Saturday, July 18, 2020

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes


Opening Passage: From "A Scandal in Bohemia", which opens The Adventures:

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen, but as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position. He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. They were admirable things for the observer—excellent for drawing the veil from men’s motives and actions. But for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his mental results. Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.

From "Silver Blaze", the first story in the The Memoirs:

I am afraid, Watson, that I shall have to go,” said Holmes, as we sat down together to our breakfast one morning.

“Go! Where to?”

“To Dartmoor; to King’s Pyland.”

Summary: The Adventures contains twelve stories:

(1) "A Scandal in Bohemia"
(2) "The Red-Headed League"
(3) "A Case of Identity"
(4) "The Boscombe Valley Mystery"
(5) "The Five Orange Pips"
(6) "The Man with the Twisted Lip"
(7) "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle"
(8) "The Adventure of the Speckled Band"
(9) "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb"
(10) "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor"
(11) "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet"
(12) "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches"

Of these, "A Scandal in Bohemia", "The Red-Headed League", "The Man with the Twisted Lip", "The Blue Carbuncle", and "The Speckled Band" consistently make favorites lists, with "The Red-Headed League" and "The Speckled Band" usually competing for the top spot. In his own list of twelve favorites, Doyle listed "The Speckled Band" and "The Red-Headed League" as #1 and #2, respectively, and also put on the list "A Scandal in Bohemia" (#5) and "The Five Orange Pips" (#7). Thus it seems fairly conclusive, between readers and the author, that the best of these are "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" and "The Red-Headed League". I think this makes considerable sense, because they are easily the most memorable. I've read all of these before, although it has been some years, and these were the two I remembered most, and whose details came back to me most quickly as I read.

"The Adventure of the Speckled Band" is one of the great locked room mysteries of all time. Helen Stoner fears that her life is in danger from her stepfather, Grimsby Roylott, a doctor who had practiced in Calcutta who already has a record of violence. Helen's twin sister had died a couple of years earlier in a locked bedroom just before she was to be wed; Helen had heard her last words: "The speckled band!" Helen is now engaged to be married herself, and there is enough suspiciousness about to make her worry that she may be subject to the same fate, particularly as it has been arranged for Helen to move into the bedroom in which her sister died.

In "The Red-Headed League", Jabez Wilson, a pawnbroker with vividly red hair, comes to Holmes with a puzzle: his assistant had urged him to answer an advertisement for The Red-Headed League, which offered pay for easy work for men with red hair. Wilson gets the job, but finds that it primarily consists of copying the Encyclopedia Britannica, beginning with A, supposedly because it was just a matter of nominal compliance with the conditions of a will, but suddenly one day he shows up and finds a sign on the door: "THE RED-HEADED LEAGUE IS DISSOLVED—Oct. 9, 1890."

The Memoirs continue The Adventures directly, being just more Adventures that needed another name for their collection; in most later editions, there are eleven stories:

(1) "The Adventure of Silver Blaze"
(2) "The Adventure of the Yellow Face"
(3) "The Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk"
(4) "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott"
(5) "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual"
(6) "The Adventure of the Reigate Squires"
(7) "The Adventure of the Crooked Man"
(8) "The Adventure of the Resident Patient"
(9) "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter"
(10) "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty"
(11) "The Final Problem"

Of these, "Silver Blaze" is easily the fan favorite, with "The Musgrave Ritual" (my personal favorite) and "The Final Problem" also regularly making favorites lists. Doyle put the "The Final Problem" (#4), "The Musgrave Ritual" (#11), and "The Reigate Squires" (#12) on his list of twelve.

"The Adventure of Silver Blaze" is an interesting enough story, of course, as Holmes looks into the theft of the thoroughbred horse and the death of its trainer, but I suspect one of things in its favor is that it contains one of the most famous passages in all of detective fiction, one completely perfect passage beyond all peer that sums up all of the charm and joy of detective fiction:

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

It is the Holy Grail of detective fiction gimmicks, the obvious bit of evidence, but somehow easily missed, that changes the nature of all the other evidence, and here put into a form that cannot but be remembered.

"The Musgrave Ritual" is unusual in that, while the tale is told by Watson, the story in the tale is narrated by Holmes, with Watson only providing the frame. The young Sherlock, only just starting out his career, is visited by an acquaintance from university, Reginald Musgrave, from a very old family, who is worried about the disappearance of two members of his domestic staff, the butler and a maid, after Musgrave dismissed the butler for snooping around the family papers, in which he had been reading the question-and-answer ritual that had been passed down from father to son in the Musgrave family since the seventeenth century. The tale gives us a treasure-trove of things that make a detective story interesting: old traditions in scenic context, a riddle, disappearances, an actual treasure. It is some of Doyle's most enjoyable work, I think, an adventure-story in miniature that works on its own terms.

