From The Surrey Shore . . .
The Newsletter of the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore Vol. 2, No. 1, February 2003
****A Scion Society for All Who Enjoy Sherlock Holmes in All His Manifestations!****
Oh, wait. That’s not quite right. We don’t become aristocrats. We’re going to visit an Aristocrat! Aristocrat Pub & Restaurant, that is. Yes, that’s right: The first-ever dinner meeting of the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore is planned for Saturday evening, March 8, 2003, at the Aristocrat Pub & Restaurant, at 5212 N. College Ave., in Central (uptown) Indianapolis! As the restaurant doesn’t accept reservations on Saturdays, and the expected wait for a table for a small party is about 20 minutes, per the friendly folks at Aristocrat, we’re planning on meeting there at 7 p.m. to request a table and expecting to be seated around 7:30 p.m. Before (and during) dinner, we’ll engage in some lively Sherlockian/Victorian discussion (topics to be announced at the meeting), and following dinner, we plan to stay on for the Celtic stylings of the band Hog Eye Navvy, which plays starting at 9 p.m. (Note: Staying for the band isn’t a requirement to attend the meeting.) So that we know how many to request a table for, we do ask that you contact us by letter or via e-mail by Friday evening, March 7. You can also leave a phone message at 317-572-3032 until 6 p.m. that Friday as well. We especially need your RSVP if you prefer to arrive closer to our expected seating time rather than wait along with your humble scion officers. (We won’t take offense — we promise!)
Welcome to the first newsletter of 2003 for the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore, Indianapolis’ youngest (staring our second year now) and only independent Sherlockian society — and, to our current knowledge, the only one locally that welcomes the enjoyment and study of Sherlock Holmes in all his various manifestations in popular culture, from comics to movies, from historical to speculative fiction, and just about anything else. (As long as it doesn’t get too stuffy or overly highbrow — the goal is to have fun and enjoy ourselves while appreciating the premiere detective of Victorian popular fiction, as well as the age that inspired him and his adventures.) If you’re just joining us, greetings! If you’ve been on board for some part of the past year, welcome back! We have a varied — and, we think, enjoyable — set of meetings planned for 2003, and we hope that you’ll consider joining us at any that pique your interest. You don’t need to be a scholar of the Holmes stories nor of the period to commune with the Hated Rivals — plenty of other groups are available locally and elsewhere if that’s your inclination. Your focus doesn’t even need to center solely around Holmes or his creator, Sir, Arthur Conan Doyle. (Many of us enjoy the works of other Victorian authors, too — your humble correspondent is especially fond of H.G. Wells’ scientific romances and Jules Verne’s voyages extraordinaire.) Although our main focus is on the Master Sleuth of Baker Street, we have no problem if he shares the spotlight with other detectives (or genres) in Victorian and Edwardian fiction in your own affections. (Our scion does, after all, take its name from the title given by Holmes to a detective he considered his rival, although the exploits of said sleuth, Mr. Barker, are sadly limited to the pages of only one story.) Our focus is on having fun — and if a bit of light scholarship takes place in the process, we’re not going to be overly displeased.
So read on and perhaps you’ll learn something that you didn’t know about Sherlock Holmes, the Victorian era, and the whole Holmes phenomenon in general. For more information about our scion and its philosophy, feel free to scan past newsletters on our Web site, at the Web address listed at the end of this newsletter (or, if you’re not connected to the Internet, send us a SASE and we’ll send you a sampling of our past newsletters). And please consider joining us here on the Surrey Shore (which, in an astounding feat of neo-Victorian engineering, we’ve managed to transplant right here to Indianapolis and its suburbs), either at our next meeting or at any of those listed in the “Coming Meetings” section, later in this newsletter.
Okay, now for the latest controversy! (And for an expanded version of the following essay, check the Publications page on our Web site. Hmmm, wonder how many brickbats we’ll get about this one?)
