Victor Holmes

Shortly before Christmas, Maureen and I saw the two versions of the National Theatre production of Frankenstein. In the first we saw, Benedict Cumberbatch played the Creature, and Jonny Lee Miller played Victor Frankenstein; three days later we saw the other version, in which Miller played the Creature and Cumberbatch played Frankenstein. Since New Year I’ve seen the three episodes of the latest series of Sherlock in which Benedict Cumberbatch plays an updated Sherlock Holmes, and six episodes from the first series of Elementary in which Jonny Lee Miller plays an updated Sherlock Holmes.

This doubling of roles casts an almost eerie highlight on the various productions. The different Frankensteins, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say the different Creatures, are revealing of the differences between the two Sherlocks. Continue reading

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Electric Holmes

It is very rarely given that a 21st century reader can fully appreciate a 19th century novel. But I had an unexpected insight today.

This morning, as I was reading some more of Consuming Passions by Judith Flanders, I came upon an advertisement for Hearn’s Lamps dating from the very end of the 19th century. It is clearly advertising electric lights to be strung outside the house at Christmas.

This afternoon, re-reading The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (serialised 1901-1902) I came upon the following passage, as Watson, Mortimer and Sir Henry Baskerville approach the gloomy Baskerville Hall for the first time. Sir Henry declares:

‘I’ll have a row of electric lamps up here inside of six months, and you won’t know it again, with a thousand candle-power Swan and Edison right here in front of the hall door.’

Read in the context of that advertisement, you suddenly get a sense of how that must have struck a reader at the very dawn of the 20th century. So far as I can recall, every other light mentioned throughout the Holmes canon is a gas light. Now, suddenly, there is the brilliance of electric light. And outside the house, not in. The reader might well have seen such a thing in that very same advertisement that Flanders displays, but it would have been a thing of aspiration, something shockingly new.

And, if you’ll pardon the pun, it casts The Hound of the Baskervilles, and indeed the entire Holmes canon, in a new light.

Eliot’s Nocturnal Hackery (or, Moriarty in a Catsuit)

Lily’s appropriation thread reminded me of something that I had been reminded of only yesterday (but had since already forgotten).

Have you heard of the poet named T.S. Eliot? He apparently wrote a poem about a cat (of all things), and it contained some appropriation:

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macacity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibi, or one or two to spare:
And whatever time the deed took place—MACAVITY WASN’T THERE!
And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!

(“Macavity: The Mystery Cat,” 1939)

Continue reading