And, of course, "The Final Problem" gives us the end of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes has collected all the evidence required to take down the organization of his nemesis, Professor Moriarty. (In this story, his first name is never given, although it is mentioned that his brother is Colonel James Moriarty. This is one of the famous puzzles of Sherlockiana and the Great Game, because in "The Adventure of the Empty House", Watson tells us that Professor Moriarty's name is James. In a later stage play based on the Holmes stories, Doyle gives his name as Robert.) Naturally, Holmes is now in danger of his life. He and Watson speed out of the country in an attempt to shake a vengeful and pursuing Moriarty, and come to Reichenback Falls in Switzerland, where, of course, the Adventures and the adventure of Sherlock Holmes meets its end. I was particularly struck by how well Moriarty, easily one of the most memorable figures in the Sherlockian canon, was handled. Except for brief mentions in "The Empty House" and The Valley of Fear, this is the only time we really encounter him, and we only encounter him through Holmes himself -- Holmes tells the story of his brief conversation with Moriarty, which gives us almost all of what we know about Moriarty's personality, and Watson never meets him -- the closest he ever comes is seeing in the distance a man who, it turns out, may have been Moriarty. Knowing him only by glimpses is immensely effective; we get just enough to know that he is every bit as dangerous as Holmes thinks and only enough to keep him shrouded in mystery. (I was also struck in this reading by the fact, perhaps an accident but nice nonetheless, that the story pairs well with the tale that comes before it in The Memoirs, "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty". "The Naval Treaty" gives us the Holmesian sense of the goodness of the world, which prepares us very well for Holmes's fight with evil in "The Final Problem". I wonder, though, if it's deliberate, and that Holmes's discourse on the rose is Doyle's way of preparing him for his fate.)

One thing that is easy to catch when reading all the tales together is that Holmes's role in each tale is immensely variable. Watson even notes this explicitly in "The Resident Patient":

In glancing over the somewhat incoherent series of memoirs with which I have endeavoured to illustrate a few of the mental peculiarities of my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I have been struck by the difficulty which I have experienced in picking out examples which shall in every way answer my purpose. For in those cases in which Holmes has performed some tour-de-force of analytical reasoning, and has demonstrated the value of his peculiar methods of investigation, the facts themselves have often been so slight or so commonplace that I could not feel justified in laying them before the public. On the other hand, it has frequently happened that he has been concerned in some research where the facts have been of the most remarkable and dramatic character, but where the share which he has himself taken in determining their causes has been less pronounced than I, as his biographer, could wish. The small matter which I have chronicled under the heading of “A Study in Scarlet,” and that other later one connected with the loss of the Gloria Scott, may serve as examples of this Scylla and Charybdis which are forever threatening the historian.

However, I think the variability gives a patina of realism to Holmes that many other cleverly written fictional detectives lack; the stories do not settle into a single pattern. Holmes is not always able to tie everything up in a neat package; the extent of his involvement differs from story to story; the way in which he solves the mystery varies; even Watson's contribution differs quite a bit from case to case.

As I noted, there are far too many adaptations to go through even a fraction of them. But with older works, it is nice to look at adaptations, because sometimes doing so draws out something in the story that you might not otherwise have noticed. What I decided to do was pick a tale that I don't particularly find memorable but that has often been adapted, and look at several adaptations of it, so that I'd get the tale in a new light. The story I picked was "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches". Holmes is a bit down (and for the moment a bit down on Watson's being his Watson) because it has made him popular for all the wrong reasons, with the low point being a young woman asking to call on him to get his advice on whether she should take a job as a governess. As it happens, though, the young woman, Violet Hunter, has an interesting case. She was offered a job by Jephro Rucastle, for extremely good pay but with several very strange conditions, which of course, suggest that there is more going on, and indeed there is. I looked at three adaptations of this work.

The first was the 1912 silent movie, with Georges Tréville as Holmes. Doyle had personally supervised a series of eight silent films based on Holmes stories, and this is the only one to survive in complete form. The connection with Doyle obviously makes it interesting in its own right, but it also makes some interesting narrative choices. It does not give us the same narrative order as the short story, starting with Violet Hunter bringing her problem to Holmes, but goes through the story from the beginning, with the result that Holmes doesn't show up until halfway through. They changed everyone's motivations a bit. And even more startlingly, there is no Watson.

(One thing that somewhat surprised me -- perhaps it's just because I have not watched many silent films -- was that the characters at several points punctuate the narrative by talking directly to the camera, despite the fact that we can't hear what they are saying. The movie plays more naturally, incidentally, if you set the playback speed to 0.75.) I also listened to the 1940 radio adaptation in The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, with Basil Rathbone as Holmes, which I think was well acted but mostly unmemorable, and watched the 1985 television adaptation in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, with Jeremy Brett as Holmes. I didn't gain any huge insights from these, I think, but it did underscore two things about the story.

The first is that a lot hinges on Hunter and Rucastle. One of the very great strengths of the TV episode was Natasha Richardson's Violet Hunter, who came across at once and throughout as a very charming and sympathetic character in whose situation the viewer could be immediately invested. Rucastle was played by the great Joss Ackland, who makes a very good villain; his Rucastle was a very creepy Rucastle -- definitely creepy enough that it's clear why Violet's alarm bells are ringing, but almost so creepy that it's difficult to explain why she took the job even given the need for money. The Rucastle from the radio adaptation seemed more odd than creepy, but this also weakened him somewhat as a villain.

