Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jeremy Brett - "We Have Much To Learn From The Flowers."

'An Embellishment of Life'

Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”From The Adventure of the Naval Treaty.

This is a special album in which I can (as I come across them) 'press' some of the early flowerings in the career of Jeremy Brett. Looking at them now, we can I think say the early hope shown in these young flowers was rewarded in abundance by one of the greatest actors of his generation.

Here is my aide memoire  to Brett's career before Sherlock Holmes and to the location of films and clips for internet viewing. (My gratitude and acknowledgement to all owners and uploaders of films with links listed here. I own none of what follows).

* Useful link to IMDb Jeremy Brett Filmography:


1964My Fair Lady(performer: "On the Street Where You Live" 1956 - uncredited, "On the Street Where You Live Reprise" 1956 - uncredited, "Show Me" 1956 - uncredited)
1995The Making of 'My Fair Lady' (video documentary)
Himself - Host (also archive footage) / Freddy Eynsford-Hill(also archive footage)
1991Backstage at Masterpiece Theatre (TV special)
1989Cap d'any a TV3 (TV movie)
1977Night of 100 Stars (TV special)
2010The People's Detective (TV series documentary)
2007The Shackles of Sherlock (TV documentary)
Sherlock Holmes (uncredited)
2007Time Shift (TV series documentary)
1997Heroes of Comedy (TV series documentary)



Internet views (random, cumulative order).

The Wild and the Willing (1962).
The Three Musketeers (1966-7).
Rebecca (1979).

The Merchant of Venice (1974).


The Picture of Dorian Gray (1976).



Madame X 1981.

The Three Musketeers 1966.

The Medusa Touch 1978

Patrick Gowers music for Granada's Sherlock Holmes

"One Deadly Owner" - Thriller (1974).


Thursday, April 19, 2012

"That Awful Abyss" - THE EMPTY HOUSE (3)

The Abyss of Hell, Botticelli, 1485.
"Holmes!" I cried.
 "Is it really you? Can it indeed be that you are alive?
Is it possible that you succeeded in climbing out of that awful abyss?"
Watson, of course, is referring to 'that dreadful chasm', The Reichenbach Falls. Both phrases, however, on Edwardian lips, conjured rather more than literal meaning.
"A Descent into The Maelstrom" Poe, 1841. 
To be full of dread and awe was to be frozen in Faustian terror and abyss is not nearly so charged today. 'Abysmal' exam results are simply poor. That moving underwater statue, Christ of the Abyss, is merely deeply submerged...unless, as a Christian, you respond to the inherent Biblical allusion. James Cameron's 1989 film feeds on a  modern audience's residual sense of something else way down there under surface meaning. 

Context is all. Living in a period involves participation in a language. I happen to have escaped an abyss called The Mediterranean (I almost drowned as a teenager) but I did not call it that. Nor do I believe in Dante's Hell but caught an un-nerving glimpse of it one Stratford night long ago.

Heading for the Abyss.
My vicarious Dantean guide to Hell was the actor, Eric Porter, long before his riveting Moriarty.

In 1968 Porter was at the RSC playing the title role in Marlowe's Dr. Faustus. I went (in truth) to witness Maggie Wright (Helen of Troy) become the first person to appear mobile and naked on the legitimate stage. I came away terrified by the vision of Hell and Porter's performance in the final scene. Read the final soliloquy sc.xiv, ll.27-84 here: http://www.bartleby.com/19/2/24.html

(or better still, click this link to listen to Dylan Thomas deliver the speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUGq5yMUKMI&feature=related
...and imagine: Porter stood alone on an empty stage - an almost colourless box lit with wan straw illumination. At the stroke of midnight the whole of the back wall opened like a drawbridge - myriad demons with elongated arms spilled out in a tsunami of hellish relish - engulfed the despairing Doctor, lapped him up with one awful tongue...and withdrew. Silence. Nothing.

