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Have we become greedy Sherlockians?

Well the title says it all really doesn't it? Have we as a fan body become so obsessed with Sherlock Holmes that we will consume almost anything that has the name of Holmes attached? Are we in danger of losing the original article amongst all the material (some of it very tenuous) that is coming out?
Dame Jean pictured with Jeremy Brett

The idea that Sherlockians have become greedy is certainly one that was bought into by Arthur Conan Doyle's youngest daughter Dame Jean Conan Doyle.

Dame Jean, who died in 1997 aged 84, gave an interview in 1990 to Christoper Roden of the Arthur Conan Doyle Society. When asked about pastiche stories she was very critical and stated that they were "usually written by very average writers" and that the stories would probably not have been published if the name Sherlock Holmes had not been attached to them. She concluded her answer to this particular question by stating that the hunger shown for pastiche "shows that they [fans] have a very sort of greedy attitude—they ought to be protecting their hero from other peoples' taking advantage of the original creation".

Now this may seem harsh to some but if you picked almost any Sherlock Holmes pastiche and replaced all canonical characters with brand new ones that just happened to have similar traits would it still sell in the same numbers? If we're honest we all know that the answer would be no in the majority of cases.

What would Dame Jean have made of Sherlock?

It is almost certain that Dame Jean's opinions of screen adaptations would have been similar. Jeremy Brett consulted her during the filming of the Granada series. The most notable thing he took from her was how to pronounce Lestrade. Dame Jean reported that when her father read the stories to her the name was always pronounced Le-strayed. Brett, as most people will know, rigidly adhered to this. It is probably fair to presume that she was reasonably well disposed towards his portrayal. But how would she have reacted to those that have followed? If you read her full answer to the pastiche question it soon becomes clear that she would probably not have smiled favourably on much that has been filmed.

or Elementary?


However much you agree (or disagree) with Dame Jean there is still the very real danger that we could lose the original Holmes over time as the differences that creep in with written and screen adaptations start to become accepted as original characteristics.

The full interview with Dame Jean (which covers a variety of topics) can be read here.






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For more information on Arthur Conan Doyle and his time at Undershaw please refer to my book, An Entirely New Country which is available through all good bookstores including Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Classic Specialities, and in all electronic formats including iTunes, Kobo, Nook and Kindle .

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting interview with Dame Jean. Thanks for sharing the link.

    Since I think BBC's Sherlock has stayed true to the spirit of Holmes and Watson, maybe it would have had a chance of approval...who knows. It would have been interesting to learn what she thought of the Rathbone movies since those were modern adaptations in their time.

    Other versions stretch the characters too far to be named Sherlock Holmes or Watson(Elementary being the most blatant offender), in my opinion.

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