The second is that there are parts of the story that greatly benefit from visual presentation and parts that really work better on the page. Almost everything Holmes actually does in the story is more interesting and exciting if seen, whether it's in the symbolic and hyperbolic action of the silent film or the attempt at realism in the television episode. (The attempt at realism mostly works, although they apparently had the considerable difficulty that the mastiff was actually a very friendly dog who was puzzled at why he was supposed to be pretending to be mean when he would rather play with everyone. They do an OK job working around this, but it's pretty clear that the mastiff was supposed to be a more exciting element than it turned out to be.) On the other hand, Violet sitting in front of the window works much better on the page than when seen; on the page it sounds like an odd thing, but when seen it seems not only odd but extraordinarily implausible.

Favorite Passage: From "The Musgrave Ritual", in The Memoirs:

An anomaly which often struck me in the character of my friend Sherlock Holmes was that, although in his methods of thought he was the neatest and most methodical of mankind, and although also he affected a certain quiet primness of dress, he was none the less in his personal habits one of the most untidy men that ever drove a fellow-lodger to distraction. Not that I am in the least conventional in that respect myself. The rough-and-tumble work in Afghanistan, coming on the top of a natural Bohemianism of disposition, has made me rather more lax than befits a medical man. But with me there is a limit, and when I find a man who keeps his cigars in the coal-scuttle, his tobacco in the toe end of a Persian slipper, and his unanswered correspondence transfixed by a jack-knife into the very centre of his wooden mantelpiece, then I begin to give myself virtuous airs. I have always held, too, that pistol practice should be distinctly an open-air pastime; and when Holmes, in one of his queer humours, would sit in an armchair with his hair-trigger and a hundred Boxer cartridges, and proceed to adorn the opposite wall with a patriotic V. R. done in bullet-pocks, I felt strongly that neither the atmosphere nor the appearance of our room was improved by it.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended.

Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul de Nantes

Construction on the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul de Nantes was begun in 1434; it was completed in 1891. It was somewhat damaged by bombing in 1944, but nearly burned down in a fire in 1972; it survived, but its interior needed a considerable amount of reworking. This morning it caught fire again. The church organ is irreparably damaged, but the fire was caught soon enough that the church is not anywhere near as damaged as Notre Dame had been. (It probably also helped that after the 1972 fire, the wooden roof was completely replaced with a mostly concrete structure.) The fire is still being investigated, but as the evidence currently indicates that it had three distinct points of origin, it's almost certain to be a case of arson.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Dashed Off XVI

the multiple realizability of Catholic Social Teaching

Mihaela Popa: In ironic metaphors, the irony presupposes the metaphorical, not the literal, meaning.

being present at a meeting at which one is not located

the state as super-capital

We should really limit 'executive authority' to the execution of law, distinguishing it from pre-executive or praeter-executive authority like pardon power, font of honors, commander in chief, which are often also veste din the office exercising executive authority.

(1) power of particular action
--- (a) special sovereign action (e.g., pardons, honors)
--- (b) execution of general action
--- (c) action of directive magistracy
(2) power of general action (laws and regulations)
(3) power of ceremonial personation
(4) specially vested ownership

moments/phases of problem of external world
(1) videtur: appearance
(2) an sit: causal requirement
(3) quid sit: nature

Without concepts of the good and the beautiful, no critique is possible. One can have variants on these, but one must have them in some form to have any critique at all.

Critique by its very nature implies normativity; the kind of normativity, and the way it implies it, constitute the kind of critique.

Modern money is a way for the state to create dependencies on the state.

Iconoclasm is always depersonalizing.

hieratic: baptism, confirmation, orders
medicinal: eucharist, penance, unction
both: matrimony

We have the concept of other because we first know ourselves as others.

Where Tolkien excels is in naming, and all Middle Earth grows out of that.

What we usually call liberalism tends to go wrong by privileging means of freedom over the ends that actually make us free.

The most important ways to resist usurpations of power successfully, in most situations, involve mutual support, solidarity, and common sense -- nothing flashy, certainly, but we still know of nothing more generally effective.

a politics of small things done well

What can be known a priori or a posteriori obviously depends on the account of knowledge; what is analytic or synthetic depends on the classification being used; and what is necessary or contingent depends on the universe of discourse.

Nothing could deter unless it were first intelligible as retributive. We do not change our behavior for unrelated bad happenings.

Every argument against the death penalty has a counterpart argument against euthanasia, although the reverse is not true. (The reason for the disparity is that life is a more intimate concern of medicine than of law.)

manifestness, straightness, firmness, faithfulness
evidentness, rightness, steadfastness, trustworthiness

meaningfulness and manifestation
presence and revelation
availability and disclosure
there and through

Communism is essentially based on an analogy: that as the burghers did with the lords, so the laborers will do with the burghers.

Capitalism by its nature is structured to subordinate the rural to the urban, the local to the global, the natural to the artificial without regard to good or bad, and thus in both good and bad ways.

By its presence in the world, the Church reflects as in a mirror the Godwardness of both the world and the human beings around it.

In a sacrament, which exists in the context of the Church and concerns the sanctity of those who partake, a sanctity that is of and from Christ, we are related to Christ by the sacrament's relation to Christ; in each of the seven sacraments, by serving as a means to indicate such an end, the sacrament serves as a means to accomplish that end.

