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WATSON CALLED London “that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained.” Hardly high praise, though he and Holmes were also familiar with London’s best as well. A good deal of Sherlockian research concerns this famous city. Here, with several canonical references, are three of my favorite books on the subject (all of which are listed at www.amazon.com and www.abebooks.com).
Charles Viney’s Sherlock Holmes in London is devoted completely to period photographs, starting with 1874 (coinciding with the “Gloria Scott,” Holmes’s first adventure) and going through 1914 (“His Last Bow”). The book also contains an atlas of London street maps of the era, with the photos keyed to locations.
The photos correlate with 50 of Watson’s 56 short narratives and three of his four longer ones. (The other narratives take place primarily outside London.)
Watson is introduced to Holmes through a colleague, young Stamford, in a chemical laboratory at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. It is there that Holmes displays his deductive powers by uttering, “You have been to Afghanistan, I perceive.”
Michael Harrison’s In The Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes is the most scholarly of these three books. It contains 24 pages of half-tone period illustrations, but its fun is in this noted Sherlockian’s methodical yet delightfully tongue-in-cheek analyses of Holmes, Watson and their whereabouts.
There’s an extensive index that’s particularly entertaining. For example, and almost at random, what of Simpson’s on the Strand?
“When we are finished at the police-station,” says Holmes at the conclusion of “The Dying Detective” adventure, “I think that something nutritious at Simpson’s would not be out of place.”
Simpson’s—renowned for its fine English fare and dignified Britannic waiters—was evidently one of Holmes’ favorite restaurants. Indeed, he and Watson dined there twice during “The Adventure of the Illustrious Client.”
Michael Harrison notes that “a dinner from the joint is to be had for 2s. 6d.” At the time, this equated to around 63¢ ($14.82 in today’s cash for this dinner of roasted meat).
Japanese Sherlockians Dr. Kobayashi, his wife Higashiyama and photographer Uemura combine old and new in Sherlock Holmes’s London. Part I, about a fifth of the book, presents photographs from the late Nineteenth Century. Part II, much of it in color, shows these same locations “pursuing the footprints of Sherlock Holmes.” There are also descriptions of latter-day Holmes tributes (The Sherlock Holmes pub and Holmes memoriabilia).
In “The Red-Headed League,” Holmes offers Watson an afternoon of culture: “Sarasate plays at the St. James Hall this afternoon,” he remarks. “What do you think, Watson? Could your patients spare you for a few hours?”
Spanish violinist and composer Pablo Martin Melitón Sarasate y Navascues was a regular performer at St. James Hall. The theatre was opened in 1858 (Charles Dickens gave readings there); it was demolished in 1905.
Sarasate is perhaps best known for his wonderful insight on musical talent: “For 37 years I’ve practiced 14 hours a day and now they call me a genius.” ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013