Canon Thursday: Out of Character, My Dear Holmes


Canon Thursday usually plumbs the depths of what makes Holmes Holmes. We’ve discussed the most quintessential moments of Holmes and Watson, the best examples of stories and novels, and the greatest quotes.

This week, I want to know if you think Holmes ever does anything genuinely out of character in the canon. Of course, this question is irrelevant if you always play The Game (individuals who choose to treat Holmes as real). Sometimes I play The Game, but not always. I also like to look at the stories as literary works, and this is one of those times. If the canon is a group of literary works, then idea of in-characterness is one of internal authorial consistency. 

My answer to the question, rather than being a particular instance in the canon, is the whole idea of Holmes being the writer of any of his own stories (“Blanched Soldier” and “Lion’s Mane”). In my personal opinion, it’s quite silly to have Holmes grouse for years about Watson writing his cases down and show nearly zero interest in having a written record of them, only to turn around and go for it himself. I think I can sort of understand the appeal for Conan Doyle, who probably really wanted to try something new, but it just doesn’t work for me. Even if the stories are perfectly Holmes’s in voice (arguably not entirely true, in my view), the very idea that the detective wrote them doesn’t work for me.

The way I get around this, if I want to go full circle and back to playing The Game, is to assume that Watson wrote the stories and acted as if Holmes did. I also enjoy the way Laurie R. King dealt with the issue in her Mary Russell pastiche series, which was to have Holmes furious because the publisher of the stories had acted as if he’d written them when he hadn’t (which, for me, is a far more in-character response than genuinely writing them himself).

What do you think? Am I off-base? What is your pick for an out-of-character moment, or would you argue that Holmes is a totally consistent character? Let me know in the comments

1 thought on “Canon Thursday: Out of Character, My Dear Holmes

  1. Staying at the home of Mrs St Claire in the Man With The Twisted Lip has always seemed out of character to me. He didn’t need to be there, she wasn’t in danger, it wasn’t the scene of the crime. The ‘crime’ actually happened in central London so what was he doing staying in Lee, Kent?

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