Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A tonic for Depression?

For mysterious purposes outside of our usual Sherlockian ends, I've been spending a lot of time on 1932 of late. Two years before the first birthday celebration for Sherlock Holmes was convened in New York City, important Sherlockian things were still going on. Connections were being made. Research was being done. And it is a very hard time to wrap a modern mind around.

The Great Depression was in full effect after its 1929 start. Prohibition had yet to be repealed, as it would be at the end of 1933. The phrase "doesn't know where his next meal is coming from" had a practical meaning most of us are lucky to have never known.

Radio had only just settled in as a regular entertainment that could reach multiple homes at the same time, and a woman named Edith Meiser was responsible for spreading Sherlock Holmes to literate and non-literate homes alike with the first radio series of adaptations starting in 1930. The Complete Sherlock Holmes may have been brand new, but even if you couldn't afford it there were enough collections, reprints, pirate editions, and the like out there that you could probably acquire some Holmes to read somehow.

Between the publication of the last new Sherlock Holmes story by Conan Doyle in 1926 and the flag-planting of Sherlock's birthday on January 6, 1934, a critical mass for Sherlock Holmes was certainly building, and I can't help but think it had something to do with just how hard times had gotten in the early 1930s. Sherlock Holmes's continued popularity for the previous forty years certainly had a lot to do with it, comparing to the modern forty-year run of Star Wars. But we're definitely not in need of light-saber distractions as much as Depression-era folk could use what Sherlock Holmes brought to the armchair.

At least . . . well, lets not get into economic or political issues just now . . . but Sherlock Holmes was just spinning himself up to his full height as some of the toughest times our country has seen were going on, and he's still with us today, in more forms than ever.

221B Baker Street remains our happy place, and as we face the seasonal affect disorder that can come with this time of year, Sherlockians will be spinning Holmes up once more, both this weekend and starting to prepare for the Sherlockings of spring. Because after proving his worth in harder times than we've seen of late, Sherlock Holmes is up for it.

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