Liberty requires an infrastructure.

occasional, eclectic, and systematic almsgiving (there is need for all three)

Most arguments for credences and the like are really about the actionableness of belief rather than belief itself.

People regularly confuse 'matching of subjective probability with objective probability' and 'taking objective probabilities as they are'.

Every transfer of rights presupposes shared rights.

The medieval traditio instrumentorum seems to be based on an analogy between ordination and contracts involving transfer. Think about this.

Practical politics is to political philosophy as cartoons to treatises; but we must not forget that the latter do not replace the value of the former.

core values of civil service: impartiality, honesty, integrity
- principle of selection on merit through fair and open competition

creation, covenant, Christ, Church

'being in the clear' as a more fundamental concept than any specific right

Note that in Mk 1:8, John the Baptist explicitly makes Christ the principal agent of baptism (he himself will baptize you).

When Mark says 'immediately', he means 'directly connected with that'. When he says 'in those days', it is a storyteller's expression; even today when a storyteller says 'in those days', it is not for chronological rendering but to set up a narrative frame.

Mk 2:2 "he was speaking the logos to them"

Rights bring the world within our ambit.

All arguments for requiring violations of the seal of the confessional are arguments for using ethically and procedurally inadmissible evidence, and they all fail for the same reason the latter do.

legal evidence
(1) real: actual object directly involved in event in the case
(2) demonstrative: illustration or pictorial representation (e.g., map of crime scene, medical diagram)
(3) documentary: linguistic representation
(4) anecdotal: evidence taken from witnesses

hypercumulation of small, local improvements as an imitation of genius

Experimentation is a luxury dependent on availability of resources (including time and labor).

"The formulation of any physical theory has always been preceded by a series of retouchings which from almost formless first sketches have gradually led the system to more finished states." Duhem

Van Bendegem (1992): The determination of Newtonian models depends on four finitist assumptions -- no infinite forces, no infinite masses, no infinite accelerations, no infinite velocities. If only singularities threaten determinism, these four suffice to rule out singularities in the only two cases, collisions and near-collisions, that could introduce them into the Newtonian cases. (Thi sis not true of general relativity, but analogous principles do similar work in special relativity and electrodynamics.)

pramanas as causal channels (ways we are caused to be right)

Issues and problems are constituted within philosophers.

It is an error to think that there is any society in which scientific research or intellectual study would be wholly free from any possibility of censure.

the fromness of perception and the toness of attention within perception

Phenomenology is a pursuit of invariances.

Love by its very nature creates sacred precincts.

rights from gift vs rights from extrinsic denomination

posse comitatus, hue and cry, shopkeeper's privilege, citizen's arrest

Evidence is a particular kind of causal connection to what is actual.

"True civility speaks not merely about limits but about a vision of the civitas." Richard John Neuhaus

familiarity : good taste :: knowledge : wisdom

Three reasons logical laws cannot be reduced to ways the mind works (Husserl):
(1) Logical laws are too precise.
(2) Logical laws can be known a priori.
(3) Logical laws are not structured as if they have psychological referents.

philosophy workshop → philosophy showcase → philosophy museum

transmodal analogy

"To what alternate *meanness* and *rashness* do the passions lead, when reason and self-denial do not oppose them!" Burney, Evelina

Insititutions built only on utility will not last, because each generation thinks it can achieve what the previous generation could not, and shifts its standards of utility to convince itself that this is so.

In political matters, example speaks more loudly than guidelines; the norms and expectations are precedential.

Regulations do not operate alone but within a system of regulations and norms.

All legislation depends on assumptions about right and wrong.

rights as claims on the sovereign
condign vs congruous claims

a common two-step: arguing for a liberal regime on deontological grounds, structuring the regime on purely consequentialist grounds

Hume's account of constancy raises the problem that we might never be able to know when an idea is simple.

States create the classes and groupings that maintain their power.

"Originality may perhaps be defined the power of abstracting for oneself, and is in thought what strength of mind is in action." Newman

It is a mistake to confuse tradition with things that have been around a long time; tradition must be handed down, and is intrinsically opposed to preservation by mere inertia or from lack of an alternative.

Human concepts apply to things of which they are concepts not all in the same way, but in varying degrees. For instance, Confucius and a bumbling tutor are both teachers, but Confucius is more perfectly a teacher; the concept 'teacher' is a more perfect fit to him than to the bumbling tutor.

"As literal madness is derangement of reason, so sin is derangement of the heart, of the spirit, of the affection." Newman

Every argument can be translated into a challenge to disprove at least one premise.

the Parable of the Sower as a parable about parables

Large regions of medical ethics collapse if there is no distinction of moral significance between doing and allowing.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

In Bygone Bloom, Bright Picture, or Sweet Song

Wild Roses
July Sixteenth
by John Holland

"The most beautiful specimens of this generous plant we ever beheld, grow in the ruins of Bolton Abbey: it is here the Wild Rose blossoms in all its prodigality of beauty : springing from scanty stores of earth, deposited in narrow crevices of the mouldering walls, each tree spreads out numerous branches, which clinging to the tracery of the windows and shafts of the arches, form festoons like the woodbine."—Mrs. Holland.

