THE ORIGINAL TREE WORSHIPPERS OF ROCK COUNTY
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Hedberg Public Library Public Meeting Room
Vicki Clark, Tom Drucker, Resa Haile, Elaine Khan, Victor Rufer
Victor presented his original paper, “Sherlock is in the House,” in which he compared and contrasted Sherlock Holmes and Greg House of House, M.D. Although there are many (and deliberate) similarities, Victor pointed out some important differences.
STORY: A CASE OF IDENTITY
Resa explained that when she scheduled the meeting, she looked in a copy of The Adventures for the next story to follow “A Scandal in Bohemia.” In this particular copy, it was “A Case of Identity,” but she later noticed that, in most editions, the next story is “The Red-Headed League.” This switching of the stories seems to follow the Oxford editions. Conan Doyle apparently wrote “Identity” to follow “Scandal” and the Strand editors, feeling that “League” was the stronger story, transposed the order. There are references to “Scandal” in “Identity,” and the stories show different sides of Holmes’ dealings with women. Up until this point, Doyle was telling the stories in order, but, at some point, he perhaps realized that it would be easier to have Watson on the spot, and he started to go back to adventures taking place during Watson’s bachelor days. He may have gotten the idea to do this because of the change in order first accomplished by the Strand.
The quiz was provided by Ron Del Ciello, who was unable to attend; Resa administered the quiz. Victor took first place, Elaine second, and Tom and Vicki tied for third.
The quiz ended with the discussion question: Was Holmes right in not telling Mary Sutherland the truth?
Vicki thought that Mary Sutherland’s heart might be pining for Hosmer Angel and it’s only fair for her to know that he’s not a real character. Elaine argued that it was Holmes’ professional responsibility to tell her and that this is a reason Holmes does not marry, because he looks down on the intelligence of people who are in love. She said it is true that when people are in love, their I.Q.s tend to go down, but they come back up in a couple of years. Looking down on the intelligence of people in love is one reason Holmes was beaten by Irene Adler. Holmes thinks that Windibank will end up on the gallows, but that will be “too late for Mary Sutherland. [When Windibank goes to the gallows] many people will have suffered.” Holmes doesn’t want to tell the truth because he thinks people in love will do stupid things. Victor said that not telling reinforced Victorian sexism. Windibank was exploiting these two women [mother and daughter]. “He’s Sherlock Holmes; he should be smart enough to come up with something.” Tom pointed out that women in this era were attending college, and many women were not willing to conform to traditional roles. Tom took the minority opinion that Holmes did the right thing because “we wouldn't have known he reads Hafiz and Horace and could compare the two.” He thought it was interesting to compare this to “The Blue Carbuncle,” a case in which Holmes also let the malefactor go. In that case, he believed the culprit could be redeemed. In most other cases, he believed the criminal acted with justification. “A Case of Identity” might be the only instance of Holmes letting someone go without these conditions. Resa thought maybe Holmes had more in store for Windibank than he was letting on, and also, that Holmes said if he told her, she would not believe him, but he didn’t actually say he wouldn’t tell her.
Victor said that he has been keeping a list of the stories and noting the outcomes; most don’t go to trial. Resa wondered what kind of a mother would do something like this to her daughter. Victor said she was subservient to her husband. There was some discussion about Miss Sutherland’s attractiveness with quotes from Watson by Tom and from Holmes by Resa leading to different views. There was also some discussion about Miss Sutherland’s nearsightedness and how this would effect her typing or, at least, the reading of the shorthand or copy she was typing from—and also the question of being nearsighted (at least now) meaning trouble seeing at a distance, not up close.
Elaine wondered what Windibank was doing with all the extra money Miss Sutherland brought into the household and whether he was involved with gambling, drinking, or other women. Vicki said, “Being a short story, not a word was wasted.” She liked the way it moved and the way the story unfolded and thought it was not predictable.
Resa read an online article relating to the story entitled “Inspector Baynes and the Impossible,” which led into discussion of how Holmes (standing or sitting) was able to put his feet onto the mantelpiece. Tom suggested it was a misreading of Dr. Watson’s handwriting, and that it should actually have been ottoman or whatever the appropriate word might be. The possibilities of a shorter mantelpiece, that it was actually meant to be a lower portion of the hearth, and that Holmes was practicing yoga were also suggested by members of our group. "Inspector Baynes and the Impossible" may be accessed at http://www.chattanoogan.com/articles/article_108399.asp.
There was some discussion of the recent television airing of The Sign of Four and its adherence to the original story (for the most part), and also to the ages of Holmes and Watson onscreen vs. in the stories, with screen versions skewing older.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE SUSSEX VAMPIRE—October 30, 2010, 11 a.m.
Minutes prepared by Resa Haile.