Our little library band, the Sherlock Holmes Story Society at Peoria's North Branch Library, just gets better every meeting of late. Tonight we really had the cream of our attendee crop, with one or two notable absences I'd still like to see in the mix, and the discussion of "The Noble Bachelor" made me raise that tale quite a few shelves in my mental library.
I mean, are there any Sherlock Holmes stories that are as much just plain fun as "The Noble Bachelor" when you come right down to it?
It has elements of "A Scandal in Bohemia," as came up in our chat, as Holmes so enjoys making fun of those whose claim to superiority is in title alone. But Irene Adler is enough of a challenge in that case that Sherlock has to focus and get a little serious. In "Noble Bachelor," Holmes has it figured out pretty quickly, and just starts screwing around. Whiskey and cigars, catering a nice dinner for guests, espousing wacky theories about national mergers . . . I can't think of a case where Sherlock Holmes is just enjoying himself so darn much.
Holmes speaks of "those unwelcome social summonses which call upon a man either to be bored or to lie," but in this case, he's neither bored nor lying. He's just having fun.
And he loves the Americans so much.
"It is always a joy to meet an American, Mr. Moulton, for I am one of those who believes that the folly of a monarch and the blundering of a minister in far-gone years will not prevent our children from being some day citizens of the same world-wide country under a flag which shall be a quartering of the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes."
Okay, you might think he was talking about the United Federation of Planets here, if not for that crazy flag idea. That flag flying over a "world-wide country" means that England and America took over the whole damned planet. Where would Holmes get such a crazy idea?
Oh, right, his brother Mycroft was THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT.
Did brother Mycroft rise to power with a goal of world domination, seeing America as a key ally in that cause? The story "The Noble Bachelor" itself might be an actual metaphor for the failure of Mycroft's hopes for empire, as a British noble, hoping to shore up his family dynasty with some American resources, finds the Americans quite content to lead their own lives without his plans.
As I first came to discover at a meeting of the Parallel Cases in St. Louis, a good library discussion group focussing on a single story can be as inspiring as anything in Sherlockiana, and we seem to have a very good group coming together here in Peoria now. This won't be the last you'll read of "Noble Bachelor" thoughts inspired from tonight's gathering, thanks to my fellow Sherlockians and the stimulating conversation they're treating me to.
I am a very lucky fan.