Laurie R. King Virtual Book Club discussion

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Archived VBC Selections > Holmes Shorts - VBC March 2016

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message 1: by Erin (new)

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Welcome to our March VBC discussion! This month we're reading a few stories from the Holmes Canon to get us in the right mood and mindset for the new(!!) Russell book coming out next month (April 5th friends! Mark your calendars!).

At Laurie's suggestion, we're reading "The Gloria Scott" and "The Musgrave Ritual." Both of these were originally published as shorts in the Strand Magazine in 1894 and are now part of the collection The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Both have to do with Sherlock's life before he met Watson; his college days.

If you have not read them yet, there are numerous websites that offer digital copies of the whole canon for free in various formats (epub, mobi, pdf, etc) and they are both pretty short.

So let's get discussing! What did you think of these shorts? And had you read them previously?


message 2: by Lenore (new)

Lenore | 1079 comments Erin wrote: "Welcome to our March VBC discussion!...

If you have not read them yet, there are numerous websites that offer digital copies of the whole canon for free in various formats (epub, mobi, pdf, etc) and they are both pretty short ..."


For those who missed my post a couple of weeks ago on the Announcements thread, and who "read" with their ears instead of their eyeballs, the stories are also available as free podcasts and as free downloads from Librivox.


message 3: by Erin (new)

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Does anyone else have a hard time really picturing Holmes as a college student? I can't seem to wrap my brain around him at that age.


message 4: by Lenore (new)

Lenore | 1079 comments Oddly, no. I envision him much as he appears in A Study in Scarlet -- preoccupied with his own arcane studies, somewhat lacking in social graces, with almost no real friends -- actually, a lot like the Sherlock of the TV series.


message 5: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Lenore wrote: "Oddly, no. I envision him much as he appears in A Study in Scarlet -- preoccupied with his own arcane studies, somewhat lacking in social graces, with almost no real friends -- actually, a lot like..."

Lenore, when "Sherlock" first came on, I thought, "Now there is a perfect young Sherlock Holmes." I've always thought the stories make a lot more sense if you imagine Holmes and Watson as two fairly young guys sharing digs, rather than as the 50-somethings we often see in dramas...


message 6: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  (readr4ever) | 399 comments I've got both of these ready to read, but I also need to read over The Hound of the Baskervilles for a group that author Laura DiSilverio is doing, and I've just started a series by a new author. All this wonderful reading, and I'm a reader who likes to read only one book at a time. So glad that the two Holmes' stories here are short. I may be reading both of those this weekend. Oh, and even though I have several copies of The Hound of the Baskervilles (and have read it many times), I had to buy a new copy when I was in Barnes and Noble last week because it has an introduction by none other than Laurie R. King.


message 7: by Liz (new)

Liz (libazeth) | 18 comments Interesting. So, it's in "Gloria Scott" that Holmes is actually pointed in the detectival direction?
Hmmm, meaning that, as he is still in school, he is pursuing the studies that fascinate him, but without a clear sense of direction?
That's interesting, because Holmes has always appeared to me as one of those who chooses his life path, at least in a general sense, very early in life, as in Oliver Sacks' memoir "Uncle Tungsten".


message 8: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Liz wrote: "Interesting. So, it's in "Gloria Scott" that Holmes is actually pointed in the detectival direction?
Hmmm, meaning that, as he is still in school, he is pursuing the studies that fascinate him, but..."


Liz, well not exactly - in the story he doesn't tell us much (he's telling Watson the story), but he's still in school when he gets pulled into this "Gloria Scott" case, and I would say (rather than it points him into a life of detection) it's the first time he really "gets" that his observational abilities are beyond the norm and indeed, frightening to some people!


message 9: by Sabrina (last edited Mar 02, 2016 01:01PM) (new)

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
I'm looking forward to reading these two stories again. I have Les Klinger's Annotated Sherlock Holmes, which is full of side details, so it might take me a bit longer.

As for envisioning a young Sherlock Holmes. I've never had an issue with it, but then I also grew up watching the Young Sherlock Holmes movie (it's hard to forget Watson being attacked by murderous pastries).

