I keep a bull pup [STUD]

The new Sherlock Holmes film has revived a minor controversy that has puzzled students of The Canon for quite a while. This is brought about by the existence in the film of Gladstone, a young bulldog.

In A Study In Scarlet when Holmes and I first meet at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London and we are discussing whether we could share lodgings, we each list our shortcomings. Amongst mine I mention that I kept a “bull pup”.

Many have pointed out that this “animal” is never mentioned again. The reason for that is that no such “animal” existed!

The bull pup I referred to was my army revolver. Such short-barrelled, high calibre revolver is often referred to colloquially as a “bull pup”.

As some others have realised, a domestic pet was impossible on Afghanistan, illegal on the Orontes, inappropriate for a private hotel, and invisible in Baker Street!

Good old Watson [LAST]

I had an entirely different title in mind for this post until I saw the film and realised that this was the first time I had seen a decent portrayal of myself on the silver screen. Although David Burke and Edward Hardwicke had done a good job in the Granada Sherlock Holmes series, in films nothing had been done to replace the bumbling Nigel Bruce Watson alongside Basil Rathbone’s almost definitive Holmes.

Here, in the “Sherlock Holmes” film, we at last have in Jude Law a Watson that is quite faithful to The Canon complete with my nagging war wound and a Mary Morstan almost as pretty as the real thing.

Robert Downey Jr. is a somewhat quirky Holmes and as Alistair Duncan has pointed out they have replaced his use of narcotics with alcohol. Although Holmes enjoys a drink, he never drinks to excess as the effect of alcohol would deaden his senses. Whatever you and I think of his use of cocaine and opium the effects of these drugs are entirely different.

The problem with Holmes is that he is to many people a cold fish (as in the scene in the film in the restaurant with Mary and I) and any accurate portrayal would satisfy only a true Holmesian. Much in the same way that Holmes accuses me of glamourising his cold, calculating approach, Downey makes Holmes accessible and understandable and maybe a little more fallible that Holmes would like.

Irene Adler [SCAN] is often used as a device in the portrayal of Holmes to give him human frailties. In this film Irene is under the influence of Moriarty [FINA] who we never see – presumbly as Brad Pitt had better things to do! If there is a sequel Professor Moriarty may return. What happened to the alluring shots of Irene Adler that appeared in some of the trailers I do not know.

Lestrade, as usual, came in for one of Holmes jibes when Lestrade conjectured that in another life Holmes could have made a great criminal and Holmes retorted that Lestrade could have been a great policeman.

Mrs Hudson appeared but briefly and there is therefore little to say.

The only other character from the Canon was McMurdo [SIGN] the one-time prizefighter who was porter to Bartholomew Sholto at Pondicherry Lodge and therefore also known to Mary Morstan. It was in The Sign of Four that I first met Mary.

There was another “character” whom the film’s writers chose to include and that was Gladstone the bulldog presumably an oblique reference to the “bull pup” I mentioned in A Study In Scarlet when I first met Holmes.

Also, the film’s depiction of the mess that Holmes’ untidy habits engendered at 221B Baker Street was all too accurate!

With all this in mind I would raise Alistair Duncan’s scoring a notch or two. What was from the Canon was reasonably accurate and the film’s evocation of Victorian London was superb. The film was great fun and Downey appeared to be enjoying his role – a bit like someone trying on a new pair of shoes for the first time. It may take a while for him to walk comfortably in the footsteps of The Great Detective.

On other small but interesting point. A lot of young people were in the audience when I saw the film and that means that maybe a few people are becoming aware of Holmes for the first time.

So hang on. This promises to be a great ride if the makers of this film have the courage to continue from this stirring start.

The one fixed point in a changing age [LAST]

My literary agent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, having sadly passed away, I have, with some reluctance, had to take up other means of recording the singular gifts by which my friend , Mr Sherlock Holmes was distinguished.

I have endeavoured to give some account of my strange experiences in his company from the chance meeting that first brought us together in the matter of A Study in Scarlet [STUD] up to the final story that was published under the title of Shoscombe Old Place [SHOS] in The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, though chronologically that was not the last adventure we experienced together.

It was my intention to have stopped there but my hand has now been forced, however by recent events including yet another portrayal of ourselves on the large screen (the forthcoming “Sherlock Holmes” with Robert Downey Jr.), on the smaller screen (the BBC’s pilot that moves us into the present day) and, in a different vein, the threats against the continuing existence of Undershaw – once the home of my dear friend, Arthur Conan Doyle.

More of these events at some later date as I have now to set about establishing myself in this new world. Would that it would be as easy as wandering into the Criterion Bar and finding that a mutual friend knew of someone who was also looking for comfortable rooms at a reasonable price.

One final note – the four-letter abbreviations that appear in brackets above are the commonly-accepted abbreviations of the Canon established by Professor Jay Finlay Christ of the Baker Street Irregulars.

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