If there is one story in the Holmes canon that Sherlockians are most likely to re-read annually, it is “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” – and this is the time of year when we do it.
The ideal day to read it, of course, is “the second morning after Christmas.” But we live in an imperfect world.
In his second greatest introduction, after “In Memoriam Sherlock Holmes,” Christopher Morley famously wrote of this tale: “Surely one of the most unusual things in the world: a Christmas Story without mush.”That was his opening sentence. Morley went on to argue that “The Blue Carbuncle” is “a far better work of art than the immortal Christmas Carol.”
Morley wrote these words in an eight-page essay adorning the first book to be published by the Baker Street Irregulars. Issued for Christmas 1948, it is a 64-page volume containing the story, two of Sidney Paget’s Strand illustrations of it, Morley’s introduction, and a bibliographical note at the end by Edgar W. Smith.I’ve known of this book for years. Recently I had the good fortune to acquire a copy from Don Curtis, BSI. It was a pleasure to hold the book in my hands, but also to re-read Morley’s introduction, which I had previously encountered in The Standard Doyle Company.
Sherlockians often greet themselves at this time of the year with “Compliments of the season,” aping Dr. Watson. Morley loves the expression. He writes:
Not a Merry Old Christmas, not Jucund Yule; just the bashful British meiosis, Compliments of the Season. Wary old Watson, one of Britain’s great understatesmen. No emotional Heilige Nacht, no Tannenbaum, no vast substantial Fezziwigs, no lachrymous Yuletide yowling. Compliments of the Season, Old Boy; and how are you Holmes?
Whoever wrote the dust jack flap also did a fine job. It says in part:
“The Blue Carbuncle . . . has everything a great detective story should have: it has atmosphere, plot, action, detective tours de force, and a dramatic climax and denouement. But it has something more besides – it has Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.”Amen to all of that!
he 70th anniversary of this landmark volume is just three years away. That would be a fine time for a reprint. Better yet, why not a book that combines all of the elements of this book, plusVincent Starrett’s “The Adventure of the Unique Hamlet” and August Derleth’s “TheAdventure of the Unique Dickensians”? That would truly be a Christmas book for the ages!