More On Mycroft

For a moment, forget all of the “character business” we know about Mycroft and think of him in context of the Canonical structure.  What is Mycroft’s role and purpose in the Canon?  Is he a major or minor character?   Is he essential to understanding something about Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson? Is he simply interesting but not essential? If Mycroft was not included in the Canon, would we notice his absence?

Consider what Sherlock tells us: 1) Mycroft is older; 2) Mycroft has greater powers than Sherlock; 3) Mycroft is even more intellectually powerful and ascetic than Sherlock; 4) Everything concerning Mycroft is static whereas everything about Sherlock is dynamic; Mycroft is ennui and Sherlock is energy.

Is Mycroft a literary device to illuminate Sherlock? What is Watson’s opinion of Mycroft, or does he have one?

Your thoughts . . . .?

Mycroft: Did He Pass Away?

Margie Deck “Gwen” from Seattle’s Sound of the Baskervilles and one of our most active Members has sent along a very interesting question.  She refers to the Sherlock Peoria blog and a posting that ask whether Mycroft might have passed away when “The Dying Detective” was written.  Here is the link:

Margie wonders whether anyone would like to reason a response to this question. The premise of the theory is that if Holmes was dying Watson surely would have notified Mycroft, yet no mention of Mycroft is made.

Thoughts? Can you support or refute the position?

Musings From Outside the Doctor’s Consulting Room

Buttons has had time recently to sit upon his stool outside the good Doctor’s consulting room and just think a bit. A few things come to mind and perhaps members will feel free to comment:

What are we doing right as a Society and what are we doing wrong? Or, perhaps, it is better to ask: What could we do better or more of in order to serve our members to stimulate more participation and momentum?

We have more members submitting papers and articles than perhaps other print journals in the Sherlockian world, and that is an amazing thing in this world of “digital everything.”  How do we take that positive fact and build upon it?  How do we encourage articles and papers from young student Watsonians?

We have a core group of unbeatable Quiz Mavens who participate every week. And we have equal interest in the annual Treasure Hunt. But, are we creating quizzes that stimulate the imagination and further our interest in the Canon?  How do we expand the participation to more members and non-members alike?

Our email communications met with disaster when our last member-wide email sent out caused half the members to accidently “unsubscribe.”  In order to gain better control, we will need to use a better email service provider, but that is costly.  If Buttons sent each member a personal email every other month, it would take about 150 hours a year to do so. An email every now and then that covers important information–sent to all members at one time–is needed.  Not everyone looks at the website every day or two, but an email once a month might be welcomed. Thoughts?

And a last thought concerns membership. You will read more about this in the forthcoming issue of The Watsonian, but the fact is we need to recruit about 40% new members every year to remain at a size where we can afford to continue doing the things we are doing (journals, monographs, writing prizes, International Treasure Hunt, comprehensive website, postage, etc.).  As always, the best ideas come from the members of any organization, so feel free to comment with your ideas and observations.

Thanks. Now, it is just time for a pie . . . a pint or two overage last evening.

A Survey Question for the Membership: Train Journeys

A question recurs:  How many different train trips are mentioned in the Canon?  Not subway or ‘tube’ trips, but true train journeys.
Buttons, who has logged many train trips criss-crossing England in all directions, as well as Wales and Scotland, over nearly thirty years, likes to believe he has been on most of the rails that conveyed the good Doctor and Mr Holmes. He particularly remembers one wonderful, uninterrupted, non-stop trip of two days from Penzance in Cornwall to John O’Groats at the very northern end of Scotland (nearly as far apart as you can get in Great Britain), notable for its crossing of the great, lonely moors, the necessity for transfers to narrow-gauge, two-coach branch lines, and the excellent quality of the dining car food, drink and service.
Anyone care to offer a catalogue of the individual journeys by story taken by our favourite Victorian friends?

Photography in the Canon

The Sherlock Holmes Society of London is sponsoring a seminar looking at Photography in the Canon. This worthy topic, of course, raises the question: What are the photographic references in the Canon; which stories, and what are the specific instances? Frankly, Buttons cannot think of a single one off the top of his head. He’s confident many of our members will do much better. He will, however, contemplate the question during today’s ‘pie and pint’ break.

Dr Watson and Differing Nationalities

The Canon is filled with differing nationalities, nations, and international references; perhaps more so than any other collection in the detective fiction genre.

Many of the stories and books contain elements of international travel, foreign settings, citizens of many countries, and other story elements that hinge on a “global vision” as set down by the writer.

