“One day in early spring he had so far relaxed as to go for a walk with me in the Park, where the first faint shoots of green were breaking out upon the elms, and the sticky spear-heads of the chestnuts were just beginning to burst into their five-fold leaves. For two hours we rambled about together, in silence for the most part, as befits two men who know each other intimately.” (YELL)
Thank you everyone who joined us this month to talk about queer stuff, queer experiences, and queer happenings. We began our meeting with a talk by Ruth on the Wilde trial of 1895, as well as some historical context regarding contemporary queerness. Then we discussed why queer readings of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries are so frowned upon by mainstream Sherlockian “scholarship,” and how while the idea of a gay Holmes is nothing new, it is rarely presented in a serious fashion or allowed in serious scholarly discussion. We watched some video clips to this effect:
“I have never loved, Watson, but if I did and if the woman I loved had met such an end, I might act even as our lawless lion-hunter has done. Who knows?” – The Devil’s Foot, 1910.
“By the Lord, it is as well for you. If you had killed Watson, you would not have got out of this room alive. Now, sir, what have you to say for yourself?” – The Three Garridebs, 1925.
We then turned to the intimacy suggested by the canonical text, and the ways that closeness between Holmes and Watson is demonstrated in some adaptations. Examples included:
- “Maybe if we got married?”, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, 1970. Despite the overwhelmingly heterosexual history of Wilder’s Holmes (two cut scenes have to do with how women ‘disappointed’ him, Ilse von Hoffmanstal proves to be the third) and the famous ‘gay scene’ being played for laughs,The Private Life has this whole romantic subtext between the two friends, no matter how much Blakely’s Watson tries to deny it. Kim Newman reads him as “a cynical romantic” as opposed to gay, but disappointed by women and attracted to Watson are far from being mutually exclusive.
- “The Devil’s Foot”, Granada TV’s Sherlock Holmes, 1988. This is intense physical contact and show of emotion as post-traumatic reaction. Canonically, it is the only one of the two times Watson writes that Holmes opens up to him, “I answered with some emotion, for I have never seen so much of Holmes’ heart before”. The second occurrence happens, of course, in “The Three Garridebs”.
- “The Blue Carbuncle”, dramatised by Bert Coules for the BBC’s complete radio Sherlock Holmes, 1990. Holmes’ inability to express his feelings is shown in the impossibility of even extending an invitation to dinner. It is all the more clear in the script, which has notes such as “Holmes desperately wants him to stay”, and the notion of Holmes dropping the mask of his cold persona in order to attempt to express feelings that he otherwise represses.
We ended the meeting by talking about our own “headcanons,” ways we read the text or perceive it as “true" to us. We agreed that these readings often are often reflections of ourselves, and acknowledged that multiple headcanons or “true” readings can exist simultaneously. This article from The Toast is about the Age of Ultron movie and the Marvel Cinematic Universe fandom, but its observations apply.
Further Reading into Queer Issues in Holmes
- “A World Without Women”, In Bed with Sherlock Holmes, Chris Redmond, 1987, p126-140.
- “The Case of the Asexual Sherlock Holmes”, Christine Kotsifas, 1999.
- “Validity of Interpretation in Sherlockiana”, Miss Roylott, 1998-2000s.
- Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century, Graham Robb, 2003. ★
- Ship Manifesto: Holmes/Watson, 2004. ★
- “'The Collection Mania in Its Most Acute Form’: A Checklist of Sherlockian Pornography,” Leslie L. Klinger, The Baker Street Journal, Vol. 56, No. 4 (2006), p41–47.
- Decoding the Subtext, Nekosmuse, 2007.
- “Queerbaiting in Online Communities: Television, Fandom, and the Politics of Representation”, Kerishma Panigrahi, 2012.
- “The Real Scandal in Bohemia: Homosexuality, Victorian England, and Sherlock Holmes” Dylan D. Phillips, The Baker Street Journal, Vol. 64, No. 2 (Summer 2014), p35-42. ★
- “Sherlock Holmes Was Not Homosexual”, SherlockExtra & Revati, 2014.
- “Intimate Converse in Baker Street,” Chris Redmond, The Baker Street Journal, Vol. 64, No. 4 (Winter 2014), p6-14.
- “Sherlock co-creator: For the last time, Holmes is not gay!”, James Hibberd, Entertainment Weekly, 2015.
- “Pastiche vs Fanfiction: The Debate That Wouldn’t Die”, Amy Thomas, 2015. ★
Published Gay Fiction/Erotica (★ recommended)
- The Sexual Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Larry Townsend, 1971.
- My Dearest Holmes, Rohase Piercy, 1988. ★
- Kissing Sherlock Holmes, T. D. McKinney & Terry Wylis, 2011.
- A Study in Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes, Ed. Joseph R. G. DeMarco, 2011.
- Elementary Erotica, Ed. J. Blackmore, 2011.
- My Love Of All That Is Bizarre: The Erotic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Ed. M. Christian, 2012.
- Compound a Felony: A Queer Affair of Sherlock Holmes, Elinor Gray, 2015. ★