The Watson Anomaly or A Tale of Two Bells

In 1876 a groundbreaking event occurred that made possible our modern way of life. This event was the world’s first telephone call in which Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) uttered the immortal words “Mr. Watson-come here-I want you.”

This was, of course, not a reference to John H. Watson of Baker Street but rather to Thomas Watson (1854-1934) Dr. Bell’s assistant. The world would not meet Dr. John Watson for another eleven years when “A Study in Scarlet” would be published in 1887.

But in that same year 1876 another amazing event occurred. A young man named Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) began taking medical classes at Edinburgh university in Scotland. There he met a master of deduction named Dr. Joseph Bell (1837-1911). This Dr. Bell inspired the young man to create everyone’s favorite detective, Sherlock Holmes.

Interestingly enough Alexander Graham Bell was born in Edinburgh Scotland before eventually coming to the United States. Unfortunately without access to Scottish genealogical records I have no way of knowing if the two Bells were related.

So one Dr. Bell had a friend named Watson and the Other Dr. Bell inspired a fictional character who had a friend named Watson.

Really what are the odds these two men would have the same last name, both be Doctors, both come from Scotland and even live at the same time? Even without the Watson anomaly it is still very interesting.

 

I’m a Total Watson

Yes it’s true.

I know that I would really love to be Sherlock Holmes. Brave, smart, mysterious and always morally in the right.

But I’m just not Sherlock. Besides Watson is plenty brave and smart. He’s not so mysterious but then neither am I. Watson does have an excellent moral compass though and it serves him well always erring on the side of compassion and human decency.

I am a Writer. I have a Blog. So I am like Watson in that way.

I might not be a doctor but I can peel the backing off a Band-aid.

I like to drink tea and I detest the foul smell of tobacco smoke.

I have a Dog though he isn’t a bull dog.

I am not really the leader, I am more of the tag-along type. I can take orders and I can give good advice I just can’t take charge.

Though I am intelligent I tend to live inside my head a lot and so am not very observant of the outside world. So I am like Watson in that way too. Holmes will never cease to amaze me.

I have Watson’s on my Family Tree. My Mother’s Father’s Grandfather was a Watson.  It might be reach up a bit on family tree but it’s still a direct line of descent. With out him having a daughter who had my Grandfather who had my mother I wouldn’t be here so, yea I am a total Watson.

Spock and Sherlock: A study in Geek

Hello All,  I am so sorry that these posts are so far and few between. Anyway I hope that this one is interesting enough to make up for the long wait.

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

This quote was first used in The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1890. It has since then been used to death in reference to Sherlock Holmes.

But in 1991 in the film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country the character Spock quotes it and attributes it not to Holmes or Doyle but rather to a Vulcan ancestor.

But I am not angry instead I am geeking out because just this year in the BBC series Sherlock, Episode 2 The Hounds of Baskerville, Sherlock (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) recites the infamous quote and then in the same scene after Sherlock rants about his need to stay above emotions John Watson (played by Martin Freeman) says, “Alright, Spock.”

Isn’t that amazing!

‘Why is it amazing?’ you ask.

It’s amazing because it means that in a, granted fictional, universe in which Sherlock Holmes is a person  living in our modern-day they still have Star Trek. Which means that Spock’s unattributed quote combined with John’s remark implies that Sherlock is actually quoting Leonard Nimoy’s character Spock. Thus proving for all time that Sherlock is a Treker.  He doesn’t know that the earth revolves around the sun but he watches Star Trek. Well that’s Sherlock for you.

Though one wonders what he makes of The Next Generation episode: Elementary, My Dear Data.

For more on the Sherlock/Spock connection check out this Blog : http://thenewdiogenesclub.blogspot.com/2012/01/mr-spock-and-mr-holmes.html

Wouldn’t you like to meet . . . Would you Really?

My first post of 2012. Everyone heard the old New years song that begins, “Should old acquaintance be forgot?” And I agree that they shouldn’t but fictional characters are a kind of acquaintance too so instead I ask the question, Should all acquaintance be met?

