Saturday, April 20, 2019

The fan who speaks for us all

"We're not jealous of you at Scotland Yard. No, sir, we are very proud of you, and if you come down to -morrow there's not a man, from the oldest inspector to the youngest constable, who wouldn't be glad to shake you by the hand."
--G. Lestrade, "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons"

Over the years, Inspector Lestrade seemed to warm a little bit to Sherlock Holmes. Maybe more than a little. In 1894, after a few years without the consulting detective, Lestrade is all "I've got you now, you over-rated consultant!" in "Norwood Builder," but eight years later, when he utters the statement above, he's all Sherlock Holmes fanboy.

But was everyone else at Scotland Yard so thrilled with their Baker Street benefactor? Had Gregson come around as well? How about Constable Rance or one of the other officers that suddenly found themselves looking foolish in Watson's best-sellers? And have you worked anywhere where outside consultants were brought in because their skills were so publicly lauded over the home team?

I suspect Lestrade was exaggerating Scotland Yard's complete and total affection for Holmes a little bit.

But such is the way of the exuberant fan, the sort of person who steps up to the mike at a celebrity Q&A, designates themselves the speaker for all of fandom, and proceeds to say whatever they themselves feel in their hearts, amplified by words like, "I just want to say for all of us . . ." while at least one person in that room rolls their eyes.

Speaking for just myself, here, because I am that eye-roller. I usually let those happy enthusiasts off the hook, though, as they're caught up in the moment, and faced with a celebrity, who among us might not feel the urge to puff ourselves up to a larger size just to face said person of greatness. But there's also the darker version of that same sort . . . the fan who wants to speak for the rest of us just to define what our fandom thinks or does to anyone who will listen.

We have a wonderfully accepting Sherlockian community, where your ego can get a nice petting on occasion . . . nothing at all wrong with that. But if your ego starts to mainline that petting and swell up to a place where it's issuing royal edicts or hobby-wide proclamations, well, maybe it's time to dial it back a bit and lay off the juice. Lately I've been seeing some names pop up from a few . . . ummmm,  "folks" . . .  whom I'd forgotten about, who were fond of presenting themselves as a speaker for Sherlockiana decades ago, and still seem to be at it today. The sort that even when doing something so positive on the surface as bestowing an honor on someone else, it was plain that their apparent ability to hand out that award was as much about confirming their perceived status as honoring their target. But I really don't want to insult our pal Lestrade with any collateral comparison damage there, so back to business.

I'm not exactly sure why Lestrade had decided to speak for all of Scotland Yard in that moment in "The Six Napoleons." Maybe he felt Holmes's achievement in solving the case was so masterful that the compliment of a single inspector would not be enough, and needed to be amplified by making it come from all of the Yard. Lestrade, by 1902, had been taken down a peg so often that he definitely wasn't doing it to try to show himself as more important at the Yard than he was.

Sherlock Holmes certainly believed Lestrade's words, as we see from Watson's description, "it seemed to me that he was more nearly moved by the softer human emotions than I had ever seen him." (Sherstrade fans, this might be your quote to needle your local Johnlocker, if you're friendly enough to do a little ship-poking.) So even if Sherlock Holmes knew the words weren't exactly one hundred percent factual, the fact that Lestrade cared enough to express it that way did seem to mean a lot to him.

And that, I suppose, isn't worth the eye roll that an old cynic like me might have given Lestrade, had I been there. Speaking for no fans but myself, let me say this: Good luck figuring it all out. It's yours to figure out, though, in any case.

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