Books, life

“The Season of Forgiveness”

I had called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes upon the second morning after Christmas, with the intention of wishing him the compliments of the season.

"You are the very man!"

"You are the very man!"

Christmas is a time of year held together by traditions large and small. One of my small ways to mark the holiday may at first (and, to be honest, probably at second) seem odd: every Christmas Eve, I read the same 7886 words – year in, year out. The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle is the only explicitly festive of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, taking place on December 27th and featuring a Victorian winter and a Christmas goose.  It is a singularly comedic Holmes story: the great detective shows off a bit, the villain is a bit hopeless, and there’s a pretty happy ending. The plot is not particularly complex, and the solution to the mystery almost handed to us; but in that happy ending lies the story’s particular joy.

Even in the preceding pages, Holmes takes several opportunities to prove what his readers already know about him: he can be cold and unforgiving, aloof and arrogant. He belittles working people, shows modish distaste for urban living, and insults his best friend’s intelligence. Yet, in choosing to let the petty criminal go at the close of the case, he gives in to the good feeling of the season: “This fellow will not go wrong again. Send him to gaol now, and you make him a gaol-bird for life.” There’s a humanity there, a liberality even, which leaves an indulgent smile on the face of any Holmes reader.

And a Holmes reader I am, although in recent years one reduced to this annual visit to an old friend – perhaps that’s one reason I’ve upheld the tradition. Next year, though, I’d like to read one of the 56 Holmes stories a week, and see where it takes me. I’ll post about them here in a bid to keep me honest.

In the meatime, whatever your Christmas traditions, I hope you enjoy each and every one of them. As we said below, we wish you all the very best of the season.


11 thoughts on ““The Season of Forgiveness”

  1. Hartlandgillymay says:

    A young friend,who still thinks Tim Buckley rules, went to the trouble of purchasing Leonard Cohen’s ‘ Book of Longing’ for my Christmas gift.He insisted that I open it at my desk to see me smile. He was not disappointed. I wish you the compliments of the season Dear boy

  2. I am working my through ALL the Jeremy Brett Holmes- es. They are splendid productions, and Jeremy Brett is the best Holmes, period.

    I wish wish wish Study In Scarlet had been done with Brett as one of those stand-alones.

    Thank goodness there are so many Brett Holmes’s productions. They are always a pancea for whatever ails.

    Happy wishes to you and yours in this particularly hectic year of a season that usually is hectic. It’s as though with the economy dead everywhere those who can are making party after party to help us through or something.

    Love, C.

  3. danhartland says:

    C, there’s no doubt that Brett is the finest screen Holmes – particularly the hour-long adaptations (the later TV movies never quite made it for me). I had a DVD of the Return collection, and though dated they remain rivetting thanks to that central performance.

    And I think that’s pretty much the charm of the stories themselves – Conan Doyle can be as hackneyed and unconvincing as he likes, but that central character, and that central pairing, invest even the unlikeliest case with something rather more.

    Happy new year to you!

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  11. Hi. I just wrote my own blog post about “The Blue Carbuncle” so of course I had to google it, and found yours. Couldn’t agree more. Homes is a man of many parts, and he’s almost jolly here, and certainly wise. I’m now catching up on all your Sherlock posts. Glad to have found you.

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