I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained.Ah, London!
-- A Study in Scarlet, Chapter 1, “Mr. Sherlock Holmes”
A friend of my wife recently sent my way the January 2010 issue of Smithsonian magazine, which features an excellent 10-page article on “Sherlock Holmes’ London.”
In it, author Joshua Hammer says: “Victorian London takes on almost the presence of a character in the stories, as fully realized – in all its fogs, back alleys and shadowy quarters” – as Holmes himself.”
Conan Doyle, Hammer argues, captured the essence of the city “like few other writers before or since.” Reading his lavishly illustrated article put me in mind of that great line about Sherlock Holmes by William Bolitho (as quoted by Howard Haycraft): “He is more than a book. He is the spirit of a town and a time.”
These reflections have filled me with nostalgia for my own brief trip to the great city in 1997. Happily, we plan to return next year to research two Sherlock Holmes-related mystery novels. I will be delighted to be drained once again into that cesspool.
How do you feel about London?