Sunday, September 23, 2018

A Canon full of questions

I have questions.

Sometimes tales like those of Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson can bring out the child in us, and when my inner child comes out, it usually has that classic kid question: "Why?"

Any given page brings its own questions. Turning to "Black Peter," I find "He had hardly turned to leave the hut when Hopkins's hand was on the fellow's collar, and I heard his loud gasp of terror as he understood that he was taken."

There goes that Victorian collar grab again, which was well demonstrated in St. Louis last month as a technique Holmes used. Why the collar grab? Were collars so much better made back then that they made an effective man-handle, which we lost use of as cheap, tearable t-shirts came into fashion?

Flipping a mass of pages turns the book to this line: "Mr. Sidney Johnson, the senior clerk, met us at the office and received us with that respect which my companion's card always commanded."

Why was Sherlock's card so commanding of respect? The case is Bruce-Partington. The year is 1895. The British public, one would assume, still thinks that Sherlock Holmes died at Reichenbach Falls. But maybe the "always commanded" had a job-specific focus that Watson left out. Mr. Sidney Johnson was a British government clerk, the area of employment where a person might internally react, "Holy crap! It's the little brother of Mycroft Holmes! Get your act together, Sidney, we don't want to get on his bad side." Instant respect at government offices from handing out a card with "Sherlock Holmes" on it . . . that I can see.

Another page and . . . Sherlock Holmes had "flashing eyes" in A Study in Scarlet?

"Anthony Jones" is a Scotland Yardman in The Sign of Four?

Sherlock Holmes can tell Watson has put on 7.5 pounds since his marriage, within .5 pounds of what Watson has apparently recently weighed himself to find?


Oh, descriptive license, a textual variant, and he got a lucky guess, if you want to go simple, but . . . why was Watson weighing himself all the time? Was that a doctor thing, or did households have bathroom scales already in 1887?

Why has Watson only seen the seventeen steps to 221B "hundreds" of times after living there six years? It would have to be thousands, wouldn't it?

Why did Miss Morrison have "blond" hair? That was boy hair, wasn't it?

Why does Dr. Mortimer keep important 140-year-old documents in his pocket?

And don't get me started on Billy. Something just not right about that kid. But when one runs into one the the Canon's larger little mysteries, like Billy or Watson's wound, it's time to cut and run, before things get too deep. Though really, one can go deep on just about any detail in the Canon, which is what makes it such fun.

So many "why"s that one can't help but be a kid again, reading of Sherlock Holmes. Which is the answer to one "why" -- why we keep going back.

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