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The View from the East End (22)

By Inspector Hopkins

September 25, 2005
 

Christopher Morley

When I first started out many years ago as a casual Sherlockian reader, I had always thought that Sherlock Holmes was just a character in some detective series.

I mean . . . there is just so much more to that idea!

And when I had read that Christopher Morley was the American pioneer of what we today know and love as "Sherlockiana", it just made sense for me to go back and determine what was so important about him, and to convey this information to the newer Sherlockians out there.

There are many, many websites devoted to his biography, and I will list some of them at the end of this piece.

This man was a great writer and poet, and he was considered to be a very gregarious gentleman. Born in 1890, he was educated at Haverford College over here in the East End, and at the age of twenty went on to study at Oxford University in England, thus making him a Rhodes Scholar. He first started his career as a newspaper reporter and journalist, before moving on to other areas. He wrote dozens of successful books, at least one of which was made into an Academy Award-winning movie.

He became one of the founders of the "Saturday Review of Literature", and served as an editor there for sixteen years. He also wrote a number of plays, and later lived on Long Island where he built a writing studio on his estate "Green Escape", which he later dubbed "The Knothole".

As Sherlockians, he is probably best known to us for his involvement with, and active interest in, the study of Sherlock Holmes. He became so interested that he founded the Baker Street Irregulars in the 1930’s during the height of the Great Depression. He also wrote the introduction, "In Memoriam: Sherlock Holmes", to the Complete Sherlock Holmes.

For myself at least, he is best remembered for some of his famous quotations, of which he had many! I try to remember and live by some of these gems as I continue to meander through, and labour in, the fields of Sherlockiana. My favourite is: "Have fun, above all else, have fun; and take neither yourself, nor anyone, too seriously".

This quotation actually formed the First of the three "Morley Principles" which he established. The Second dealt with the establishment of the "Grand Game" (which I discussed some time ago), and the Third encouraged open discussion of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself, to whom we refer as Watson’s "literary agent".

Between these three Morley Principles, he defined the entire concept of Sherlockiana itself. His thoughts and ideas continue today as both newcomers and senior Sherlockians alike embrace them.

It is indeed a shame that I never got to meet him in person . . . anyone who also formed the "Three Hours for Lunch Club" must have been a lot of fun to be with!Here are some links for the interested Sherlockian to explore regarding this extraordinary man:

http://www.members.cox.net/sherlock1/grand.htm

http://www.christopher-morley.biography.ms/

http://www.nassaulibrary.org/bryant/Localhist/morley.htm

http://www.bartleby.com/people/Morley-C.html

And if you don’t have the Doubleday version of the Canon, here is a link to Morley’s beloved introduction, "In Memoriam: Sherlock Holmes":

http://www.geocities.com/shcases221b/html/specials/morley.html

Until next time, when we will investigate an exciting afternoon out here in the East End, and thanking you for your attention, I remain,

Yours faithfully,

STANLEY HOPKINS