Though more than fifty years of changeful Time,
Have check'd in me the tide of living joy;
In love of nature I am still a boy—
And most of all, Hedge-Roses in their prime,
Are fraught with luscious memories! Craft and crime,
Wove into story, readers will decoy;
Ev'n healthiest knowledge, overdrank, may cloy;—
But who can see our summer Queen-Flower climb,
In blushing beauty to salute the sun,
Amid the common thorns, nor feel how strong,
In bygone bloom, bright picture, or sweet song,
The place she in his young affections won?
Yea, how such sight seems yearly to prolong,
A charm caught in green lanes with Friends, now dead and gone!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

A Kind of Freedom

Iris Murdoch was born July 15, 1919.

Imagination is a kind of freedom, a renewed ability to perceive and express truth, and this is to put forward another of these lofty and high-minded views of art. The artist must tell the truth about something which he has understood. This is perhaps the best piece of advice which one can give to the writer. This idea must somehow remain within the work of art however ingenious it is and be felt by the artist and perceived by the critic.

[Iris Murdoch, Existentialists and Mystics, Conradi, ed., Penguin (New York: 1997) p. 256.]

Holmes Laughing

This is an established feature of the character that tends to get dropped from adaptations. Watson claims (twice) that Holmes rarely laughs, but in the adventures we have, he laughs quite a bit.

From Adventures:

He chuckled to himself and rubbed his long, nervous hands together. ("A Scandal in Bohemia")
Holmes laughed. “It is quite a pretty little problem,” said he. ("A Scandal in Bohemia")
Putting his hands into his pockets, he stretched out his legs in front of the fire and laughed heartily for some minutes.

“Well, really!” he cried, and then he choked and laughed again until he was obliged to lie back, limp and helpless, in the chair. ("A Scandal in Bohemia")
“I do not wish to make a mystery,” said he, laughing. ("A Scandal in Bohemia")
Sherlock Holmes and I surveyed this curt announcement and the rueful face behind it, until the comical side of the affair so completely overtopped every other consideration that we both burst out into a roar of laughter. ("The Red-Headed League")
“Never mind,” said Holmes, laughing; “it is my business to know things. Perhaps I have trained myself to see what others overlook. If not, why should you come to consult me?” ("A Case of Identity")
“Never mind,” said Holmes, laughing; “it is my business to know things. Perhaps I have trained myself to see what others overlook. If not, why should you come to consult me?” ("A Case of Identity")
“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact,” he answered, laughing. ("The Boscombe Valley Mystery")
Holmes laughed softly to himself and stretched himself out upon the cushioned seat. ("The Boscombe Valley Mystery"
“Well, moonshine is a brighter thing than fog,” said Holmes, laughing. ("The Boscombe Valley Mystery")
Then, glancing quickly round, he straightened himself out and burst into a hearty fit of laughter. ("The Man with the Twisted Lip")
“No, no. No crime,” said Sherlock Holmes, laughing. ("The Blue Carbuncle")
Sherlock Holmes laughed. ("The Blue Carbuncle")
A few yards off he stopped under a lamp-post and laughed in the hearty, noiseless fashion which was peculiar to him. ("The Blue Carbuncle")
“He seems a very amiable person,” said Holmes, laughing. ("The Speckled Band")
Holmes was for the moment as startled as I. His hand closed like a vice upon my wrist in his agitation. Then he broke into a low laugh and put his lips to my ear. ("The Speckled Band")
“Experience,” said Holmes, laughing. “Indirectly it may be of value, you know; you have only to put it into words to gain the reputation of being excellent company for the remainder of your existence.” ("The Engineer's Thumb")
“It is very good of Lord St. Simon to honour my head by putting it on a level with his own,” said Sherlock Holmes, laughing. ("The Noble Bachelor")
Sherlock Holmes leaned back in his chair and laughed heartily. ("The Noble Bachelor")
“Very good, Lestrade,” said Holmes, laughing. “You really are very fine indeed. Let me see it.” ("The Noble Bachelor")

From The Memoirs:

Holmes thought a little and then burst out laughing. “No, don’t,” said he; “I shall write to you about it. No tricks, now, or—” ("Silver Blaze")
Sherlock Holmes laughed. “I assure you that I have not associated you with the crime, Colonel,” said he. ("Silver Blaze")
Holmes, with a laugh, passed his hand behind the child’s ear, a mask peeled off from her countenance, and there was a little coal black negress, with all her white teeth flashing in amusement at our amazed faces. I burst out laughing, out of sympathy with her merriment; but Grant Munro stood staring, with his hand clutching his throat. ("The Yellow Face")
“The fates are against you, Watson,” said he, laughing. “We were chatting about the matter when you came in, Inspector. Perhaps you can let us have a few details.” As he leaned back in his chair in the familiar attitude I knew that the case was hopeless. ("The Reigate Squires")
Sherlock Holmes laughed heartily. “We will come to that in its turn,” said he. ("The Reigate Squires")
“I could see that you were commiserating me over my weakness,” said Holmes, laughing. ("The Reigate Squires")
This was news to me indeed. If there were another man with such singular powers in England, how was it that neither police nor public had heard of him? I put the question, with a hint that it was my companion’s modesty which made him acknowledge his brother as his superior. Holmes laughed at my suggestion. ("The Greek Interpreter")
“With all our precautions, you see that we have cut it rather fine,” said Holmes, laughing. He rose, and throwing off the black cassock and hat which had formed his disguise, he packed them away in a hand-bag. ("The Final Problem")