I am sure that everyone has felt attached to a fictional character before, a character that you have grown to know over the course of a good novel or a riveting movie. But even I have to admit that the most entertaining characters are without a doubt the ones that we would find most annoying in real life.

Take Sherlock Holmes for example: probably the most famous detective ever. There are even clubs made up of well-respected scholars and authors that are devoted to proving that the Doyle’s Holmes adventures really took place. If any of these devotees actually had the chance to meet a real life Sherlock Holmes would they still be so enthralled by him?

I love the Holmes stories and most of his screen incarnations but if I were left alone in a room with him would I still like him?

If I were ever to meet this man, in any of his various incarnations, I just know that my self-esteem would plummet. No matter what I say or how clever I think I am Sherlock would be sure to point out how much I overlooked or how wrong my reasoning or just how much more intelligent he is. I know I’m not as smart as Holmes but still no one likes being made to feel stupid. Not even Watson enjoyed the feeling of inferiority, yet he did put up with it. I am not as patient or forgiving as Watson.

The meeting might run something like this:

“Mr. Holmes it is a great honor I have read all about you.” A say with fan-girlish excitement.

“Oh don’t tell me that you read Watson’s exaggerated accounts that he publishes in that frivolous magazine.”

“Oh so you disapprove of Watson’s writing. But didn’t you write two adventures yourself?”

“Yes but I was in desperate need of cash at the time.” Sherlock grimaces in distaste. “Over all Writing is a waste of valuable time unless it is to either inform or instruct.”

“I see so you must not think very much of me then.” My pride is stinging by this point.

“No not really. From the pressure marks on your wrists I can tell that you have been typing recently and for a considerable length of time. Only the novelist gets so caught up in their work that they sit for so long a period. From the red irritation under your lower lip I tell also that you play the flute, an inferior instrument, and you last practiced sometime this morning as the spot is barely discernible save to my enhanced skills of observation. I noticed also that your clothing is out of fashion and well-worn. This tells me that you shun society and spend most of your days in your own home either creating worthless fiction or reading it. You lack both the intelligence and the motivation to ever amount to anything.”

Through my tears I manage to defend myself, barely, “I am intelligent. I have a 3.9 GPA and an Associate degree which I might add is more than you have Mr. Holmes. As for motivation it takes a lot of it to work through all the rewriting and revision that it takes to finish a work of fiction. A lot more than a true story where all of facts and everything are already there just waiting to be recorded.”

“I suppose you have a point. You don’t create any of that drivel known as Fan Fiction do you?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Fan fiction is an inferior from of creativity and I would be loath to write about another’s creation when I know my own so much better.”

“Well thank goodness for that. If you turn around and describe to me my appearance exactly then I shall take back every ill word I have spoken about you.”

I turned and pictured him in my mind. “A brown deerstalker hat and in your mouth is a long steamed pipe. On your shoulders you wear a brown Inverness traveling cloak and trousers and shoes to match.” I turned and saw a bareheaded Mr. Holmes, empty mouthed and wearing evening attire, sadly shaking his head in disappointment.

It probably wouldn’t happen that way. In reality I would probably so in shock that I would most likely not say anything. I would think desperately of something to say but by the time was ready to speak Sherlock would have grown tired of waiting.

I can say that I am just not a people person but the truth is that when I become in awe of a character or even an actor I start thinking about how I would act or what I would say. Almost as if I would expect the meeting to change me. In reality though I am just me and I will still be me no matter who I’m meeting.

The “You Brute” Letter: A Sherlock Style Deduction.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a short essay called “Some Personalia about Mr. Sherlock Holmes.” This essay is reprinted in both The Sherlock Holmes Scrapbook and The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

In it ACD talks about all of the fan mail that he received in regards to Holmes. One letter really stands out. ACD does not reprint the whole letter but just the salutation line. The letter, received after the publication of “The Final Problem,” began with “You brute.” ACD states that the letter writer was a woman but gives us no other details.

