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5095Fwd: Sherlockian Asides

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  • Jay Ganguly
    Jul 8, 2016

      Sent from my iPhone

      Begin forwarded message:

      From: BRENDA <agrrtig@...>
      Date: 8 July 2016 at 20:05:39 IST
      Subject: Sherlockian Asides

      Sherlockian Asides
      At a recent gathering of the Historical Society of the New York Courts, www.nycourts.gov/history, a trio of legal minds mixed literature with copyright in a presentation entitled “Shaw, Shakespeare and Sherlock.” 
      George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion has had its share of copyright contests, so have a listen to the artful presenter, Carol Kaplan.  
      Albert Rosenblatt’s lecture on Sherlock Holmes, William Gillette, Conan Doyle and early copyright disputes is likewise engaging; who can tire of this topic??  Gillette chose the curved pipe because it helped him articulate better than did the straight pipe in the first Sherlock Holmes stage production. The play was staged in Buffalo N.Y.  Litigation records--copyright infringement and contract disputes (involving separately Gillette, Eille Norwood, John Barrymore, Samuel Goldwyn) while Conan Doyle was yet alive-- are held under lock and key at the N.Y. County Clerk’s Office. The record includes Conan Doyle’s 1923 deposition.  
      The Elizabethan age, no less litigious than our own, never sparked a Shakespearean copyright suit--either “Shake-speare” the playwright died young or he and/or his estate were not so inclined.  These hot days, these salad days, the mad blood is no longer stirring: Shakespeare is in the public domain and can no longer be litigated for copyright infringement. Speaker Daniel Kornstein applies the Bard’s masterpiece “Merchant of Venice,” Shylock’s predicament, and the legalistic hairsplitting that brought Shylock a defeat incomprehensible. (BTW, “Merchant of Venice” is coming to Chicago’s Shakespeare Theater this August) Here’s a link to the video of the proceedings of “Shaw, Shakespeare and Sherlock”: video.nycourts.gov:8080/HistoricalSociety/20160217-litigation-literature-prog-vid_sm.mp4. 

      Michael Dirda, Washington Post columnist and contributor to the Weekly Standard and Lapham’s Quarterly, among others, in his “Homage to Poe” on May 30, writes of being mesmerized by Basil Rathbone’s recorded recitations of “The Telltale Heart” (the one with the sound of a beating heart ‘neath the floorboards) while in grade school. He wasn’t familiar with that voice as being the voice of Sherlock Holmes. That transformation was yet to come. Cited is Howard Haycraft’s observation, in Murder for Pleasure, that Edgar Allan Poe invented “the transcendent and eccentric detective; the admiring and slightly stupid foil; the well-intentioned blundering and unimaginativeness of the official guardians of the law; the locked-room convention; the pointing finger of unjust suspicion; the solution by surprise.” 

      Ron Levitsky, a BeeSpeckled Band stalwart recalls that despite Basil Rathbone's dislike of being typecast as Sherlock Holmes, when he performed a reading at Northern Illinois University (the Harvard of the Midwest) in the late 1960s, he graciously signed a copy of one of Ron’s Sherlock Holmes books.  A young woman ran up to Rathbone and kissed his hand (or ring), saying, "Oh, Mr. Rathbone, you'll always be Sherlock Holmes to me."  He responded with grace and courtesy. No bodyguards attacked.

      Do we need still another book about Sherlock Holmes or his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle? is another Dirda review. With candied pen and tongue, he informs that Mike Ashley, author of Adventures in the Strand, is an authority on British magazines published between1880 and 1940.  The book is a comprehensive account of Conan Doyle’s 40-year relationship with Strand Magazine. At the time, it was the most famous periodical and Conan Doyle its miracle contributor. Conan Doyle’s starting pay in 1890 was £100 for Sign of Four and by 1901, £4,795 pounds to serialize The Hound of the Baskervilles

      Baseball and Boxing:  A baseball, held in a private antique collection, sports the signatures of Conan Doyle, Babe Ruth, the first black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, and Clarence Darrow. Reference to these gents, and to Conan Doyle’s admiration for American baseball and to Holmes’ expertise in bare-knuckled boxing, is included in my upcoming booklet Graceland Cemetery of Chicago: A Sherlockian Walk Midst the Tombstones.