From His Last Bow:

“Come, come, sir,” said Holmes, laughing. “You are like my friend, Dr. Watson, who has a bad habit of telling his stories wrong end foremost. Please arrange your thoughts and let me know, in their due sequence, exactly what those events are which have sent you out unbrushed and unkempt, with dress boots and waistcoat buttoned awry, in search of advice and assistance.” ("Wisteria Lodge")
An answer had arrived to Holmes’s telegram before our Surrey officer had returned. Holmes read it and was about to place it in his notebook when he caught a glimpse of my expectant face. He tossed it across with a laugh. ("Wisteria Lodge")
Holmes laughed good-humouredly. ("Wisteria Lodge")
“It won’t do, Watson!” said he with a laugh. ("The Devil's Foot")
He laughed heartily at my perplexity. ("The Cardboard Box")

From The Return:

So amazed was I that I threw out my hand to make sure that the man himself was standing beside me. He was quivering with silent laughter. ("The Empty House")
“The old shikari's nerves have not lost their steadiness nor his eyes their keenness,” said he, with a laugh, as he inspected the shattered forehead of his bust. ("The Empty House")
Something in his tone caught my ear, and I turned to look at him. An extraordinary change had come over his face. It was writhing with inward merriment. His two eyes were shining like stars. It seemed to me that he was making desperate efforts to restrain a convulsive attack of laughter. ("The Norwood Builder")
Holmes's quiet day in the country had a singular termination, for he arrived at Baker Street late in the evening with a cut lip and a discoloured lump upon his forehead, besides a general air of dissipation which would have made his own person the fitting object of a Scotland Yard investigation. He was immensely tickled by his own adventures, and laughed heartily as he recounted them. ("The Solitary Cyclist")
Holmes laughed good-naturedly. ("The Priory School")
There were two rough-haired, unkempt horses in the tumble-down stable. Holmes raised the hind leg of one of them and laughed aloud. ("The Priory School")
Several letters were waiting for Holmes at Baker Street. He snatched one of them up, opened it, and burst out into a triumphant chuckle of laughter. ("Black Peter")
For some days Holmes came and went at all hours in this attire, but beyond a remark that his time was spent at Hampstead, and that it was not wasted, I knew nothing of what he was doing. At last, however, on a wild, tempestuous evening, when the wind screamed and rattled against the windows, he returned from his last expedition, and having removed his disguise he sat before the fire and laughed heartily in his silent inward fashion. ("Charles Augustus Milverton")
Holmes laughed at the young giant's naive astonishment. ("The Missing Three-Quarter")
A pompous butler ushered us severely to the door, and we found ourselves in the street. Holmes burst out laughing. ("The Missing Three-Quarter")
I was horrified by my first glimpse of Holmes next morning, for he sat by the fire holding his tiny hypodermic syringe. I associated that instrument with the single weakness of his nature, and I feared the worst when I saw it glittering in his hand. He laughed at my expression of dismay, and laid it upon the table. ("The Missing Three-Quarter")
Holmes put his finger on his lips, replaced his hand in his breast-pocket, and burst out laughing as we turned down the street. ("The Second Stain")

From The Case-Book:

Holmes seldom laughed, but he got as near it as his old friend Watson could remember. ("The Mazarin Stone")
Holmes had read carefully a note which the last post had brought him. Then, with the dry chuckle which was his nearest approach to a laugh, he tossed it over to me. ("The Sussex Vampire")
"I am a bit of an archaeologist myself when it comes to houses," said Holmes, laughing. "I was wondering if this was Queen Anne or Georgian." ("The Three Garridebs")
Holmes laughed. ("The Three Garridebs")

From A Study in Scarlet:

“Oh, that’s all right,” he cried, with a merry laugh. “I think we may consider the thing as settled—that is, if the rooms are agreeable to you.”
“I really beg your pardon!” said my companion, who had ruffled the little man’s temper by bursting into an explosion of laughter.
Holmes laughed and threw his card across the table to the constable.
It was close upon nine when he set out. I had no idea how long he might be, but I sat stolidly puffing at my pipe and skipping over the pages of Henri Murger’s “Vie de Bohème.” Ten o’clock passed, and I heard the footsteps of the maid as they pattered off to bed. Eleven, and the more stately tread of the landlady passed my door, bound for the same destination. It was close upon twelve before I heard the sharp sound of his latch-key. The instant he entered I saw by his face that he had not been successful. Amusement and chagrin seemed to be struggling for the mastery, until the former suddenly carried the day, and he burst into a hearty laugh.
“Didn’t I tell you so when we started?” cried Sherlock Holmes with a laugh. “That’s the result of all our Study in Scarlet: to get them a testimonial!”

