Monday, February 2, 2009

Foggy days

I have been reading again, as one does in times of
economic insecurity, the stories of Sherlock Holmes
and Dr Watson. From these immortal tales of foggy
days in London town and dark doings in country
houses one obtains a completely unfounded but
nonetheless immensely comforting sense of life as
something stable and verifiable, as predictable and
reliable as the trains timetabled in Bradshaw. What
though the plots seem ever more creaky, each time
we come to them? For ‘The Speckled Band’ one can
forgives Conan Doyle every absurd deduction and
improbable supposition. This time round, reading
The Adventures for the fifth or sixth time, I couldn’t
help but notice the frequency with which Sir Arthur
referred to ‘a woman’s instinct’ or sometimes 'a
woman's quick instinct'—an elusive substance that
even Holmes himself lacked, but one that clearly set
the female of the species apart, in those late
Victorian days. Women, it seems, lacked the power
to reason as men did; logic was beyond them; but,
besides the supreme qualities of being decorative,
submissive and devoted to the males in their lives,
they did have this instinct thing going for them. By
some weird magic, incredible as it may seem, they
knew stuff before men did! I may be wrong but I
think this was Conan Doyle’s way of crediting them
with some intelligence. Thus the dawn of feminism
at 221b Baker St.

1 comment:

Will de Cleene said...

I've been getting a slightly creaky feeling from reading GK Chesterton's Father Brown stories. Eloquent but quaint, with a faint hint of Catholic superiority when it comes to the "curse of atheism".