Strangers is a rather wide-ranging book. Of most interest to me is the last chapter: 'Heroes of Modern Life'. In this chapter Robb teases out some of the homosexual themes in the early fictional detectives most extensively Dupin and Holmes but also Raffles, Lupin, Poirot and (Lord Peter) Wimsey.
Overall this is a great book because it does provides a broader context to homosexuality in the Victorian era, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone thinking of writing Holmeslash. But keep in mind that Robb writes with a strong editorial tone and the reader needs to decide which interpretions they agree with and which they question--and I would question the idea that Holmes was to any extent based on Oscar Wilde.
I find it interesting that Robb did not consider Sherlock Holmes a subject worth indexing--it may not be a huge part of his book by Holmes is a cultural icon and any reference to him will attract interest and commentary. His suggestion that "Everyone already knows, instinctively, that Holmes is homosexual" was bound to be received with a highly cultured version of 'O RLY!!111!?'.
For example a New York Times Book Review* focuses on this section out of the entire book and describes Robb's approach disdainfully as "sly" and "coy" and concludes of Holmes "...he's celibate. He has to be ... it is his nature, and one of the main reasons we love him".
In contrast Gunn (2005) writes that "...the author set forth plausible reasons to conclude that both C. Auguste Dupin and Sherlock Holmes are gay" (pg. 14).
Sherlock Holmes has the capacity to be whatever the reader wants him to be. He would hardly be so widely loved and so well remembered if that were not the case. There is no universal take on Holmes. The lines of Conan Doyle's stories are spaced widely enough for us all to read between them whatever we want.
Shown left is the WW Norton hardback released in 2003. This edition is 341 pages.
* Miller L. The Swinging Detective. New York Times Book Review 1/25/2004.
- ’Strangers’: The Age of Uranians
- According to Graham Robb’s “Strangers: Homosexual Love in the 19th Century”, “languid” was often used as a code for homosexuality in the Victorian Era.