From The Sign of Four:

“Oh, didn’t you know?” he cried, laughing.
“You see, Watson, if all else fails me I have still one of the scientific professions open to me,” said Holmes, laughing. “Our friend won’t keep us out in the cold now, I am sure.”
Sherlock Holmes and I looked blankly at each other, and then burst simultaneously into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.
“Here it is,” said he, laughing, and pointing to an open newspaper. “The energetic Jones and the ubiquitous reporter have fixed it up between them. But you have had enough of the case. Better have your ham and eggs first.”

From The Hound of the Baskervilles:

He laughed at my bewildered expression. “There is a delightful freshness about you, Watson, which makes it a pleasure to exercise any small powers which I possess at your expense. A gentleman goes forth on a showery and miry day. He returns immaculate in the evening with the gloss still on his hat and his boots. He has been a fixture therefore all day. He is not a man with intimate friends. Where, then, could he have been? Is it not obvious?”
Never have I seen my friend more completely taken aback than by the cabman’s reply. For an instant he sat in silent amazement. Then he burst into a hearty laugh.
He had uttered a cry and bent over the body. Now he was dancing and laughing and wringing my hand. Could this be my stern, self-contained friend? These were hidden fires, indeed!
“Exactly. This chance of the picture has supplied us with one of our most obvious missing links. We have him, Watson, we have him, and I dare swear that before tomorrow night he will be fluttering in our net as helpless as one of his own butterflies. A pin, a cork, and a card, and we add him to the Baker Street collection!” He burst into one of his rare fits of laughter as he turned away from the picture. I have not heard him laugh often, and it has always boded ill to somebody.

From The Valley of Fear:

Holmes laughed. “Watson insists that I am the dramatist in real life,” said he.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Sacramental Remedies and Armaments

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the feast of St. Bonaventura, Doctor of the Church. Reposted from 2015:


Today is the Feast of St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, Doctor of the Church. From his Breviloquium (Part VI, Chapter 3):

Since this army [of the Church] consists of elements that are subject to weakening, in order that the ranks be perfectly and permanently strengthened, it needs sacraments to fortify, relieve, and replenish its members: to fortify the combatants, relieve the wounded and replenish the dying. Now, a fortifying sacrament strengthens either those just entering the combat, and this is Baptism; or those in the midst of the fray, and this is Confirmation; or those who are leaving it, and this is Extreme Unction. A relieving sacrament alleviates either venial sin, and this is the Eucharist; or mortal sin, and this is Penance. Finally, a sacrament that replenishes does so either on the level of spiritual existence, and this is...Orders, which has the function of administering the sacraments; or on the level of natural existence, and this is Matrimony, which replenishes the multitude of humanity in their natural existence, the foundation of everything else....

And so Baptism is designed for those just entering the fight, Confirmation for those engaged in combat, the Eucharist for those refreshing their strength, Penance for those rising from their sickbeds, Extreme Unction for those who are departing, Orders for those who break in the new recruits, and Matrimony for those who provide these recruits. And so it is evident that the sacramental remedies and armaments are both sufficient and orderly.

[Bonaventure, Breviloquium, Monti, ed., The Franciscan Institute (Saint Bonaventure, NY: 2005), pp. 220-221.]

Bonaventure was the second Doctor of the Church (after Aquinas) to be explicitly designated as such by a Pope. (The first eight Doctors of the Church achieved and established the title by a much more piecemeal process of liturgical development; their title was extended to Aquinas and Bonaventure by papal authority.) I've noted before that Bonaventure's real name was Giovanni di Fidanza -- 'Bonaventura' is a nickname that means 'Good Fortune'. We don't know why he was nicknamed Lucky, but Bonaventure himself tells us that as an infant he was cured of an illness by St. Francis of Assisi, and late tradition suggests that he was given the nickname by St. Francis himself.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Evening Note for Monday, July 13

Thought for the Evening: Allegorical Reading of Poetry

One of the Confucian Classics is the Classic of Odes or Classic of Poetry. Confucius himself praised it highly, and seems at the very least to regard it as an essential source for learning how to speak well; but because he also says at one point that 'it does not deviate', he was generally interpreted as suggesting that it is a storehouse of moral guidance. It is perhaps not always immediately obvious how this works; for instance, Ode 87 is a woman singing (literally) about lifting her dress so she can cross a river, and seems to press this risqué image for all its erotic potential: she is willing to lift her skirts for a man if he desires her, but if not, is he really the only one available? But Confucian commentators might read it as a describing a political situation in which the lovers are two states, and the relationship one in which a weaker state needs help and guidance from a stronger state.

The Platonists read Homer allegorically. Thus Circe turning Odysseus's men to beasts would be read as describing the tendency of vice to make us less than properly human. A good summary of this way of interpreting the Circe story, for instance, is found preserved in Boethius (Consolation of Philosophy, Book IV, meter 3); that this long predates Boethius in some form is strongly suggested by occasional other comments we have.

The Song of Songs, Shir ha-Shirim, also known as the Song of Solomon, is an erotic poem, but it was compared by the Rabbi Akiba to the Holy of Holies. The rabbis interpreted it as a parable describing the relationship between God and Israel. (This manner of reading it, of course, is found also in Christians, who have often read it as a description of the relationship between God and the Church.)