I think there's so much hype surrounding his powers of observation and cold logic that readers forget he had to have been a child once. I heard or read someone (was it Laurie?) joking about him being born on a cold stormy night on the Moors by the side of a gypsy wagon while lightning struck the ground. Kind of goes with characters who have a legend like status. Hard to imagine them running around in diapers, or being awkward teenagers.


message 10: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 56 comments I have read both of these before, but enjoyed reading them again. As for thinking about a young Holmes, the story recounted in "Gloria Scott" couldn't have taken place all that long before Holmes and Watson met, going by the years mentioned in the story. The ship sank in 1855, and the father says they have lived with the secret for more than twenty years, which puts it sometime after 1875, possibly close to 1880. (I have a degree in history, so I'm always trying to figure out time lines and when exactly things take place.) So that gives some weight behind the thinking of Holmes and Watson as two relatively young men sharing a flat.

My question about the story is this - I've heard it mentioned that "The Gloria Scott" was Mrs. Hudson's introduction, but she's not actually mentioned, is she? Is the assumption that she's somehow related to the Hudson in the story, perhaps married to him? I've always been confused by that.


message 11: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Ellen wrote: "I have read both of these before, but enjoyed reading them again. As for thinking about a young Holmes, the story recounted in "Gloria Scott" couldn't have taken place all that long before Holmes a..."

Ellen, because the mysterious visitor in "The Gloria Scott" is named Hudson, some have speculated that Mrs. Hudson was his wife and that somehow she later connected with Holmes (Laurie R. King's new book, "The Murder of Mary Russell," has a different speculation on the relationship, quite intriguing). I suspect, knowing Doyle, that he just forgot he'd used the name before (perhaps the same reason that there are so many Violets in his stories!).


message 12: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Sabrina wrote: "I'm looking forward to reading these two stories again. I have Les Klinger's Annotated Sherlock Holmes, which is full of side details, so it might take me a bit longer.

As for envisioning a young ..."


Sabrina, plus there are quite a number of interesting pastiches featuring a young Sherlock Holmes. I'm rather fond of the "Young Sherlock Holmes" series by Andrew Lane. It's a YA series but one that adults can enjoy.


message 13: by Carole (new)

Carole (thegoodwitchofmarytavy) | 86 comments I'd forgotten about Klinger's annotated -- I also have Baring-Gould's. According to B-G GLOR took place in 1874; MUSG in 1879.


message 14: by LindaH (new)

LindaH | 121 comments When I read TGS a few years ago, I didn't tune into the fact that it was Holmes recalling his first detective work while he was in college. That (learned here) and Erin's initial question made me want to reread it, to see what the amazing Holmes was like at twenty. Arrogant, asocial, full of himself, but moral, just. It's interesting that it takes an injury to slow him down long enough to make a friend.


message 15: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
I'm really enjoying the reread of these stories, especially with Les Klinger's annotations. Some are just downright hilarious, and I find it highly amusing to read about Sherlockians playing the 'Great Game'.

I'm reading Gloria Scott right now, and whenever I read a story from Canon, it always leaves me scratching my head with confusion. I just do not understand why Sherlock Holmes picked up a reputation for being emotionless, cold, and arrogant.

I really feel for this younger Holmes. In two years of college, he had one friend. Not because he was too arrogant or rude, but because he had very eccentric areas of study. And it kind of alluded that maybe the other men his age were more concerned with sports.

Then he goes to Trevor's place, and his friend wants him to do his 'parlor trick' for Trevor Sr, and Holmes does, and he's sensitive enough that he's worried that he pained the man, which reminded me so much of the scene in BEEK where he suddenly realizes he's caused Russell distress. Next, he noticed that his presence was causing Trevor Sr. uneasiness, and decided to leave to save his friend embarrassment.

Arrogant people don't notice stuff like that... they think they are wanted everywhere. Holmes always comes across as highly sensitive and hyper aware to me.

