This is a much more delightful quote if you use Capote’s voice to read it….
The opening two paragraphs from the Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of the Priory School” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
We have had some dramatic entrances and exits upon our small stage at Baker Street, but I cannot recollect anything more sudden and startling than the first appearance of Thorneycroft Huxtable, M.A., Ph.D., etc. His card, which seemed too small to carry the weight of his academic distinctions, preceded him by a few seconds, and then he entered himself–so large, so pompous, and so dignified that he was the very embodiment of self-possession and solidity. And yet his first action, when the door had closed behind him, was to stagger against the table, whence he slipped down upon the floor, and there was that majestic figure prostrate and insensible upon our bearskin hearthrug.
“We had sprung to our feet, and for a few moments we stared in silent amazement at this ponderous piece of wreckage, which told of some sudden and fatal storm far out on the ocean of life. Then Holmes hurried with a cushion for his head, and I with brandy for his lips. The heavy, white face was seamed with lines of trouble, the hanging pouches under the closed eyes were leaden in colour [sic], the loose mouth drooped dolorously at the corners, the rolling chins were unshaven. Collar and shirt bore the grime of a long journey, and the hair bristled unkempt from the well-shaped head. It was a sorely stricken man who lay before us.
So brilliantly descriptive, and so hysterically fun at the same time. I’m not sure if the humor was intentional, or if it’s just a modern interpretation of the Victorian writing sensibilities… perhaps a bit of both… but it’s the best opening to all the Sherlock Holmes stories… in my opinion at least.
(A note about the photo: Jeremy Brett portrayed Sherlock Holmes in the Grenada TV series, shown in the US on PBS; there were 41 episodes, all based on the Conan Doyle stores, filmed between 1984-1994. For many of us Holmes fans, Brett is the definitive Holmes. As much as I’ve enjoyed the BBC Sherlock series, staring Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role (a show I was prepared to hate, but find to be a brilliant new look at the famous detective), I think that no one will ever capture Holmes in the way Brett did. I’m sorry that he died young, and was unable to film more of the Conan Doyle stories.)
Quoth the Raven is a semi-regular series that I started long ago, on a former blog (back in the days when Live Journal was where all us Cool Folk hung out). For many people, a quote is made up of one or two sentences of sage wisdom, pithy advice, or scathing wit.
“A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the word you first thought of.” – Burt Bacharach
“To follow by faith alone is to follow blindly.” — Benjamin Franklin
“The secret to life is meaningless unless you discover it yourself.” — W. Somerset Maugham
I appreciate the brief conciseness of the quotes above, but, I look at quotes as something much more. Quotes don’t always have to be inspirational, motivational, provocative, or funny. Quotes can simply be a passage of writing that brings great pleasure. A great quotation is that passage, brief or long, in a novel, an essay, a movie or television script that makes you stop and take notice. The words sing to you, call out to you to reread them again, and again, or to play the scene in the movie over and over. Sometimes the words move you because they remind you of something in your life, and other times the words grab you because they create such a vivid image in your mind.
My goal, with this series of quotes is not to provide you with pithy sentences, but, rather, to share words that bring me pleasure. One of the greatest things in life is being able to share good things, in hope that others will find as much enjoyment as we do.
I’ve been reading the anthology The Best American Essays of the Century, edited by Joyce Carol Oates and Robert Atwan. I ran across this passage, by Edmund Wilson, from his 1933 essay “The Old Stone House”:
Only one of them was left in the house at the time when I first remember Talcottville: my great-aunt Rosalind, a more or less professional invalid and a figure of romantic melancholy, whose fiancé had been lost at sea. When I knew her, she was very old. It was impressive and rather frightening to call on her–you did it only by special arrangement, since she had to prepare herself to be seen. She would be beautifully dressed in a lace cap, a lavender dress and a white crocheted shawl, but she had become so bloodless and shrunken as dreadfully to resemble a mummy and remind one uncomfortably of Miss Havisham in Dicken’s Great Expectations. She had a certain high and formal coquetry and was the only person I ever knew who really talked like the characters in old novels. When she had been able to get about, she had habitually treated the townspeople with a condescension almost baronial.
They just don’t make ‘em like Great-Aunt Rosalind anymore.
“Through recent experiences with both birth and death, I have discovered that we enter and leave life as, among other things, words. Though we might later become daughters and sons, many of us start out as whispers or rumors before ending up with our names scrawled next to our parents’ on birth certificates. We also struggle to find, both throughout our lives and at the end, words to pin down how we see and talk about ourselves.” — Edwidge Danticat
—Gore Vidal, from his novel “Creation“