      Conan Doyle and horses:  Conan Doyle’s pursuits were enthusiastically healthful and sporty. Look around the pub and your second pint. Are you in the company of the hale and hearty? Though he took proper caution, horses being “dangerous on both ends and crafty in the middle,” hoofbeats were important to Doyle and to his fiction and poetry. When Doyle built Undershaw, with the help of an architect, stables were built for his horses. He corresponded with his mother about his horse “Brigadier.” 
      Among Doyle’s horse poems and the distant view halloo:
      A Hunting Morning
      ...Then lead round the mare,
      For it’s time that we began,
      And away with thought and care,
      Save to live and be a man,
      While the keen air is blowing,
      And the huntsman holloing, 
      And the black mare going
      As the black mare can.

      Another poem is aptly titled, “’Ware Holes” (either “beware” or je vare, French, as in “I see”), cautioning riders about rabbit holes along the stony paths and fields.
      Read Silver Blaze (1892) to get an idea of Conan Doyle’s love of the equine, horse racing, stable life, and ”the most remarkable horse in all of England.” In Silver Blaze, as in the George Edalji case (1903), there is reference to maiming horses with, in Straker’s instance, the use of a cataract knife. Doyle’s equineibrium marked his course in pursuing Edalji’s wrongful conviction of having mutilated horses. There are whinnies of the Edalji case also in Peter Shaffer’s 1973 play “Equus.”
      When next I conduct a Chicago-area walk---searching for Sherlockian connections--it will be to horsey Lake Forest, Illinois...including the true-crime instances of insurance fraud involving horse maiming, lonely widows, greedy gigolos, and the plague of venal stablehands.
      In 1929, Doyle suffered a heart attack--in circumstances picked up in the movie Godfather’s garden demise. Doyle survived another year and died July 7, 1930. In a cartoon he drew of his convalescence, he depicted himself as "The Old Horse" hauling a heavy cart that contained his life’s achievements and reduced to the care of three doctors cum veterinarians. 
      In today’s horsemarket:  Conan Doyle maintains resonance in the ostler world. For sale is an Oldenburg gelding named “Sir Conan Doyle,” aka Smoothie. Imported from Germany in 2010, it’s up for $89,000.
      Refresh your horseback impulses further and turn your attention to the related films.  The 1937 “Silver Blaze” was released first in Britain, with Arthur Wontner as Holmes and Ian Fleming as Watson, and in the U.S. as “Murder at the Baskervilles.” In the 1977 “Silver Blaze,” Christopher Plummer starred as Holmes (as he did in “Murder by Decree”) and Thorley Walters as Watson. In 1988, Jeremy Brett starred with Edward Hardwicke. The film “The Edwardians” has an account of the Edalji case, further explored in the recent filming of Julian Barnes’ Arthur and George, which starred Martin Clunes, another horse lover, in the role of Conan Doyle.

      Standing on the Terrace
      Monica “Younger Stamfords” Schmidt recently posted a poignant passage about the many admired, revered, oft beloved Sherlockians as they cross the Reichenbach. Life is a series of lessons, “with the greatest for the last.”

      Just this past April,  Andrea Reynolds Plunket, highly public competitor to Sherlockian licensing and indestructible thorn in the hide of the Conan Doyle Company Estate Ltd. et al died, age 81. She was predeceased by her 4th husband, Shaun Plunket, a distant cousin of Queen Elizabeth. After husband Shaun’s death and until her own, Andrea lived in London, near daughter and grandchildren.
      Andrea’s father was a banker, and her stepfather, a Pfizer heir, financed the Sherlock Holmes’ film rights purchase for her then-husband, movie producer and raconteur Sheldon Reynolds. See fur-coated Andrea and Sheldon filming a Holmes movie in Poland at www.arthurconandoyle.com/copyrights.html. The record of Sherlock Holmes’ rights’ transfer from then-owner, Baskerville Trust to Sheldon Reynolds in 1976 is at that site as well as Andrea’s version of ownership. 
      Andrea, of mittelEuropa heritage (born in Budapest, circa 1937), was educated in Switzerland and reportedly spoke seven languages. She mingled with Britain’s aristocrats. She was genuinely fearless, and appeared as character witness for Claus von Bulow in the attempted murder trial of his wife/coma victim Sunny von Bulow.     
      Andrea persisted in her challenges to the Conan Doyle estate and encountered no little hostility during litigation--where gentlemanly traits turned malignant. The background was that when Sheldon Reynolds and Andrea divorced, she received a percentage of the Conan Doyle copyrights as part of the marital settlement (a decree which must be available somewhere??) with Sheldon as manager. A subsequent lawsuit in N.Y. dealt with the managerial issue between Sheldon and Andrea.
      Riveting, to say the least, and with the New Yorker’s Lancellyn Green article on your bedside, you’ll be unable to sleep. “As long as all these questions were unsolved, I felt that sleep would be no easy matter, either for Holmes or myself.”