Have you ever wondered what historians of the far, distant future may conclude about Sherlock Holmes and the entire Sherlockian phenomena, long after the knowledge of exactly who and what Sherlock Holmes was has passed from memory? (Okay, that’s unlikely ever to happen, we know — but let’s just suppose, for the sake of argument, that such a disaster does come to pass, perhaps following some as-yet unforeseen future holocaust, and that archaeologists a thousand years from now come across fragments not only of the writings themselves, but the writings about the writings. And even bits of the writings about the writings about the writings.) What would such future scholars deduce from the clues left behind about the individual known as “Sherlock Holmes” and those who venerated him? Some, of course, would probably decide that Holmes was merely a fictional character (remember — we’re just supposing here, so no cries of “blasphemy,” okay?) and that Sherlockians were simply devotees of a harmless hobby focusing on him. I would venture to guess, however, that others might attribute much more to what they find (in absence of a codex or key to prove otherwise) and could even conclude that Holmes, far from being fictional, was a very real, historical character — one who was worshipped by his followers and thus the founder (or focus) of a great religion . . . a cult of Sherlock Holmes, so to speak.
Ridiculous, you say? Perhaps. But look at how modern archeologists and historians sometimes view the great (and not-so-great) religious movements of the past, whether real or (possibly) imagined. In spite of the abundance of texts of the New Testament bearing witness to his historicity, there are scholars today who believe that Jesus Christ was a fictional character. Conversely, few question that the Greeks and Romans worshipped many gods, based mainly on references in a handful of scattered texts, few completely intact. Well, of course, there are the great temples and statues devoted to the Greek gods to prove that they were worshipped by the unsophisticated intellects of the ancients. Just as today, there are to be found in many places around the world statues of Sherlock Holmes in proximity to those of actual historical persons as well as representations of the ancient gods of the Greeks and Romans . . . So who really is to say that, as proposed herein, Holmes at some point in the dim future could not be looked upon as just another ancient god or founder of a religious movement, worshipped by the relatively unsophisticated intellects of the 19th through 21st centuries? (Those with a proven gift of prophecy or a working time machine who can, without any doubt, refute this proposition are more than welcome to come forth with their knowledge.)
What are the clues that may lead our future historians to pontificate about the newly discovered Cult of Sherlock Holmes? Even considering only fragmentary evidence remains by then, one can find more than abundant references in the writings about the writings to the “Canon,” as Sherlockians often dub the original Holmes stories. As most of you know, a canon is a body of scripture — of religious writings that are deemed authoritative by the followers of that religion. (True, the term does have other meanings, but this is its main one. The books of the Bible are considered the Canon of scripture by the vast majority of the Christian church, just as other religions have their own canons.) Writings that fall outside the canon of a religion’s scriptures are considered noncanonical — a term sometimes applied to various Holmes pastiches and other writings that aren’t considered “authoritative” by the Sherlockian community as a whole. So would our hypothetical future historians be all that amiss in interpreting Sherlockian writings referring to “the Canon” as indicative that we viewed the original Holmes stories as holy scripture that we venerated — even worshipped? Perhaps. If not for other, similar indications . . .
In many of the writings, Sherlockians refer to Holmes as “the Master.” Of course, we’re referring to Holmes as the Master Detective or Master Sleuth, and not as the master of a religious movement. And yet, going only by such fragments, would future historians again be amiss in considering such references in a similar vein to those in the Bible referring to Jesus as “Master” or of the many religious sects that grant such a title to the leader (or guru) of their movement? Remember again that these scholars would be going by whatever remains of our existing books (not much, considering the quality of today’s paper and binding materials) and other such ephemera. (And remember those statues of Holmes and the plaques honoring his exploits placed in so many places around the world by various scions.) On further examining the remains of the Sherlockian hobby, they could conclude that we even had our own elite priesthood in the Baker Street Irregulars (limited at least initially to 60, a “holy” number chosen to match the exact number of “canonical” stories). And in examining other writings about the writings, they could even conclude that the Sherlockian religion consisted of many different sects, or churches, in the different scions scattered around the world. Some of these “denominations,” they could deduce, considered themselves “orthodox” Sherlockians who condemned what they considered “heresies,” or Sherlockian interests that diverged too much from what they considered orthodoxy. (Not so much of a stretch in my mind, considering that I know of at least one scion writer who routinely condemned in his own writings any form of Sherlockiana that fell outside his own interests — and all who practiced it — as “unorthodox” and thus, by extension, undeserving of the name “Sherlockian.” And he was probably not the only one who thought — or wrote — that way.)
