Saturday, March 13, 2021


 Late in 1893, Sherlock Holmes died and nothing happened.

There are legends, rumors, certainly. Young businessmen in black armbands. And a few facts with evidence to back them up. A writer named John Kendrick Bangs put Sherlock Holmes into the afterlife. A playwright named Charles Rodgers wrote a play.

On January 15, 2012, Sherlock Holmes died and things rolled out a little differently.

In 1893, there was only one story, one Sherlock Holmes. And he was dead.

In 2012, there were already multiple Sherlock Holmeses when the core Sherlock Holmes died. And the creators of all those other Sherlocks knew that the death of the 1893 Sherlock Holmes was a lie.

And more Sherlocks were created.

The difference between 1893 and 2012 tells us something about more than just Sherlock Holmes. Because Sherlock Holmes didn't change. Humanity did.

As much as we like to think our Sherlock is in a little box of Canon, living on, immortal and unchanged, nothing could be further from the truth. Even that Sherlock Holmes we first encountered, the one each of us loves best, does not stay the same in our own heads as we move through the years. Other Sherlocks, our own life experiences, it all shapes the edges of that Sherlock and paints his surfaces with new shades of color.

If you watch Sherlock Holmes closely enough, you can actually see humanity reflected and omens of what is to come. Remember when Johnlock didn't come about in a certain television show and the denial ran so deep? Lines up with a certain 2020 election, doesn't it? Sherlockians interacting with Sherlock practically become an indicator of trends in human behavior. 

Sherlock Holmes has become so much more than Sherlock Holmes.

We know that. Yet I don't know that we're even capable of seeing the entirety of what he is, especially from the inside of our Sherlockian bubble. We can see him better than those who stand at a distance, or are looking another direction. But we also like to think our bubble has edges to it . . . as one can see by my even calling it a "bubble." Sherlock Holmes is in the human world, running through its cultural veins, in parts of our culture where we don't even know it is.

In an age where much attention is given to pronouns, we don't often think of Sherlock Holmes as an "it," that most insulting of pronouns in its object-ness, but the larger thing that is Sherlock Holmes, not just the character from a book, not just the role on the screen, that larger thing is an it. A great big, Lovecraftian, unimaginable "it."

One doesn't like to think of our little fuzzy puppy of a Sherlock in that larger form, that "it" beyond all knowing. And maybe it's best if we don't. Glimpsing it every now and then is probably enough. We never want to look too hard in the mirror.

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