I have never known an audience take so long to gather its wits. Shaken, we sat transfixed. One solitary clap broke the spell. We all needed the eventual standing ovation - it helped us edge back to the auditorium's terra firma from a virtual bottomless pit.

The willing suspension of disbelief is a tacit agreement to entrust the imagination to the fictitious creations of writers. We are pre-disposed to this by entering a theatre or picking up a novel. Even so, reality does not yield easily to  the virtual. A sure, skilful controlling hand must be apparent; and a solicitous concern for the welfare of reader or spectator.

I invite the reader to take a break in this lengthy post and watch an example of concern for one's audience. Click to watch the 4 minute curtain call given at the Shakespeare's Globe production of Dr. Faustus:

Doyle's readership was especially pre-disposed to believe in a returning Sherlock Holmes. Many of the thousands who had cancelled their subscriptions to the Strand in '93 and donned black armbands entered the new century with an unabated clamour for more stories.

 The writer's reluctance and extravagant demands are a matter of record. Hound and the succceeding short stories made him a very rich man and arguably the most well-known Englishman in the World.

This is no accident; nor may his success be attributed merely to the public's eager anticipation of more Holmes adventures. Doyle must and does keep his side of the bargain (the tacit agreement referred to above).

Far from writing with a careless lack of commitment, I mean here and in ensuing posts to illustrate the consummate skill and caring solicitude in Doyle's art which allows The Empty House to bridge The Great Hiatus with engaging ease. 

I have already drawn attention to Doyle's manipulation of time frames to close the tear in Time's fabric and banish the abyss of Holmes-less years. I move now to focus on his recourse to religio-literary allusion (here) and those of a  soci0-secular nature (in the next post).

Religio-literary Allusion.

The Empty House is an exercise in re-establishing continuity. The imagination must reach back to move forward. Plotting Holmes's delivery from the chasm is as simple as...providing theories on how the BBC SHERLOCK  fakes his death. No coroner has pronounced upon a body and the continuing threat to Holmes and Watson is reasonable cause to disappear. 

What requires more subtle artistic measures is the restoration of Sherlock Holmes as the public imagines him, within two authorial contexts: contemporary society and Doyle's other writings. It is no mean feat to revive a figure that had been as 'an airy nothing' for years and re-earth him with 'a local habitation and a name'. And this time round the creation is for the long term and must co-exist in harmony with everything else that pre-occupied Doyle's mind.

Foremost (in common with the Risen Christ) Holmes must be believably human. If killing Holmes is likened to the cutting of a man's life-threads by the Muses of Greek legend, regalvanization involves natural reconnections of invisible mending. I have already traced the graduated materialisation (first of Holmes; then of 221b) until he appears in full epiphany. This process is quietly underpinned by the lightest of allusion to the Resurrection.

(I treasure the few books my grandfather kept in a tin trunk by his bed. They include 'The Bible' and 'Pilgrim's Progress'. Part of the cultural fabric of Conan Doyle's age, even the unlettered knew these stories.) 

Neither writer nor reader could miss the parallel and those tempted to magnify Doyle's simple allusions  would do well to note the guidance of Hosea on Bunyan's title page:  

"I have used Similitudes", Hosea, 12.10.

Doyle's use of that easily drawn comparison can provoke serious misinterpretation. Samuel Rosenberg's 1974 analysis, Naked is the Best Disguise:The Death and Resurrection, is the classic example of distortion. (Click this link to open on a similar, far briefer example of losing focus on Doyle's writing purpose:http://www.arthes.com/holmes/empt/ ).

Given the common currency of Christian's journey and the Gospel stories, Doyle takes advantage of this cultural shorthand to impose a familiar shape on the events detailed in The Final Problem and The Empty House. The presentation of Moriarty in the former cast Holmes by implication as the one man who could defeat a character explicitly likened to Satan: 'the man pervades London'; 'the malefactor, some deep organising power which for ever stands in the way of the law, and throws its shield over the wrong-doer'; 'the organiser of half that is evil'; 'the central power'; hereditary tendencies of the most diabolical kind'.