And let’s not forget again not only those statues of Holmes in various locations (such as the one that we described in the October 2002 issue of this newsletter, which you can read on our Web site), but also all the Holmes figures — pewter miniatures, dolls, action figures, and what not — that various people have sold over the years. What are these but idols — handmade representations of our “god” or of the “holy” founder of our “cult”? (I recall a religious group with which I was once affiliated that tried to go to so many pains to make sure that the children in the group didn’t confuse veneration of the founder and president of that ministry with actual worship, fearing they’d come to the wrong conclusion that the minister was, in fact, a manifestation of God. And then they turned around and offered miniature bronze statues of the man for sale to the group’s followers — in effect, creating “idols” of him.) When future archeologists dig up the statues of Buddha, Kali, Bast, Zeus, and other religious leaders or deities, can they truly be blamed if, after uncovering statues and statuettes of a deerstalker-clad man smoking a curved pipe, they conclude that he, too, was a holy figure, worshipped by the cult of Sherlockiana — especially given all the circumstantial evidence found in the remnant fragments of the writings? I think not.
Thus is how religions — or misinterpretations that lead to “uncovering” religions — may someday be born. And now, before any of you take up the cry of true believers of ages past and cry for this “heretic” to be burned at the stake for such “blasphemy,” let me reassure you that this has been but a bit of bemused speculation, born in a bout of word play while considering some of the terms we Sherlockians often bandy about, often without a great deal of thought as to what others outside the hobby may think of us as we use them. But let it also be a form of mild reproof to those in the hobby who take Sherlockiana far too seriously than they should. This is, after all, a hobby — a source of fun, amusement, and diversion and not anything pertaining to life and/or godliness. So before you take pen to paper to condemn someone else in the hobby for doing things differently from you or enjoying an aspect of Sherlock Holmes that holds no appeal to you, stop and think twice about it. Are you about to become one of those who may someday be considered in the eyes of our far-future descendants a religious “fanatic” — a “grand inquisitor,” out to burn at the stake yet another “heretic” in defense of the Holy Cult of Sherlock Holmes? (Who, you? Naaaaaaaw!)
And thus comes to a close yet another provocative, scintillating Letter from Barker. (And if this is how we start out the year, just think how it all may end? Heaven forbid!) Too heavy for you? (If not, look for an expanded version on the Articles page of our Web site.) And just keep in mind that, on the Surrey Shore, the tongue is often planted firmly in cheek. And if it’s not being just a bit too cheeky, here’s hoping that we’ll be seeing you at a future meeting of the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore! (Just remember to leave the thumb screws and red-hot pokers at home.) Till then, I remain ever yours . . .
—C. Barker, Esq.
A hardy group of Hated Rivals, both new faces and veterans, braved the cold and snow to trek to Noblesville for a warming Victorian Tea at the Hamilton County Historical Society’s Jail Museum, on the town square. The assembled Rivals viewed several videos in the living room of the Victorian house while the tea was steeping in the kitchen. Then everyone adjoined to said kitchen for a variety of teas (and coffees for the nontea drinkers), scones, crumpets, clotted cream and myriad jams and preserves, plus miniature cream-cheese-and-cumber sandwiches. The food and drink was plentiful, and Rivals new and old enjoyed the ample fare, as well as a series of lively and engaging conversations, interrupted occasionally by a bit of Rivals business and several Canonical toasts. The conversation ranged from possibilities for future Rivals meetings to the history of tea and teas (as well as the relative relationship of coffee and other treats) during the Victorian era. So engrossing was the exchange, in fact, that those in attendance barely had time to take the full tour of the house and attached jail (which had, in its time, contained such villains that even the likes of Professor Moriarty or Colonel Moran might hesitate to share a cell with some of them). The remainder of the videos thus had to be set aside for a future gathering, as the Rivals departed into the snowy outdoors, tummies full and new friends made – another successful gathering of the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore!
In “A Scandal in Bohemia,” Holmes takes one of his many disguises described by Watson in the Holmes stories — that of a “nonconformist clergyman.” But not everyone who reads the original story may realize that “nonconformist” was not the name of a particular denomination or sect in England at the time. In fact, the term nonconformist referred equally to any Protestant church or denomination beyond that of the established Anglican Church of England. The term dissenters was also sometimes used to describe such churches, although this term was more correctly applied to the older denominations, such as Baptist, that were considered “Old Dissent.” Nonconformist churches included the Congregationalists, Wesleyan Methodists, Primitive Methodists, Plymouth Brethren, the Catholic Apostolic Church (something quite different from the Roman Catholic Church), the Salvation Army, and many others — even the unorthodox denominations such as the Unitarians, who denied the standard Christian tenant of the Trinity. So exactly what brand of nonconformist clergyman did Holmes portray in “Scandal”? As Watson doesn’t give us more information, we cannot, of course, determine the answer. (Although despite one topic in this issue’s Letter from Barker, we feel relatively safe in venturing that Holmes wasn’t ordaining himself in the First Church of Sherlock Holmes, a denomination that even the nonconformists would find, well . . . nonconformist.)
