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Sherlock vs Elementary

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In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 6:53:34 AM PST
Cav: It has been some time since I read A Scandal in Bohemia. However, I do believe that the action of the story would belie the notion that Ms. Adler and Watson ought to be identified as one.

CJV does the BSI great injustice. I'm not a formal BSI myself, although I did attend a few meetings of the scion society in Chicago--Hugo's Companions, one of the oldest in the US. The BSI is one large shared jest, founded on a shared appreciation for Conan Doyle's singular genius. (He is the literary agent, as you well know.) A large proportion of BSIs are professionals; a condition of formal entrance is an examination of the Canon and presenting an original paper on some aspect of the Canon. Quite different from the commonly heald view of Trekkies. Heck, CJV didn't even get that right--the preferred term is Trekker.

I fear that you all are not taking Stout's essay in the spirit in which it was written. If you are going to refute it, cite chapter and verse, and do not indulge in extra-textual speculation.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 6:56:00 AM PST
H: Ms. King's work is not an alternate Sherlock, but a documentation of Holmes' later career, after his retirement to the Sussex Downs. It does not present an alternate view of the Canonical period.

In these matters, one's terminology must be as exact as possible.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 7:06:49 AM PST
H: Empathy?

Yet another example of how our view of the world has changed.

The very word does not exist in English until 1904, and the sense in which it is used there is "The power of projecting one's personality into (and so fully comprehending) the object of contemplation". The original usage applies more to aesthetics. I suspect the modern sense is a product of the last 20 or 30 years.

If there isn't a word for it, it's a pretty fair sign that the concept isn't part of the intellectual framework.

Without further digging, and basing this judgment on my reading in Victorian literature, the relevant term would be "sympathy".

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 8:59:10 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 29, 2012 9:27:40 AM PST
Hikari says:
Well, Mr. Smith--
After some days of radio silence, you come roaring back to life in rare form.

To address your expressed concerns--
1. Mornings are for coffee, but as I'm winding down for bed in these early pre-winter nights, I like to have a cup or two of tea. Plain Lipton, not Earl Grey (for which I do not care--too perfumy for my taste--though were I offered afternoon tea at an earl's estate or at the Queen's 'pile', I wouldn't turn it down, surely. That would be rude.) Tea is thin enough without diluting it further with 2% milk, which is all I drink, when I drink milk. Low-fat milk has the unfortunate property of turning tea or coffee an unappetizing grey. I use a small dollop of half-and-half, not being able to keep clotted cream on hand. It is, most precisely then, half-milk/half-cream tea. But that is unwieldy, so I shortened it. Never mind what I put in my tea---aren't you even a tiny bit curious as to how I managed to spill it on Benedict Cumberbatch? You tend to fixate on the least-interesting details of a story, dear sir.

2. You yourself recommended and even rather strenuously promoted Rex Stout's essay "Watson was a Woman?" to the readership. Knowing how seriously you hold the Sacred Writings of Conan Doyle, I was unprepared for it to be taken as 'jeu d'esprit.' It does read better that way. To remove John Watson from the picture and make him a 'mere' woman, even if 'The' Woman would be to deprive us of the greatest male partnership since David met Jonathan. I want John Watson to stay as he is--a guy, and Sherlock's BFF. I wouldn't be adverse to Sherlock getting some pillow action with a femme, but doubt Sir Arthur would have approved the idea.

3. Re. Ms. King's novels. Excuse my choice of 'alternate Sherlock'. How about 'amplified Sherlock'? Ms. King is very faithful indeed to the spirit of Doyle's creation, but since Doyle didn't write any of it, let us call it an alternate vision of Sherlock's future that Doyle did not give us. I think he may have been scandalized for Sherlock to take a barely-legal wife in his 60s, but never mind. Ms. King obviously has great affection for the Sacred Writings herself. If they ever decide to do a series of films about Sherlock between the world wars with a young wife, I hope they engage Ms. King as a screenwriter. Are you up on her latest offering, 'The Pirate King'? I am not that far yet, but as we know, as a child Sherlock did want to be a pirate, so it's a fitting theme.

