Every detective can deduce even before he hears a knock at door of his rooms, that the bulk of those who come beseeching him are burdened with mundane lives and dull everyday problems. However illustrious he may be, the people that arrive at his door seem almost to taunt him with their trivial domestic quandaries. But they no not think they will be refused as they arrive in desperation, wrapped up in their own domestic problems.
After all. their desperation is real, but an infidelity or a minor blackmail can hardly compete with a German spy-ring permeating London society or the fiendish criminal brilliance of a Professor Moriarty The cold logic of a fine forensic mind is of little use to these sad predictable individuals. When the detective in question at the very top of his profession, lauded by the good and feared by the bad then it is little wonder that they are brusquely sent away. The rudeness and abruptness of their dismissal, an ugly reflection on the character of this selfish obsessional genius, an arrogance that is only heightened by years of opiate addiction
Perhaps it is for the best. After all, how can a man who has never loved, never felt fustrations and hardships of life hope to solve the problems of a distraught wife of an alcoholic husband whose worries about the blank hours in his life, afraid that his absences are not infidelities? Or the timid lawyer who fears his partner is embezzling from thier clients, but dare not confront him for fear of ruining a twenty year friendship?
Those that were turned away were always suprised to called back as they descended the stairs of 221b, by the taciturn doctor.
Human, All too Human
Very often he was able to solve their problems there and then. Catching a point that his friend had missed Other times, he took it upon himself to clear up the case, giving the pretence that it would be the great Sherlock Holmes himself who would be looking after them, to spare the vanity of all parties. And in reality, the matter would be resolved after the good doctor had had quiet diplomatic words with the aggreived wife and errant husband. Or the depressed middle-aged man going nowhere professionally and teetering on the brink of criminality.
The good natured bumbling general practitioner spends his professional life solving the ailments of ordinary people, his detective work is no more than an extension of this medical work into the field of human nature. His talent lay not in identify dozens of types of mud or cigar ash. He sought the motivations of everyman, he listened to the emotion in peoples voices, not the source of thier accent.
All too often, he had even greater success and persuaded people to solve their own problems. The ulimate in ego-free detective work.
Remember that Dr. Watson wrote up the casebooks of "Sherlock's" more notable successes and his natural modesty and self-censorship prevent him from sharing his own legacy.
Tuesday, 7th July 1998