I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere!
Apple Tree Theatre, of Highland Park, Illinois, will be presenting a theatrical adaptation of The Sign of the Four this coming summer. The play is slated to run from June 18th through July 20th. For ticket and other information, you can call the box office at 847-432-4335, or check out the theater’s Web site at www.appletreetheatre.com. Group rates are available for parties of 10 or more.
Professor Moriarty made a brief cameo appearance on the January 12th episode of the Fox Network’s Futurama adult animated series (by the creators of The Simpsons). In a parody of the two Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes that featured a holodeck-based Professor Moriarty, a “holo-shed” accident loosed not only Moriarty, but Jack the Ripper, Attila the Hun (or Genghis Khan – it was difficult to tell), and a chainsaw-wielding “Evil Lincoln” on the Futurama regulars. The Professor’s appearance was brief, however, as a hull breech quickly sucked the holocharacters-come-to-life out into space.
Speaking of animation, the animated series Sherlock Holmes in the 21st Century, described in the April 2002 newsletter, has moved to the Fox Network’s Sunday morning lineup at the dismal hour of 7 a.m. To compensate, Fox is showing two of the half-hour episodes in a row. So set your VCRs if you don’t mind all the futuristic twists to these (very loose) adaptations of the original Holmes tales.
PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre ran a new version of Hound of the Baskervilles on Sunday, January 19. I managed to catch only the first hour (and taped the rest, although I’ve not had time yet to view it), so didn’t catch the actors’ names, who produced it, or any other details. Based on the first hour, however, I’m not in a rush to catch the rest. Although it followed the story to a point, it began deviating quite radically by the time Watson reached Dartmoor, pulling bits from other stories (Watson relaying Holmes’ comment about the supernatural from “Sussex Vampire” and his list of Holmes’ areas of knowledge from A Study in Scarlet) and even from other movies (a séance scene obviously lifted from the Rathbone Hound). Neither were any of the characters at all likeable as portrayed by these actors, including Holmes and even Watson. (Oddly, the most likable portrayal during the first hour was that of Stapleton! And speaking of Stapleton, the actor chosen for that role looked far more like Holmes as portrayed in Padgett’s illustrations than did the actor playing Holmes, who was more reminiscent of Nicole Williamson or Matt Frewer in appearance.) All these characters have been better portrayed in most of the other film versions of the Hound (excepting, of course, William Shatner as Stapleton and the entire Dudley Moore version). And why another version of Hound at all, considering that it’s probably the most-filmed Holmes story in history? Why not one of many of the tales that have rarely or never seen the light of celluloid (or digital tape nowadays)? Certainly most would require padding to stretch out to film-length, but if the producers were going to deviate so from the original tale anyway, why not at least pick one of the lesser-exposed stories as a basis? (According to our own Suzanne Snyder, the second hour was even worse, with a costumed Christmas ball and a hound whose “head was grotesquely large, with jaws like a crocodile, and the whole thing looked more like a warthog on the rampage than it did a mastiff.”) Ah well – at least it wasn’t quite as bad as the near-dreadful Case of Evil (see last newsletter for a review). Or . . . was it?
Earlier the same day as the Masterpiece Hound, I happened to catch a film adaptation of The Cater Street Hangman, the first of the Inspector Pitt mysteries written by Anne Perry, starring Eoin McCarthy as Inspector Pitt and Keeley Hawles as Charlotte Ellison (later Mrs. Pitt). The 1998 film ran on the A&E cable channel. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get the movie on tape, as I didn’t discover that it was on until just a minute or so before it started (barely in time to locate the channel). Fortunately, the video is available for sale for $29.95 on A&E’s Web site (at www.aande.com) — and again, thanks go to Suzanne Snyder for discovering the movie’s info on the A&E site. I found the film quite well done, and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Victorian mysteries (just as I’d recommend the entire series of novels by Perry which are set about the same time that Holmes was in business). If you find it listed again, don’t miss it.