4. I will have to take your word for 'empathy' not existing in English until 1904. I will not require you to cite chapter and verse for that assertion. I don't think it has anything to do with 'personality'. It is the ability to intuit another person's suffering or happiness, drawing on personal experiences and/or the power of the imagination. It is synonomous with 'compassion'--and you can't tell me that word hasn't been around since before 1904. 'Sympathy' is concern, but at a bit of a remove; one feels bad for another person's misfortune, but doesn't really understand, as deeply as is connoted by empathy, what the other person is feeling.

I must take strenuously exception to your statement that if a word for something does not exist, it's not part of the intellectual framework. Language arises out of communal experiences and gives testament to them, not the other way around. If your thesis is true, than a tribe with no verbal language must then have zero intellectual or emotional experiences because they don't use words to describe them. You might want to reexamine that view.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 9:45:42 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 29, 2012 9:51:00 AM PST
H: In re: point one: my only point was that you misuse the term cream tea. You further compound the error by assuming that clotted cream goes in the tea. It does not; it goes on the scones. It is akin to creme fraiche, although far less acid or sour. I will merely add that, in proper British tea culture, the only milk involved is whole milk. Whatever Colonial aberrations in which you wish to indulge are at your own peril.

Point two: I quite like Stout's essay for what it is--a most amusing jape. I introduced it solely to point out that the notion of a female Watson was in fact entirely unoriginal.

Point three: Sorry to be perhaps excessively precise--but amplified does not really fit either. Since the period in question is one on which Watson and the literary agent are silent, it can scarcely be called either alternate or amplified, since one cannot amplify that which is not present. I like "continuation".
Point four: The most serious. First of all, there are no tribes with no "verbal language"--no written language, to be sure. Any type of human organization or culture is impossible without language, and language in turn forms a matrix which embeds the concepts of that organization or culture. Language expresses what is important in a culture, and when something becomes important, words are created to express it. Yes, to an extent one is talking about a chicken and egg problem. But consider the well-known phenomenon that Hawaiian, for instance, has multiple words for different types of igneous rock--which have become absorbed into English. Arctic languages have multiple words for different types of snow--corresponding to distinctions that do not exist in the world view of an English speaker in a temperate climate. Did the concept of Weltschmertz exist for very long before Goethe named it in The Sorrows of Youth Werther? In fact, is it not possible that Goethe invented it? Should we identify it as the same thing that Burton called melancholia? I think not.

Human nature, above the most basic drives (the lowest rungs on Maslow's hierarchy of needs) constantly changes and evolves. It is complete folly to look for subtle concepts in primitive cultures--they just aren't there, and it's a romantic fallacy to assume that they do. Language and culture are in fact co-creations, evolving in tandem with each other.

I set little store on so-called emotional experiences, since they are epiphenomena of biological drives. But even there--consider that the notion of romantic love in its modern sense dates back in the West to the late 18th century--and is quite distinct from earlier notion such as courtly love. The very notion is that there is something fundamentally better and purer about primitive cultures is a notion that dates back to Rousseau. It is certainly not a fact--it's a point of view, and certain less valid that Hobbes' view of the original state of man.

If you can't describe something, it does not exist--because if it does exist, someone will have named it. One may argue that in the Platonic sense something unnamed and undiscovered may exist--that certainly is valid in the realm of the sciences and mathematics. However, a cultural concept without a name is an impossibility.

I would commend to your attention Neumann's book on the evolution of consciousness. The Origins and History of Consciousness.

Sorry that I could not amuse you for a few days. Business trip.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 10:34:16 AM PST
Hikari says:
Welcome back from your business travels. I trust it was a productive trip? You seem a touch testy today but perhaps no more than usual.

Mr. Sherlock Holmes would no doubt heartily approve your rigorous adherence to linguistic precision, though I sometimes have my moments of wondering if you don't out-Sherlock Sherlock in certain aspects of rationality. I particularly like the scene in the "Scandal in Belgravia" episode that shows Sherlock and John sharing several laughs both at Sherlock's pants-free condition (Sherlock realized that even he may have gone a bit far in going commando at Buckingham Palace!) and at Mycroft's expense--Conan Doyle does depict Sherlock having some lighter moments, being a cut-up even, usually in disguise mode. I never want anyone to lose sight of that aspect of him. Even Jesus laughed once in a while, I am certain, though we are only told explicitly of His weeping. But there is a very impish sense of humor at work in some of the parables and interactions with the Pharisees. Sherlock can be an imp, too, sometimes.