Do you all agree, or disagree? What impression of a younger Holmes did Gloria Scott leave you with?


message 16: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Sabrina wrote: "I'm really enjoying the reread of these stories, especially with Les Klinger's annotations. Some are just downright hilarious, and I find it highly amusing to read about Sherlockians playing the 'G..."

I completely agree, Sabrina! I always view the "calculating machine" Holmes as having been Dr. Watson's mistaken impression of a new room-mate he barely knew, exacerbated by Holmes' own young man's "I want to be cool and above getting upset about Feelings." As the stories go on, you really begin to see the Holmes who is as intuitive as he is emotional. For instance, I've always thought that when Holmes tells us (in "The Devil's Foot") that he's never loved a woman, but if he had, he would totally have been tempted to a similar vengeance, it's pretty clear that he has a good understanding of love and passion.
And indeed, I think it's Trevor's father's reaction to his little "parlour trick" that alerts Holmes to the fact that his gift is not a common one!


message 17: by Sandy (new)

Sandy (Edumom) | 2 comments I guess I've always imagined Holmes as the type of person who cares very much, maybe too much, about people, and therefore makes a great effort to appear not to...giving the impression that he is the opposite of who he really is in that way.


message 18: by LindaH (new)

LindaH | 121 comments Re: hints of Holmes' arrogance in Canon Doyle's story of Holmes as college student---

I admit there's not much in "The Gloria Scott" to suggest arrogance, a trait the iconic detective is known for, but I think you can tease it out of a few lines, if not by reading between them. For what it's worth, here are a few phrases that jump out at me:

"He evidently thought his son was exaggerating [about me]... not "must have thought" but EVIDENTLY. He is telling Watson that the father didn't appreciate how brilliant he is.

"...descriptions of one or two trivial feats of mine." TRIVIAL. He is saying that the Trevors have no idea how profound his methods can be.

"I fear there is not very much [I can deduce].. " After feigning modesty, NOT VERY MUCH, student Holmes suggests to Trevor Sr. where he's been, what he has done, who he wants to forget, and why he's fearful. I read this as a gotcha.

"...I was confident I could pluck it [secret message] out." PLUCK IT OUT does sound a bit grand to me.

I'm not thinking of the kind of arrogance shown by a man in his fifties, but of the student-variety typical of Oxford students in the class society of the Victorian era.


message 19: by Sandy (new)

Sandy (Edumom) | 2 comments Personally, I believe Mrs Hudson to be a woman of such good sense she never would have taken up with a churlish seaman like this Hudson. I'd have to think that either a) Conan Doyle forgot he'd used the name or b) this name is common enough that there would be any number of unrelated people walking about using the name.


message 20: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "Re: hints of Holmes' arrogance in Canon Doyle's story of Holmes as college student---

I admit there's not much in "The Gloria Scott" to suggest arrogance, a trait the iconic detective is known for..."


Linda, indeed, even today there is a reason that the term "sophomoric" is still in use....


message 21: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Sandy wrote: "Personally, I believe Mrs Hudson to be a woman of such good sense she never would have taken up with a churlish seaman like this Hudson. I'd have to think that either a) Conan Doyle forgot he'd use..."

I always thought it was far-fetched myself, unless Mrs. Hudson was a very naive woman who had no idea what her husband was up to - and that's highly unlikely, given what we know about Mrs. Hudson!


message 22: by MaryL (new)

MaryL (maryl1) | 234 comments Maybe he's her husband's brother? The "one every family has" who gets shipped out before he disgraces the rest of an upstanding family?


message 23: by William (new)

William Mosteller | 29 comments Merrily wrote: "Sandy wrote: "Personally, I believe Mrs Hudson to be a woman of such good sense she never would have taken up with a churlish seaman like this Hudson. I'd have to think that either a) Conan Doyle f..."