      Sherlock Holmes and the Gentleman
      Holmes and Mycroft, descendants of country squires, were gentlemen endowed by birthright, but of modest means. In the course of his investigations, Holmes was treated with respect and deferential courtesy. Holmes visits Mycroft at the Diogenes Gentleman’s Club, affords and is accustomed to dining out, attends operas and violin concerts.  Watson identifies clients, witnesses and victims by the manner of their dress. My own father would say that a gentleman was in possession of these: a pocket handkerchief, a fine watch, and buffed leather shoes. 
      Though Holmes has no inheritance and engages Dr. Watson as a roommate when first they meet, Holmes is reluctant to discuss money. He often rebuffs the offer of a fee for his services. 
      What were the Victorian attributes of a gentleman--a time when even cricketers were formally distinguished as whether gentlemen or players?  From a 16th century High Church author and clergyman, here is this qualification:  “He cannot be a gentleman which loveth not a dog.”  
      Before WWI, when Britain’s young men went out in the tens of thousands and did not return, the gentleman-aristocrat was prosperous, nurtured, admired and respected. He was patriotic to Queen and country, refined in manner and demeanor, and accommodating of the gentler sex. Holmes and Watson, like Conan Doyle, were gentlemen who were decent and incorruptible. A gentleman was educated at the best schools---though Holmes’ schooling admittedly was an eccentric self-education. (For further edification so far as a sound Victorian education, see the conversation at the Torist table, which appears below). 
      Holmes’ lesson in the Bruce Partington Plans: “How an English gentleman could behave in such a manner is beyond my comprehension.”  In that case, Holmes remarked about a gentleman resorting to murder. 
      Are you a Sherlockian gentleman or one in decline-- touching forlornly your knotted silk scarf, knocking back your fifth Glenfiddich before noon, grasping tightly to your Canonically-intellectual handrail as you head towards your pipe and slippers?  Or do you cherish the manly standard set out by Conan Doyle--out on horseback, or skiing through a line of fir trees between Davos and the Engadine, or engaging in bare-knuckled fisticuffs with a feisty opponent? 

      reading recommendations from Sherlockians
      “Sherlockology,” a 1975 article in the New York Review of Books, by Clive James, who reviews a series of Sherlockian books with introductions by famous authors, and with a marvelous David Levine illustration of Holmes in his mouse-colored dressing gown, at www.nybooks.com/articles/1975/02/20/sherlockology.
      The Feb. 2016 Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, “It All Began on Baker Street.” In its “Jury Box” section, new Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes’ books are reviewed, followed by a note that the issue is dedicated to the Baker Street Irregulars.
      author Frank Thomas, who starred as Tom Corbett in the Nancy Drew film mysteries (early chick lit), turned to writing Sherlock Holmes pastiches:  Sherlock Holmes and the Golden Bird, Sherlock Holmes and the Sacred Sword, Sherlock Holmes and the Treasure Train, and more.
      Cracking the Code of the Canon, by Sherlockian Diane Gilbert Madsen.
      The Summer 2016 issue of the Proceedings of Pondicherry Lodge, courtesy of the Sherlock Holmes Society of India is available, at: http://www.sherlockholmessociety.in/2016/06/proceedings-of-pondicherry-lodge-summer.html.
      In the Pondicherry highlights--and the issue is beautiful indeed--comes the announcement that the first Indian BSI investiture was awarded in NY this past January to “Jay” Jarantika “The Great Agra Treasure” Gangulay. Congratulations!  There are stories, photos, crosswords, quizzes, limericks and more.               Keep Calm and Mind Pondicherry.
      Pondicherry:  Life of Pi and Sign of Four include reference to this French colony situated on India’s southeastern coast, at the Bay of Bengal. Graham Greene, another literary wallah, reportedly said that never far from his literary mind was the atmospheric of “that dark night in Pondicherry Lodge, Norwood” --the house built near Conan Doyle’s estate by Maj. Sholto where he’d brought with him the tokens of his Indian prosperity: “a considerable sum of money, a large collection of valuable curiosities, and a staff of native servants...” (SIGN).
      A map of the London of Sherlock Holmes, at: www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=11hi6OwDoifyUI4kFsg7suBQm1t8&hl=en_US.   
      The Oenologic Holmes: the role of wine in the life and times of Sherlock Holmes, by Steve Robinson. Beautifully written with photography--lush, like its wines. Publisher George Vanderburgh, the Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, www.batteredbox.com