I shall not contend with you any more (today) about lexiconography. December approaches and I am just not in the mood. How do you celebrate a southern Christmas in Hotlanta, and have preparations commenced apace?

I know you can recognize an amusing jape when you see one because you've told me you can with Rex Stout's essay. You might try pretending that I am Rex Stout and we could see if my humorous japes would go down any easier? I feel like you are always taking me so seriously, but then, tone is a blasted devilish thing to convey over the computer.

I will observe again that we are vastly different in our temperamental makeups and approaches to the same world in which we live--I am John Watson to your Sherlock Holmes, indeed, we both amplify the respective characteristics of that pair. John was good at the lab sciences and maths, since he is a doctor, and he's comfortable around firearms--I am afraid of them. But I think that dynamic is a good shorthand for us.

Just remember that Sherlock was very fond of John, even if he found him quizzical, to say the least . . and vice-versa. :)

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 11:49:16 AM PST
H: Precision does not preclude humor. In fact, one can argue that the most precise writers are the writers who most excel in comedy--people like Wilde, Stella Gibbons, PG Wodehouse, Jane Austen (anyone who does not see her novels as comedies of the must subtle and refined variety has not understood them), Shakespeare, and Shaw. All particular favorites here, of course. Precision also does not preclude a sense of the ridiculous--in fact, it nurtures it. Holmes has a most puckish side. Since it is the Christmas season, I may reveal that I have a leg lamp. A small one, true, but most definitely a leg lamp.

I will celebrate the holiday, first, with the accustomed rites and ceremonies of the Church. The Advent carol service is this Sunday. I certainly do not celebrate anything in the Southern style, and in fact my cherished goal is to get out of here as soon as humanly possible. The door wreaths have been hung; the tree wants some small attentions; and I will very possibly start making holiday fruitcake this weekend, which is a two-day process. On the first day, one chops the fruits and nuts, and subjects them to a liberal baptism in dark rum. On the second day, the fruits and nuts meet the liberally spiced batter and bake slowly, to emerge from the oven to cool and then to be wrapped in brandy-soaked cheesecloth to mellow for a few weeks at minimum. Actually, they continue to improve, properly stored, for several years. It is not a activity to be undertaken lightly. As to one idiosyncratic Christmas observance--last year I discovered perhaps the ideal dessert for Christmas dinner. From Julie Child, Mastering, volume 1: the souffle Rothschild, a vanilla souffle with candied fruits in kirschwasser. Elegant to be sure, but also reasonably light, and not difficult, assuming that you have mastered the basics of souffle making, which is not a great chore.

Depending, I may also concoct plum pudding for an appropriately Dickensian feeling.

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 1:47:36 PM PST
Cavaradossi says:
William, you're making me hungry!

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 1:51:51 PM PST
Cavaradossi says:
I'm trying to wrap my head around the idea of Sherlock Holmes married, but it isn't working. A picture of Sherlock, at any age, settling down into cosy domesticity simply doesn't compute.

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 1:58:36 PM PST
Cav: One might consider it a new adventure as he enters into a mature stage of life.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 4:01:52 PM PST
Hikari says:
Well, according to Conan Doyle and Mrs. Laurie R. King, Sherlock is never one for extended periods of cosy domesticity. He can endure it for the length of one rainy London afternoon, perhaps, playing Cluedo with John (which only ends up in a fight over Sherlock's free interpretation of the rules) . . .or having a good think in front of a roaring fire is not completely out of the question, especially when accompanied by some of Mrs. Hudson's excellent food. But after a bout of domesticity (12 hours, max, and that's if he's under the weather), Sherlock gets restive. He needs a case, stat, or else he's going to go to his laboratory and the results may not be pleasant. Sherlock's home is his castle, but he's got to have an occupation for his mind or he goes stir-crazy.