I'm reminded of the discussion between Mrs. Hudson and Watson(?) in BBC Sherlock about how Holmes made sure her husband went to prison.


message 24: by Eleanor (new)

Eleanor Kuhns (goodreadscomeleanor_kuhns) | 28 comments I agree with the comment about Holmes's arrogance. I always thought he was shy and people misread that shyness as arrogance. I think he knows he is different, odd maybe, and leans on his piercing intelligence as something he is good at.
Enjoyed reading these shorts. Gloria Scott was new to me.


message 25: by Laurie (new)

Laurie (laurierking) | 166 comments Mod
So what did you think of the Gloria Scott case itself? Was it really a case, and if so, did Holmes solve anything?


message 26: by Lenore (new)

Lenore | 1079 comments Laurie wrote: "So what did you think of the Gloria Scott case itself? Was it really a case, and if so, did Holmes solve anything?"

I think we must consider it as a case, because Holmes is asked by Trevor to return for "advice and assistance." And Holmes does solve something, although I grant you that it was pretty trivial: He is able to explain why the weird note was the very last straw that did in Trevor's father. While the papers in the Japanese cabinet revealed the reason for it all, and thus it might have been assumed that the weird note had a connection with the papers that precipitated the fatal stroke, Holmes is able to show that it was the prospect of imminent discovery that so frightened Trevor's father.

Because Holmes's efforts here are so very slight, the great value of this story -- which I really liked -- is what others have commented on above, the insights into Holmes's nature and the path to his vocation as a consulting detective. Holmes's description of why Trevor was his only friend demonstrates Holmes's social awkwardness (rather than arrogance) -- he does not know how to form associations with those who appear to have nothing in common with him, although the fact that they were all in the same college and must have had meals and at least some lectures in common should have provided him with an entryway to at least casual friendship. Similarly, Holmes's feeling that he must leave the Trevor estate because of the "uneasiness" he was causing the senior Trevor demonstrates that he actually is sensitive to and concerned with the feelings of others.

Finally, it's sort of charming to learn that the senior Trevor, that old (if reformed) reprobate, is the one who literally sets Holmes on his life's path: "[I]t seems to me that all the detectives of fact and of fancy would be children in your hands. That’s your line of life, sir, and you may take the word of a man who has seen something of the world."


message 27: by LindaH (new)

LindaH | 121 comments Interesting question, Laurie!

Holmes' first case has him reading people and ciphers, But what is the case? Who caused Trevor Sr to die? Or, what does the weird note mean?

Or, as long as we're talking about the several mysteries in the story, how about, What happened to the Gloria Scott?

As to the latter, I had to go back to see, but even the old man's letter leaves the actual event (who blew up the ship?) in doubt.

As to the first question, Who killed Trevor Sr.?, Holmes does figure that out...the blackmailer Hudson who triggers the sending of the message by Beddoes...but it's still an unresolved mystery since both Beddoes and Hudson disappear.


message 28: by Eleanor (new)

Eleanor Kuhns (goodreadscomeleanor_kuhns) | 28 comments Yes, I found the whodunit part of the story thin, at best. But I enjoyed seeing Holmes as a young man who was still discovering his talent.
I did not pick up the connection with Mrs. Hudson though! And would really have married such an obvious brute?


message 29: by Laurie (new)

Laurie (laurierking) | 166 comments Mod
Anyone else notice the lack of half the human race in these stories? Indeed, in most of the Conan Doyle stories?
Except as victim, of course...


message 30: by Teddy (new)

Teddy Troyer | 3 comments Oh, to be sure. In fact, I've always thought the importance of "A Scandal in Bohemia" is not Irene herself, nor anything approaching love, but rather Holmes, early in his career, learning the hard way that women are not to be underestimated. But that's another discussion. Since both MUSG and GLOR are set pre-Watson, we encounter a young Holmes, still in or fresh out of university, and no matter which school he attended, there would have been few, if any, female students. Most likely all the women he's met before are of the domestic sort, the "angel of the house."

