Thursday, May 9, 2019

How are you?

We talk about the first words Sherlock Holmes said to John H. Watson a lot. "You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive." At least that's how it tends to stick in our heads. But there's a few words before that, the actual first words Sherlock Holmes ever says to John Watson.

"How are you?"

Yes, springing right off of Stamford's "Dr. Watson, Mr. Sherlock Holmes," Sherlock grabs John's hand to shake it "with a strength for which I should hardly have given him credit." No limp-fish handshakes for Sherlock Holmes -- he's putting his all into a first impression with a man he's never seen until this moment.

And a "How are you?"

We know Watson was still recovering from his war wound and subsequent illness, and Sherlock is very observant, but how bad do you have to look before someone's first reaction to you is concern for your health? Or was it something else? "How are you?" is a question you normally ask of someone you know, but are seeing again. Is it possible they had met at an earlier age or time, and John Watson either didn't want to write about it or didn't remember Sherlock at all (and didn't want to write about that?).

But if we knock out those two theories, whatever remains, however not-the-Holmes-stereotype, must be the truth: That Sherlock Holmes was actually the sort of person that warmly greeted a stranger.

Sure, John H. Watson wasn't just any stranger. and maybe Sherlock Holmes did know Stamford might be helping him find a room-mate, but still . . . that enthusiastic handshake and a "How are you?"

It's really a nice moment we shouldn't forget about.

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