Conan Doyle never touched upon this, but Mrs. Laurie R. King opines that Sherlock in his 60s does not find matrimony altogether disagreeable. He's not the kind of attentive husband that most women would call ideal, but good thing for him he's married a very independent-minded, extremely analytical, emotionally-reticent, not touchy-feely young woman. She's very like him, actually. The Holmeses are often separated for weeks at a time in pursuit of their various activities--Sherlock still has cases he doesn't tell his associate-wife about and Mary is pursuing a doctorate in Judaic studies and is busy writing a book. Not a clinging vine, she. This is the only type of wife I feel certain that Sherlock Holmes could cope with. He would feel smothered by a needier person. They are well-matched as well in their requirements for the connubial side of matrimony. We are informed, primly (it's the early 20th century, after all) that Sherlock is extremely satisfactory in this area, though no further details are forthcoming.

Conan Doyle may not have envisioned Holmes as a husband, but having undertaken this state, Sherlock is sanguine about it. He usually masters everything he sets his prodigious mind to, because less than mastery is unacceptable. (Not including subjects which he has dismissed out of hand as not worth his time, like the solar system.) I think Sherlock Holmes proposes to live forever . . . and what's the best way to keep yourself vigorous but to have a 21-year-old wife at home? (Of course, that also might be a way to kill oneself prematurely, but Sherlock seems to be holding up all right.)

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 4:18:00 PM PST
H: There is no Cluedo in the original. Please do not confuse the atmosphere of Sherlock 1.0 with that of Sherlock 2.0. In the originals, at least, Holmes is restive without work, but he does unwind periodically, with the violin, something of an appreciation of good food, and concerts. There are several instances where Watson actually gets him out of Lond on on a holiday--perhaps no more than 3, I think.

Most commentators think that he was being waggish about the solar system,by the way. That particular limitation appears only in a Study in Scarlett.

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 4:30:58 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 29, 2012 4:32:00 PM PST
Cavaradossi says:

I don't know, but with a 21 year old wife, Sherlock had better be careful or he'll have a house full of little Holmeses in no time, especially if he's good in "that department". Can you imagine the great man with kiddies under foot? How could he do his work? Of course, Bach had twenty some children and it didn't keep him from his, so, I suppose it would be possible.

In Victorian England, it would probably have been frowned upon for a man in his sixties to take so young a wife, wouldn't it? I would have thought there would be a hint of scandal about the whole thing. How does Mrs. King deal with that? It seems so unlikely a pairing just from age the difference alone. Then, adding in SH's personality and predilections, it becomes all the more unlikely.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 4:53:32 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 29, 2012 4:55:27 PM PST
Hikari says:
Bach had 20 kids, eh? His wife, what a trooper.

Well, I guess Martin Luther isn't the only German man that ever said 'Lock the door, Katie!'

In the case of the Laurie King books, Mary Russell is an orphaned heiress. Her parents are dead, in a tragic accident when she was a girl. There was one meddling aunt. But she didn't have any family to interfere, and once she turned 21, it was a big year--she came into her inheritance, graduated from Oxford and married Sherlock Holmes.

Actually we are up to post-WWI by this point, so not Victorian times any more. Actually, I think it would have been more societally acceptable in former times than now for a man of advanced years to take a very young wife. In most cases, he'd be a widower, not a first-time husband, but I think it was less unusual then than we think.

I'm up to book #5 and so far, there is no evidence of Sherlock becoming a papa in his golden years. Yet. I feel such a happy announcement must be forthcoming fairly soon. It'd be a waste to let the superior Holmes DNA die out with Sherlock and Mycroft's generation. I'm sure Mr. Smith knows, but I hope he won't let slip any spoilers. I hope it's twins. Or triplets, even--Sherlock never does anything halfheartedly after all.

