Here at the Cambridge Editors WordPress blog, we’ve decided to devote the month of February to some romantical-like writings, because let’s face it, there’s no getting away from Valentine’s Day. It haunts unattached individuals like a far more effective Canterville Ghost. If you’ve been to Dunkin lately, then you’ll have noticed even the donuts have gone all heart-shaped.
As a single lady, this isn’t my favorite time of year. I know it’s a “Hallmark holiday,” and therefor shouldn’t carry much weight, since you should appreciate your significant other every day of the year, much like you should appreciate your parents all the time, not just Father’s and Mother’s Day. But still, it’s harder to ignore not having a loved one when romance is in the air like tacky perfume spritzed by those retail store employees that can’t take no for an answer.
Thinking about it though, I realized that I have many loved ones. No, not like that; I’m just blessed with many wonderful friends, which hasn’t necessarily been true throughout my life. I was a weird kid, one of the types with big owl glasses and wolf t-shirts, who stayed in during recess to draw. Middle and high school weren’t much easier, and I didn’t really find myself with a solid group of friends until college. And with all the romantic love floating around, I think it’s important to remember the quieter love of the friend who stays up drinking wine with you after a bad day, even though they have work in the morning. The love of a friend who you can laugh so hard with you both start to cry. The love of a friend who will sit in silence with you after your dog is put to sleep, or you find out your dad is sick again. Those are the kind of friends I’ve found in the last three years, and I wouldn’t trade them for a million Jude Laws with 12 million red roses.
But to bring things back to literature, one of my favorite literary friendships by far is that of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson. Our favorite consulting detective and his loyal companion have been enjoying a resurgence in popularity recently, with the recent blockbusters starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law (double sigh) and the BBC series Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (more gratuitous sighs). Sherlock Holmes is one of the most depicted characters in cinema and TV, as well as the stage, and fans of the original canon may enjoy debating the merits of one actor or another, but I’m mostly just glad to see some interpretations of Dr. Watson that don’t involve him being a bumbling idiot as when portrayed by Nigel Bruce in the 30’s and 40’s.
The reason why this is the crux for my enjoyment of Holmes’ adaptations is because for me, the Sherlock Holmes stories aren’t about Holmes’ nearly supernatural deductive skills, or his trademark unusual behavior. It’s because I think the real story of Sherlock Holmes is that of him and John Watson, and Arthur Conan Doyle’s depiction of one of the greatest friendships in literary history. And for the spirit of that relationship to be portrayed accurately (again, this is just the significance I’ve found), Watson needs to be Holmes’ equal, at least in different areas than intellect (since it’s obvious that in smarts, Holmes can only be equaled by Moriarty or “The Woman.” This nerdy enough for you yet?). And Watson is Holmes’ equal, or even more in some areas; his general knowledge is much wider than Holmes’, he’s a trained Army doctor, a heckuva shot, and he’s also more emotionally adept to be sure.
Now, some people want Holmes and Watson to be… more than friends, which is something I hold no issue with and is frequently joked about in the BBC series. It’s undeniable though that there’s no evidence in the original canon to point to a romantic relationship between the two, and that’s just fine by me because I find their relationship fascinating as is. As best friends they are a perfect balance and operate in such a way together that they could not alone. Holmes, as a rather socially stunted man, must have been incredibly lonely before Watson came along, and Watson was an injured soldier with no cause left to serve. While Watson does serve as an excellent literary device, allowing Holmes to spell out his deductions and express the reader’s wonder at his conclusions, he also serves to tie Holmes to the real world with real interactions, something I think Conan Doyle became more aware of as he wrote the duo over the years.
In the earlier stories, Watson sometimes seemed a little too awed by Holmes, a little too humble for their friendship to be one of equals; and Holmes seems as disappointed by Watson’s lack of intelligence as he is by everyone else’s. But as I wrap up this long, nerdy, sentimental rant, I would point you to one, classic moment, in “The Adventure of the Three Garridebs,” after the villain is caught by our heroes:
“Well, well!” said he coolly as he scrambled to the surface. “I guess you have been one too many for me, Mr. Holmes. Saw through my game, I suppose, and played me for a sucker from the first. Well, sir, I hand it to you; you have me beat and –”
In an instant he had whisked out a revolver from his breast and had fired two shots. I felt a sudden hot sear as if a red-hot iron had been pressed to my thigh. There was a crash as Holmes’s pistol came down on the man’s head. I had a vision of him sprawling upon the floor with blood running down his face while Holmes rummaged him for weapons. Then my friend’s wiry arms were round me, and he was leading me to a chair.
“You’re not hurt, Watson? For God’s sake, say that you are not hurt!”
It was worth a wound — it was worth many wounds — to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain.
So in the month of February, a time of romantic love and flowers and chocolates, I ask you to remember the friends you hold dear and where you might be without them. For without his Boswell, Sherlock Holmes may have never been the icon Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created, and we would all be poorer for it. Just as we would all surely be poorer without our friends.
From Cambridge Editors,
Katie (third from the right, with some of the best friends a girl could wish for.)