(To answer a previous question, MUSG was the first SH story I read, and it was uni-age Holmes with whom I first fell in love. I've been working on a book or comic series on and off, as while there are several books with a child or teenage Holmes there has come to my attention only one with him in his early twenties. By incorporating my own life as it currently stands, being 21, I've developed a great impression of a character rather like myself, prone to hanging out in one's own rooms, moodiness, sophomoristic tendencies, and small experiments and shenanigans which tend to end badly.)


message 31: by Liz (new)

Liz (libazeth) | 18 comments Yes, the women feature much more prominently in the Strand illustrations, predominantly as willowy, half-fainting victims, or in fits of childish indignation, collapsing quickly upon challenge, or as dim-witted but beautiful wives of diplomats.

It's why Mary Morstan is so important.

There are a couple of other women who actually pursue non-domestic employment, but they are not treated well; at least the near-sighted lady who "oscillated upon the pavement", Miss Mary Sutherland, is used as comic relief.


message 32: by Teddy (new)

Teddy Troyer | 3 comments Liz wrote: "Yes, the women feature much more prominently in the Strand illustrations, predominantly as willowy, half-fainting victims, or in fits of childish indignation, collapsing quickly upon challenge, or ..."

Oh, yes, the illustrations! Women always seems so "fluffy" in them. Pretty, but fluffy.


message 33: by Lenore (new)

Lenore | 1079 comments Laurie wrote: "Anyone else notice the lack of half the human race in these stories? Indeed, in most of the Conan Doyle stories?
Except as victim, of course..."


I wonder if this wasn't a reflection of Conan Doyle's own Victorianism. "Proper" women weren't supposed to do much other than be at home, were they?


message 34: by Antoinette (new)

Antoinette | 186 comments Liz wrote: "Yes, the women feature much more prominently in the Strand illustrations, predominantly as willowy, half-fainting victims, or in fits of childish indignation, collapsing quickly upon challenge, or ..."

My Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes just arrived and it has all 187 original Strand illustrations. Thank you for letting me know about the prominence of women. I will look for them.


message 35: by Laurie (new)

Laurie (laurierking) | 166 comments Mod
…and when it comes to illustrations, you know who isn't there? Mrs Hudson.


message 36: by Erin (new)

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
I just started a reread of BEEK (in audio! it's kind of awesome; I'm kicking myself for having not been interested in giving it a try before now) and there is a mention that the "Gloria Scott" case was where we first meet Mrs. Hudson. But do we really meet Mrs. Hudson in this story or are we just introduced to the name "Hudson" in this story?

I feel like I did not give my full attention to these shorts and I'm going to have to read them again this month, LOL


message 37: by Lenore (new)

Lenore | 1079 comments Erin wrote: "I just started a reread of BEEK (in audio! ... and there is a mention that the "Gloria Scott" case was where we first meet Mrs. Hudson. But do we really meet Mrs. Hudson in this story or are we just introduced to the name "Hudson" in this story?"

No, we don't meet her in GLOR; we are just introduced to the name. But BEEK does not assert that Holmes met Mrs. Hudson at that time, only that meeting her was related to those events:
Even Mrs. Hudson had originally come into his purview through a murder case (that written up by written up by Dr. Watson as “Gloria Scott”).
Based on the excerpt (on LRK's website) of The Murder of Mary Russell, the connection is about to become more explicit.

(And on the most tangentially related of subjects: What is going to be the traditional 4-letter abbreviation for the latest book? MURD?)


message 38: by MaryL (new)

MaryL (maryl1) | 234 comments OK, so if the Gloria Scott case is more Holmes recalling his youthful intro to the possibility of making money out of his talents and interests, then is The Musgrave Ritual is almost a tutorial for Watson on how to reason through a-admit it-transparent case? There really isn't anything in it that wasn't telegraphed in caps and underlines...

Margery Allingham took the same plot and did a much better job in "Sweet Danger"


message 39: by Liz (new)

Liz (libazeth) | 18 comments Margery Allingham! Haven't read much of hers, as she's harder to find. Thanks for the hint; I'll see if she's made it to e-book (doubtful).


message 40: by Liz (new)

Liz (libazeth) | 18 comments …and when it comes to illustrations, Mrs. Hudson…
Yes! Nor Baskerville's housekeeper, Mrs. Barrymore.
Not young and pretty and upperclass enough.


message 41: by Diana (new)

Diana Gagliardi (zombie_librarian) | 3 comments The Musgrave Ritual- the only story that ever made me want to learn Trig.


message 42: by Erin (new)

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Lenore wrote: " Even Mrs. Hudson had originally come into his purview through a murder case (that written up by written up by Dr. Watson as “Gloria Scott”).