P.S. I am most happy to report that Larry K. has had a change of heart about "Lewis". He's been sucked in by snarky Hathaway. I said, "Told you." :)

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 4:55:14 PM PST
cav: Re: Rs. SH: I would simply refer you to the first in the series, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, for details. Certain there was nothing terribly unusual in the Victorian period for an elderly man to take a younger wife. It's something of a commonplace in Victorian fiction, in fact. Middlemarch deals with just such a match. In an age of arranged marriages, it should not be considered quite so odd.

With Holmes, of course, nothing is ever quite simple.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 4:57:49 PM PST
H: Bach was blessed with a very large family, several of whom became noted musicians in their own rights.

As to the Holmesian DNA: there is a Canonical school of thought, to which I have previously referred, that Holmes learned certain secrets of life extension when in Tibet during the Hiatus, and that he still is keeping bees on the Downs, and consulted in times of emergency.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 5:01:32 PM PST
Ms. Brentano says:
I read a number of the Laurie R. King novels and enjoyed them. Ever read The House Of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel by Anthony Horowitz? I bought the audiobook with Derek Jacobi doing the narration. I also listened to The Execution Of Sherlock Holmes: And Other New Adventures of the Great Detective by Donald Thomas (John Telfer, narrator). I liked both of those books as well.

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 5:05:43 PM PST
What did you think of The House of Silk? Horowitz wrote a good many episodes of Midsomer Murders, and that is a point in his favor.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 5:10:36 PM PST
Ms. Brentano says:
As I said, I enjoyed it. I am a big fan of Derek Jacobi which is why I purchased the audiobook but the story was interesting as well.

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 5:32:48 PM PST
Ms. Brentano says:
Well, Elementary is on TV tonight so I plan to watch it. I'll let you all know what I think of the episode.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 6:33:42 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 30, 2012 5:51:42 AM PST
Hikari says:
Mr. Smith,
Sherlock would be appalled to hear himself referred to as 'elderly'. He absolutely refuses to entertain the notion. As to my mixing of 'atmospheres' between Old and New Canon, don't be too upset. Jeu d'esprit. :) If Sherlock Holmes has indeed discovered the secret of immortality, then he is among us now and has tried his hand at Cluedo. Which he pronounced "Dull" after one game and donated his set to the local orphanage.

Sherlock is like Santa Claus--his spirit transcends time and space. Whatever era he finds himself in, he is resolutely, completely himself--Holmes for all seasons, in all guises. That's why our modern update works so well, no? The spirit of Sherlock is present, even if he's a bit less courtly in manners and uses a smartphone.


I liked 'The Beekeeper's Apprentice' the best so far. In it, 17-year-old orphan Mary Russell literally stumbles over Sherlock Holmes on the Sussex Downs. She thinks he's some deranged old vagrant . . and then learns that she's in the presence of 'the' Sherlock Holmes. His cottage is a few miles over the Downs from hers, where she's staying with her miserly aunt. Mary stands to inherent a couple of millon pounds from her parents' estate, but that's still several years in the future. Through a series of events, she becomes Sherlock's disciple and assistant, the good Doctor Watson having retired. He pops up in the book and Mary immediately takes to him and starts calling him 'Uncle John'. Watson has the gift of being immediately likeable, whereas Sherlock Holmes takes a while to grow on one.

Subsequent books follow Mary's relationship with Holmes as she matriculates at Oxford, delves deep into her studies and comes into her inheritance. Pesky cases requiring her assistance keep coming up, and Sherlock routinely breaks into her student digs in college to solicit her help. After they have been married a couple of years, they go to Baskerville to revisit the Hound . . pretty good stuff. Mary does more or less function like Watson in the partnership, were Watson a very young woman, but with the benefit that she is, in her own way, nearly as quick as Sherlock. They make an entertaining pair, though Ms. King is inordinately fond of the Holy Land and esoteric Judaism--her heroine is half-Jewish, and this is the point at which I am somewhat mired in.

One of the more entertaining bits is Holmes' extremely antagonistic relationship with 'Conan Doyle', the editor at 'The Strand' magazine. With Watson no longer sending him dispatches of Sherlock's activities, Conan Doyle makes stuff up out of whole cloth. There is a scene in which Sherlock becomes apopolectic when an extended piece by Conan Doyle about 'the fairies that live in Sherlock Holmes' garden' appears in the magazine.

