On Sherlock Holmes's Schooling

The first paragraph of the Sherlock Holmes’s essay:

“[D]uring the whole of his recorded conversations with Watson, Holmes never mentioned his school-days. As Watson talked freely to Holmes of his own life at school…, the proper inference is that Holmes had no schooldays reciprocally to discuss, which I think is the truth of the matter.” So wrote noted Sherlockian Trevor Hall in “A Note on Sherlock Holmes’s Schooling,” part of his 1969 essay collection Sherlock Holmes: Ten Literary Studies. Though Watson writes nowhere in the Sacred Writings of Holmes’s schooling, we cannot draw the inference, as Hall does, that Holmes never spoke of his schooling. Watson first wrote of Mycroft Holmes in “The Greek Interpreter,” for instance, only when Mycroft had a direct bearing upon Holmes’s work. Indeed, from an reader’s standpoint prior to “The Greek Interpreter” Holmes may as well have been an only child yet, the dialogue in the story notwithstanding, Watson may have been well aware of Mycroft early in the partnership, just as The Valley of Fear indicates that Watson knew of Professor Moriarty long before Watson’s readers learned of the Professor in “The Final Problem.” Watson was not so much the biographer of Holmes as he was the chronicler of Holmes, and Watson’s duty as a chronicler was to the needs of drama and not those of history. The proper inference, to borrow Trevor Hall’s phrase, is not that Holmes had no schooldays to discuss but that Watson had no dramatic reason to reveal his knowledge of Holmes’s scholastic career.

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