My first thought was, “Wow really deluded fan!” But then it occurred to me that if this woman had believed in Sherlock as a real person with Arthur Conan Doyle as a pen name for John Watson then she would have sent condolences, not insults. So we now know that she accepts the stories for the fiction they are. Second observation: With the etiquette of letter writing drilled into Victorian/Edwardian Lady, why would a woman sitting down to the thought full task of writing a letter choose to open with “You Brute?” Answer she was under such emotional strain that no matter how calm she became she still thought of him as a Brute. But why such emotion over the death of a character that she knew to be fictional? Perhaps someone she knew was not as rational as herself and so took Holmes death at Reichenbach Falls rather hard.

One more deduction before I reveal what I believe would have been in the original letter. I think that this woman must have been an American because no proper British lady would have used the word You in place of a proper title. An English lady would have began it with Dr. Brute (The Sir was added after this) or, if she was ignorant of his profession, Mr. Brute.

 And now my logically thought out reproduction of the “You Brute” letter:

You Brute,

Did you even stop to think how news of Holmes death might effect other people? If you didn’t want to write anymore about Holmes then just stop writing. To just Kill him so heartlessly is beyond reason. Would you have still done him in if you had known just how truly devoted and attached Holmes’s fans really are? My own poor Husband has been barely been able to eat or sleep since reading of Holmes untimely demise. I do believe that he loved Holmes as a brother. Nay he loves him more than his own Brother. I can not ask you to revive The honored detective but do please write to my husband and try to help him see reason. You created this problem so I ask you now to fix it.

 Sincerely,

Mrs. Hope Sherrington of New York

Doyle’s reply must have read thusly:

Dear Madam,

I recommend that your husband, and all other mourners, seek psychiatric counseling.

Sincerely,

 Arthur Conan Doyle

P.S. Do your utmost to keep Cocaine away from your husband. I would hate for any poor soul to become addicted to the stuff for love of anything that I had written.

Elementary My Dear Wells!

Lately I have been reading a lot of Wells and Doyle. Probably two of the best writers of the English language. I also admire Jules Verne but as we all know he was French.

 H. G. Wells is best known for his Science Fiction thrillers. Most notably The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine.

 But he also wrote some more realistic novels as well the best of which, I think, is Wheels of Chance: A Bicycling Idyll  In this novel the main character Mr. Hoopdriver ( no, I’m not kidding) decides to take a bicycling tour of the English coast for his holiday. Naturally trouble follows him wherever he goes. But what really excites the geek in me are the six or so references to Sherlock Holmes, that well-known creation of Dr. Doyle’s.

 Mr. Wells also wrote a short story titled “The Stolen Body” in which a resident of Baker Street, experimenting with Astral projection, goes missing and his Housekeeper is said to be consulting with “That well known investigator.” That’s all we hear of him though because as I’m sure you can guess possession is 9/10th of the plot and he believes that “No ghosts need apply.”(The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire)

 Wells’s allusions to Sherlock Holmes are really a testament to how wildly popular Doyle’s creation had become in his own time. It’s exactly the same as a modern author referencing Harry Potter or Twilight.

 Or a simpler explanation is that these two Authors knew each other. In the biography Arthur Conan Doyle: A life in Letters  there is reprinted a letter written by H. G. Wells Congratulating Sir. Arthur on his recent Knighthood. It’s on page 503 for those who want to look it up.

 These two authors are really good and have a similar writing style. Very simple narratives with vivid descriptions and beautifully flowing dialog. I have tried to emulate the writing style and have found it a very trying exercise.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has a great body of work in addition to the 60 Holmes stories. I recommend checking out this site http://siracd.com to learn more about ACD. Especially find some his Non-Sherlock Short stories to read. ACD works amazing wonders with the short story format and I think that they’re probably better than most of his longer works. For example Holmes Adventures as compared to Holmes Novels.

 As far as Wells is concerned your local Library should have at least a few of his better known books. Though once again try to find a Short story collection if you can.