Lit Major Abroad

Lit Major Abroad: London Calling (Only We Keep Getting Disconnected)

IMG_0530.2As promised in my last post, I’ve got some juicy tidbits to share from my recent trip to Turkey and Greece. But before I get ahead of myself, I need to finish up the British leg of my journey. I spent an amazing few days in London before Christmas. Of course, not everything I did there was literary-themed. So I’ve decided to write a little recap of my book-related activities, partly because I like to stick to themes and partly because at the rate I’m going now I wouldn’t be done recounting my entire trip until next Christmas. So, here goes:

London, Day 3: The British Library

The British Library isn’t a particularly pretty building from the outside. It’s certainly nothing to the imposing grandeur of, say, the British Museum. But much like one should never judge a book by its cover, the really important stuff is on the inside. The British Library apparently adds about three million titles to their shelves every year, as well as receiving a copy of every book printed in the UK and Ireland. Which is quite a sobering thought when I consider the full-to-bursting state of my Ikea bookshelf back home. Three million books makes my own space-related problems seem pea-sized in comparison.

Lit Major Abroad Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday: Meerkat Holmes

Wordless Wednesday: Meerkat Holmes

Holmes’ greatest disguise yet. (In Cambridge, UK)


Review: A Study in Scarlet (1887), by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes is so familiar a figure that it’s hard to imagine a time before the pipe-smoking, violin-playing sleuth was a household name. So it’s always interesting to see where the legend began. In the case of the famous Baker Street detective, the legend begins with A Study in Scarlet.

Like the majority of the Holmes stories, the tale is told through the eyes of Dr Watson. Watson returns to England from Afghanistan, where he has been wounded in battle and struck with fever. His experiences and his ensuing illness have left him languid and depressed. He arrives back in London, the city he himself describes as “… that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained” (Chapter I). Watson, it appears, is the sort of person to look on the bright side of things.

While apartment-hunting Watson is introduced to Sherlock Holmes by a mutual acquaintance. There is quite a build-up to Holmes’ first appearance, as you might expect. Watson and his friend Stamford discuss the character of the man that Watson will end up sharing lodgings with; we are told he is good with anatomy and “a first-class chemist” (Chapter I). He is also “eccentric … he has amassed a lot of out-of-the-way knowledge which would astonish his professors.” What exactly Holmes does with his time is unclear; he is neither a doctor nor a professional chemist. For the first few chapters, even when Watson has met Holmes and begins living with him, the novel is preoccupied not with solving mysterious murders, but with solving The Mystery of Sherlock Holmes.