Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 11th December 2018

The Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society
Monthly Meeting Minutes

Date of Meeting: 11th December 2018

Location of Meeting:
The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK

Attendees:
"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)

Apologies:
What else should "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) be? All apologies.

The Toasts:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) proposed the following toast to The Season of Forgiveness:

'Twas the night before Christmas, and on Baker Street
Sherlock sat down with a hot toddy treat.
His slipper was hung by the chimney with care,
So he filled up his pipe from his velvet-lined chair.

When out in the road there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter,
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
Holmes, at my shoulder, looked on displeased
He opened a drawer, he reached in and seized

My service revolver, and checked it was loaded.
Then he leant out and five shots exploded.
Some reindeer escaped, but there still in the snow
Lay four of the reindeer and Santa brought low.

I remarked to my friend that I was confused
Why had poor St. Nick been so cruelly used?
“It’s a fact that such magic is highly illogical”
“It’s my duty to eliminate” said he “the impossible.”

Motions:

1. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) proposed a society Christmas meal. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) objected because he is an atheist. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) told "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) to stop trying to bring religion into Christmas. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) withdrew the motion.
2. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) asked for his money back. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) acting as treasurer pointed out no money had ever been paid to the society. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) seconded everything in sight.

Presentation:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) gave the following presentation entitled A Study in A Study in Scarlet

A Study in A Study in Scarlet

I often find A Study in Scarlet to be somewhat maligned in the Holmesian community. It is frequently suggested that Holmes is not such a fully formed character in this tale. Obviously the story is recognised as important because it is the first story of the Canon, but I contend that it’s importance goes deeper. It is not a fault in the writing that either man seems less than whole in this story. They WERE less than whole and the writing reflects this.This is the story in which Holmes and Watson are both knocked off the courses they were on and became great rather than just good.

The effect of Holmes upon Watson is easier to see. Having been invalided out of the army, he was rapidly becoming one of the loungers and idlers of the Empire which are drawn to the cesspool that is London. He was a wastrel spending such money as he had, considerably more freely than he ought.  It could have been expected that the lazy and depressed doctor would follow his elder brother into drunkenness and an early grave. Until, that is, his adventures with Holmes renewed his interest in life. He began to write, to take pride in himself and to move himself back into respectable Victorian life. Such was the change that within seven years he would be settling down into general practice, having made a bride of one of Holmes’s clients.

The difference Watson made to Holmes is perhaps presented less obviously and yet it is a big difference. In those early days together in Baker Street Holmes is a far more sedentary detective. He resembles his elder brother Mycroft when he describes his unique role as a “consulting detective”:

“Here in London we have lots of Government detectives and lots of private ones. When these fellows are at fault they come to me, and I manage to put them on the right scent. They lay all the evidence before me, and I am generally able, by the help of my knowledge of the history of crime, to set them straight...”

“And these other people?”

“... They are all people who are in trouble about something, and want a little enlightening. I listen to their story, they listen to my comments, and then I pocket my fee.”

As yet, he is hardly a character who could be said to have had “adventures” (such as his first collection of short stories were titled). What then, brought about this change?

It will be recalled that early in their shared life, Watson was trying to guess what Holmes did for a living; what were his unique skills for and who were all these people visiting Holmes in their lodgings?
No doubt, the ever observant Holmes knew exactly what Watson was up to. Holmes would have been happy to talk about his occupation but was well aware that Watson would never be so rude as to just outright ask. It is my belief that Holmes’s peculiar behaviour on 4th March 1881 was designed to allow the above conversation to take place. While waiting for his breakfast, Watson read an article in a magazine which Holmes had marked out. The article turned out to be written by Holmes and outlined some of the methods by which he worked. I can see no reason for Holmes to mark out his own article unless he wanted someone else to read it. As he had no friends, the only person he could have meant to read it would be Watson. The reason, must have been to allow the question of Holmes’s profession to arise. Which it did.

However, far from the satisfying conclusion to Watson’s studies that Holmes predicted, Watson was rather incredulous. This annoyed Holmes, as can be seen in the rather tense discussion that followed, and that is when events were steered onto different rails.

There soon arrives a telegram from Tobias Gregson regarding the murder of Enoch Drebber at Lauriston Gardens. Watson assumes that Holmes will rush there at once to assist but Holmes tells him:

“I'm not sure about whether I shall go. I am the most incurably lazy devil that ever stood in shoe leather…”
There is a discussion over this reticence and he changes his mind. Why? No reason is given, but I believe he saw the opportunity to prove his skills to Watson. He could easily have solved the affair from his armchair just as with any other case, but he didn’t. He could have solved it without any one assisting him, but he didn’t. He tells Watson to get his hat and join him and the adventure begins.

And the change in Holmes begins too. The details of the adventure will either be known to you already or better discovered in the original text, but suffice it to say that it is far more active and enjoyable that Holmes has become used to. In the conclusion of the story he says:

“I would not have missed the investigation for anything. There has been no better case within my recollection. Simple as it was, there were several most instructive points about it.”

He may not have missed the case for anything, but I feel sure he would would have missed the case were it not for his desire to show Watson he was wrong.

From there they become a team and they both grow together. Watson as described above, but Holmes is a more easily missed way. In these early cases we see Holmes treating each case as a mere puzzle to solve. There is little consideration for the people involved in the cases. It only takes a small step back to look at the crime in A Study in Scarlet to make one question whether the murder was justified. Holmes never takes this step back. In cases such as A Scandal in Bohemia, we wonder whether Holmes was ever justified in taking the side of The King of Bohemia. In The Five Orange Pips he fails to protect his client from murderers and on learning this he comments “I feared as much. How was it done?” He had expected this might happen but did nothing to prevent it! Contrast this with the cases later on; in Abbey Grange he sides with the murderer and offers advise on getting away. In Charles Augustus Milverton, he becomes a criminal, and lets another murderer off. In His Last Bow he spends two difficult years actively preventing the plans of those who threaten his country. Two things seem to matter to him now; justice and adventure.

Holmes develops because of Watson just as much as Watson benefits from befriending Holmes. It is in Study in Scarlet that we see this subtle but dramatic conflict change both men’s lives for the better. It is this story which gives us the greatest element of the Canon; the interdependent friendship between Dr John H Watson and Mr Sherlock Holmes.

Any Other Business:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) gave us a brief synopsis of an essay he had written called Facial Expressions in Early Holmes. Which was more than enough for all of us.

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