Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The other writers of the Canon

When we talk about the other people who wrote the sixty-case Canon of Sherlock Holmes besides Dr. Watson, we normally bring up the usual suspects: Sherlock Holmes himself, who wrote "Blanched Soldier" and "Lion's Mane," and Conan Doyle, who most likely takes the blame for all of the third person narratives added in along the way.

But what of the other people who wrote part of that Canon? The people we actually know the names of, at that!

I realized this fact during a re-read of "A Scandal in Bohemia," where we come to the end of the tale and get to read a full letter written by Irene Adler. Ah, what a great Sherlockian collectable that would be -- the original letter possessed by Sherlock Holmes, written in Irene's own hand!

"My dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes," followed by three paragraphs of Irene Adler Norton's very own words. She writes well, with perhaps a wry humor in spots, as when she tells that "it was hard to think evil of such a dear, kind old clergyman." And her respect and admiration for Sherlock Holmes is well-documented in her words as well.

Paging through a copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes, one finds a lot of words that were not written by Watson.

The words on a sign by John Clay. The words in the diary of Elias Openshaw. The words in a letter from Tobias Gregson. And all of those letters from clients explaining things, like the lord who just signed himself "St. Simon" or the lawyers who ganged up with the signature "Morrison, Morrison, and Dodd, per E.J.C."

Even villains have written their bits of the Canon: "Will call at 6:30 -- C.A.M."  "AM HERE ABE SLANEY." "Stuff awaits you when goods delivered. Pierrot."

The turncoat Fred Porlock sneaking out tips. Local officer White Mason, writing to Scotland Yard's MacDonald. The note from Grace Dunbar that seemed to be evidence that she was a murderer. All sorts of details written by all sorts of writers.

Robert Ferguson wrote what might be the longest letter in the Canon, explaining the vampire business, but I have not been too thorough in my research as yet. The length of his note makes one want to take the matter a step further, do word counts, and create a mammoth pie chart breaking down the Canon by individual writer's percentage of the complete hundred.

There is something I heard, however, a small psychological fact that surely guarantees that I'll never be the one to do the work on that. Apparently saying you'll do something, or just explaining how it could be done, can potentially give your brain much the same pleasurable chemicals as actually doing the thing. So anyone wanting to follow up on this line with the full research feel free. A craftsman with pen and paper recreating every letter, note, sign, and other handwritten bit in the Canon might be another excellent way to spend one's days. But bloggers blog, and tomorrow I'll be on to something else.

Still, this thought of the other writers whose words fill the Canon, just intrigues me.

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