Our latest is a guest post by LSU’s Kristopher Mecholsky, a crime fiction scholar who has published on Sherlock Holmes:
And perhaps only one can be identified separately by each of these:
- “Elementary, my dear Watson”
- the Great Detective
And yet none of those were possible through Sir Arthur Conan Doyle alone:
- he never wrote the phrase
- the name was a secondary choice because his wife hated his first choice (Sherrinford Hope)
- the nickname was externally given
- the deerstalker hat and calabash pipe were contributed by an artist and an actor.
Sherlockiana is teeming with such facts, and they only get more interesting the deeper you search. Recently, Russell Mann, a retired professor of journalism at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, donated a collection of Sherlock Holmes fiction, scholarship, and memorabilia to the Hill Memorial Library at Louisiana State University. It is certainly one of the largest in the South. In its expanses are the roads to exploring the vast horizon that is Sherlock fandom, from information on the “Sacred Texts” (the original 56 stories and 4 novels Conan Doyle wrote) and its influential publication history to details about Victorian England that continue to enthrall readers; and from copies of the numerous pastiches and parodies that sought to explain or roast the Great Detective to the multi-media adaptations that sought to bring his wondrous world to greater life, there is no portion of the world of Sherlock Holmes that you have finished exploring and no portion this collection does not preview.
On January 24th, at 5:30 p.m. in the lecture hall of the Hill Memorial Library, I will lead a discussion to spot-light holdings in the Russell Mann Sherlock Holmes Research Collection by way of a history of Holmes in popular culture—then and now, here and abroad.
In our discussion, I hope to touch (at least briefly) on the elements that draw each of us to Sherlock Holmes. It might be Rathbone. It might be Brett. Cumberbatch? Perhaps it’s even (Jonny Lee) Miller or Downey, Jr. Personally, I’m a fan of Vasily Livanov, whose performance from Soviet-era Russia is so revered, he received an honorary MBE from the Queen in 2006 for the best non-British performance of Sherlock Holmes. It’s unlikely that you hold a candle for poor William Gillette, which is a shame since the famous turn-of-the-century heartthrob thespian wrote the first stage play of Sherlock Holmes (with Conan Doyle’s blessing and encouragement, likely inspiring him to keep publishing after the Great Hiatus) and introduced the calabash pipe into association with Holmes (though Holmes never smoked that kind in the stories).
On the other hand, perhaps what you love most about Holmes is not one of his screen adaptations. Perhaps you enjoy reading the Canon, preferring to settle yourself down in your armchair to revisit the cases yourself, contemplating Holmes’s methods and his Victorian/Edwardian world, in which case you might want to leaf through the original Beeton’s Christmas Annual that published the very first tale, A Study in Scarlet, or peruse either H. R. F. Keating’s or William S. Baring-Gould’s renowned “biographies,” Sherlock Holmes: The Man and His World and Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street.
Perhaps you’ve read and reread those stories and you are now eager to see Holmes in new light, with new cases, with fresh characterization. In that case, I would draw the attention of those with more conventional taste to Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger’s fine edited collection of stories inspired by the Holmes Canon (In the Company of Sherlock Holmes) or to the forthcoming collection written by Lyndsay Faye (The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes); for those a little more daring, or maybe for the shy and newly initiated who only recently discovered Holmes, I would encourage a serious consideration of the surprisingly compelling and thoughtful comic Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes vs. Zombies! or the critically revisionist comic Watson & Holmes: A Study in Black.
Whatever brings you to Holmes is likely what has brought fans his way for more than a century since fandom has been inextricably entangled with Holmes since his first appearance. The world of Sherlock Holmes and his appreciation is gloriously overstuffed with fantastic theories, personal journeys, odd facts, new cases, new characters, old cases and old characters rewritten, adaptations, mashups, and more. The only real question is knowing where to start.
But the answer is very obvious. It’s elementary, my dear reader. Wherever you like.