I’M ENJOYING STEPHEN BROWNING’S On the Trail of Sherlock Holmes, a fine addition to my collection about this first and most famous of the world’s Consulting Detectives.
Conan Doyle the Literary Agent. Browning begins with an account of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s life, including mention of University of Edinburgh’s Joseph Bell, the real-life inspiration for Holmes’ deductive skills. He also shares my favorite conceit: “That Holmes is a real person, Watson his biographer and Conan Doyle merely a literary agent….” Browning says this is called “the Great Game, the Sherlockian Game, the Holmesian Game or simply the Game, and helps to some extent to explain why fact and fiction regarding Sherlock Holmes intermingle.”
“The first essays on this subject,” Browning notes, “saw the light of day in 1902. Dorothy L. Sayers, creator of Lord Peter Wimsey, writes that the Game ‘must be played as solemnly as a county cricket match at Lord’s; the slightest touch of extravagance or burlesque ruins the atmosphere.’ ”
I agree completely.
On the Trail of.… The book’s eight Walks, seven in London, the eighth extending into the U.K. as a whole, are considerably more than merely tracing Holmes’ footsteps with brief Canonical citations. It’s like being accompanied by an urbane Sherlockian scholar who pauses here and there to share entertaining tidbits.
Walk 1 involves Baker Street and the immediate area. The Baker Street tube station, Browning notes, is “served by five lines—Metropolitan,Circle, Hammersmith and City, Bakerloo and Jubilee—and is one of the world’s first underground stations, opened in 1863. It is worth a linger on the platforms to see the custom-made tiling celebrating Sherlock Holmes.”
Browning observes, “Immediately outside the station, on Marylebone Road, is a metre-high statute of Holmes by John Doubleday.”
“The statue was unveiled in 1999;” Browning says, “it now has a message for visitors, written by best-selling author, Anthony Horowitz, which is accessed by scanning a QR code.”
Moscow Holmes. Browning also notes that there’s another bronze, this one of Holmes and Watson, near the British Embassy in Moscow. He cites, “One of the most successful television series of all time on Russian television has been the superb series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, which began in 1979 and starred Vasily Livanov as Holmes and Vitaly Solomin as Watson. Livanov was to received an honorary MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 2006 for his portrayal of Holmes and for many fans his interpretation is unsurpassed.”
Curiously, Browning doesn’t mention “ХОЛМСА, УАТСОН, ДОЙЛ, И КРЕМЛЬ,” “Holmes, Watson, Doyle, and the Kremlin,” gleaned from The Daily Telegraph here at SimanaitisSays as “one of Sherlock Holmes’ rare defeats.”
Another On the Trail appendix lists Some Notable Actors who have Played Holmes over the Years. This includes Johnny Depp, “the voice of Holmes in the 2018 film Sherlock Gnomes.… Rotten Tomatoes website said that the greatest mystery about the film is why it existed at all.”
As noted earlier, it’s good fun tracing Holmes footsteps with a tidbit collector like Stephen Browning. ds