Today I went to the Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Museum of London with a friend. The exhibition is highly recommended and beautifully organised. Strangely this got me thinking about my NaNoWrimo attempt, or lack of attempt.
The story I’m writing involves a fair amount of world creation. The world exists quite clearly in my head but I don’t think I’ve established it very well on paper. I think I need establishing shots, something which tells you more background to the world. Not a prologue as such but setting the scene.
I have a bit of another plot hedgehog*, something much darker and unrelated to the sci-fi steampunk world I’ve started to put together. I might see if I can put the scene I have in mind down on paper, or maybe start putting together a storyboard for a short film. I wonder if there’s a NaNoWrimo equivalent for scripts/plays?
*I say plot hedgehog rather bunny as I tend to discover my plots when I sit down and something sharp sticks into me. Also they usually come out at night.
WS Barring-Gould created a third brother to explain why Mycroft was working in London and not home minding the country estate. Barring-Gould assumes two positions regarding this mysterious third brother:
1) The Holmes family are upperclass
2) there is a country estate
Sherlock refers to his ancestors as being country squires who lived much as country squires did. It’s entirely possible this is suggesting like a lot of the upperclass landowners there were mis-investments, money being squandered and a family line being beset with all sorts of financial and interpersonal issues. Anyone who watches Downton Abbey will be familiar with the story of a family where there were no immediate male heirs. There could have once been a country estate, but not one Mycroft inherited.
Additionally, Barring-Gould is keen on the idea of the Holmes brothers being upperclass. It’s possible they were not. Mycroft would have joined the civil service following the results of the 1854 Northcote-Trevelyan report. This report criticised the civil service for being a dumping ground of the sons of the upperclass who did not demonstrate the kind of pioneering attitude Britian needed to oversee its colonial interests, the report recommended an end to nepotism and suggested the Chinese method of recruitment where potential candidates took an exam to secure their appointment. It wasn’t until the 1870s that the recommendations of the report were being put into place, by this time Mycroft would have been done with university and very likely would have found himself taking further exams to secure his employment as Ronald Knox* suggests as clerk in an unmentioned branched of government, before rising to his position as the British Government by the time Holmes and Watson meet. Oxbridge would not have been a barrier to the middle class Holmes brothers who could have benefited from patronage, something the Anglican church often did. Sherlock is quite enthusiastic about the board schools, “Beacons of the future! Capsules with hundreds of bright little seeds in each, out of which will spring the wiser, better England of the future.” As he’s a man who sees education for all as the future perhaps because this suggests own education was paid for by charitable or philanthropic means. Fittingly, this quote comes from ‘The Naval Treaty‘ which could be read as Conan Doyle’s commentary on the civil service – Percy Phelps, through his uncle Lord Holdhurst secured a position in the foreign office, looses an important document and has an epic breakdown as a result.
Of course, there’s also nothing to say Mycroft was managing the country estate and spent his weekends there checking up on things.
(*’The Mystery of Mycroft’ by Ronald A Knox, possibly published in 1934 – not sure but it’s definitely in HW Bell’s 1934 collection of essays ‘Baker Street Studies‘)
When I was 10yrs old, I saw ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ on one of the book racks at Padiham Library with a photograph of Robert Stephens as Sherlock Holmes on the front.
Something made me pick up that book.
The ending of A Scandal in Belgravia by Steven Moffat could be said to be polarising but opinions seem largely uniform within fandom and those opinions are overwhelmingly negative. One of the main criticisms is that in the canon, Irene wins whereas in the BBC version she does not but this is something I want to examine as I don’t believe this is as clear cut.
On the 21st & 22nd June, I attended the ‘Sherlock Holmes – Past and Presence’ conference held at Senate House, University of London. Of all the panels I attended my favourite one was easily the discussion on ‘Holmes and the Moving Image’, especially the paper presented by James Brown on ‘Sherlock Holmes: Between Past and Present’ which examined the idea that Sherlock Holmes is literally a timeless figure.
Early Holmes adaptations updated to the stories to present day but kept Holmes firmly in the 1890s creating the everlasting image of the great detective with his deerstalker, Inverness cape and pipe. The first two Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce films produced by Fox did attempt to place the stories in their original setting but when Universal took over they updated the stories to ‘present day’ but kept Holmes ‘ageless and locked in a time bubble’. It wasn’t really until the Granada series that they really tried to put Holmes back into the Victorian age, going at great lengths to pinpoint a date and stick as closely as possible to it. (Alastair Duncan pointed out that the Ronald Howard series also attempted to place Holmes in the Victorian age but I’m not very familiar with that adaptation so don’t know how much they stuck to their Victorian setting).
What distinctly struck me about this is that there is really nothing new in the idea of updating Sherlock Holmes, the majority of Sherlock Holmes have updated the stories – Basil Rathbone’s Holmes makes use of modern technology, as does Benedict Cumberbatch but these are not alien to the character of Holmes, the Sherlock Holmes of the original stories was a modern man and used up to date modern technology to aid him in his activities so there is nothing revolutionary about Sherlock Holmes searching the Internet or listening to the wireless because he is very much a man of his time, whatever time that may be.
Another panel I enjoyed was a discussion about Holmes as a social explorer in Luke Seaber’s paper on ‘Sherlock Holmes as a Social Explorer’ which linking in with Benjamin Poore’s paper on ‘Holmes as a Master of Disguise’ suggested that because Holmes is able to adopt different persona’s efficiently he does have a very good understanding of social cues and an understanding about how those social cues differ in the class of society he was moving in. Seaber suggested that Holmes’s understanding of people comes from his ability to categorise people, like Henry Mayhew in his classification of people in ‘London Labourer and the London Poor’ (1851) so essentially, Holmes takes part in ‘incognito social exploration’ through his use of effective disguise.
An idea also suggested during one of the panels was that Sherlock Holmes himself was a character and that he was always acting, so did Watson really know his friend?
‘Young Sherlock Holmes #1 Death Cloud’ by Andrew Lane (3/5)
In ‘Young Sherlock Holmes: Death Cloud’, Andrew Lane introduces us to 14yr old Sherlock Holmes, waiting for his father to collect him from school for the summer. Instead, it’s older brother Mycroft who turns up with some bad news for the young Sherlock, instead of going home he’s being sent to Holmes Manor, home of Sherringford Holmes as father (a soldier) is being sent to India. Not to worry though, it soon becomes clear that there is something very strange going on in Farnham.