The "Gloria Scott"

– but first, let me wish you all a (belated) Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

I’m sorry I haven’t posted very much.  It’s been a strange year from start to finish and, very sadly, less bookish than I had planned.  Pretty much the only challenge I completed (apart from Onegin) was o’s Russian Literature 2014 challenge, and even there, I only read Dostoyevsky and Pushkin.  
That said, for a slow year, I’m glad to have read The Brothers Karamazov and Lord Jim, which had seemed so inaccessible before.  I hope to do better next year, but am not making any grand commitments…

There’s one challenge I’m carrying over, and that’s re-reading the Complete Sherlock Holmes.  I haven’t read it in its entirety in about ten years.  It’s a joy to come back to my favorite character in all literature, and I’m reading chronologically this time, following this list which looks pretty good.  (There was a day I would have figured out the timeline on my own, but nowadays finding time is not so easy.)

I’m going to keep these commentaries short and sweet and hopefully frequent.  I will try my best not to post mystery-related spoilers!  Here’s the first segment, “The Adventure of the ‘Gloria Scott’” . . .

Holmes himself says that the “Gloria Scott” was the “first [case] in which I was ever engaged.”  It is instantly interesting that he has these feelings of nostalgia, and he, in fact, is insistent that Watson listens to the story of his first investigation.

He goes so far as to describe his “two years” at college in a couple of paragraphs, where we learn his interests and studies were so different than everyone else’s that he had nothing in common with anyone.  He made one friend, Victor Trevor, and that by accident (a most literal accident).  Holmes inadvertently depicts his own listlessness by describing the opposite trait in Trevor, and through these bits and pieces we get a pretty clear understanding of Holmes before his meeting Watson.  There is, in fact, a very telling parallel between his befriending Trevor and his befriending Watson – they were both someone Holmes could talk to.

The rest of this story is about the mystery of Trevor’s father.  It’s not the most thrilling Doyle plot, but two things are interesting about it:

  1. how Doyle writes a sea story, tapping into his experiences as a ship’s surgeon
  2. how Holmes interacts with acquaintances
// Spoilers in white

It’s particularly depressing that Holmes ends up losing his friend through the very science of deduction that he makes his livelihood.  By the end of telling the story, too, Holmes has come back to “real life,” the cut and dry of the “facts of the case,” and calling Watson “Doctor” with (what seems to me) audible stoicism.  
// End spoilers

These brush strokes of word-painting are something I doubt Doyle thought twice about – he had a true gift for writing characters in few words.  “The Gloria Scott” speaks a great deal about the character of Holmes, and that makes it worth a re-read. 

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