Weekly Forum 2015: #14

Another one of our members was kind enough to contact me and anonymously offer an interesting topic for us to discuss. If you wish to offer an idea for a Weekly Forum topic, please contact me at carla@johnhwatsonsociety.com

The Detective’s Capacity for Love

In SCAN, Watson notes of Holmes:

“It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise, but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen; but, as a lover, he would have placed himself in a false position” (emphasis added).

Yet, one or two years later (depending upon which chronologist you consult), Watson seems to have hopes that Holmes will find a match in Violet Hunter of COPP. The good doctor notices how Holmes is favourably impressed by the manner and speech of his new client.” Watson also notes that Holmes calls Miss Hunter an “exceptional woman.” Then, at the story’s end, the good doctor says:

“As to Miss Violet Hunter, my friend Holmes, rather to my disappointment, manifested no further interest in her when once she had ceased to be the centre of one of his problems…” (emphasis added)

According to Klinger, TWIS, IDEN, BLUE, FIVE, BOSC, STOC, NAVA, ENGR, HOUN, CROO, and REDH occur between SCAN and COPP. Is there something about Holmes that Watson observed or discovered during these cases that would cause him to change his mind about the Great Detective’s capacity for love or, at the very least, his ability to find and keep a suitable mate? Or, are the good doctor’s musings in COPP merely a reflection of his hopeful character and perhaps his misguided wishes for his friend’s marital happiness? What evidence (or lack thereof) leads you to your conclusions?

2 Replies to “Weekly Forum 2015: #14”

  1. Watson, ever the romantic, was likely engaging in a severe bout of wishful thinking. The more time he spent with Holmes, the more they became friends, the more he wished for Holmes the happiness that he, himself, had found with Mary Morstan.

    Holmes notes that women are Watson’s department; that being so (and who, if not Holmes, would know Watson so well?), Watson’s view of the world must be affected to reflect that aspect of his personality. Holmes sees Watson in ABBE as representative of the British citizen; surely Watson then thinks of love and marriage as being standard, usual, normal if you will, as most of the type of citizen Watson represented did.

    A fish swimming in a pond cannot possibly imagine that there might be a sort of fish that’s happier outside water. Watson, living in a world of men and women being attracted, simply can’t imagine that Holmes, regardless of what he thinks he wants, is really happier without love.

    As time has gone by between SCAN and COPP, Watson has grown closer to Holmes and wants him to have the happiness Watson himself has known.

  2. As I make mention in my monograph, I believe COPP is actually an early case, before 1887. I won’t go into my reasoning for that here (read the monograph) but if COPP is an early case, then Watson’s disappointment in Holmes’ lack of further interest in Miss Hunter maybe seen as another point to that conclusion. Watson has yet to learn of the depth of Holmes’ commitment to the cold unemotional logic that his profession and perhaps his temperament demand.

    From SIGN: “Miss Morstan has done me the honour to accept me as a husband in prospective.”

    He gave a most dismal groan.

    “I feared as much,” said he. “I really cannot congratulate you.”

    I was a little hurt.

    “Have you any reason to be dissatisfied with my choice?” I asked.

    “Not at all. I think she is one of the most charming young ladies I ever met, and might have been most useful in such work as we have been doing. She had a decided genius that way; witness the way in which she preserved that Agra plan from all the other papers of her father. But love is an emotional thing, and whatever is emotional is opposed to that true, cold reason which I place above all things. I should never marry myself, lest I bias my judgment.”

    Holmes’ view are clear here and may have been made more explicit as the wedding approached. While Watson may never have given up hope of Holmes finding love or happiness–see CHAS–I don’t think that Watson had any illusions for Holmes becoming a “lover”.

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