An Interview with Mr. Sherlock Holmes
[The following article has been reprinted from “Varieties of Ash” (Vol. 2, No. 1, Winter 1994, pp. 25-31), with permission from the author, Susan Z. Diamond, ASH, BSI, and with permission from the editor, S.E. Dahlinger, ASH. Address all inquiries about “Varieties of Ash,” an independent Sherlockian publication, to S.E. Dahlinger, ASH, 758 Third Street, Secaucus, N.J. 07094.]
The Noblest Bachelor:
An Interview with Mr. Sherlock Holmes
By Susan Z. Diamond
On January 4, 1992, the Criterion Bar Association, a Chicago scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars, was privileged to have Mr. Holmes himself in attendance at his annual birthday celebration. Mr. Holmes periodically leaves Sussex to stay at the Victorian Villa in Union City, Michigan, and on this latest trip, we were able to prevail on him to journey on to Chicago and speak to our group.
Mr. Holmes began his remarks by pointing out, somewhat uncharitably, that Chicago had not improved in the almost 80 years since he was last here and that he much preferred Sussex. His talk contrasted his philosophy of life with those espoused by Robert Fulghum in All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and Al Neuharth in Confessions of an S.O.B. Not surprisingly, Mr. Holmes felt one learns a great deal after kindergarten and proceeded to demolish Fulghum’s rather simplistic tenets. He found more to agree with in Neuharth’s philosophy, although he was careful to point out that he himself is not an S.O.B.
After hearing these somewhat acerbic remarks, I approached Mr. Holmes with some trepidation to begin the interview to which he had previously agreed. However, unlike Horace Harker, I did not want to miss the “scoop” that was on my doorstep, so I persevered.
Mr. Holmes, a number of apparent inconsistencies in the Canon puzzle students of Dr. Watson’s writings. I wondered if you could perhaps shed some light on these points. First of all, who was Mrs. Turner?
She was my landlady during the matter of “A Scandal in Bohemia.”
(A look of frustration)
Your real question is, why was she there instead of Mrs. Hudson? As I recall, she was overseeing the house for her sister, Mrs. Hudson.
Why would Mrs. Watson call her husband James?
Indeed, why would she? The simplest explanation is typically true. Have you ever tried to read Watson’s handwriting? I believe you may blame the compositor.
How many wives did the good doctor have?
The true question should be, how many does he have? Watson’s personal life has little influence on me, save when he has attached himself to a woman who is jealous of me. And that is most troublesome.
NOTE: When pressed further, Mr. Holmes indicated that Watson had “at least three” wives and said he would not deny the existence of a fourth. He also admitted to having some concerns about his friend’s sexual practices and hoped he would not fall prey to AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases.
Where did you go to university? (For once, I had apparently asked a legitimate question.)
One year at Cambridge and one year at Oxford. I preferred Oxford because of its music library and its hospitable people. (In response to my further query, the Master added that he had crossed paths with Lord Peter Wimsey a few times and indicated his respect for his lordship.)
Mr. Holmes, some Sherlockian scion societies have used your views on women as a basis for excluding women from their membership. On the other hand, the preeminent group in the Colonies, the Baker Street Irregulars, invested six women last year. What are your thoughts on this subject?
Why should they care? I also expound the virtues of reason, and yet the honourable Irregulars yearly toast each other into alcoholic haze. My distrust of women does not extend to denying them their basic rights as human beings.
Which, if any, of your unrecorded cases do you wish Dr. Watson had chronicled and why?
Once again, the wrong question! I wish the Doctor had chronicled my cases as a series of lectures, rather than as romances. However, if it’s romance you desire, I rather hope that Watson will set down my investigation of the Shaw-Gandhi-Besant affair, also known as the lighthouse, the politician and the trained cormorant.
NOTE: In his earlier remarks, Mr. Holmes referred to George Bernard Shaw as his good friend and seemed to find him a kindred spirit. We can only hope that he himself or Dr. Watson will at some time document this case further.
Of all your chronicled cases, which did you find personally most satisfying?
The matter known as “The Final Problem.” It was a great personal triumph to watch Moriarty take his great plunge.
