In glancing over my notes of the seventy-odd cases in which I have during the last eight years studied the methods of my friend Sherlock Holmes, I find many tragic, some comic, a large number merely strange, but none commonplace; for, working as he did rather for the love of his art than for the acquirement of wealth, he refused to associate himself with any investigation which did not lead towards the unusual, and even the fantastic.
I feel like I’m part of some grand tradition whenever I read Sherlock Holmes in his “original” form. As I mentioned in my first encounter with Sherlock Holmes and Watson, A Study in Scarlet, I’ve always been more exposed to other people’s interpretations of the great detective and his adventures, and I feel, well, kind of awesome, for encountering him directly [directly-er?] like this, as Arthur Conan Doyle wrote him.
I have the Sherlock Holmes canon on my shelves, and I tried to arrange them chronologically. Sherlock Holmes Selected Stories, I did not know where and how to fit it — and so I read it first. Which might have been a mistake, but by the third story, I realized I ought to treat it as a primer, an overview, of the Holmes Chronicles. These stories span years, and so I could see the development of the individual characters, their lives, and especially their relationship. Though, yes, it was an emotional rollercoaster, this Sherlock Holmes crash course.
That’s what I’ll focus on here. Although my instinct is to write about the stories individually, the more natural way to go, it seems, is to treat these stories collectively. I think it’s because it’s primarily about one person — and one particular relationship. The book — the canon, of course — is so particular to this character.
Besides, the commonality of the reading experience with each story follows this usual progression of my reactions: guardedness → excited guessing → exasperated guessing → frustration → anger and self-doubt → awe at Holmes’ genius and Doyle’s plotting → bewilderment → awe all over again. Sigh.
Being a stranger to this genre, I have no idea how these things are plotted; I can’t fathom how an author can make the stories fresh every damn time. It’s easy to underestimate Holmes and his cases, and, for a while, it’s quite fun to try to solve them myself.
But, good lord, Holmes’ uncanny ability to get it right in the most forehead-slapping manner! I commiserate with Watson: I could not help laughing at the ease with which he explained his process of deduction. ‘When I hear you give your reasons,’ I remarked, ‘the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled, until you explain your process. And yet, I believe that my eyes are as good as yours. To which Holmes’ response: ‘Quite so,’ he answered, lighting a cigarette, and throwin himself down into an arm-chair. ‘You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.’ Sure, whatever.
Ah, Watson. The perfect craft decision. He’s identifiable because he’s normal. He’s not creepy-right like Sherlock, but he’s intelligent. As a chronicler, he’s invested in his subject.
There was something in his masterly grasp of the situation, and his keen, incisive reasoning, which made it a pleasure to me to study his system of work, and to follow the quick, subtle methods by which he disentangled the most inextricable mysteries.
And fascinated by him too, though that subject curls his lip at such fascination:
‘Honestly, I cannot congratulate you upon it. Detection is, or ought to be, an exact science, and should be treated in the same cold and emotional manner. Your have attempted to tinge it with romanticism.’
Hah. But, more importantly, Watson does not let this fascination cloud his judgment. That is, though Holmes accuses his friend of romanticizing the process — truly, romanticizing him — Watson gives us the sharpest picture of Holmes: a cold man, possibly lonely, keenly intelligent, an addict, and “as an isolated phenomenon, a brain without a heart, as deficient in human sympathy as he was pre-eminent in intelligence.”
Ah, but Watson — Holmes wuvs you: after a protracted absence, our cold walking brain goes:
‘So it was, my dear Watson, that at two o’clock today I found myself in my old arm-chair in my old room, and only wishing that I could have seen my old friend Watson in the other chair which he has so often adorned.’
I stand by what I said while reading the first book: Bromance, definitely Bromance. Looking forward to the rest of the canon snuggled in one of the boxes in this apartment.
Pancho and I dorking around with ze book. Yes, it is verra creepy.