Holmes vs. Watson, Show vs. Tell:
Both Work Quite Well
you read a Sherlock Holmes story, be it an original or pastiche, or watch a
Holmes film, chances are you, like me, anticipate those brilliant deductive observations that Dr. Watson in the
new BBC series refers to as Holmes “showing off.” Here’s one of my favorites
from Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia. Dr.
Watson, now married, pays Holmes a long overdue visit after finding himself on
Baker Street on his way home. Before Watson would catch up his friend on what
had happened since their last meeting, Holmes, by observing the obvious,
commences to tell Dr. Watson what he’d been doing.
“As to your practice, if a gentleman walks into my rooms smelling of
iodoform, with a black mark of nitrate of silver upon his
right forefinger, and a bulge on the right side of his top-hat to show where he
has secreted his stethoscope, I must be dull indeed, if I do not pronounce him
to be an active member of the medical profession.”
what about Watson’s observations? He deduces nothing, draws no conclusions.
Instead he simply paints a vivid picture of characters who show up at 221B
Baker Street, like Mary Morstan in The
Sign of Four.
“Miss Morstan entered the room with a firm step and an outward composure
of manner. She was a blonde young lady, small, dainty, well gloved (love that term), and dressed in
the most perfect taste. There was, however, a plainness and simplicity about
her costume which bore with it a suggestion of limited means. The dress was a
somber grayish beige, untrimmed and unbraided, and she wore a small turban of
the same dull hue, relieved only by a suspicion of white feather in the side.
Her face had neither regularity of feature nor beauty of complexion, but her
expression was sweet and amiable, and her large blue eyes were singularly
spiritual and sympathetic. In an experience of women which extends over many
nations and three separate continents, I have never looked upon a face which
gave a clearer promise of a refined and sensitive manner.”
somber, dull, and lacking in beauty; who was Dr. Watson kidding? The man was
smitten and later married the woman, but that’s another story.
The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book has been updated and is now available through LL-Publications. If you enjoy mystery trivia, check out my other two mystery-trivia books The Agatha Christie and Quiz Book and The Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book, also updated and just out.
There's still time to enter the book giveaway by simply leaving a comment on this or any of my blogs between May 1 and June 1. Three names will be drawn and three books, one of each, will be given away.