The 'old master' (Valley of Fear) and the fallen Archangel Lucifer meet in EMPT's image of 'trees, Watson, which grow to a certain height and then develop some unsightly eccentricity...a sudden turn to good or evil." 

The purpose of such description is not to raise Holmes to the Godhead but to affirm his mortality and highlight the man's extraordinary human faculties. Philosophizing in The Boscombe Valley Mystery Holmes identifies himself as one of God's creatures (not His Son):

"God help us !" said Holmes after a long silence. "Why does fate play such tricks with poor, helpless worms? I never hear of such a case as this that I do not think of Baxter's words, and say, 'There, but for the grace of God, goes Sherlock Holmes.'"

The BBC SHERLOCK flies in the face of Doyle's supremely human detective ( most fully realised in Brett's multi-faceted creation). Especially is this so in The Reichenbach Fall which offers images redolent of Eden (see My post on The Reichenbach Fall & Beyond ), Christ's Temptation (the scene on Bart's roof),the Crucifixion (Sherlock's leap) and the Sepulchre (John in the graveyard).

These scenes are riveting, well-acted and, by now, iconic...in the strictly modern sense, though the mantra I Believe in Sherlock is no affirmation of the Holmes who risks life, limb and friend in Camden House. 


Fascinating how a modern audience responds to more explicit Christian symbolism than Doyle's readership required.

Far from dwelling on such imagery, Doyle's crowded imagination soldered the new story's language to other familiar similitudes, subtly weaving the figure of Holmes back into the centre of his readership's cultural tapestry.

The description of Camden House is Bunyon-esque in its chiaroscuro. More importantly (especially for Doyle's management of his imagination) is the unforced connection of 'that awful abyss' with two recent stories.

Mt. Misery, Dartmoor.
The first readers of The Empty House came to it fresh from the immensely popular Hound of the Baskervilles, primed, as it were, by the abyss of Grimpen Mire.

Such a mire had long haunted Doyle's imagination. As from a deep historical well he draws inspiration from 'The Hole of Cree', the centre-piece location in his 1888 novel, The Mystery of Cloomber.

 "...a scene of bleakness and desolation as can hardly be matched in any country.

Right away to the horizon stretched the broad expanse of mud and of water, mingled and mixed together in the wildest chaos, like a portion of some world in the process of formation. Here and there on the dun-coloured surface of this great marsh there had burst out patches of sickly yellow reeds and of livid, greenish scum, which only served to heighten and intensify the gloomy effect of the dull, melancholy expanse.

On the side nearest to us some abandoned peat-cuttings showed that ubiquitous man had been at work there, but beyond these few petty scars there was no sign anywhere of human life. Not even a crow nor a seagull flapped its way over that hideous desert.

This is the great Bog of Cree. It is a salt-water marsh formed by an inroad of the sea, and so intersected is it with dangerous swamps and treacherous pitfalls of liquid mud, that no man would venture through it unless he had the guidance of one of the few peasants who retain the secret of its paths.

As we approached the fringe of rushes which marked its border, a foul, dank smell rose up from the stagnant wilderness, as from impure water and decaying vegetation--an earthy, noisome smell which poisoned the fresh upland air.

So forbidding and gloomy was the aspect of the place that our stout crofter hesitated, and it was all that we could do to persuade him to proceed. Our lurcher, however, not being subject to the delicate impressions of our higher organisation, still ran yelping along with its nose on the ground and every fibre of its body quivering with excitement and eagerness.

There was no difficulty about picking our way through the morass, for wherever the five could go we three could follow.

If we could have had any doubts as to our dog's guidance they would all have been removed now, for in the soft, black, oozing soil we could distinctly trace the tracks of the whole party. From these we could see that they had walked abreast, and, furthermore, that each was about equidistant from the other. Clearly, then, no physical force had been used in taking the general and his companion along. The compulsion had been psychical and not material.

