Weekly Forum #35: The Definition of Canon

There are no On This Day events recorded today or tomorrow, but on the Hounds website, messages are flying back and forth about the definition of the term “Canon.” What follows is a definition that I agree with totally. The message is from Esmeralda, a fellow member of our group:

One definition of Canon among many similar ones is: a collection or list of sacred books accepted as genuine. “The formation of the biblical canon”

The books published under the name of Arthur Conan Doyle, good and bad, are Canonical. Any Holmes works put out under other names, however good, cannot by that definition be Canonical.

The word was originally used to describe those early religious works gathered together under the name “The Bible” — other books, even if written at the same time on the same subjects, are apocrypha, not Canon.

The best fanfic, films, TV shows, and pastiches can never be Canonical, whatever else they may be. The worst story about Holmes published by ACD (and we can argue forever about which that is) is, like it or not, Canonical.

Of course we can use words to mean what we want them to mean, but in that case, don’t they become meaningless?

Comments, fellow Watsonians?

Weekly Forum #34

Mr.-HolmesMr. Holmes, starring Ian McKellen and based of the book A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin, has arrived at many theaters around the world at this point, so if you have seen the movie, I would love to discuss it with you. (Yes, there will likely be spoilers in the comments, so fair warning if you haven’t seen the film.)

Did you like it? What did you think of Ian McKellen’s portrayal?

Weekly Forum #33

In a recent interview, Martin Freeman spoke of his role in BBC Sherlock and while answering a question about portraying characters who are “ordinary people dragged into the extraordinary,” he had a fascinating thing to say about Dr Watson (emphasis mine):

“Sometimes it’s forgotten… you know, I know what you’re saying about John and Bilbo both being ordinary people dragged into the extraordinary but sometimes it’s forgotten that before John Watson meets Sherlock he’s already an extraordinary man. He is a soldier, he is an army surgeon who saves lives, who can take lives. He is certainly a lot more capable than I am in real life. It’s just that he meets someone who’s even more extraordinary – you know, in a normal room of people John Watson would be the guy, ‘cause he can do stuff that hardly anybody else can do. But he just happens to meet his flatmate – he’s a genius. So a really impressive bloke meets a fantastically impressive bloke and together they make magic.”

That is certainly how Freeman presents him in the BBC adaption. Through the Canon, we can give examples of how Dr Watson saw himself and we know how Mr Holmes viewed his friend, but how did other people view Dr Watson? Was he “the guy”? What moments from the Canon can you find to support or refute that?

Weekly Forum: #31

JHWS “Gwen” read a review of Mr. Holmes in The New Yorker (July 20 issue). The film is reviewed by Richard Brody. The writer made two statements that Gwen wishes to discuss – the first one we discussed last week and the second one is this week.

Since this discusses the movie Mr. Holmes, I’ll but this under a Continue Reading link for those of you who do not wish stumble upon any spoilers.

Continue reading

Weekly Forum: #30

JHWS “Gwen” read a review of Mr. Holmes in The New Yorker (July 20 issue). The film is reviewed by Richard Brody. The writer made two statements that Gwen wishes to discuss – the first one will be this week’s discussion and the second one will be next week’s.

Since this discusses the movie Mr. Holmes, I’ll but this under a Read More link for those of you who do not wish stumble upon any spoilers.

Continue reading

Weekly Forum: #28

The Baker Street Babes recently released “Always 1895: Translating Starrett’s 221B” on their website for free. It’s a e-book of the Vincent Starrett sonnet “221B” translated into song and numerous different languages. You can download it on THIS page.

Every month, at the end of the meeting, everyone in my local scion society listens to a recitation of Vincent Starrett’s “221B.” How does the sonnet resonate for you? Why does it have such a lasting impact on generations of Sherlockians?

by Vincent Starrett

Here dwell together still two men of note
Who never lived and so can never die:
How very near they seem, yet how remote
That age before the world went all awry.
But still the game’s afoot for those with ears
Attuned to catch the distant view-halloo:
England is England yet, for all our fears–
Only those things the heart believes are true.

A yellow fog swirls past the window-pane
As night descends upon this fabled street:
A lonely hansom splashes through the rain,
The ghostly gas lamps fail at twenty feet.
Here, though the world explode, these two survive,
And it is always eighteen ninety-five.

