Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Happy Birthday, Sherlock Holmes!

So, it looks like someone has a birthday today! Hamlette is celebrating at The Edge of the Precipice, and she graciously invited the rest of the Blogiverse to join in – thank you for hosting, Hamlette, I love your blog parties in case you didn't know! As it happens, I've been preparing a couple of Holmes related blog posts myself, so somewhere during this week you might expect a couple of Sir Arhur Conan Doyle book reviews, my opinions on the Guy Ritchie films, The Hound of the Baskervilles screen adaptations across the ages, and a couple of words... or a lot more than that... about BBC's Sherlock and CBS's Elementary. But first in order are Hamlette's party questions.

1. When and how did you first encounter Sherlock Holmes?

Sherlock Holmes is such an iconic character that I think everyone has some sort of an image of him, even if they don't intentionally seek him out. I was like this for the first 23 years of my life. I think I can call myself one of the "Cumberbatch generation" Sherlockians because, quite honestly, it wasn't till I got excited about Sherlock last March that I had any interest in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works. Before Sherlock, I think the only thing even close to Sherlock Holmes that I had ever consumed was Disney's The Great Mouse Detective – I still love that film, by the way.

2. Please share a fact or two about yourself related to Holmes. (You've read the whole canon, you've been to Baker Street, you're an official BSI member, etc.)

The aforementioned fact that my first Sherlock Holmes was the modernized one might already be  shocking enough for an old-school Sherlockian... Alright, I'm still going to add that Holmes' fixed association with the deer-stalker hat annoys the heck out of me. Only few months ago I read a (supposedly prestigious) film critic who went on about how Sherlock Holmes ain't a true Sherlock Holmes without that damned hat.

3. What are three of your favourite Holmes adventures?

I've only read the books in publishing order till The Hound of the Baskervilles, but I do have a couple of very strong favorites. The top three would be The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, The Final Problem and The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual. 

4. What draws you to the Sherlock Holmes stories?

Initially, I wanted to see exactly how Sherlock compared with its source material and why the writers had felt like this character and his adventures would work particularly well in a modern setting. Then, I found out that the stories were hugely entertaining, especially regarding the main character himself. I love all of his snarky lines.

5. If you were going to give Sherlock Holmes a birthday present, what would it be?

I would give him a top hat because I'm obsessed with them myself. It's also much more fitting for a Victorian London gentleman than... you know, that hat.

6. If you could climb into a Holmes story and replace any one character for a day, who would you like to be? 

I would want to be one of the Baker Street Irregulars. I would totally be in for one day on the grimier side of London, and I'd get to do seemingly random but very important stuff for Holmes, like dig for newspapers and tail people.

7. Please share some of your favorite Holmes-related quotes. 

"-- I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained." (Doctor Watson in A Study in Scarlet)

"The chief proof of man's real greatness lies in his perception of his own smallness." (Sherlock Holmes in The Sign of Four)

"We solve crimes, I blog about it, and he forgets his pants. I wouldn't hold out too much hope." (John in BBC's A Scandal in Belgravia)

My Holmesy blog posts:

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Sherlock: Chronicles by Steve Tribe

My Top 10 in the Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

5+1 screen adaptations of The Hound of the Baskervilles


  1. I love that the show Sherlock has brought the original stories to light again to so many people, that makes me so happy! That show is ridiculously good! :D Nice answers!


    1. Yes, that's quite an achievement from Moffat and Gatiss! :) Thank you for visiting, now I'm going to have a look at your answers.

  2. I'm genuinely excited about reading all of your upcoming Sherlock Holmes posts! :)

    Ah, a rare example of you seeing an adaptation before its source material I see! :) When you read the stories do you picture Cumberbatch and Freeman as their characters or have you formed your own mental images of Holmes and Watson?

    I love top hats too! And I loved your answers!

  3. That's an interesting question actually, about the mental images. I'm not a visually-minded person at all, and it takes an incredibly atmospheric and descriptive writer like JK Rowling or Neil Gaiman to get across an actual visual image of a character in my mind. So far, I haven't really developed my own images of Holmes or Watson, I wonder if this will change by the time I finish reading the entire canon.

    Whenever I encounter a new character in literature, rather than picturing their appearances I immediately start imagining what their voice sounds like, and what their accent and intonation is like. This sort of auditive-over-visual thinking is very dominant in my life overall – I'm terribly bad at recognizing and remembering people's faces, but I can always remember exactly what things sound like, whether it's a person's voice or an instrumental background in a song.