Once within the swamp, we had to be careful not to deviate from the narrow track, which offered a firm foothold.

On each side lay shallow sheets of stagnant water overlying a treacherous bottom of semi-fluid mud, which rose above the surface here and there in moist, sweltering banks, mottled over with occasional patches of unhealthy vegetation. Great purple and yellow fungi had broken out in a dense eruption, as though Nature were afflicted with a foul disease, which manifested itself by this crop of plague spots.
Here and there dark, crab-like creatures scuttled across our path, and hideous, flesh-coloured worms wriggled and writhed amid the sickly reeds. Swarms of buzzing, piping insects rose up at every step and formed a dense cloud around our heads, settling on our hands and faces and inoculating us with their filthy venom. Never had I ventured into so pestilent and forbidding a place."

This is but the approach to the Hole of Cree. 

"The Hole of Cree! What is that, then?"
"It's a great, muckle hole in the ground that gangs awa' doon so deep that naebody could ever reach the bottom. Indeed there are folk wha says that it's just a door leadin' intae the bottomless pit itsel.'"

"At last, after struggling through a grove of high bulrushes, we came on a spot the gloomy horror of which might have furnished Dante with a fresh terror for his "Inferno."

The whole bog in this part appeared to have sunk in, forming a great, funnel-shaped depression, which terminated in the centre in a circular rift or opening about forty feet in diameter. It was a whirlpool--a perfect maelstrom of mud, sloping down on every side to this silent and awful chasm.

Clearly this was the spot which, under the name of the Hole of Cree, bore such a sinister reputation among the rustics. I could not wonder at its impressing their imagination, for a more weird or gloomy scene, or one more worthy of the avenue which led to it, could not be conceived.

The steps passed down the declivity which surrounded the abyss, and we followed them with a sinking feeling in our hearts, as we realised that this was the end of our search."

I have quoted at some length because this is the original, fully realised abyss image as it formed in Doyle's mind and by the time the image resurfaces in the detective stories it has taken on as mythic a status as the Baskerville legend.

I have tried to demonstrate here that Doyle's central task with The Empty House was to re-animate the imagination of his readers not to deify Holmes. I think we are like the rustics of Cloomber - well impressed.

In the next post I shalI turn to Doyle's socio-secular allusions.
To go straight to Empty House (4) click HERE


Saturday, April 14, 2012

" I am lost without my Boswell." - The Empty House (2)

* the Canon with no Dr. Watson.

What has been termed The Great Hiatus affords the Sherlockian reader with a vignette of how the good doctor fares without his friend. But this is set firmly in the frame of Holmes in absentia - the reader and Watson are all too aware of His unseen presence.

My invitation is different: just suppose JohnWatson simply did not occur to Conan Doyle. Instead he forged ahead writing 60 Sherlock Holmes detective stories covering all the cases familiar to us. Perfectly possible. Frighteningly so.

No doubt such a Canon would rely on either or both an omniscient narrator or Holmes himself to give voice to the adventures.

Such examples of course exist:

* A Study in Scarlet & The Valley of Fear contain long intervals of omniscient narration.

* In The Musgrave Ritual & The Gloria Scott Holmes tells Watson the main story from his memories.

* The Mazarin Stone & His Last Bow are told in the third person.

* Holmes is sole narrator of The Blanched Soldier & The Lion's Mane.

While these ( and extra-canonical works like Doyle's stage play of MAZARIN , The Crown Diamonds) are interesting comparisons with Watsonian records, they still feature the doctor or make reference to him.

This exercise in imagination requires his complete obliteration.

We do this all the time in the theatre, where it is called willing suspension of disbelief.
Having emptied the Canon of Watson, I now turn to The Empty House...and its title. 

The Title.    

I noted in my introductory post that Holmes provides the title under which Dr. Watson records this adventure. I omitted to observe that had Holmes not returned there would be no story to tell except The Park Lane Mystery. 

