RARA-AVIS: Re: Holmes

From: marianne.macdonald@lineone.net
Date: 02 May 2002

>As regards Holmes, didn't one of the stories end with the line: "And I have
>my cocaine."?
In 19th century Britain, what are nowadays hard and illegal drugs were acceptable medicines. They were NOT illegal. Queen Victoria was prescribed laudanum, which contains cocaine. Cocaine is a pain-killer; when Holmes took refuge in cocaine, it was against his pain, probably psychological rather than physical, though I'm not entirely sure about this point. The reverberations are different, and you have to be careful about what you read into the situation.

Holmes was a PI - not a policeman, not an amateur. He used cocaine as Scudder (and many others) use alcohol, no less and I think no more. He has connections in the highest society and in the lowest (the Baker Street Irregulars, second-level criminals). He speaks what is called
"received" English, nicely pronounced, literary. Polite. He could be sharp and blunt in his speech; he was polite to women. He had high, idiosyncratic moral standards which were personal and which he would not compromise.

There is a lot about Holmes which, if you are well read in the turn-of-the-century novel, seems to echo modern hb stuff. He is NOT cosy. But the judgement that you make about him needs to be balanced and conditional; he is really a 19th century figure, not even 20th century. He doesn't quite fit, and sweeping judgements will almost inevitably miss the mark.


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