Yuletide Traditions: Sherlock Holmes
–Photo courtesy of SH Addicted.
Many thanks to Jeremy Brett, Robert Downey Jr., and Benedict Cumberbatch for this one. Much as I love winter hols at home and in Chicago, these guys make me long to see the season in London.
Mr. Holmes and I got off to a rough start. I read the Illustrated Classics edition of Hound of the Baskervilles when I was nine years old. Looking for gothic literature and instead finding a modern narrative that unmasked the supernatural myth of the Hound as (*spoilers*) a facade for human venality, I spat on the cover image of the ghostly lycanthrope with the red eyes as false advertising.
That said, I enjoyed the character in other narratives — The Woman in Green was one of the first DVDs my father ever bought. The Sherlock Holmes Chronicles for PC by Dreamcatcher Initiative were the first interactive games I ever played with my ex-wife. I grew up watching, reading, and enjoying mystery stories with charismatic investigators which were the progeny of Holmes and Conan Doyle.
Purists might say Guy Ritchie’s action-packed Sherlock Holmes is a far cry from the Doyle canon, but it was the impetus behind a lot of young fans (myself included) giving the source material a second look. And a third, and a fourth… The Watson of Ritchie’s canon is a shade closer to the original Watson than the Watson immortalized by Nigel Bruce — the army surgeon who was injured in combat and still carried his service pistol around Victorian London and, while human and fallible compared to Holmes supernatural intelligence, was hardly bumbling or ignorant. And RDJ’s Holmes was a shade closer to the recreational drug abuser and difficult character portrayed in Doyle’s narratives (and elaborated on in Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven Per-Cent Solution). Them, the collection my father left me, the Kindle I received for the holidays, and Gutenberg.org made diving back into the canon a cinch.
And then there was Cumberbatch and Freeman (also a winter holiday gift), accompanied by Moffat and Gatiss. No elaboration needed there — I was hooked. The hiatus after series 2 led to Jeremy Brett’s Granada series and Vasily Livanov’s Holmes series, whose brilliance also needs no elaboration (Brett discussed characterization with Doyle’s granddaughter and took to referring to Holmes in his diaries).
All of my Sherlocks are intimately tied with the holidays in my mind and it’s wonderful to revisit them each year (even as I spend so much of the rest of the year with them).