The View from the East End (26)
By Inspector HopkinsNovember 20, 2005
A Saturday with Sherlock Holmes
I recently had the pleasure of attending the 26th annual “Saturday with Sherlock Holmes” event out here in the East End! It was held at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, and in concert with the Library, was sponsored by three major Maryland scion societies: The Six Napoleons of Baltimore, The Carlton Club, and my own Watson’s Tin Box of Ellicott City.
To begin with, the weather was unusually gorgeous, and the two hour ride down to Maryland in my hansom on such a beautiful morning felt particularly smooth and pleasant. Since it was a Saturday, I was able to obtain free parking only around the corner from the Library.
And what a Library it was!
A fitting place indeed to host a gathering of the over 100 Sherlockians who attended, it was founded in the 1880’s by Enoch Pratt, a shrewd Baltimore business man who established a system of free libraries throughout the city. And around the time that Mr. Holmes retired, Pratt’s efforts were joined by Andrew Carnegie who donated a half million dollars to build more library branches. The library grew and evolved as the years passed, and the present building, located at Franklin and Cathedral Streets, was built at the height of the Great Depression. It stretches in every direction with massive brasswork, and marble surfaces. The central part of the building is brightened up by lofty skylights, and interior windows on the second floor overlook the main floor down below. Display cases and artwork abound to tantalize the eye of the visitor, and the well-worn steps linking each floor bear testament to the millions of feet that pounded over them in their owner’s quest for knowledge.
Even more fitting was the fact that we all met in the “Edgar Allan Poe Room” on the second floor for coffee and Danish to start off the event! I recognized many of my Sherlockian friends, as well as met some new ones. (Again, for the newcomer, these events are a great way to have fun and to see what Sherlockiana is all about). After socializing over our coffee, we went up to the third floor and seated ourselves in the Wheeler Auditorium where our host, Phil Sherman, greeted everyone and made some opening remarks.
This year’s theme was entitled “The Boast of Heraldry – The Pomp of Power”, and focused on discussing nobility and the various titles that so many of the Canonical characters had. We were treated to a series of six very short monologues on this topic, delivered by some very esteemed Sherlockian writers and scholars, most of whom are also members of the BSI.
William Hyder (who portrayed Dr. Watson in the event at the Dobry’s house) presented a paper describing some of the titles and the ranking system used in Victorian England. This subject is so complex that I will have to address it in a later column! But at least for now, I walked away remembering that a Knight is the lowest of all the titles.
Daniel F. Thomas discussed some of the illustrious nobility and how Sherlock Holmes’s name was linked with them. He also reminded us that Lady Brackenstall did eventually marry the Earl of Dovercourt!
John Pforr delivered a somewhat comical summary of how the King of Bohemia, Pope Leo 13th, and the President of France, all had an involvement with Sherlock Holmes.
Rosalind Cheslock followed up with a discussion of the many titled Women of the Canon, starting with the Countess of Morcar, and including the unnamed female vigilante who finished off Charles Augustus Milverton.
James H. Arva went into a brief discussion of some of the less-than-savoury members of the Peerage, including Colonel Sebastian Moran and, as he termed it, the “morally challenged” Baron Gruner!
Finally, Andrew Solberg (winner of last year’s Morley-Montgomery award) wrapped up the monologues with a very cleverly written poetical piece entitled “Peerage in Poetry”, in which he managed to include a reference to many of the Canonical stories.
These monologues were followed by a quiz based upon what we had just learned, and the winner received a $25 gift certificate courtesy of the “Mystery Loves Company” bookstore. Although the theme of the event had a light and comical touch, I did indeed learn a great deal, and became a better Sherlockian because of it. The event was short and sweet and right to the point, and was somewhat unusual because it was completely free.
And if it is true that the best things in life really are free, well then, I certainly got my money’s worth on this autumnal day out in the East End.
To learn more about the Enoch Pratt Free Library, check out this link:
Until next time, and thanking you for your attention, I indeed remain,