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“THE COMPLIMENTS OF THE SEASON” TO HOLMES PART 1

IT WAS ON Friday, December 27, 1889, that Sherlockian chronicler Dr. John H. Watson visited Holmes at 221 B Baker Street and wished him “the compliments of the season.”

The Standard Doyle Company: Christopher Morley on Sherlock Holmes, edited and with an introduction by Steven Rothman, Fordham University Press, 1990.

Today and tomorrow, in Parts 1 and 2, I share observations made by eminent Sherlockian scholar Christopher Morley on several topics: the Christmas greeting from “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle,” a coincidence of ages, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Christmas Eve preference for reading Dickens in lieu of Watson, and “God Rest Us Merry, Gentlemen,” a Christmas ditty. These add to other erudite writings of Morley previously shared here at SimanaitisSays in “Was Sherlock Holmes an American?” and in “Dr. John H. Watson—Fashionisto.”.

Watson’s Christmas Greeting. When Watson visited Holmes, he said, “Compliments of the season,” not “Merry Christmas.” Morley wrote, “Wary old Watson, one of Britain’s great understatesmen. No emotional Heilige Nacht, no Tannenbaum, no vast substantial Fezziwigs, no lachrymous Yuletide yowling.”

Competing Christmas Tales. In that late December 1889, Watson was a married man when he visited his old roommate. This evolved into the only Sherlockian adventure taking place around Christmastide: “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” is a tale that Morley called “A Christmas Story Without Slush.”

Guess where the missing Blue Carbuncle gemstone was lodged. Image by Sidney Paget from The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Short Stories, 2 Vol. Set, edited by Leslie S. Klinger, additional research by Patricia J. Chui, W.W. Norton, 2005.

In fact, Morley wrote, “I am quite serious when I say that, as a story, The Blue Carbuncle is a far better work of art than the immortal Christmas Carol. The latter, canonized by over a hundred years of sentiment, is more legendary than legible. It contains deathless scenes of sheer genius but all clanked and labored together by a heavy drag of mechanical framework.”

A Scrooge visitor, the Ghost of Christmas Present. Image from The Annotated Christmas Carol: A Christmas Carol in Prose, by Charles Dickens, illustrated by John Leech, with introduction, notes and bibliography by Michael Patrick Hearn, Clarkson N. Potter, 1976.

Tomorrow, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt chooses one of these classics for family Christmas Eve entertainment. Guess which one. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2018

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