NOTE: When I pointed out that the plunge had more to do with physical skill than mental agility, Mr. Holmes replied that he was referring to the brilliance of his deductions which led to the final encounter. I would have liked to press the point further, but a certain courtesy is needed when one is conversing with a 138-year-old individual.
Unfortunately, as we both know, some of your cases were not unqualified successes -- to put it mildly. Which of these cases do you have the most regrets about and why?
I am quite ashamed of the affair known as “The Yellow Face.” Even now, I blanch whenever I go within even a few miles of Norbury.
NOTE: I pointed out to Mr. Holmes that I would have expected him to respond with “The Five Orange Pips” as the consequences to young Openshaw of the Master’s slow response were not insignificant. He, somewhat defensively, maintained that, with the knowledge he had at that point, he could not have been expected to realize how serious Openshaw’s position was.
In a limited number of cases, you and Dr. Watson acted as judge and jury -- instead of turning the wrongdoer over to the authorities. While I feel most of us would agree that Captain Crocker deserved mercy, the case of James Ryder is more problematic. Do you have any regrets over your decision? And do you know what became of Mr. Ryder?
No regrets -- particularly as I never again heard of the man. My views might be different if the reverse were the case.
Mr. Holmes, through the years, you’ve understandably been reticent about your personal life. However, many of us would like to believe that your son -- who bears a strong physical resemblance to your brother Mycroft -- is alive and practicing detection on West 35th Street in New York. Is this a reasonable assumption?
Mr. Wolfe has never acknowledged me, to my knowing. Why should I acknowledge him?
Drug use is a topic of great concern these days. As we know from Dr. Watson’s writings, you used substantive amounts of cocaine and morphine at one time. I’ve always wondered if you have any regrets about that practice and, also, how Dr. Watson managed to change your behavior in this area?
I disagree that my use was substantive. A 7% solution is hardly that. Remember that my peers used cocaine in wine, soft drinks and soporifics for children at bedtime. Yet my use was nonetheless damaging. Watson’s approach was utterly logical. He brought me into a hospital where drug addicts were undergoing withdrawal. It was a most sobering lesson.
Many Sherlockians find Jeremy Brett’s portrayal of you to be most satisfying. Others of us, myself included, find Mr. Brett much too neurotic and lacking in the basic courtesy and humanity that you have always evinced. For example, we find it hard to believe that you would ever be discourteous to Mrs. Hudson. Have you watched Mr. Brett? And, if so, what is your opinion of his portrayal? Also, what are your thoughts on those other individuals such as Rathbone and Gillette who have portrayed you cinematically and/or on the stage?
I have seen Mr. Brett on the stage, most recently in 1974 when he appeared in Mr. Coward’s Design for Living. My memory of that performance is fond. Let us leave the matter there. I consider myself the most amiable of men, but I am sure many people construe my absorption and terseness as incivility. It is not meant to be so. As for the other actors, their talents were obscured by their material, which in most cases was putrid. Or am I rude to say so?
NOTE: At this point, Mr. Holmes’s traveling companion, the widowed Mrs. Norton*, interrupted us to hand him an envelope she had just received while in the ladies room and had been asked to give him. He opened it and shook out five orange pips! Murmuring something about “the Duke organization,” he departed somewhat precipitously (though not over a brick wall), accompanied by Mrs. Norton.
If you would like to meet Mr. Holmes personally, he periodically stays at the Victorian Villa in Union City, Michigan (517 741-7383). During his sojourn, corpses appear with alarming frequency, and guests have the opportunity to assist him in solving these crimes. Having participated in one of these weekends, I can assure you that it is a chastening experience guaranteed to make you aware of your own limitations as a detective. However, it is an unparalleled opportunity to see the Master in action.
*During the question-and-answer period following his talk, Mr. Holmes had commented that he “would trust Irene Adler with his life.” Apparently this was no idle statement, and the Master’s distrust of women has one most notable exception. When we asked Mrs. Norton if we could ever hope to see her grace the stage of Lyric Opera, she told us that her retirement is permanent. However, she went on to express considerable interest in certain emporiums (i.e., Neiman-Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue). The Master appeared somewhat distressed upon overhearing this. One does wonder if he himself engineered the incident of the pips to distract Mrs. Norton from her proposed shopping expedition.
ED NOTE: According to Victorian Villa, Mr. Holmes is currently on hiatus. The date of his return is unknown.
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