Had Watson never featured in the Canon, Doyle too would have focused on Adair, spinning (no doubt) a workmanlike detective story. With or without Holmes as narrator, there would be little mileage in highlighting the detective's return - because he would not have been missed.

Dr. Watson is crucial in explaining the impact of these stories on Victorian and all succeeding readers. His creation is the masterstroke that invoked a nationwide clamour for Holmes's revival. It is more than just that Holmes is lost without his Boswell - so is Doyle...and above all the reader.

Watson functions as the inter-face between the fictional Holmes and the living author and reader. Without him, Doyle must opt either to narrate from outside the imagined world or write directly as Holmes. Both would strand him aloof for neither could provide the vicarious experience personified in Dr. Watson.

His is the classical dramatic role of protagonist and his presence in the Canon is precisely as crucial as Shakespearean drama's masterstroke, soliloquy. Audiences undergo what Hamlet experiences because the Prince's soliloquies reveal his private thoughts and feelings. We are terrifyingly close to a murderer with Macbeth, because we hear his most secret thoughts. Soliloquy is by definition truth (even when a character is deceiving himself).

Everyman Bereaved.
Watson's remininscences are similarly the ultimate truth. He lives the imaginary friendship and adventures on our behalf...and Doyle's.He is our representative within the imaginative fiction and I am not surprised to see Martin Freeman's John so powerful and moving a creation, tempting one to rename the BBC series JOHN.

His impact is the direct result of Doyle's original narrative choice. And, just as John's presence allows
Sherlock...and its writers creative space to add depth and dimension to the detective story, so Watson frees Doyle to make much more of The Empty House than a Park Lane Mystery.
Within the plot, the empty house is Camden - Holmes explains the title just before the pair set out to catch a killer. But the reader is for some time unaware of its identity. Doyle drops in the phrase as the first thing we read...and leaves it to work behind the scenes. Without exact definition, we are at liberty to interpret it as we feel, literally or metaphorically. 
The operative word is Empty.  By the time it clarifies as Camden House, we have already responded to deeper meanings.

* For Doyle (as for the writers of SHERLOCK series 3) the title represents the empty imaginative space to be re-populated with new-minted images of a resurgent Holmes.

* For Watson, we sense it is an emblem of his continuing abyss of loss. The Reichenbach Fall captures this memorably as Martin Freeman soliloquizes over (ironically) an empty grave.

* In the context of The Final Problem and its 3 year aftermath, this title encapsulates the Great Hiatus.

* I intend to illustrate in my next post the conscious connections made with social and religious ideas of the time, developing the image of the empty tomb (see above).

* As the adapters of the Granada Holmes were aware, 221b is, by the story's close, another empty house to be brought back to life.

* Even Camden House, the most literal interpretation is. let us remember. a fictional creation designed and described with purpose - I shall explore its metaphoric potency in the next post too.

None of this depth would have been achieved if Conan Doyle had not invented Dr. Watson. He it is who freed Doyle to have his cake and eat it - to write profoundly in a popular genre.

The Leap of Victory!
Consider him restored!

(he was here all the time)


In the course of writing about The Empty House I have been conscious of a further sadly ironic level of meaning that Conan Doyle would certainly not have intended...his own home.

The Empty House.


 Once upon a time this house knew happier times. Now deserted and at risk, those who love it for what it represents fear its demise. I wish the petitioners well in their bid to save Doyle's home for the nation...and remind them of the miracle in Baker Street as dramatised in The Empty House.

To go straight to The Empty House (3) click HERE

Thursday, April 12, 2012

" I Turn My Glass..." - The Empty House (1).

"The Park Lane Mystery"
"The Murder of Ronald Adair"

The Empty House.
"The Empty House."

As with The Resident Patient, Holmes himself provides the title for an adventure which is crucial to The Return of Sherlock Holmes just as A Scandal in Bohemia launched the whole Canon of short stories.

