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Monday, October 3, 2011
Quintessential Quote #19
"I am lost without my Boswell."
-- Sherlock Holmes, "A Scandal in Bohemia"
The first thing that always strikes me about this quote is that only two of Dr. Watson's accounts of their mutual adventures had been published when Holmes said it. How early he recognized the truth -- that John H.Watson was indispensable to Holmes as chronicler!
This becomes very apparent, of course, in the canonical tales that were not written by Dr. Watson. It is almost a universally-held opinion that at least three of those four tales are among the weakest in the canon, with the one exception being "His Last Bow."
If Dr. Watson was Holmes's Boswell, then Molly Carr deserves to be called Watson's Boswell. Her biography, In Search of Dr. Watson, just released in a new and even better edition, is an outstanding scholarly work that should be on the shelves of anyone who maintains a library of Sherlockian reference books -- even a very small library.
Carr's approach is that it is strongly anchored in the Holmes Canon and in history. In other words, she doesn't make anything up. William S. Baring-Gould's Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street is a standard biography of the Master, but a lot of it he just made up -- such as Sherlock Holmes dying on his birthday in 1957 at the age of 103; that came from nowhere but Baring-Gould's imagination.
The search for Dr. Watson takes Carr and her readers down many fascinating byways -- the background of some of the foreign language quotations in the Canon, for example; a look at Dr. Watson's marriages and his willingness to drop his patients for Holmes; and a nice chapter on other "Watsons," especially Hercule Poirot's Hastings. These are just a few of the delights this book has to offer.
And along the way we learn a good bit about Holmes as well.
Buy this book, read it, keep it.