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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

A Delightful Literary Companion


The Baker Street Irregulars has always been a literary society. The same can be said for its scion societies. For most of them, that means reading and discussing the Canon. But some scions, like the BSI itself, have contributed to the literature by issuing publications.

In fact, numerous scions have done so, in many and varied forms – journals, pamphlets, books, comics. To attempt a list of publishing scions would be a fool’s errand, for I would inevitably miss some important examples. I won’t even mention that the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis, of which I am one of the least illustrious members, published six case books in its first 70 years.

But Sir Hugo’s Literary Companion, edited by David C. Humphrey and published in 2007 by Hugo’s Companions of Chicago, is a fine example of how to do it. The book includes two dozen entries by club members, going all the way back to early legends Vincent Starrett and Jay Finley Christ.

Starrett’s entries include the sonnet “221B,” his familiar essay on “No. 221 B Baker Street,” and “A Note on Mr. Sherlock Holmes.” Robert J. Mangler complimented that trio with a charming essay on his personal memories of Starrett.

You can also learn in this volume about Britis coins of the Victorian era, the Pink ‘Un racing sheet, Sherlockian connections to Chicago, the founding of Hugo’s Companions, antecedents of the hell hound of the Baskervilles, and knots in the Canon.

My two favorite essays in the book, because of their originality and cleverness, are both by C. Arnold Johnson. In “Belshazaar Theory,” he argues (with some ingenious if not convincing evidence) that Sherlock Holmes’s birthday was May 17. Hugo’s Companions still celebrate this date with an annual birthday dinner. In “An East Wind,” Johnson builds a case that Moriarty survived Reichenbach and resumed his criminal career in the guise of Dr. Fu Manchu.

This is a twenty-first century book with deep roots in The Game’s earlier days, and I’m happy to add it to my shelves. 

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