. As devotees of the BBC Sherlock await and debate 'The Empty House' of series 3, its creators find themselves (deliciously!) walking in the footsteps of Conan Doyle himself, pacing the unfurnished rooms of imagination

It seems logical therefore to follow my posts on SCAND with a timely examination of this story's literary merits. The focus will be on the original 1903 story as a work of art, with reference to the cultural background of the period and the BBC Sherlock.

Time Frames.

Two foundational time frames inform every story in the Canon: the date of publication in The Strand (which marks the moment of the narrator's reminiscence) and that of the history recalled.
From the first Adventure to The Naval Treaty this would have seemed a simple but effective scheme to the original readers of The Strand, fulfilling the task Watson outlines retrospectively in The Final Problem:

" I have endeavoured to give some account of my strange experiences in (Holmes's) company from the chance which first brought us together at the period of the 'Study in Scarlet', up to the time of his interference in the matter of the 'Naval Treaty'."

A few sentences later, Doyle undercuts all Watson has written thus far, introducing a third, much more complex and poignant time frame:

"It was my intention to have stopped there, and to have said nothing of that event which has created a void in my life which the lapse of two years has done little to fill."

To read this in December, 1893, recalling as it does the death of Holmes on May 4, 1891, is to realise with a jolt that the events detailed in The Final Problem pre-date the publication of even A Scandal in Bohemia (July, 1891).

At a stroke, the whole series of Adventures and Memoirs transform into poignant records of a dead friend written from the abyss of bereavement.

Thus does Conan Doyle skilfully re-engineer the Canon he means to abandon.

No wonder sales of The Strand peak in the months from August, 1901, when serialization of HOUND begins. Doyle's readership has suffered a seven year gap and if Doyle is but testing the waters with a story set in 1889, he could be in no doubt about the public's thirst for resurrection.

One year more...and the miracle is worked. The Empty House rushes to fill the void, and, from October, 1903, the early Canon is restored to joyous technicolour from the sombre monochrome wash of The Final Problem. Now the complex time frame still applies, but is turned to happier implication: Watson is recalling ,from 1903, that which happened in May of '91 via Holmes's narrative of events consequent on the Reichenbach episode given to Watson in his rooms as March becomes April in 1894 . With such blithe economy does Conan Doyle close the tear in Time's fabric, banish the abyss.

It is not fanciful to recall the words of another who rose from the dead:

The Empty Sepulchre.

"Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." Matthew 28:20

And here we are...in 2012. We hear of Sherlock everywhere, and Twitter resounds with the cry, 'Do you believe in Sherlock?'

The Empty House reanimates a few days as March becomes April in 1894 from the standpoint of October '03. The public had suffered The Final Problem in December, '93...and it is as if a brief cold Winter has given natural place to resurgent Spring.
As with SCAND, Doyle imparts depth and consciousness of a broader time scale within the overall narrative, employing Holmes as secondary narrator.
Ronald Adair is murdered 'between the hours of ten and eleven-twenty on the night of March 30th, 1894,' and it is an April evening by the time Watson is drawn to reconnoitre 427, Park Lane and experience its 'inconceivable sequel.'

Actual description of that event 'which afforded me the greatest shock and surprise of any event in my adventurous life' is the subject of suspense, delayed by Watson's prosaic account of 'the facts'. In recording these (and his own investigations) the narrator conjures the spirit of the dead detective. Thus does Doyle pre-figure and heighten the moment when Holmes is restored to his friend. March 30 fell on a Friday in 1894, and I like to think it is Sunday, April 1st ( a week after Easter that year) when Holmes's resurrection is confirmed.

The plot is fashioned also to delay the eagerly anticipated resumption of normality in Baker St. Granada TV's version opens with a moving (if fictitious) sequence in which a sombre Watson passes the closed door of 221b with a heavy heart. Doyle reserves that re-introduction to the detective's residence, engineering twin climaxes in the drama of Holmes's Return - first the preserved man (revealed in Watson's consulting rooms); then the equally preserved rooms (after a serpentine tour of 'the byways of London' few but Sherlock Holmes could navigate...and Camden House).

