Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Holmes as Aesthete

In the new book "Sherlock Holmes and Philosophy" Sawyer J Lahr draws a parallel between Sherlock Holmes and Oscar Wilde (in a chapter entitled "Dark Rumors and Hereditary Tendencies"). This is by no means a new comparison as Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde were contemporaries. Arguments already made by Graham Robb are reprized.

Lahr takes a somewhat new approach by suggesting the main similarity is having the temperament of an artist (poet/aesthete etc). There are certainly aspects of the original character that resonate. But Lahr's strikes a sour note with my by characterizing them with phrases like "supernatural powers of deduction" and a paragraph later "super powers of deduction". Because if there is one thing that Holmes never accepted it was that his powers were either magical of necessarily unique. In several cases supernatural explanations were immediately placed in the "impossible" category.

And Sherlock Holmes is the kind of character that you can easily fit into a great many categories just as convincingly: the dispassionate scientist, the rugged adventurer or the romantic cynic. So I am not sure how convinced I am by Holmes as the archetypal aesthete. However there is some appeal to the notion of the "homosexual tensions" between Holmes-as-aesthete and Watson-as-philistine. It is also good to see some coverage of Rupert Everett's outing as Holmes--in what I think is a very under-rated performance.

[Record #3]

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