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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Expanding the Canon

Amy Thomas, on her Girl Meets Sherlock blog, recently  made a call for unpopular opinions about Sherlock Holmes. (This reminds me, by the way, of the Dorothy L. Sayers book Unpopular Opinions, which includes some important Holmes essays.)

At first reading, I didn't think I had anything to offer. But then I realized I've held a potentially unpopular opinion since I was a boy and yet have never mentioning it on this blog.

Here goes: Limiting the Canon to four novels and fifthy-six short stories is wrong. The Canon is bigger than that.

My proposal is actually a modest one. I'm not suggesting the inclusion of stories written by Adrian Canon Doyle or "The Man With the Watches" and "The Lost Special," both by Arthur Conan Doyle and both referencing an unnamed "amateur reasoner" who is clearly Sherlock Holmes.

But I do think strongly believe the should (and, in fact, does) include two satirical sketches, "The Field Bazaar" and "How Watson Learned the Trick," and two plays, "The Speckled Band" and "The Crown Diamond: An Evening with Sherlock Holmes."
Admittedly, there are good arguments against all four. The first two are not stories, although they could have been lifted from stories. The dramas are versions of canonical stories. "The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone," one of the weaker stories, apparently was based on "The Crown Diamond."

There is, however, one argument for canonicity that cannot be successfully challenged: Just like all of the canonical works, these four appeared under the byline of Arthur Conan Doyle.

My treasured copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes, the Doubleday edition, says on the cover that it includes "every story Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ever wrote about the most famous detective in fiction." That just isn't true, as I recognized even when I was a budding boy Sherlockian.

Two plays and two sketches, although widely available in various collecitons, aren't included in The Complete Sherlock Holmes. You also won't find them in The Annotated Sherlock Holmes or The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes.  

So let's open wide the Canon and let in these additional works about Sherlock Holmes from his creator or, if you prefer, Dr. Watson's literary agent.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. The Sherlockian Apocrypha has existed as a unique book in that it includes all stories that, in another universe, might have been included in the Canon. These works, of course, have always been included there. Isn't that enough? Once you open up the Canon you create all sorts of mischief. What about the published talks and speeches Doyle gave about Holmes? What about the Gillette play, in which Doyle was credited as co-author? I prefer, instead, to making "The Apocrypha" a book on everyone's shelf as well. Put it right next to your "Complete Sherlock Holmes" and enjoy them both.