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The View from the East End (3)

By Inspector Hopkins

January 2, 2005

"The Many Facets of Sherlockiana"

Part 3: The Grand Game

Reading through the Canon at a leisurely pace is entertaining and could take about a month, but one could spend a lifetime in a thorough study of "The Sacred Writings of Doctor Watson".

Why do we call them that?

For the newer reader, one very important facet of the gem called Sherlockiana to keep in mind is what we refer to as "The Game". Possibly inspired by Sherlock Holmes's famous line in "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange", the Game compels us to accept that every word of the Canon is utterly and absolutely true, that it was all written by Dr. Watson, and that both he and Sherlock Holmes indeed existed.

Once we have embraced the notion that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were real people and that the events recorded by Watson actually occurred, we say that we are "inside the Game", or "playing the Game", and we then refer to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as Watson’s "literary agent". Conversely, if we wish to discuss some aspect of Sherlockiana from an actual standpoint, we might preface our remarks with something like "Speaking outside the Game", etc. This is a very important distinction, and it effectively doubles the playing field of Sherlockian discussion, so to speak.

When we are playing the Game, Holmes and Watson become elevated to a higher level of credibility. This results in readers taking more of an interest in the circumstances and in the details of their adventures. This, in turn, results in more speculation about the characters themselves, and a desire to learn even more about them, and so on. Hence, the absorbing nature of Canonical study is created and propagated.

For example, there have been numerous attempts to accurately assign an exact date to each of the stories in the Canon. Some of these derivations required a great deal of time, effort, thought, research, and analysis. An excellent example of this work is right here at by our editor, Brad Keefauver, in his "Chronology Corner" column.

If Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were not perceived to be real, who would bother to make such Herculean efforts?

One common characteristic of Sherlockians that I have noticed is a keen desire to think through, analyze, relate, and compare the circumstances found in the Canon with their own lives and with everyday reality (whether past or present).

I can summarize my thoughts by stating:

"The more real that Holmes and Watson seem to us, the more involved we as readers become, the better we can relate to their adventures, and the further that Sherlockiana will be propagated".

Now, (*ahem*), speaking outside the Game, in my own humble opinion, I do NOT think that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ever had any clue that his works would reach the level of popularity that they have in the past hundred years! I think he simply wanted to write a few short magazine stories about a detective, and move on to other things. I do not think he ever intended Sherlock Holmes to be taken as seriously as he has been, either.

And having said that, I think would rather think inside the Game!


Until next time, and encouraging you to study hard, I am,

Yours faithfully,