Those with an interest in the geography of the Holmes stories — and in late Victorian London in particular — will find a great resource in Alan Godfrey Maps. This England-based mapmaker offers exact reproductions of Ordnance Survey Maps of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland from the 1860s through the early 20th century. Most of the maps cover an area of about a mile and a half square, although a series of larger-scale maps also is available. London is well-represented, with at least one map of every area of the city and its environs. Most London areas have three maps available: one from the late 1860s to early 1870s, one for 1893-94, and one for 1913-14. Nearly every area has an 1893-4 map available, which would be the period of most interest to Sherlockians. The maps cost £2.10 each (with a minimum overseas order of £5), plus 20% postage and handling to the U.S. For current lists of maps and other information, you can visit the Godfrey Web site at www.alangodfreymaps.co.uk. To order, send credit card information and the catalog numbers and years of the maps that you want to Alan Godfrey Maps, Prospect Business Park, Leadgate, Consett, DH8 7PW, England; phone: (01207) 583388; fax: (01207) 583399. (I own a number of these maps and they are really beautiful — detailed down to the individual buildings, streets, and other details. They also include a brief text description of the area that the map covers, as well as a listing of some of the area’s residents from that period. Highly recommended!)
From our e-mail correspondence comes the following item for those of you with a few extra pounds to spend: The “Sherlock Holmes” ring, designed by Scott Bond, BSI, and manufactured by Herff Jones, Inc., features Holmes’ portrait on the top, 221B on one side, and 1895 on the other. The ring is available in a men’s or a daintier ladies’ (smaller) version. The Classic ring is made with White Ultrium; rings are optionally available in 10, 14 or 18 carat gold.
Prices are as follows:
Ladies’ Ring Men’s Ring
Classic $179 $179
10K White or Yellow Gold $240 $281
14K White or Yellow Gold $259 $323
18K Yellow Gold $307 $409
Prices include shipping and handling for a continental USA delivery; state sales tax is additional. All other locations, must add $20 for additional shipping costs. Rings are individually made. Approximate delivery time is 8 weeks. Ordering Instructions: All payments must be by credit card: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover/Novus; No cash or check payments acceptable. All orders must be signed and mailed to Mr. James Saunders, BSI, PO Box 9052, Astoria, NY 11103-0903. You ring size must be included. For a printout of the order form, including a size guide, you can send a SASE to this newsletter, at the address at the end of the last page; for an electronic version, send an e-mail request to us. You can also contact the seller directly for a form. (Ed Note: Just don’t ask your fellow Sherlockians to kiss your ring — just think what those future historians might come up with from that sort of practice!)
Following is the schedule for all our remaining meetings for 2003. Check our Web site or our Indianapolis Star Web page for updates. In the meantime, set these dates aside to join the Hated Rivals at any of the following soirées:
A Night at Aristocrat!
Saturday, March 8, 2003, from 7 to 9 p.m. (and beyond!)
The Aristocrat Pub & Restaurant
5212 N. College Ave, in Indianapolis, Indiana
Directions and Details: The restaurant is on North College Avenue, just north of 52nd Street, on the west side of the road. Parking is available on the street in front of the restaurant and on its north side. Activities include dinner and great fellowship, a short business meeting, Canonical toasts, Sherlockian/Victorian discussions, and the Celtic music of Hog Eye Navvy. For additional information and directions, call the restaurant at 317-283-7388, or contact us at one of the addresses at the end of this newsletter.
and . . . (see the flyer on the reverse side for more details) . . .
Saturday, May 10: The “Train-ing” of Sherlock Holmes; Saturday, July 12: A Barker Birthday!; Saturday, September 13: A Canonical Cookout; Saturday, November 8: Mayhem, Menace, and Moriarty!
For more information, contact us c/o Bill Barton, P.O. Box 26290, Indianapolis, IN 46226-0290; or Mimi DeMore, P.O. Box 482, Fishers, IN 46038. E-mail us at email@example.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org. (And don’t forget to venture online to check out our Hated Rivals Web site at http://surrey-shore.freeservers.com or our Indy Star Web page at http://community.indystar.com/928/ for recent updates.) See you again back on the ol’ Surrey Shore, where the game’s always afoot!