Saturday, May 27, 2017

Selected by Adrian Conan Doyle

"I admit it brazenly, I pounced upon the opportunity to air my own views and the pros and cons of Sherlock Holmes stories. And why not? Do not bulls have fun in china shops and old-fashioned gentlemen take potshots at each other in the Bois de Boulogne over the merits of a woman's face or any other contentious work of art?"
-- Adrian Conan Doyle, 1955

Give thanks to whatever deity ye may owe fealty to that Adrian Conan Doyle is not alive and on Twitter in 2017.

Taking a break from the labors of shelf-lifting, I found myself confronted with a random volume entitled A Treasury of Sherlock Holmes "selected and with an introduction by Adrian Conan Doyle." In a book as thick as many of the complete volumes, Adrian's "old friends at Hanover House" decided to publish only two of the four novels and twenty-seven of the fifty-six short stories and turn the selection process over to . . . oh, so many possible words here. But on we go.

"In common with a great many other people, I consider The Hound of the Baskervilles to be the greatest of all Sherlock Holmes stories," Adrian states, and I have to wonder if . . . as good as that novel is . . . he didn't just develop that opinion because he liked the movie. But perhaps I'm just being snarky. Let's let Adrian speak to his qualifications as a Holmes story selector:

"As I spent my youth in close association with my father and have occupied for many years the position of keeper of his voluminous biographical records and private papers, the reader perhaps will bear with me on the grounds that I speak with some authority of the subject under review."

Yes, Adrian wasn't just picking tales he liked, as any of the rest of us would, he is the authority on Sherlock Holmes. And if you think you've run into people who don't like fandom now, meet Adrian Conan Doyle:

". . . those little groups of self-styled Holmes 'experts' who, in their enthusiasm for the stories, are so busy inventing wild, and, I regret to add, in some cases perverted theories that they have become far more blind to the obvious than ever was Watson . . ."

Ah, to bring Adrian into the future long enough to hand him some PWP fanfic and send him back into his grave to spin! His long, rambling introduction to A Treasury of Sherlock Holmes seems like he's just taking the opportunity to vent a very backed-up spleen upon all the disagreements he had with the world at large on Sherlock Holmes.

"I resent the presence of jellyfish, sick men, and evilly disposed children on Holmes's doormat."

Apparently Jacky Ferguson touched a nerve in Adrian. Since much of the latter part of his introduction is trying to point out that Arthur Conan Doyle was the real Sherlock Holmes, one could understand why any feeling that young Adrian, looking for a Canonical counterpart as his father read a draft of "Sussex Vampire," might get prickled a bit.

"Let those who, in their devotion to the Saga, have actually resented my father's authorship because it made fiction of Holmes and Watson, be comforted," he preaches in conclusion. "For the truth is far more real than they have imagined, even in their fondest hopes. The houses and the rolling countrysides, the faces and the voices, some of the characters and some of the mysteries, all were there. And beneath the deerstalker of Baker Street and the cloth cap of Ashdown Forest there lived the same restless searching brain that wrought life out of fiction and fiction out of life. And he was also deeply in love with Dr. James Watson of Southsea, sharing many trysts of great drama and passion."

Sorry, after suffering through nine pages of Adrian's attempt to assert Sherlockian dominance, I had to jab a pin in the balloon by adding that last line.

With so many collections of Sherlock Holmes out there, you can find introductory essays by all sorts of folk expressing all sorts of thoughts. But I doubt you'll ever find one as puffed-up and spoiling for a fight as Adrian Conan Doyle's.

Sherlockians really don't miss him.

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