View previous topic | View next topic

Sherlock Holmes (sorry, bit list like...)

Page 1 of 1

1190944.  Fri May 06, 2016 5:48 am Reply with quote

I have come up with a list of phrases that Sherlock uses and translated them for mere mortals.

"I am lost without my Boswell."
Translation: "I need someone to report on my wisdom, and generally idolise me.."

Holmes needs Dr. Watson in the same way Dr. Samuel Johnson needed Boswell. James Boswell seemed to want to know all aspects of how Dr Johnson ticked and in a similar way Dr. Watson recorded how Holmes' mind works. Or tried to record, because like us he didn't quite understand him? But in many ways they were similar in that Dr. Johnson would be slightly irritable in company and Boswell would feel trapped in the great man's company. It would seem that Holmes might not need Watson all the time, just when a case needs reporting on. The rest of time he's happy with his violin and his pipe. But never a deerstalker.

"There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact."
Translation: "That which people think is true, maybe isn't. Be sceptical."

Holmes was talking about circumstantial evidence here. In The Boscombe Valley Mystery it seems that a young man has been declared guilty by the police as he was discovered near his father's dying body and there was no one else about. He had no idea of how his father become wounded and, ultimately, killed. But he is the only suspect. As the story unfolds, It turns out that the father had muttered the name of his killer-which in its own way is circumstantial evidence-only the witness misunderstood what he had heard. But what it shows is that all evidence needs to be interpreted scientifically. In using this phrase, Holmes refers to what he is destined to discover and how all investigations should be carried out.

"It is one of the curses of a mind with a turn like mine." Translation: "I do not have a linear mind."

It may be thought that Holmes' mind is not straight, it twists and turns. It is a creative, crime solving, mind, perhaps even a corrupt one. It looks at a country hamlet (this was in The Adventure of the Copper Beeches) and instead of seeing a peaceful scene, sees a place where people might commit a crime and get away with it. A more peaceful, uncursed mind such as Dr. Watson's would be able to enjoy this rural idyll more. But it is central to the plot that Holmes sees the world as he does. What sort of detective would he be if he was just like everyone else? Robert Downey's Sherlock Holmes seems to share the sentiment. For in The Game of Shadows (which of course included Stephen Fry as Mycroft) he says, "I see everything. That is my curse."

"The skilled workman is careful indeed about what he takes into his brain-attic." Translation: If you are an expert, you don't fill your mind with rubbish."

In the Sherlock series the man had his Mind Palace. The original Holmes meanwhile (okay, earlier) had his brain-attic. This metaphor follows a principle of the time used by pseudo-scientist William James, now long forgotten. It shouldn't be confused with owning an empty attic, though. Holmes' brain is totally full to bursting, but it only contains items he thinks is useful. Details about the brain-attic are mentioned very early in the Sherlock Holmes story, at the very start of A Study in Scarlet, which would suggest that we're hearing something vital about how the Holmes mind works here. Yet we hear no more about it in further stories, so maybe Conan Doyle would dismiss the idea later? Pieces of information about the solar system for one are not thought of as useful, so it is not contained therein. However Dr. Watson is sceptical about the mind working like that, as well he might be.

"It is the logic, rather than the crime that you should dwell." Translation: "Follow the logic-the money, the people, the resources, etc.
Stop focusing on how violent or awful the incident is."

Holmes is rather annoyed here, but the source of his anger are Dr. Watson's interpretations of his cases. He is saying that Watson has overdramatised them and not focused on Holmes' reasoning. Criminals aren't all that logical, and certainly aren't sensationalist, at least most of the time. It seems here like Arthur Conan Doyle is trying to have his cake and eat it here-creating sensational stories with logical reasoning. Well not all stories had logical reasoning, The Hound of the Baskervilles for instance, but that is what the author was aiming at.

"You are not yourself luminous, but are a conductor of light." Translation: "You like my ideas and so you steal them."

Speaking of The Hound of the Baskervilles, here is a quote from it. Dr. Watson is working out the clues he can uncover from a simple walking stick which will become an important plot point. He has worked out that it is too worn to be used by a city gent and he believed that the words engraved on it "friends of the CCH" means the friends of some hunt or other. Instead of saying that Watson is talented, Holmes merely says that Watson has just picked up on his method. You wonder why the two stay together.

"There's an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew in England yet." Translation: "There's trouble, and it's a new trouble."

This is from His Last Bow the last story by Arthur Conan Doyle to feature Holmes and Dr. Watson. It comes from a collection of short stories with the same name. The power of the east wind is first referred to in Genesis where some corn is destroyed by the east wind. Later on in the Bible the east wind brings a plague of locusts and parts the Red Sea for Moses. There are also references to it destroying the ships on the high sea. To put it plainly, it's an evil wind (though sometimes in the references mentioned it is doing God's work). Since Dr. Watson is not up on his biblical references he believes that Holmes is just talking about the weather, but no. It would be a revelation if Holmes talked about anything as trivial as the weather forecast, but maybe Watson is distracted here? What Holmes is really doing is predicting the death and destruction of the First World War, which contemporary readers would immediately pick up on.

"I wonder how a battery feels when it pours electricity into a non-conductor?" Translation: "I'm fed up with talking to an idiot who needs everything translated."

In this point in the narrative Holmes is fed up with Watson not knowing about Tapanuli fever or the black Formosa corruption (another disease) and just wants him to leave him alone. It seems a strange thing for Holmes to say as electricity doesn't pour anywhere and someone with Holmes' huge brain would know that. But maybe it's all part of Holmes' illness? Or it's something which hasn't entered his brain-attic? Who can say? A mind that Sherlock Holmes can't just continue translating his pearls of wisdom to please a layman. No wonder he gets fed up about it. But he's a bit too smart, so he might deserve it.

1190947.  Fri May 06, 2016 5:55 am Reply with quote

*grabs the popcorn and waits for crissdee to jump in* :-)

1190952.  Fri May 06, 2016 6:11 am Reply with quote

Well personally I think we should adopt this one as the forum motto:

"There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact."


1190958.  Fri May 06, 2016 6:33 am Reply with quote

'yorz wrote:
*grabs the popcorn and waits for crissdee to jump in* :-)

And here I am! 😎

Agree with most of this but.......

In that last example, Holmes is feigning delerium, so anything he says is by definition not intended to mean anything. At the end of the story he actually praises Watson's abilities, and points out the things he had to do to avoid Watson seeing through his play-acting at once.

In the example from the Hound, Holmes goes on to explain that by observing Watson's incorrect deductions, he is often guided to the correct solution. Once again Holmes needs Watson as much as the other way round. He would never have accused Watson of stealing his ideas, simply because Watson would not do that to "the man I revere above all others."

Finally, in "The Copper Beeches" I think he is referring more to his "turn" for criminal matters, rather than any process of thought.

I would also like to hear your reasons for calling "The Hound of the Baskervilles" illogical. A man is trying to gain an estate worth the equivalent of 40-100 million today. He knows of a local legend and uses it to scare the current owner to death. Finding another man in his way, he continues the plan with near-successful results. Wild and dramatic, yes. Fanciful even, but reasonably logical within the story.

Of course, one of the manifold joys of these stories is how we can each find different things in our readings of them. 👍👍👍👍


Page 1 of 1

All times are GMT - 5 Hours

Display posts from previous:   

Search Search Forums

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group