Saturday, June 25, 2022

The dumps of Sherlock Holmes

 "Let me see -- what are my other shortcomings. I get in the dumps at times, and don't open my mouth for days on end. You much not think I am sulky when I do that. Just let me alone, and I'll soon be right."

-- Sherlock Holmes self-confesses, A Study in Scarlet.

Ah, there are such days. Probably moreso for Sherlock Holmes, given all that perceptive observation of humanity, which . . . well, we are a rather disappointing species a goodly share of the time. It's easy to fall into "the dumps," which sounds a lot like a lighter way of talking about depression. He advises Watson not to take it personally, as "sulky" implies caused a emotional low which a room-mate might feel responsible for. But then comes the "Just let me alone, and I'll soon be right."

How was Holmes planning to get himself out of the dumps? A seven-per-cent solution? A sense of the inevitability of a stimulating case? Just outlasting the feeling?

"There are no crimes and no criminals in these days. What is the use of having brains in our profession," Sherlock Holmes is heard to say not long after, bemoaning how skilled he is in a field that offers no challenge to that skill. He seems to be demonstrating his "dumps" rather quickly.

"Man, or at least criminal man, has lost all enterprise and originality. As to my own little practice, it seems to be degenerating into an agency for recovering lost lead pencils and giving advice to young ladies from boarding-schools."  Probably six years have passed since his first complaints about his job, and he still seems to be in the dumps about it.

221B Baker Street was a rather confined quarters to leave someone completely alone, so Watson, it seems, got to hear a lot of dumping. Sherlock Holmes didn't have Facebook or Twitter to dump on, either. And Mycroft, the man with the club of silence, wasn't the sort to vent at. Wait a minute . . . the Diogenes Club . . . wasn't the whole point of brother Mycroft's club just to be left alone?

Sherlock and Mycroft lived in the most populated metropolis of their day. And the way Sherlock starts that second bit of complaining, before qualifying it: "Man." He's bored with mankind, and sitting in the middle of five million people.

"Just let me alone," he advises, when it comes to "the dumps," a condition that I suspect is a little different from full-on depression -- an introvert needing to recharge after too much time with people -- something required with the career he chose for himself. And Holmes definitely seemed self-aware enough to understand that when he was working out room-mate plans with Watson.

Or perhaps I'm just theorizing that after a long week of travel for work and constant people, I'm just working out my own "dumps." But the way Sherlock Holmes is easy to identify with is one of the reasons he's been with us so very long, and why he's the tremendous character he is, dumps and all.

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