"Fairies at my age!" he sputters. "People will think I've gone senile!"

As a rule, Sherlock doesn't give a toss what 'people' think about him, except as it touches upon his intellect, of course. Then he won't stand for any misapprehensions to be allowed to fester.

I actually have less difficulty accepting that Sherlock Holmes would marry for companionship (or an audience to show off for, if you will, especially, with John out of the picture, there's an appreciative audience-member slot that needs filling) and the intellectual exercise afforded by matching wits with a young apprentice who is a very promising intellect herself. Making allowances for her age, of course---I'm sure Sherlock can still beat her at chess. But perhaps Mary, with an unconventional mind, very little care for the societal conventions of 'proper young lady' conduct, passionate academic interests of her own, quite athletic and intrepid, despite weak eyes, an unhappy, lonely childhood . . perhaps she reminds him of himself more than a little. I have greater difficulty imagining that Sherlock would turn out to be so dazzling at 'certain activities rendered legal by a piece of paper', to quote Mary. I mean, Sherlock as Casanova? Were Casanova strenuously monogamous, I mean? That blows the circuits a little bit. Since it's so far outside the realm of Sherlock's normal areas of expertise. And it's not like he's had decades of practice at it, either, like other more ordinary men.

Well, Sherlock decided to teach himself the violin one day and has been known to learn entire languages within weeks, apparently. If he decides to master something, he won't rest until mastery is achieved. Once he'd known Russell for a few years, (Sherlock may be married, but he's not mushy all of a sudden--he only addresses his wife by her surname. Legally she's Mrs. Holmes, but neither seem to be burdened overmuch by the fact and she continues to use her maiden name) he decided it'd be worth getting good at this, too. Oh, I should mention that even though Sherlock met her when she was 17 years old, he was perfectly gentlemanly and didn't make any overtures of the sort until she was a legal adult. In fact, she kind of made the first move.

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 9:30:57 PM PST
Cavaradossi says:
These books by Mrs. King sound pretty entertaining, actually. I'll have to try that first one.

Bach had two wives, actually, though I don't remember which had what number of children.

Posted on Nov 30, 2012 7:09:49 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 30, 2012 7:10:31 AM PST
H: In any game, there must be rules. (For a discussion of games and culture, I would refer you to Huizinga and Caillois.) One of the rules of the Canonical game is to base one's observations within the Canon. Thus, we must refrain from mixing incompatible elements. Any variant, or dare I say meta-Canonical Sherlock (let us designate them as members of the set of all Sherlock-sub-n except the original, whom we will designate Sherlock-sub-0) must be referenced back to Sherlock-sub-0 and his attributes and context. There are many Sherlocks in the meta-Canon, and many Sherlocks to be excluded from the meta-Canon for insufficient correspondence with Sherlock-sub-0--for instance, the Downey heresy, and of course the Elementary abomination. In truth, however, there is only one--the original.

Conan Doyle is never the editor, by the way--he is the Literary Agent.

I repeat my suggestion that you refresh yourself on the original Urtext as soon as possible.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 30, 2012 7:14:42 AM PST
Hikari says:

I highly recommend 'Beekeeper's Apprentice'.
I enjoyed the subsequent books:
A Monstrous Regiment of Women (Russell infiltrates a feminist organization that is a hotbed of criminal activity)--she marries Holmes at the end of this book
A Letter of Mary: the newlyweds investigate the hit-and-run murder of a friend who had just brought them a priceless manuscript allegedly written by Mary Magdalene
The Moor: the Holmeses revisit the site of Sherlock's greatest glory 30 years prior when the Hound resurfaces again. The insular moor folk had adopted Holmes to such a degree that his legend has been passed down in oral history since. His nickname on the moor--Snoop Sherlock. They are delighted to have Snoop Sherlock among them again. As his associate, Russell is immediately christened Snoop Mary.

Mrs. King is prolific and cranks one of these out a year.

Posted on Nov 30, 2012 7:58:56 AM PST
H: You are aware of the source of the title of Monstrous Regiment, are you not?
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