Thursday, November 24, 2022

The gratitudes of Sherlock Holmes

 Sometimes I get tired of the Maxie Sunshines preaching "gratitude" at us.

Human resources departments push seminars on gratitude as "lunch and learns" so you can spend your free moments learning to just be happy with whatever bad job situation they might be dealing to you. Self-help industrialists add it to their bag of tools for selling yet another book. And, like all else, it has its time and its place.

What was its place in the lore of Sherlock Holmes?

Well, let's start with "the old crone" who showed up at Baker Street to reclaim her daughter's wedding ring in A Study in Scarlet, so full of gratitude for getting the ring back before Holmes went, "Old woman be damned!" and started chasing her cab. Her gratitude was as much a pose as her age and gender.

There was the theoretical "love and gratitude" of a niece, adopted by her uncle, that was overcome with her feelings for the villain she fell in love with in "Beryl Coronet."

There were the repeated, needful words of the servant to the master, spoken by Barrymore in The Hound of the Baskervilles, that speak more of the power dynamic than fair appreciation.

Scotland Yard's Stanley Hopkins appreciating Sherlock Holmes for his usual excellent work in "Black Peter" is a pretty solid piece of gratitude.

And Sherlock Holmes has perhaps the most heartfelt moment of gratitude in the whole of the Sherlockian Canon, when he breathes "a prayer of gratitude" that Sir Henry Baskerville is still alive after the supposed hellhound attack.

On the other side of the coin, the person with the worst complaint of someone's lack of gratitude is one of the most unpleasant people Sherlock Holmes had to deal with: Josiah Amberley of "Retired Colourman."

It's easy to see that the sixty stories of Sherlock Holmes represent gratitude as a very personal choice, something one comes to as situations arise. It can be inauthentic. It can be expected. It can be delight. And it can be the recovery moment once a tragic force misses its target. Gratitude can be many things, but one thing it is not is a steady mantra of decided satisfaction with one's lot. And not another holiday-required emotional state . . . well, quite yet, as we haven't gotten a Thanksgiving Charles Dickens to arm the fans of the American holiday with a slur for those folks who choose not to get into "the spirit" of the thing.

So my gratitude on this Thursday of November is most definitely placed on all the parts of a feast day that are not yet expected nor required. May your day be phony crone free. May you not need to breathe in relief after your Canadian friends barely survive something horrid. And may you never have to travel in the company of Josiah Amberley, perhaps the worst experience Sherlock Holmes ever put upon his friend Watson.

Happy Thursday!

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