In between cases, he played the violin…
Sherlock Holmes. Why are we taken by the persona of a man who never existed? Why do we form fan clubs, travel to Reichenbach Falls to spend solemn quiet moments, paying homage to the memory of a man who never lived and therefore could never have died? Was he a reflection of our fantasies of perfection? Physical tautness, a brain like no other, a lazy competence with the violin?
Doyle’s writing makes it clear that music was very important to Holmes. His violin was his friend and possibly provided counterpoints and creative stimulus, possibly to the vexation of those who never understood why he might choose it at the most unexpected times. In fact, the violin is mentioned at least 23 times in the Canon.
In A study in Scarlet, we read: “I left Holmes seated in front of the smouldering fire, and long into the watches of the night I heard the low, melancholy wailings of his violin, and knew that he was still pondering over the strange problem which he had set himself to unravel.”
Did violin playing excite his already restless mind, probing deeper and deeper into foggy realms and exploring unconnected subjects with ease? In The Sign of Four, Doyle says, referring to Holmes and his electric mind, “He appeared to be in a state of nervous exaltation. I have never known him so brilliant. He spoke on a quick succession of subjects,—on miracle-plays, on medieval pottery, on Stradivarius violins, on the Buddhism of Ceylon, and on the war-ships of the future,—handling each as though he had made a special study of it.”
And in the Red Headed League, Holmes seeks solace: “…and then off to violin-land, where all is sweetness and delicacy and harmony, and there are no red-headed clients to vex us with their conundrums.”
Was the violin his narcotic, helping Holmes break away from the weary mundane and the annoying whining of mankind? What we can certainly glean is that the violin and music motif added an extra layer to the profound stories of Sherlock Holmes. Of a man most extraordinary, who held his own in contempt while seeking the beauty of logic intertwined in the music he drew out from the four strings of his violin.
The writer is the author of Sherlock Holmes-the missing year-Timbuktu and a member of Sherlock Holmes Society of India.