It’s Valentine’s Day, and what better time to feature a quote from the lovable Sherlock Holmes? A self-described scientist who belittles sentiment, Holmes nonetheless often plays the role of knight-in-shining-armor, as in “The Speckled Band.” I love this clip from the TV episode starring Jeremy Brett as Holmes and David Burke as Watson. The dialogue is almost word-for-word from the book!
Also, if you’re interested in more costume dramas from books, I talked about some of my favorites in this week’s Classics Considered episode. Always on the lookout for recommendations, too. 🙂
As far as novels go, I’ve found an interesting read in Embers, by Hungarian author Sandor Marai. “Interesting” may be an understatement; I can hardly put it down. Look for that review in the upcoming week…
“‘I will have no man in my boat,’ said Starbuck, ‘who is not afraid of a whale.’ By this, he seemed to mean, not only that the most reliable and useful courage was that which arises from the fair estimation of the encountered peril, but that an utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward.”
Over the years, I’ve collected various quotes about or related to courage (it is probably my favorite subject for quotes). This bit of wisdom from Starbuck is something in particular I’ve carried with me, I suppose subconsciously. At work, for example, I have some worries and personal insecurities, and instead of trying to ignore them, I’ve found it’s best to acknowledge, think through, then address them, in that order. Fortunately, my job is worlds easier than Starbuck’s…
“I wish we could sometimes love the characters in real life as we love the characters in romances. There are a great many human souls whom we should accept more kindly, and even appreciate more clearly, if we simply thought of them as people in a story.”
A great Chesterton quote from a book of his I’ve yet to read (What I Saw in America). It is easy enough to view people through the narrow lens of our interactions with them, but to view them in the context of their own life story is another thing.
“The sea doesn’t belong to tyrants. On its surface they can still exercise their iniquitous claims, battle each other, devour each other, haul every earthly horror. But thirty feet below sea level, their dominion ceases, their influence fades, their power vanishes! Ah, sir, live! Live in the heart of the seas! Here alone lies independence! Here I recognize no superiors! Here I’m free!”
A memorable scene from a science-fiction classic, Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. This is the excellent F. P. Walter translation, which you can find on Project Gutenberg.
That said, I actually prefer the more succinct version of this quote from the 1954 Disney movie. James Mason’s suave, measured enunciation brings out the introspective side of Nemo here and less of the passionate (though that he demonstrates elsewhere in the film).
“Think of it. On the surface there is hunger and fear. Men still exercise unjust laws. They fight and tear one another to pieces. But a mere few feet beneath the waves their reign ceases, their evil drowns. Here, on the ocean floor, is the only independence. Here I am free!”
As Nemo proclaims his confident autonomy, we see Professor Aronnax’s reaction through the eyes of Paul Lukas, which is both awe and a sense of solemnity, maybe even uneasiness as he has seen how the captain’s words play out in his actions.
Side note – this is my favorite movie of all time! It’s no purist’s adaptation, but I love how Disney infused the themes, characters, and events into an imaginative script, which still manages stays true to the spirit of Verne’s original.
“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs, and and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generations, and leading to the most outre results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.”
I’ve always found this famous Sherlock Holmes quote to be very true. The most memorable fiction tends to be based somehow on real life – most often tragedies, but also miracles and heroisms.
In the last few years, I actually find it increasingly difficult to read fiction, just because I’ve finally experienced events and met people that make fiction pale in comparison. I hope never to stop reading novels altogether, but for better or worse, it is harder to find ones that leave an impact, when life itself is “infinitely stranger.”