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Friday, December 23, 2011
"The Joy of Sherlock Holmes"
I just read A Study in Sherlock, but not the new book edited by Laurie King and Les Klinger. (I'll get to that one eventually.)
This Study is a 24-page guide to the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection at Portsmouth, England, a marvelous assemblage of books, posters, photos, and other materials collected by the late Richard Lancelyn Green. He chose Portsmouth to house the collection because it was there, at No. 1 Bush Villas in Southsea, that young Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle -- lacking patients -- wrote A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four.
Although brief, the booklet is a nice introduction to ACD and Sherlock Holmes. I particularly liked the foreword by British actor Stephen Fry, which ends with these insightful paragraphs:
Conan Doyle created a modern hero in the sense that Holmes is someone who uses modern society, who is involved in it, implicated in it, and who is like a spider in a web who reads every twitch of the filament of the web. He understands it, he knows the soils in the ground, he knows the cigar ash. All of the modern things that people have he can trace.
The whole point of Holmes is the way he works within a world that was chaotic, but fundamentally knowable, in the way that disease is knowable and the body is a mechanism that gives away its secrets to those that can read them. The joy of Shelrock Holmes
is that it is the last gasp of a readable world, and we love reading a world like that. The idea that you can read with such precision is now seen as more or less old fashioned, but it is so comforting.
Reading A Study in Sherlock made me want to see the exhibit and a special film called "The Case of the Portsmouth Doctor," a Sherlock Holmes adventure built around specific items in the collection. Perhaps I will be able to visit on my trip to England next spring.
The booklet was part of an amazing packet of Sherlockian goodies sent to me by Mr. Dennis Moore, a proud resident of Portsmouth who is a friend of a friend. I hope that he is now my friend as well. One of the other items he sent me was a marvelous poster of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which I will frame and hang in the room in which I write.
What is your favorite Sherlock Holmes collection or museum?