Weekly Forum 2015: #25

There were many notable women in the Canon. Some were heroes, some were villains, and some were caught up in unfortunate circumstances. Aside from our dear Mrs Hudson and a few appearances by Mary Watson née Morstan, there were not many reoccurring women in the stories. Like many clients and criminals, they rarely crossed paths with Holmes and Watson again.

So who is a lady from the Canon that you wished you had seen more of or learned more about?

Weekly Forum 2015: #21

Today’s discussion is about a link from “Chips” via the Facebook group “The Diogenes BookClub:”

15 Curious Facts About Sherlock Holmes and Sherlockian Subculture

The article features several facts gleaned from the new book “The Great Detective” by Zach Dundas. Several are common knowledge among Sherlockians, Holmesians, and we Watsonians, but I’m sure a great deal of these were a surprise to those not so familiar with the world of the great detective and his loyal friend.

What is a fact or two that you find tends to surprise people who are only familiar with Sherlock Holmes through pop culture?

(For me, my friends were very surprised to hear about Sherlockian societies – they were not aware that so many existed!)

Weekly Forum 2015: #20

For some of us, our personal collection does not stop at a well-read copy of the Canon. Instead, it is usually just the beginning…


Collection Curios

Aside from editions of the Canon, let’s discuss a few of the unique and prized items of note from your personal Sherlockian (and/or Watsonian) Collection.

EDIT TO ADD: “Dash” sent in a photo of two treasures from his collection!


To quote “Dash”:
“I keep our invitations to Sherlockian events posted on it with a jackknife. Next to the papers is a small pewter figurine of Holmes. I had purchased one of these at the New York Public Library when I was in high school, my first bit of Holmesian memorabilia. Some years later, I lent it to an exhibit and it was stolen. Several years ago I was able to replace it thanks to the late Vinnie Brosnan, JHWS “Beeton.”

Thank you, everyone, for sharing!

Weekly Forum 2015: #19

This week, let’s discuss the newest publications from the John H Watson Society!

Our Spring 2015 volume of The Watsonian was special to us for a number of reasons. Not only is it the largest volume to date (over 200 pages of content) but it was also one of the last great works from our dear Buttons before going beyond the terrace. I will always treasure this book for its literary and emotional significance to me.

The Adventure of the Duke’s Study by Luca Sartori “Victor” is the first in The Fiction Series and has received a good deal of praise from readers. I personally enjoyed it as it was not only a well-written story, but it also taught me about art and history in the process of reading. Wonderful work, “Victor”!

Some Observations Upon the Early Writing of John H Watson, MD, 1887-1894 by James C O’Leary “Pippin” is the second work to be featured in our Monograph Series and it is one of my favorite pieces of Watsonian scholarship. Pippin put a great deal of thought and effort in his endeavor, which makes it a lovely read. I hope this work will spark further conversations on Dr Watson’s early writings and what we can learn about the dear doctor in the process.

(Please note: Although the books were mailed out in late April and many of you received your books by now, a few of you may not have gotten them in the mail yet, particularly for some of you overseas. If you do not receive your package in the course of the next week or so, please contact me and I can look into this for you.)

Weekly Forum 2015: #18

From The Adventure of the Creeping Man:

We can but try.”

“Excellent, Watson! Compound of the Busy Bee and Excelsior. We can but try—the motto of the firm.”

What do you believe Sherlock Holmes meant by “Busy Bee” and “Excelsior”?

(Note for Next Week: The Weekly Forum on Tues, May 12th will be about the newest publications from the John H Watson Society – so enjoy reading and be set to discuss the Watsonian/Fiction/Monograph publications next Tuesday!)

Weekly Forum 2015: #16

Today’s topic is from our fellow JHWS member “Willow.” Thank you!
If you wish to offer an idea for a Weekly Forum topic, please contact me at carla@johnhwatsonsociety.com

Enjoying the Canon

When you sit down to read the Canon purely for the pleasure of doing so (not counting research or studying for a quiz), which version do you read:

Doubleday, Baring-Gould Annotated, Klinger Annotated, Oxford, John Murray, Limited Edition, an illustrated version, paperback edition, something else? …and also, why?