      ---Wed. Sept. 7, 5:45 p.m.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Devon Street Beggars,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         at the Edgebrook Public Library,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Scandal in Bohemia
      The Devon Street Beggars met July 6 for “Five Orange Pips”. We read of the letter that arrived with a Pondicherry postmark, marked “KKK”, with 5 orange pips enclosed. Holmes checked the sailing records of ships which had been at Pondicherry and Dundee, and recognized the sloop “The Lone Star” (a very active scion society). Sherry, orange crush, snacks, and great Sherlockian conversation led by Jim Sheridan. 

      ---Through July 24, Death of Harry Houdini                                                                                                                                                                                                                       the Chopin Theatre,1543 West Division, Chicago.                                                                                                                                                                                                    Thanks to Devon Street Beggar John Considine for the heads up:  “A ringmaster leads us through the events of Houdini’s life, its stunning magic, poignant dialogue and original music. All the while, Harry feels Death closing in at his heels (or his manacled hands).  Harry will walk on broken glass, swallow razor blades and otherwise risk his life in the Water Torture Cell, but will he pull off an escape from Death?” The FOX tv channel has premiered “Houdini & Doyle” in which the two investigate the paranormal...what I and my fellow trekkers did at Graceland Cemetery. Like Houdini, we remained cynical of the afterlife. After Houdini’s death, his widow, Bess, held a yearly seance, hoping that Harry might make contact. He was always a no-show. 

      ---Tues. Aug. 7, 7 p.m.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The BeeSpeckled Band,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        at the Highwood (IL) Public Library                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Dancing Men.  discussion leader Francesca Nielsen  

      ---Wednesday evening, August 17,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    You’re the Top!: Cole Porter’s 125th Birthday Celebration                                                                                                                                                                                   Ravinia, in Highland Park IL
      Chicago Symphony Orchestra
      gates open 5 PM, concert start, 8 PM
      Cocaine was Holmes’ drug of choice---a 7% solution intravenously injected to Dr. Watson’s consternation.  In the 1930s, Cole Porter’s "I Get a Kick from Cocaine... Beer, Alcohol, doesn’t thrill me at all...” was a massive hit.  Don’t overlook the smooth-throated rendition in Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles” sung by the railroad workers.
      An evening picnic on the lawn ($10 admission).
                                                                                                                                                                                                             Mimosas, of course. Syringes still illegal.

      ---For the horsey set, on Sun. Aug. 21, 1-5                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Polo and Pimms,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  at the Oak Brook (IL) Polo Grounds,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                hosted by The English-Speaking Union, Chicago@... and www.ESUUS.org/Chicago.
      ---Sept. 27, 6 p.m. the Torists meet at the Ridgemoor Country Club, Chicago.                                                                                                                                                                           “The Second Afghan War” presented by Dr. Franklin Saksena
      Dr. Saksena books include: 101 Sherlock Holmes Puzzles, Another 101 Sherlock Holmes Puzzles, and the latest Nerve and Knowledge: Doctors, Medicine and the Sherlockian Canon.

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