Table of contents

Sherlock I.1

Sherlock Holmes in democratic times

We see a peculiar Sherlock Holmes, a far stranger man today than we might expect. Policemen cannot like him: They are authorized by the laws, which they enforce, but not so rendered especially competent. His excellence shames them, which they resent & envy. But it also shames the laws, which are jealous, like God. But this would not be enough to ruin Holmes, because modernity is liberal & liberalism defends eccentrics, or tolerates them.

But the world just now is far more scientific; liberalism has become almost fully democratic. Now, policemen call Holmes a psychopath. His witty retort: He is a functioning sociopath. The pride of Britain & mankind, no doubt. Democrats are far more aware than liberals of the similarity between criminals & great men. All are potential tyrants. Holmes does little to abase himself before the people or their representatives, & so adds hatred to the suspicion he naturally engenders.

Holmes has the scientist’s imprudence: This is strangest of all in the doing of justice – at least there a man should ask himself whether he does good or the opposite! Holmes seems to think he lives because he is necessary: Mankind would avoid him, or kill him, but they need him to solve crimes. The immortal stupidity of man is the playground or shelter of the wise, apparently.

Liberalism saved Holmes. Liberalism means enlightenment: Teaching men to mind their business successfully. Replacing religion by science. People love comfort more than justice, & so will tolerate a man of justice like Holmes, even though he so arrogantly shows off his superiority, thus reminding them that the equality of man is not always obvious. One day, he learns of a criminal who is called more than a man: He asks, an institution?

Holmes is insane only in the sense in which everyone who is not a democrat is insane. The peaceful private life does not look defensible under scrutiny. So democrats do not want it scrutinized. But Holmes is always humiliating democrats, not because he does justice, but because he points out the origins of crime in the private life. Holmes is no psychopath, but loves to study psychopaths. What is more private than psychopathy? What more natural than aberrations?

We see a fight in Holmes – does he want to learn the truth or to do justice? Each involves chance, but in different ways. How much is he a hunter, how much a punisher? Needless to say, the great mercy of Holmes is shown us from the beginning: He insured a woman who’s husband was executed & saved a man from jail for murder by proving him a thief. Compared to terrifying necessity, Holmes is a lovely mover.

The best show about Sherlock Holmes, now young, though no more beautiful than previously.