The Maniac Collector's Inbox
The New Sherlock Holmes
When I read a Sherlock Holmes story, be it a Canonical tale or a pastiche, the Sherlock Holmes in my mind’s eye is always Sidney Paget’s depiction. Even I find this a bit ironic since my first encounter with our hero was the Doubleday two-volume set that did not have any illustrations inside. Many people of my parent’s generation hold Basil Rathbone as their Holmes. Jeremy Brett holds that distinction for the younger generation of Sherlockians. He is my favorite actor in the role but I still think of him as portraying the character brought to life by Paget. To me, this is evident in many of the exact recreation’s of Padgett illustrations Brett wove into his performances.
With the release of Sherlock Holmes, the Guy Richie film, a new breed of Sherlockians will be thinking of Robert Downey, Jr. when they read a Sherlock Holmes story. Of course, I am making that quantum leap in assuming that the next generation will be reading. I am still waiting to see the first publication of a Text-Messaging ‘translation’ of the Canon. This dim view of the Gen-Xer’s reading habits is not to be fully supported by the publishing world. This week I received my second book with the new face of Sherlock Holmes adorning the cover.
Circulo de Lectores has just published Aventuras de Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey, Jr. on the cover. This Spanish translation follows the earlier Malay translation -
I do not have any idea of whom others envision when they read a Holmes story. Before Rathbone, there were those who thought of William Gillette, star of stage and film and the inspiration for Fredrick Dorr Steele’s wonderful illustrations. I am surely not the only one that thinks of Walter Paget, the person brother Sidney used as his model in those Strand Magazine illustrations. Holmes is both a personal choice and a universal figure with no right or wrong depiction.
In reality, it does not matter who one envision as Holmes when reading the stories. What matters is the reading of the stories. I am not one to suggest that the current Holmes on the Big-Screen is good, bad or ugly but simply it is a Holmes. If a single Gen-Xer reads the Canon, we have succeeded. If that Gen-Xer envisions Robert Downey, Jr. as Holmes, more power to them. I hope that the next generation’s Holmes portrayer will spawn as much publicity as the current one has. In this way, I will rest assured that our hero will continue to endure.
Past 2009 Columns