    Thanks for visiting again, and for that very interesting question! Now I'm starting to think there might be a subject for a whole new blog post...

    1. "Whenever I encounter a new character in literature, rather than picturing their appearances I immediately start imagining what their voice sounds like, and what their accent and intonation is like."

      That's so interesting! I'm the opposite. I am quite a visual person I think. I'm not very observant - my family think this is hilarious - but I do love nature. And I love beautiful movies, art, buildings, clothes, etc. My sense of direction is really good too - when I force myself to pay attention to my surroundings!

  4. Good for you for starting to read the original stories after becoming a Sherlock fan! I think it's wonderful how many people have done that. I don't find that shocking, that you've come to the stories through the show -- I find that very cheering! I've read a lot of blogs and articles decrying the show for making modern audiences think this is what Holmes and Watson are like in the stories (sociopathic and grumpy, in other words), and I keep feeling like surely people who watch the show are going to at least try out the original stories. And look! You're proof that that happens :-)

    As for the deerstalker -- I love how Sherlock both mocks and embraces it. Cracks me up no end. Because yes, a lot of people think he really wore that in the original stories, when it was just something Sidney Paget drew him wearing a few times, and then I think it was thanks to some stage productions using one that it caught on with people as what Holmes must wear. I'm more amused than annoyed by the whole thing, as you probably know -- I even own a deerstalker. ("It's an ear flap hat.") There are plenty of Paget drawings of him wearing a top hat or even a bowler, so I'm not sure why the deerstalker stuck, other than that no other famous person/character is ever depicted wearing it, so it's distinctive.

    Aren't the BSI fun? I would love to run about on some of their adventures too :-)

    1. Yep, that's the wonderful thing about GOOD adaptations – they actually celebrate the original material and teach new generations to love it. People shouldn't turn their noses up at that.

      I love what BBC did with the deerstalker as well, pointing out how funny it is that one picture of Sherlock wearing a deerstalker immediately makes it "the Sherlock Holmes hat" in the public's mind!

    2. I think what delights me the most with the adaptations is how cleverly they update things -- like how Sherlock texts everyone constantly in it, the perfect update of how he was always sending scores of telegrams in the stories. Or Mycroft and his dieting. Watson and his blog! How delighted I am by John's blog -- exactly the modern version of him publishing adventures in magazines. Brilliant.

    3. Hamlette -- believe it or not, he DID wear the deerstalker in the stories -- or at least one. I downloaded "Adventures" from Scribd yesterday, and in "Silver Blaze", it says: "And so it happened that an hour or so later I found myself in the corner of a first-class carriage flying along en route for Exeter, while Sherlock Holmes, with his sharp, eager face framed in his ear-flapped travelling-cap, dipped rapidly into the bundle of fresh papers which he had procured at Paddington."

      It DID only happen once, but at least Paget didn't make it up out of whole cloth (here's a link to the illustration ... http://ignisart.com/camdenhouse/gallery/silv-01.htm). Doyle never referred to it again and I don't know if Paget illustrated it that way ever again ... (although one assumes he must have -- it doesn't seem likely that Holmes would be so strongly identified with it on the basis of one illustration and one story reference).

    4. Well, how about that?! To be honest, I always pictures a warm ear-flap hat like this there. It wasn't until Sherlock that I thought of a deerstalker has being any kind of ear-flap hat at all, lol! So you're right, it could have been that one.

      If you google for Sidney Paget illustrations that contain deerstalkers, you'll find several.

      BTW, I don't have TV either (or rather, we have a TV set, but we don't get any channels with it), so we watched the first 2 seasons of Sherlock on DVD and then the third on PBS.org when it aired.

  5. I don't have TV so I've never seen the newer TV shows. I'm a confirmed Brettian (if that's a word :) ) and my husband is a confirmed Rathbone fan -- although both of us, when it's our turn to get videos out of the library, have borrowed the other's favorite.

    I loved the Musgrave Ritual too -- if you've never seen JB's Musgrave, try to find it (I'm sure Netflix has it). They practically shot the story, including the dialogue -- my completist heart was taken by it! :)

  6. I find it absolutely great and it makes really happy to discover that 'Sherlock' lead you to read the original stories. We all have very different backgrounds regarding to our connection to Sherlock Holmes and that's a good thing, because we have different stories to share.

    Oh, I'm also a huge fan of top hats and I love it when Holmes wears one in adaptations. I wish men would still were them nowadays.