By Grace Bluestone
I am a Baker Street Irregular. That’s the name of the Sherlock Holmes fan club with members all over the world.
The Six Napoleons, the group in Baltimore which examined my knowledge, declared that since their organization was strictly male and I was a female, I could become an honorary member only. Whereupon they declared that a female with that much Holmesian background must be the result of a knowledgeable male, and made my husband a member straightaway. (I missed only one question: “Who is Holmes’ man in the gray flannel suit?” If anyone should ask you, it is Abe Slaney of “The Dancing Men.”)
By the way, did you know that the Irish Secret Society is the Irregular group here in Buffalo? Their name relates to the fact that Holmes resided in Buffalo for a while.
I first encountered Holmes when I was 8, and have been an admirer ever since. I was brought up on the Holmes of Basil Rathbone (who rather resembles the portraits in the original Strand Magazine). I don’t mind some of the parodies and pastiches of Holmes that have followed. I should be grateful that the name of Sherlock Holmes has not gone the way of J.G. Reeder, the Four Just Men, Arsene Lupin, Hamilton Cleek, Raffles … I could go on. As you can tell, I am a mystery story buff.
Holmes has been parodied since his inception. Most of them are fun. The Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine “Without a Clue” is one. I can also accept Lucy Liu as a female Watson. Rex Stout did a famous essay titled “Watson Was a Woman.” Besides, there is Joanne Woodward in the very charming “They Might Be Giants.” I cannot accept Professor Moriarty as a woman. Besides, I think that he is Mycroft’s and Sherlock’s elder brother gone bad and rehabilitated after Reichenbach Falls.
I have no objection to Robert Downey as a very physical Holmes. Holmes is renowned as a boxer, single stick champion and master of the art of Baritsu. I can go with the hints of “Murder by Decree.” But this new movie, “Holmes & Watson,” which depicts idiots in the midst of scatological innuendos — set the hound upon them!
Sherlock is still another name for a detective. There is a reason for that. He is someone we can admire and there are far too few of them these days. His thirst for knowledge is unquenchable.
His quest for justice is unending. (Although, because he also has compassion, the criminal is not always punished.) He loves good music, although one is never sure how good his own violin playing is. His friendship and concern for Watson is unmistakable. His clients include a queen and a pope, yet he still serves a typist or a schoolteacher with equal vigor.
His courage is obvious. Who else faces a venomous serpent or the small savage Tonga with such aplomb?
Let’s not forget Watson. The estimable doctor is not really the bumbler as Nigel Bruce presents him. He is a wounded warrior home from the war in Afghanistan (have things changed much?)
He is a romantic. He marries twice (at least) but that does not prevent him from being very protective of Holmes. He is the one who usually carries the pistol. He is always the one ready to become Holmes’ companion (or his substitute).
Unfortunately, today so many of our heroes have feet of clay that I deplore casting mud on the image of a truly great hero. Of course he has faults. What truly human hero has not?
Grace Bluestone, who lives in Amherst, is unhappy at the way Sherlock Holmes has been treated.