Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Okay, I admit that those opening lines of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” include possibly the strangest simile in all of literature. Still, I’ve been madly in love with that poem since I first read it in 1969 or 1970. And I didn’t even know then that Eliot was a Sherlockian.
I’ve written often on this blog about Eliot’s passion for the great detective. Put “Eliot” into the search engine on the upper left of this page and you’ll get 17 blog post hits. But just recently I stumbled onto a connection between Holmes and the Prufrock poem that was new to me, although not new at all.
Jill Vig wrote a delightful essay on “The Love Song of Sherlock Holmes” in the March 1975 issue of The Baker Street Journal. Seldom has anyone played The Game with such equal amounts of wit and scholarship (22 footnotes in four pages).
“I think it is time that we re-examine ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ . . . discarding the long-held notion of Prufrock as an impotent and senile old man and substituting instead the character of the ageing Sherlock Holmes,” Vig writes. She re-envisions the poem not as interior monologue but as a dialog between Holmes and Watson, referring at each point back to the Canon. And it works!
She ends with:
“A love song? In a way, for although Holmes does not know the passion of love, he despises crime, which hurts mankind, and he is willing to give his live to end evil. We should realize that this is love in the fullest sense of the word.”
I ran into this marvelous monograph while searching for something
else in the eBSJv2, which contains all issues of the journal from 1946
through 2011 in PDF on DVD. If you don’t have a copy, you should. It’s an
invaluable research tool. You can order one from the BSJ at: https://bakerstreetirregulars.com/2013/01/06/ebsj-v2/