Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection - Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen FryAn anomaly which often struck me in the character of my friend Sherlock Holmes was that, although in his methods of thought he was the neatest and most methodical of mankind, and although also he affected a certain quiet primness of dress, he was none the less in his personal habits one of the most untidy men that ever drove a fellow-lodger to distraction.

Not that I am in the least conventional in that respect myself. The rough-and-tumble work in Afghanistan, coming on the top of a natural Bohemianism of disposition, has made me rather more lax than befits a medical man. But with me there is a limit, and when I find a man who keeps his cigars in the coal-scuttle, his tobacco in the toe end of a Persian slipper, and his unanswered correspondence transfixed by a jack-knife into the very centre of his wooden mantelpiece, then I begin to give myself virtuous airs.

I have always held, too, that pistol practice should be distinctly an open-air pastime; and when Holmes, in one of his queer humors, would sit in an arm-chair with his hair-trigger and a hundred Boxer cartridges, and proceed to adorn the opposite wall with a patriotic V. R. done in bullet-pocks, I felt strongly that neither the atmosphere nor the appearance of our room was improved by it.

Our chambers were always full of chemicals and of criminal relics which had a way of wandering into unlikely positions, and of turning up in the butter-dish or in even less desirable places.

Having read this, I am much relieved and encouraged that my own housekeeping is a little more organised than that at 221B.

The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual is a bit different from other Holmes stories – and is very different from the TV adaptation (I’m talking about the Jeremy Brett one. It’s always the Jeremy Brett one for me.)

As with the Adventure of the Gloria Scott, which was Holmes first “adventure”, this one precedes Holmes meeting Watson for the Study in Scarlett. And, unusual also, this story is told by Holmes, not Watson. So, what we get is Watson recording Holmes own speech, and as a result the narration is a little more to the point than other stories.

We also get to know Holmes a little better.

“These are the records of your early work, then?” I asked. “I have often wished that I had notes of those cases.”

“Yes, my boy, these were all done prematurely before my biographer had come to glorify me.” He lifted bundle after bundle in a tender, caressing sort of way. “They are not all successes, Watson,” said he.

As for the mystery itself, there is quite a Gothic feel to it: an old estate in the country, which has been passed through the same family for hundreds of years, a treasure hunt, and a wronged woman.

I mentioned that the TV adaptation is quite different to the original story. The plot is almost the same, but the characters – especially the relationship between Holmes and Mr. Musgrave – are quite different, which Mr. Musgrave being the source of some rather mean ridicule by Holmes. That is not really there in the story, and as a result, Holmes does not come across as an ass in the same way. I like the TV adaptation, apart from that particular aspect, and I have no idea why it was scripted like that.


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