Sunday, 15 September 2013


"Through a great, thundering mist, Alexander Jones heard THE WORDS.
"'Not at all. Elementary, my dear Watson!'"

- Poul Anderson and Gordon R Dickson, Earthman's Burden (New York, 1979), p. 121.

People say rightly that Holmes never said that. So why is it so widely (mis)quoted?

Holmes does say "Elementary" and does say "My dear Watson" and once says both in quick succession over three or four pages in the course of a single conversation. Thus, it is legitimate to infer that he would have said both together sometime offstage and it is also legitimate to put that phrase into his mouth in new Holmes stories and films.

" dear Watson!" would be a grammatically more accurate, if slightly clumsy, quotation.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I remember very well how much the Hoka stories written by Anderson and Dickson made me laugh. The Hoka stories were fun to read!

And I don't think it's necessarily implausible to think there might be a wildly imaginative race somewhere in the universe which insists on playing roles within literature they love. But, I think Anderon and Dickson were also indulging in some gentle satire in the Hoka stories.

And, yes, this particular story shows Anderson's affection for the Sherlock Holmes stories. I've seen Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories praised not only as works of mystery but also for being excellent works of literature.