The reader is as much in the hands of Holmes as Watson is. The first glimpse of that house thought to be forevcr bereft of its famous tenant will be by invitation - to look with Watson from the vacant property opposite and see 'if my three years of absence have entirely taken away my powers to surprise you'.
It is as if Doyle's method is to gradually materialize Sherlock Holmes in all his glory, mirroring Watson's radical emotional re-adjustment. A study in bereavement reversed.

The Dark before the Dawn.

Thus, the thrill of the chase, the call to action (even the dank Stygian gloom of Camden House) feed the need for confirmation just as much as the cold touch of Holmes's thin fingers on Watson's wrist and the latter's instinctive grip testing the palpable reality of a body still in disguise.

And, while the wax bust of Holmes may be, on one level, the fitting 'stratagem (to) deceive so old a shikari', it fulfils a symbolic purpose: Holmes is back in Baker St.

Leontes before the Statue of Hermione by William Hamilton 1790.
I have noted before in my posts on SCAND Shakespearian echoes that add profundity. Watson's response to the life-like bust is reminiscent of Leontes' reaction to the statue of his 'dead' Hermione (in another tale of Winter). Both images are described as sculpted by master craftsmen ...and for both witnesses they spring to life:

"newly performed by that rare Italian master, Julio Romano, who, had he himself
eternity and could put breath into his work, would
beguile Nature of her custom, so perfectly he is her
ape: he so near to Hermione hath done Hermione that
they say one would speak to her and stand in hope of
answer." The Winter's Tale Act V.

Watson's narration of the snaring of Col. Sebastian Moran is preceded by Holmes's account of events that transport the reader back to Meiringen and fast-forward to the present. Following the arrest of Moran, the timing feels right that 221b should finally assume its customary status at the very centre of Holmes's benign web.

"Our old chambers had been left unchanged through the supervision of Mycroft Holmes and the immediate care of Mrs. Hudson. As I entered I saw, it is true, an unwonted tidiness, but the old landmarks were all in their place. There were the chemical corner and the acid-stained, deal-topped table. There upon a shelf was the row of formidable scrap-books and books of reference which many of our fellow-citizens would have been so glad to burn. The diagrams, the violin-case, and the pipe-rack-even the Persian slipper which contained the tobacco -- all met my eyes as I glanced round me."

I set out here to lay bare Doyle's skill in layering different frames of time and in timing the experiences of both Watson and the reader in the most natural-feeling and dramatic ways.
My next post will address the various implications of the story's title which, whatever the choice, we are happily assured heralds only a Winter's tale.

I leave the reader with Shakespeare's equivalent moment from the great opening of Act IV to The Winter's Tale:
Time (as Chorus):

I, that please some, try all, both joy and terror
Of good and bad, that makes and unfolds error,
Now take upon me, in the name of Time,
To use my wings. Impute it not a crime
To me or my swift passage, that I slide
O'er sixteen years and leave the growth untried
Of that wide gap, since it is in my power
To o'erthrow law and in one self-born hour
To plant and o'erwhelm custom. Let me pass
The same I am, ere ancient'st order was
Or what is now received: I witness to
The times that brought them in; so shall I do
To the freshest things now reigning and make stale
The glistering of this present, as my tale
Now seems to it. Your patience this allowing,
I turn my glass and give my scene such growing
As you had slept between.

To go straight to The Empty House (2) click HERE

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Secret of Sherlock Holmes - Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham (1989).

In 1989, Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke came to Birmingham's Alexandra Theatre on tour in The Secret of Sherlock Holmes written by Jeremy Paul and directed by Patrick Garland.

My wife and I lived locally, loved the ITV series and took the opportunity to see our heroes live. I have just discovered I still have the programme, dated 13-18 November, 1989.

I thought I would post scans of this programme which may be of interest to Sherlockians..and before I lose sight of it again!

May I first direct readers to an excellent website, Jeremy Brett Information which details the complete tour and contains excellent review notes.