, treating people as mere tools for inflating his ego, deciding what is or isn't right for situations that have nothing to do with him. Indeed, he is the perfect example of why we should never conquer old age and death -- some people will eventually take a lifetime of learning and earning and use it as immaturely as a teenage vandal just trying to make any kind of mark on a world they think is ignoring them.
And maybe it is. If old Frankland was being ignored, it was most certainly because he earned it. We know very little of what he did when he was young and vital . . . surely he served a purpose then, had a wife who gave him a daughter, and might have been a decent fellow. It's hard to say with cranks. Some of them were rather awful young men as well, we only think they're symptoms were brought on by age since that is when we met them.
"It was a relief to me, after that unnatural restraint, when we at last passed Frankland's house . . . ." Watson wrote as his last mention of Frankland, just before The Hound of the Baskerville's climax. We never hear of the old crank again. Eventually his money probably quit winning him court cases, and left to the mercies of the public, may have suffered the original fate of Scrooge that the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come revealed to that more famous old crank.
One hopes that some ghosts other than the Hound visited old Frankland some Christmas and got him to have a goose delivered to his daughter, or some other act of reconciliation. For we'd rather see an old crank come around before they do too much damage and pass on unloved and even hated by most. Its easy enough to isolate yourself, even when surrounding yourself with frightened lackeys if you're wealthy and powerful enough, and fully give in to being an old crank.
But as we saw if old Frankland's case, eventually the main characters will just drive by your place and get on with their business. As we so oft hear thus far in 2017, "Sad."
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