Archive for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A Reminiscence of Cricket

Posted in Cricket, Literature, Poetry with tags , , , , on August 19, 2019 by telescoper

W.G. Grace, photographed in 1902

Not a lot of people know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was a keen amateur cricketer who played ten first-class matches (for the MCC). He was an occasional bowler who only took one wicket in a first-class game, that of W.G. Grace, which was such a momentous event for him that he wrote this poem about it:

Once in my heyday of cricket,
One day I shall ever recall!
I captured that glorious wicket,
The greatest, the grandest of all.

Before me he stands like a vision,
Bearded and burly and brown,
A smile of good humoured derision
As he waits for the first to come down.

A statue from Thebes or from Knossos,
A Hercules shrouded in white,
Assyrian bull-like colossus,
He stands in his might.

With the beard of a Goth or a Vandal,
His bat hanging ready and free,
His great hairy hands on the handle,
And his menacing eyes upon me.

And I – I had tricks for the rabbits,
The feeble of mind or eye,
I could see all the duffer’s bad habits
And where his ruin might lie.

The capture of such might elate one,
But it seemed like one horrible jest
That I should serve tosh to the great one,
Who had broken the hearts of the best.

Well, here goes! Good Lord, what a rotter!
Such a sitter as never was dreamt;
It was clay in the hands of the potter,
But he tapped it with quiet contempt.

The second was better – a leetle;
It was low, but was nearly long-hop;
As the housemaid comes down on the beetle
So down came the bat with a chop.

He was sizing me up with some wonder,
My broken-kneed action and ways;
I could see the grim menace from under
The striped peak that shaded his gaze.

The third was a gift or it looked it-
A foot off the wicket or so;
His huge figure swooped as he hooked it,
His great body swung to the blow.

Still when my dreams are night-marish,
I picture that terrible smite,
It was meant for a neighboring parish,
Or any place out of sight.

But – yes, there’s a but to the story –
The blade swished a trifle too low;
Oh wonder, and vision of glory!
It was up like a shaft from a bow.

Up, up like a towering game bird,
Up, up to a speck in the blue,
And then coming down like the same bird,
Dead straight on the line that it flew.

Good Lord, it was mine! Such a soarer
Would call for a safe pair of hands;
None safer than Derbyshire Storer,
And there, face uplifted, he stands

Wicket keep Storer, the knowing,
Wary and steady of nerve,
Watching it falling and growing
Marking the pace and curve.

I stood with my two eyes fixed on it,
Paralysed, helpless, inert;
There was ‘plunk’ as the gloves shut upon it,
And he cuddled it up to his shirt.

Out – beyond question or wrangle!
Homeward he lurched to his lunch!
His bat was tucked up at an angle,
His great shoulders curved to a hunch.

Walking he rumbled and grumbled,
Scolding himself and not me;
One glove was off, and he fumbled,
Twisting the other hand free

Did I give Storer the credit
The thanks he so splendidly earned?
It was mere empty talk if I said it,
For Grace had already returned.

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930).



Holmes for the Bewildered

Posted in Literature, Television with tags , , , , on January 9, 2012 by telescoper

Being back to work full-time, now that the new teaching term has started, I find myself in a position to do quick lunchtime blog post while I eat my sandwich. I was going to blog about this topic last week, but thought I’d wait a week in case anything happened to change my negative opinion on this issue. I’m aware that I’m in a small minority and didn’t want to expose myself to public disapproval without due care and attention. Well, last night my opinion certainly changed, only it got even more negative. So now I’m going to take a deep breath, gird my loins, and state for the record my honestly-held opinion that the new BBC TV Series Sherlock is complete and utter tripe.

It’s not that I object to the idea of  placing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s great stories in a contemporary setting. Not at all. Sherlock Holmes is one of the most memorable creations in all of fiction and the plots – at least most of them – are so well constructed that the stories should be translatable into a contemporary setting quite easily. There have been so many “traditional” versions of  Sherlock Holmes that I welcome the attempt to do something different with the character.

Neither is it that I object to Sherlock Holmes being played for laughs. The character does indeed possess a great deal of comic potential, which  a number of other interpretations have exploited with a greater or lesser degree of success.

What has happened in this series, however, is that the original plots have been butchered to the point where they make no sense at all. Instead we just have a series of thinly related comedy sketches, with only feeble attempts to link them to a viable mystery story, like a duff combination of the worst bits of Jonathan Creek and The Fast Show.

Last night’s puerile Hound of the Baskervilles was especially dire in this respect. The original story – a full-length novel rather than a short story – is a genuinely intriguing mystery-thriller, laced with undertones of the supernatural, and full of memorable characters, including of course the fearsome Hound itself.

For reasons best known to themselves Forced to squeeze it into one hour, the producers of last night’s version of this classic tale abandoned most of the original plot and introduced a load of silly nonsense about werewolves and hallucinogenic fog and the CIA. The Holmes-Watson double-act was quite amusing – and some of the dialogue very witty – but the plot was so thin it just reminded me of Abbott and Costello meet the Wolfman and other such films I watched when I was a kid. I thought the first episode –  A Scandal in Belgravia – was bad enough, but last night’s episode was truly excruciating. I won’t be watching any more.

It’s a mystery to me why so many people seem to think this tosh is so good, but then I’m used to being in a minority of one. Perhaps if you watch a lot of TV your expectations are lowered so much by the constant stream of drivel that anything that even tries to be original – which Sherlock admittedly does – sends you into raptures?

No, dear critics, I don’t think Sherlock is “great TV” at all. In fact I think it’s dreadful.

There. I’ve said it.