A catalogue of this fulsome “internationality” would be of interest. Anyone care to expand on this aspect of the scholarship? Anyone care to comment on Dr Watson’s reasons for introducing so much of the non-British world into the Canon?

Canonical Valentine?

It is doubtful that Valentine’s Day is referenced in the Canon, but might there be other holiday references, explicit or implicit, that are mentioned or alluded to in the stories and books? Anyone care to develop a catalogue of Canonical Holidays?

Dr Watson in Contemporary Times: A Question 

Our members, Ariana Maher and Ron Lies and our observer, Barbara Piper, in recent posts bring to the discussion thoughts on the contemporaneity of John Watson and Sherlock Holmes as a result of several immensely popular cable TV portrayals. Indeed, interest in Sherlock Holmes and John Watson has never been so great in the long history of the Sherlockian milieu.

Without focusing on “elitism” of the “Traditionalists” or “expansionism” of the “Fandom” devotees, what are your thoughts on this massive revival of the Canon in contemporary time and settings?

As background, many of us can recall how the Jeremy Brett series on TV created both excitement and reservations, yet the series was relatively true to the text and the times and now seems almost “traditional.”

Of recent interest in the international news are reports of the huge interest in Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson that is sweeping China. Imagine a new cadre of Sherlockians and Watsonians numbering in the potentially millions and all under the age of twenty-five!

The question becomes: How does the Canon gain or lose by its progression in time and contemporaneity?

Kumar Bhatia, JHWS “Bobbie” from Dubai Sends a Very Interesting Question for Your Responses

Below is “Bobbie’s” question:

Watson tells us that he was “. . . standing at the Criterion bar” when he met Stamford, “. . . who had been a dresser under me at Bart’s.”

The Criterion was then, and is even today, an upscale establishment. How could Dr Watson afford the price of a pre-lunch drink (or perhaps even two) at the undoubtedly pricey Criterion given the state of his finances which, in his own words, was hardly sound: “So alarming did the state of my finances become, that I soon realized that I must either leave the metropolis and rusticate somewhere in the country, or that I must make a complete alteration in my style of living . . . .”

Did the long-shot mare he had bet on over the Christmas racing season come in a whopping twenty to one and permit Watson the luxury of a celebration at the Criterion?

Kumar provides us with a number of avenues for research: 1) the Christmas racing season and plausible long-shot horses; 2) the evidence for Stamford picking up the tab; 3)  the potential of Dr Watson having a tab at the Criterion; 4) or perhaps the simple explanation: he wished to do so without regard to his finances.

Please comment if you have an idea on this question you wish to share. And “Thank You” to Kumar Bhatia “Bobbie” for his always interesting and thoughtful contributions.

Another Research Question

What do we know of shaving and barbering in the Canon? Equally, what do we know of  hairstyling and cosmetics? Please reply directly to “Comments” here.

What Else Do We Read?

Buttons has been wondering about what other authors we Watsonians read. It may be interesting to have our members write mini-essays on this topic as comments below. We might be surprised by either the variety or the similarity of our reading pleasures. Plus, it is always fascinating to read about the literary interests of our fellow colleagues in literature. Perhaps Buttons may be allowed to start in order to lead the way:

Buttons began reading the Sacred Canon at age 8 and has re-read it completely once every year, either in the winter or the summer, ever since. This year is the 62nd re-reading of the Canon. But, he also re-reads all of the Thomas Hardy novels every fall; all of Dickens every winter; all of Christie’s Poirot every spring; and all of Kenneth Grahame’s novels every summer; plus other things around the edges, such as Solar Pons and Luis Borges in recent years. He has maintained this routine for over 38 years. As such, he seldom ever emerges from the 19th century and almost never is outside British literature, the only exception being his constant reading and re-reading of the ancient Japanese and Chinese poetry he studied at university and the collected poetry of Wallace Stevens each year.

The process of reading, for Buttons anyway, requires a large, comfortable, over-stuffed chair, a footstool, and a proper floor lamp over the left shoulder. A chair-side table is a requisite, in order to manage the coffee, and apple or two, the bowl of nuts, or the odd adult beverage. A black, round #2 pencil and a half-sheet of foolscap is there also in the event a note needs to be made, or a quiz question comes to mind. In fall and winter, a throw is added for the warmth that often precedes the inevitable nap.

Now, what about you? What are your reading interests and habits? Who would care to recommend an author or two who provided you with great pleasure and enjoyment over the years? What is your number one favorite book? Buttons can never read The Hound of the Baskervilles enough, but admits his favorite book remains The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.