Tuesday, July 15, 2014
STUD, Walking on hallowed ground - Brad's summer reading list - #12 - A Study in Scarlet (STUD), Chapter One.
I don't even think STUD was in the first collection of Sherlock Holmes stories I read.
Does it carry as much weight for those who are introduced to him in book form first (does that happen anymore?) as it does to us 'scholars' (I use the term weakly in my case) and fans, those of use who have traveled to Baker St. more than once?
Let's face it, most introductions to Holmes and Watson now probably take place through television or movies and perhaps fan fiction and pastiche.
Many probably picked up the books during the hiatus between seasons of 'Sherlock' ( is that 'media made' break now going to be considered the 'Second, Third, Fourth Great Hiatus?), which is fine. I have watched many shows that have interested me enough to go and read more about the subject. But it means we are no longer introduced to Holmes without any prior knowledge of what is or is not to come.
And it doesn't seem the impact of this first chapter, the chapter where John Watson first meets Sherlock Holmes, had very much effect on the readers in 1887. The story was not a run away hit or an over night success. It was, however, a successful beginning. First published in 1887, it would take three more years for another story to take place, SIGN. Holmes popularity would not really take off until Watson's (Doyle's) association with the Strand Magazine in the form of short stories.
It probably wasn't till men and women started to meet and talk after several cases had been adapted to publication form that the importance of this meeting was heralded as a memorable moment.
While most Sherlockians achingly wait for a really good period adaption of this first meeting (there may have been one that I missed) to be put on film, the first readers of STUD did not realize how important this meeting was because they had no idea that such an intensive scrutiny of the chronology would follow. As far as they knew, this would be a 'one of'. They didn't know 60 cases would follow. Did we know Harry Potter would be so big when exploring the first book? Or James Bond?
It could probably be argued that this first chapter can never be read by anyone the first time and be judged fairly for that first reading anymore. Let's face it, it will indeed be rare for someone to discover Sherlock Holmes with out having met him somewhere else first.
I know I didn't.
I first met Holmes as played by Rathbone. And then again only many years later sitting in an old logging camp in Maine around the fire. But even then I knew Holmes and Watson pretty well before I read the book. And this most important introduction was not included.
Can we revel in the importance of this chapter without taking it as part of the whole?
I argue we can only do that after we know what the whole is, or at least most of the sixty stories.
It is in "Playing the Game" that the weight of this chapter really becomes important.
It is the starting point of all that follows. And what a great start it is.
But it is now hard to imagine this meeting for the first time. My head is already filled with all I know about the two men.
Benedict Cumberbatch's image is standing at the table in the laboratory ( I think he would have been great in a traditional meeting of the two). (And yes, I would have loved to see him do this chapter in a period correct presentation.)
Perhaps the best way we can look at this chapter now is as if it where the pilot episode of an upcoming TV show. Networks know they have to come up with something that really grabs our attention and makes us want to come back. Would this 'episode' have made you want to come back?
And even that isn't fair to readers past because we know, as with most pilots, that at least several more episode's are going to follow. Readers of STUD did not know if that was going to happen or not.
I think, if done as an episode to an upcoming season, STUD carries enough dramatic weight to warrant visiting the new show again next week.
Did readers in 1887 become so intrigued by these two characters that they hoped 'the season' would continue with new 'episodes'? Was there fan speculation about what was going to happen next?
I don't know.
I don't believe it had the same bang as the first episode of, oh, so many years ago now,'Sherlock'.
I don't know that I agree with Brad's placing this chapter in June, I have to do more research on that.
Watson does give the impression when he says, "It is upon the 4th of March, as I have good reason to remember. . . .", that he had only been with Holmes for a few weeks or at the most a few months when he sits down to write what would be in chapter two. And when Watson is usually that specific, I tend to take him at his word.
No, I can't imagine reading this chapter, again, for the very first time and getting out of it what I do now.
But I am okay with that for the very same reason I don't recommend new readers reading the books in any annotated version for the first time; The discovery that is Holmes and Watson needs to come slowly and be enjoyed. It is only by going over and over these stories with what we learn from our own 'research' and the research of others that we begin to form a solid, for ourselves, image of these two.
And that's why I am enjoying Brad's reading suggestions so much. It makes me reread them and come up some thing I believe worthy of the discussion.