We all know Mr Darcy of Pride and Prejudice has a mysterious attraction for women. It has been pondered on for years and by many! But is the same thing true of Sherlock Holmes? Certainly for me it is! For some reason this hero of detective fiction fascinates me! And I don’t think it is only for the quality of his mind, although that is certainly part of the magic.
Sherlock Holmes certainly seems to represent some archetype as a Victorian gentlemen detective. This brilliant, London based, “consulting” detective has an odd charisma all his own. He seems to mesmerise both men and women and people have great difficulty recognising that he is, in truth, a creature of fiction. Many visitors seek out his home and I gather letters are still sent to his London address asking for help in solving difficult crimes.
But for all his popularity, he never seems a wholly good character. He is flawed and ambiguous, even though he is supposed to have taken up bee-keeping in later life. There seems to be something that is not quite right about him and something that is more than a little wicked. There is certainly arrogance and a chilling intellect that is dangerous, magnetic and repulsive at the same time. We float around him in our admiration like moths around a blue flame that should be cold as ice.
Apparently, he is the most portrayed character in film and in his latest TV incarnation, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, we seem to have a Sherlock for the 21st Century.
As for me, fascinated as I am by Sherlock, he is certainly not someone I wish I could meet. His relationships with women are distinctly odd and I suspect he would be cruel. If I did encounter him, I am sure I would loathe him intensely in the flesh but there on page or screen, oh my! I can’t wait till he turns up again.
A gentleman was strolling down a side street in Paris, on his way back from the house of one Madame de Verchoureux. He walked mincingly, for the red heels of his shoes were very high. A long purple cloak, rose-lined, hung from his shoulders and was allowed to fall carelessly back from his dress, revealing a full-skirted coat of purple satin, heavily laced with gold; a waistcoat of flowered silk; faultless small clothes; and a lavish sprinkling of jewels on his cravat and breast.
Thus opens These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer and the gentleman in question is Justin Alastair, the Duke of Avon, known by friends and enemies alike as Satanas – the devil. He is glamorous, jaded and fascinating and, on this particular evening, he meets his match! He encounters the intriguing and equally fascinating, red-headed, Léon – who is really Léonie! Masquerading as a tavern boy, she is escaping a beating at her brutal “brother’s” hands. So Avon, on a whim, takes her into his household and parades her, in pre-Revolutionary Parisian society, as his page. These Old Shades follows a twisting course as young Léon is swept into a dangerous game by the Duke when he takes his revenge upon an old enemy. As Leonie falls in love with Satanas of the curious and heavy lidded eyes – so do we! Well I did anyway! On lazy summer afternoons in my mid-teens, I discovered Georgette Heyer and the Duke. An impression was made that has lasted a life time. I’ve found many other characters since then who have some things with him in common – most notably Mr. Darcy, of course! But for me no other character in fiction weaves quite the same spell!
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