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Sherlock Holmes & I

My interest in things Sherlockian dates back to my teens. But we need to go back further than that... As a child I used to check books out of the public library shelves by linear foot. You were only allow to check out 12 books at a time. So I'd take the first 12 I had not read and if I was lucky some would still be unread by the time we got home from the library. A week later I would do the same thing all summer long until I'd read through the entire children's fiction section and started on the adult section. By the time I had gone through the adult fiction section (westerns, sea stories, ghost stories, science fiction, mysteries, etc.) they had opened another branch closer to home. It was there at the Red Oaks Mill branch of the public library that I happened upon William S. Baring-Gould's Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street. It is a dangerous book in the hands of someone of an impressionable age. I remember telling my parents that this crazy guy thought Holmes was real....But the whole book was so intoxicating that it was hard to believe then -- or now -- that it was a bad type of crazy.

Letter from Julian Wolff of the Baker Street Irregulars

I had, of course, read the stories published by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as I plowed through the library shelves but after reading Baring-Gould's biography, I returned to them with a different perspective...and was hooked.

I learned that there were whole flocks of Sherlockians out there. The most well-known group in the U.S. was The Baker Street Irregulars, (BSI). I wrote to the legendary Dr. Julian Wolff, who was then "Commissionaire" of The Baker Street Irregulars as well as editor of The Baker Street Journal. Dr. Wolff told me that BSI was very exclusive and membership was by invitation only but the scion societies were much more open. At the time I lived in Dutchess County, New York and Dr. Wolff gave me the name and address of Glenn Laxton, a reporter for the Poughkeepsie Journal who together with District Attorney (later Judge) Albert M. Rosenblatt and his wife Julia had formed a scion society of BSI a few years before called The Hudson Valley Scionists. Hudson Valley Sciontists Invitation I then wrote to Mr. Laxton and received an invitation to the next meeting of the The Hudson Valley Scionists. I believe I was the youngest person there but I was thrilled to be in the midst of all these people who could spend an entire night talking about Sherlock Holmes!

Baker Street Journal

I subscribed to The Baker Street Journal then but it wasn't until 1985 that I dove in and wrote my first "trifling monograph," Barker, The Hated Rival, in which I argued that Cecil Barker of the Valley of Fear was the same as the detective named Barker in The Retired Colourman. It was published in The Baker Street Journal. I was in law school at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma at the time. It was ironic that the press coverage of my publication in The Baker Street Journal in the Norman Transcript and the Oklahoma Daily (University of Oklahoma Student newspaper) exceeded the word count of the BSJ publication itself.

I submitted my second trifling monograph, A Capital Mistake: An Apocryphal Rebuttal, to The Baker Street Journal in 1987. Unfortunately, after that I needed to concentrate my writing time on trying to develop my nascent law practice in Boulder, Colorado. That does not mean I abandoned Sherlock. Oh, no, my law office waiting room was decorated with a deerstalker, a magnifying lens, 5 orange pips in a heirloom teacup, a few older Sherlock Holmes volumes and 2 Sherlock Holmes' silhouettes on the wall and my advertising often featured Sherlockian themes.

Elementary Deductions Ad

My Sherlock Holmes books and deerstalkers have never been far away. I have Sherlock Holmes oven mitts and a Sherlock Holmes pub sign that adorned the kitchen. It is hard to explain now why it has been nearly 20 years since I've published any Sherlockian scholarship. It is not really because I have not written any but rather than I had not finished any. In fact, one of the tasks that I carefully devoted myself to recently was the conversion of my Sherlockian scholarship from 5 inch floppies (Saved on the original IBM PC) to my current harddrive. I had to borrow a 5 inch floppy drive to do so. I also set aside time to transcribe some of my Sherlockian notes that only existed in paper form. So it is now all easily accessible to me again.

Sherlock Holmes Quote in Legal Journal Article

I do have some excuses: Between 1988 and 2005 I did published numerous other articles and scholarly papers in other fields that were very time consuming. These included articles on weapons of mass destructions in space, planetary protection law, landlord and tenant law, liability for induced seismicity, the pocket tax guide series and more recently articles on movie distribution and entertainment law. Even then Holmes was with me. On p. 337 of my article on International Law and Policy of Extraterrestrial Planetary Protection which was published in the Winter 1993 issue of Jurimetrics Journal, I quoted: "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."118 Footnote 118 attributes the quote like this: "Arthur C. Doyle, A Scandal In Bohemia (1891) (quoting Sherlock Holmes)."

Between 1997 and 2003 I also started several businesses including Foolscap & Quill, which itself was influenced by my Sherlockian-Victorian interests. (The logo is a pun if you know what foolscap is.) And I produced a movie in between all that. I don't believe that I can justly be accused of being idle.

However, it is now my intention to take up the quill and foolscap again and re-enter the fray of Sherlockian scholarship. The game is a foot.

-- Darlene Cypser (nee Chappell), May 2005

P.S. 2011 - To find out more about the results of those efforts visit The Crack in the Lens.

©2005 Darlene A. Cypser