In the modern West, it has become common to treat such readings as 'misreadings' or 'abuses' of the text, and allegorical readings are not fashionable among us. But I think it's important to recognize how utterly abnormal this is; to refuse to allegorize is artificial. In cultures in which poetry plays an important role -- and particularly an important role in 'how to speak', to put it in Confucian terms -- allegorical readings of poetry arise spontaneously. Refusing to read poetry allegorically at all requires regularly squashing this tendency. Allegorical reading requires nothing but a sense of how something can be a metaphor for something else, which people generally have to some degree; refusing to read allegorically requires walking an extremely fine line in which one recognizes the figurative character of the poem but takes the figurative language of a poem to be only a little bit figurative -- little figures of speech not extended 'too' far. This is not a target that can easily be hit without a lot of practice.

Of course, none of this is to say that people don't disagree with allegorical readings -- contrary to what is sometimes assumed, allegorical readings are not arbitrary but reasoned -- and even with respect to the three highly allegorized texts above (Shijing, Odyssey, Shir ha-Shirim), you get occasional spurts of skepticism about allegorical readings, and occasional phases in which people focus more on less allegorical readings. But there is a gap between these kinds of criticism and skepticism and refusing outright to recognize the power of a poem to describe large sections of human life.

Related Evening Note: Mythology as a Guide for Morals

Various Links of Interest

* Helen De Cruz discusses the role of awe in scientific inquiry.

* An interesting in-depth discussion of a worrisome recent trend, namely, the tendency of corporations and businesses to divide along partisan lines.

* Amod Lele, The Consolations and Pleasures of Philosophy

* Cameron Harwick, It's Not Socialism, It's Clientelism

* Alison Cobbe, Frances Power Cobbe and Nineteenth-Century Moral Philosophy

* Medieval London is an online exhibit giving a picture of what life was like in a medieval city. Medieval Londoners is a database for actual people we know to have lived in medieval London.

* Sarah Hutton, The Cambridge Platonists, at the SEP
Stephen Phillips, Gaṅgeśa

* Frederick Douglass's oration on Abraham Lincoln, given at the unveiling of The Freedmen's Monument in Washington, DC. The Freedmen's Monument was paid for in commemoration of Lincoln by freed slaves, some of whom devoted significant portions of their first income as free men and women to the project. It was one of the monuments targeted in the recent spate of memorial vandalism, because some people think that the slave thus depicted looks like he's kneeling to Lincoln -- which is not true, he is beginning to rise, his chains having been broken, but people see in statues what they have trained themselves to see, in one way or another. The copy of it in, I think, Boston, was taken down for this reason. In any case, the DC one was protected by Washington's rather active community of Black History tour guides and re-enactors until barricades could be put around it. For myself, the fact that it is a monument to emancipation paid for by emancipated slaves themselves makes it as close to sacred as a secular monument can be, and tearing it down one of the worst forms of arrogance, and treating 'racial justice' as an excuse for tearing it down an obvious lie; but it's sometimes difficult to explain this to people who hold nothing sacred at all. Regardless, Douglass's oration is one of the most measured and laudatory eulogies of Lincoln imaginable -- fully recognizing his limitations, but giving him a kind of praise that is among the highest forms of praise a human being can receive.

* Robert Post, The Incomparable Chief Justiceship of William Howard Taft (PDF)

* Sianne Ngai, The Gimmick of the Novel of Ideas. Ngai is usually considered a literary theorist, and I think her work is often uneven, but at its best it's some of the best work in aesthetics done today.

* Andy Smarick, Why Statecraft Is Still Soulcraft

* July 9 was the 123rd anniversary of Venerable Augustus Tolton's death.

Currently Reading

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Lucretius, On the Nature of Things
Yuri Slezkine, The House of Government
Hannah Arendt, Totalitarianism

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Mission San Gabriel

The Mission San Gabriel Arcángel was founded by the Franciscans in 1771, although the current building was built in 1776 after the original was destroyed by a flood. It was a church until 1834, when it fell into disuse, and was then restored by the Claretians beginning in 1862. It is one of the most important historic church buildings in California. Early Saturday morning, around 4 am, it was in flames; the roof has been destroyed and much of the church interior by the fire. Contrary to the somewhat misleading AP report, the mission was not itself founded by St. Junipero Serra, although he was president of missions and thus supervisor for those who did found it; but the mission has had repeated problems the past few years with their statue of St. Junipero being vandalized, and given the recent spate of vandalism against memorials (including several statues of St. Junipero elsewhere), they recently moved the statue to protect it.

It is at present unclear whether the fire was accidental or arson. Either way, it is a great misfortune.

Perhaps I should take some time to listen again to the "Christmas at Mission San Gabriel" episode of The Romance of the Ranchos (found here at #16).

ADDED LATER: The parish is collecting donations for its Fire Restoration Fund.

ADDED LATER 2: It looks like some good news is that almost all paintings and artifacts had been removed to allow some renovating before the mission's 250th anniversary next year. The investigation has so far indicated that the fire started in the choir loft, but isn't giving more than that yet.