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The View from the East End (20)

By Inspector Hopkins

August 28, 2005

"The Many Facets of Sherlockiana"

Part 10a: Sherlockian Scholarship

This is a loaded one. A newer Sherlockian has probably heard this term bandied about, but how would he or she define this facet of Sherlockiana?

When I first became serious about reading and studying the exploits of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, I immediately became aware of how much knowledge and writing about them existed out there in the wide world of the Web, and I found it intimidating.

But I also found it challenging.

For me, I was sick and tired of being a "Jack of all Trades, but Master of None". I already told you, way back in Part 1, that I first read through the Canon some thirty years earlier and enjoyed it immensely. But there was something that kept nagging at the back of my brain about Sherlock Holmes and his exploits. I had never thought too much about some of the details before, but I was so impressed by all the efforts, and writings, and analysis, of so many others, that I became determined to join their ranks! I yearned to be an "expert" like them. I wanted so much to have all the knowledge and insight that they do, and to be able to write like them.

Well, thanks to our editor, I now have the chance to try just that! But, even after writing and delivering a paper (which I’ll tell you about later), I still have to rack my brains week after week to come up with something original and insightful. I’ve found that it’s not as easy as he makes it look, either.

But think just a moment: what is a "scholar", anyway?

According to the Random House Dictionary (RHD), loaded onto my "cool" laptop, it could mean either "a person who has profound knowledge of a particular subject", or it could mean "a student". But then . . . what defines a "student"? Again, according to the RHD, it is "any person who studies, investigates, or examines thoughtfully". Hmmm.

Does that not make ALL of us "Sherlockian Scholars", then?

Now, that’s the easy way out! But I somehow can’t fall into that simple, technicality-driven trap. I mean, there is a lot more to being a Sherlockian Scholar than just someone who studies or investigates thoughtfully. For myself, I can rattle off the names of the Villains or the Victims of each of the stories in the Canon. Or which Inspector investigated this case or that, before he finally gave up and asked Holmes for help. I can even give the cause of death or the final disposition of each case by rote memory! All this time, I have been thinking that this makes me a Sherlockian Scholar, but it doesn’t.

No, people, it does not.

It is my opinion that true Sherlockian Scholarship can come from years of study, but even more than that, it takes a special ability called "insight". And insight is something that you are either born with, or you’re not. After all the traveling around with all the different Scions Societies which I told about, I have been humbled, brought to my knees, embarrassed, and plain old-fashioned "stumped", with simple questions posed by the various "quizmasters" at each Scion, because of lack of insight. Ha! And I thought I knew it all.

But fortunately for me and for all the other newer Sherlockians out there, I also believe that, eventually, insight *can* be gained, if we try hard enough! Even though we study and read stories well over 100 years old, it always amazes me that so much of the human condition is evident through Dr. Watson’s writings. There is so much to these supposedly "simple" stories that I just can’t believe his literary agent would just pass these along to us without comment. Discovering these items, then, forms the core of our Sherlockian studies, and thus, our "Scholarship".

And this process will probably amaze me the rest of my life, as well.

Until next time, when I will add some other thoughts to this topic, I remain,

Yours faithfully,