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The View from the East End (85)

By Inspector Hopkins

April 20 , 2008
 

Is “The Game” played out?

 by Inspector Hopkins

As the newcomer to Sherlockiana progresses in his/her knowledge and experience in the Sherlockian world, sooner or later they will have to deal with this issue.  And, amongst all the issues that there are, it should be noted that this is a rather important one, at that.

What about “The Game”, anyway?

Well, recall what The Game is all about . . .

It is assuming that everything that Watson wrote is the absolute truth, to be taken literally, and that both he and Holmes were actual (non-fictional) characters. As Sherlockians, we pretend this to believe in this, and we relegate Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s efforts to simply being those of Watson’s “literary agent”.

Think about all that for a moment.

If it wasn’t for The Game, there would be no scion societies, no Hounds listings, no BSI, no investitures, no chat rooms, no symposiums, lectures, or meetings of any kind. There would be no papers, books, websites or columns dedicated to Sherlock Holmes such as the one you are reading now. There would be no discussions, agreements, disagreements, quizzes, arguments, competitions or prizes over all the intricacies, discrepancies, and nuances of Watson’s tales! Neither would there be any attempts made at sorting out all the stories with the painstaking Sherlockian science we refer to as Chronology.

Sherlockians have been playing this Game for some seventy-odd years now, and we’re running out of room. Indeed, recent frantic efforts to discover something in the Canon that no one else has previously noticed has reached the point of absurd speculation. I have heard of some wild theories that Mycroft Holmes was actually Moriarty, or that Mrs. Hudson was really Irene Adler!  Come on now, people . . . let’s slow down and take a few deep breaths.

Although I appreciate that having a vivid imagination is part of being a successful Sherlockian, I really must draw the line here, and insist that we stay within the realm of a reasonable Canonical framework. Some folks have proposed that the Game is “played out” because there is nothing left to discover in the Canon.  They assert that there are no more inconsistencies, revelations, failures, mistakes, or inaccuracies to expound upon that have not already been thoroughly discussed.

As your “Sherlockian Sophomore” (and expecting lots of flak over my opinion), I find myself largely in agreement with this assertion. There really is nothing “new” to discover in the Canon. It has been picked over and over by so many, many other much smarter people than I, that every single story, paragraph, sentence, and word in the Canon has been analyzed to death . . . I mean, how many times can someone ask why Watson’s wife called him “James” in TWIS?

Sorry, but that’s the way it is, folks.

Nonetheless, I have come to realize that what really keeps Sherlockiana going is the influx of new people.  We need new people to fill in for the older ones who die off, and we need new people to help keep the Sherlockian torch lit.  With their newer enthusiasm, curiosity, perspective, and interest, they will discover (and re-discover) all Watson’s “errors” and thus perpetuate the cycles of discussion and analysis.

Besides, in the words of the late Steve Clarkson, no matter how many years one reads and analyzes the Canon, “No one can know it all”.  And who can tell? Perhaps a newcomer may yet indeed find something that one of us has missed.

So as long as we welcome new Sherlockians to our ranks, The Grand Game can never really be played out . . .

Until next time, and hoping that you enjoy and continue in your studies of Sherlockiana, I am as always,

Yours faithfully,
STANLEY HOPKINS