The View from Sherlock Peoria (27)
Back to SherlockPeoria front page December 8 , 2002 Back to The View from SP Archives
The Good Old Days . . .
The holiday season is a time for reflecting on times past. But when youre a Sherlockian, the immediate question is "which times past"? For unlike so many of our fellow man, we have at least one more time past upon which we occasionally like to meditate.
So this week, Im just stopping for a minute to take a little time-bounce through the past, just to see where nostalgia takes me.
Stop number one: The Victorian era.
Christmas and the Victorian era will be forever linked thanks to a certain author and a certain piece of fiction, and we all know Im not talking about Conan Doyle and "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle." Charles Dickenss A Christmas Carol and its umpteen movie adaptations capture the Christmas spirit as well as any other work of fiction. You could say that Christmas just wasnt Christmas until Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843, and you just might be right. At about that time, many of the traditions we hold fast to in the modern day were also coming together in England: the Christmas tree, sending Christmas cards, and Christmas caroling, to name a few.
Sherlock Holmess parents, Violet and Siger, were courting at about the time Dickenss classic Christmas tale came out, and who knows? The warm "live and love" feelings inspired by reading A Christmas Carol may have even inspired Siger Holmes to propose to Miss Violet, when he might otherwise have put it off in favor of his concerns as a country squire. One more reason for the Sherlockian to enjoy this time of year.
The holiday season is the most Victorian time of year, the one time when candles are common, and you might just see a man in a top hat or a woman with a long dress in the mode of long ago. Of course, the many functions of this time of year make it a little harder to squeeze in Sherlockian events, but with so much Victoriana readily at hand, its also easier to pretend that non-Sherlockian events have some small connection.
And the next time youre watching Ebenezer Scrooge being taken on tour by the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, imagine a small scene left on the cutting-room floor, wherein that time-travelling spirit takes Scrooge on a side-trip to pick up a copy of Beetons Christmas Annual. Ebenezer needed all the inspiration for self-improvement he could get, and reading a little Sherlock would be good for the old boy.
Stop number two: The 1930s and 1940s
Ive heard it said among Baker Street Irregulars, that the heart of a Sherlockian not only lives in the Victorian era, but in those days of Sherlockianas beginnings as well. This thought always seems a bit ironic, as the Sherlockians of those days were fondly looking back to the Victorian era as better days than their own.
The recent fad of referring to the World War II generation as "the greatest generation," and hailing them as a superior breed, is something that Sherlockians have been way ahead of the rest of the world on. Weve been hearing how great the Sherlockians of that day were for a long time now . . . and they were pretty great. But then, when you start with a top drawer literary man like Christopher Morley at the helm, and have top mystery writers like Rex Stout and Ellery Queen on the near horizon, its definitely a tough act to follow.
But when I think of the 1930s and 1940s, apart from the war and contemporary writers, I tend to think of the roots of the modern day. They had cars, which werent quite as nice as the cars we have now. They had appliances, which werent quite as nice as the appliances we have now. Mens fashions were about to locking into permanent business-driven mode (not really a step forward, eh?). These were someone elses "good old days." Me, I wait for technology to improve, and . . .
Stop number three: The 1970s
With the recent 25th anniversary of the Hansoms, Ive been looking back a lot at my own Sherlockian roots and the great Sherlock boom of that decade. It was a grand time to be a Sherlockian, yes, but would I go back? Maybe to pick up a few bargain collectables and make a few select investments. But thats about it. Onward!
Stop number four: 2002 and beyond
A little over a century ago, Victorian London was center to the British Empire at its peak. I worry sometimes that we are now seeing the American "Empire" at its peak, and fifty years from now we may be looking back at the 1990s the way Morley, Starrett, and the gang looked at the 1890s. But thats only when Im being a little pessimistic, and thats not very often. Mostly, I think the human race is going to find a way to work it out.
Looking back during the holiday season is just the prelude to the new years start, and looking to the future that lies ahead. The World Wide Web and the internet have only been with us a few years, really. High speed connections are slowly becoming commonplace, and the effects of our newfound connectedness, via the net and cellular technology have yet to be fully seen. And we havent had Sherlock Peoria on-line for a whole year yet.
Nostalgia for memories yet to come can make the holiday season as bright as the other way around, I think. Heres to the Sherlocking ahead!
Your humble correspondent,