Based on the excerpt (on LRK's website) of The Murder of Mary Russell, the connection is about to become more explicit.."


Thanks for finding that quote, Lenore! Now I really want to know if Laurie has had Mrs. Hudson's back story simmering in the back of her brain since the beginning!!


message 43: by Antoinette (new)

Antoinette | 186 comments I enjoyed reading the Holmes short stories. I had never taken the time to do so before.


message 44: by Laurie (new)

Laurie (laurierking) | 166 comments Mod
I've posted today about my take on a young Sherlock Holmes (http://www.laurierking.com/a-young-mr...), which makes me wonder: is there much difference between the Holmes of these two very early stories and the Holmes after, say, Reichenbach? These two were not WRITTEN early, which makes a lot of difference, but do you think Conan Doyle writes the same character throughout?


message 45: by Laurie (new)

Laurie (laurierking) | 166 comments Mod
One of the things I thought about a lot, in writing the book, was how final a sailing trip must have felt. Now a days, you go to Australia, it's far away but there's always phone and letters and the possibility of travel. But in the mid-19th century, someone who got on a ship for Australia was GONE. It would be the better part of year before you learned that the ship didn't sink, or disease hadn't sprung up on board. Letters must have been so incredibly precious.


message 46: by Erin (new)

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
I wonder how often ships to Australia left from the UK? And back? Like if you wrote frequently, could your recipient receive letters on the regular?

Whenever I read about people getting letters from someone, they get a packet of letters. Like their loved-one had been writing once a week, but there was maybe only a boat once a month or ever few months. I wonder if that would make me more or less interested in writing.


message 47: by Erin (new)

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Laurie wrote: "but do you think Conan Doyle writes the same character throughout? "

I have to admit that I've never been interested enough in the canon to read through everything thoroughly enough to make an opinion here.


message 48: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Erin wrote: I wonder if that would make me more or less interested in writing.

I always remember that scene in Pride and Prejudice BBC (now I have to watch it again) where Elizabeth finally received a packet of letters and each letter had more terrible news about her sister. It seems like, when bad news was involved, that it'd leave one with a feeling of utter helplessness.

I read Sailing Alone around the World and there was a chapter in it about how sailors used to leave bags of mail in caves for other sailors to pick up. This was before an organized post. So each ship that went by a cave or port, would sift through the bags and see if the bag needed to be delivered to its next port. Kind of like a 'mail hitch-hiking' arrangement. The author said that there was a certain romanticism and thrill in wondering if your letter would ever reach its destination.


message 49: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Laurie wrote: but do you think Conan Doyle writes the same character throughout?

It's kind of hard to tell for me because there's not really a lot of character detail in the stories. I mean there is... but there's so much unsaid/unexplained with Holmes that I think the stories leave it wide open for readers to paint their own mental picture of him.

So when Holmes says that emotion is like grit in the machine and then goes on to wax poetry about a rose in another story. Was he high on cocaine in one scene, had his viewpoint on life changed, was he just trying to ruffle Watson's feathers? There's so much unsaid in the stories for me that it leaves him wide open for interpretation. I do think that the later stories give off a more world-weary vibe though.


message 50: by William (new)

William Mosteller | 29 comments Laurie wrote: "I've posted today about my take on a young Sherlock Holmes (http://www.laurierking.com/a-young-mr...), which makes me wonder: is there much difference between the Holmes of these two very ..."

In one of C. S. Forester's Hornblower books war between England and Spain is ending, and the treaty specifies staggered ends to hostilities depending on location, one date for the Atlantic Ocean, a second for the Pacific Ocean. Very different times.


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