November 13th, 2011

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Sidney Paget Illustrations: "All the afternoon he sat in the stalls"

I thought it was high time that I ran another iconic Strand illustration by the genius that is Sidney Paget. This is one of my all time favourite representations of Sherlock Holmes, because he looks so handsome (tall, slim, dark), and I like the fact that he is totally and utterly caught up in the music.

""And now, Doctor, we've done our work, so it's time we had some play. A sandwich and a cup of coffee, 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."

My friend was an enthusiastic musician, being himself not only a very capable performer, but a composer of no ordinary merit. All the afternoon he sat in the stalls wrapped in the most perfect happiness, gently waving his long, thin fingers in time to the music, while his gently smiling face and his languid, dreamy eyes were as unlike those of Holmes the sleuth-hound, Holmes the relentless, keen-witted, ready-handed criminal agent, as it was possible to conceive. In his singular character the dual nature alternately asserted itself, and his extreme exactness and astuteness represented, as I have often thought, the reaction against the poetic and contemplative mood which occasionally predominated in him. The swing of his nature took him from extreme languor to devouring energy; and, as I knew well, he was never so truly formidable as when, for days on end, he had been lounging in his armchair amid his improvisations and his black-letter editions. Then it was that the lust of the chase would suddenly come upon him, and that his brilliant reasoning power would rise to the level of intuition, until those who were unacquainted with his methods would look askance at him as on a man whose knowledge was not that of other mortals. When I saw him that afternoon so enwrapped in the music at St. James's Hall I felt that an evil time might be coming upon those whom he had set himself to hunt down."

- The Red-Headed League
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Canon Recommendations for Christmas

Christmas is coming. Sherlockians may want to get their nearest and dearest the Sherlock Holmes Canon or Sherlock Holmes stories in the hope that they too will catch the Sherlockian bug.

I am going to recommend a couple of editions that are excellent. I will state upfront that for me, personally, the Strand illustrations, particularly the ones by Sidney Paget, are part and parcel and integral to the Sherlock Holmes stories. I would never buy my friends editions that do not contain the Paget illustrations. For this reason, I would never buy the recent Steven Moffat or Mark Gatiss editions for anyone. They do not have any of the illustrations in them. Without the accompanying illustrations, the stories are not the same for me.

Firstly, if you want to go all out and give someone the entire Canon, I am recommending this edition which is priced at £16.49:

Buy it here:

This edition is what it says on the tin - The Complete Sherlock Holmes - the four novels and all 56 short stories. It is a hardback edition, with beautiful typesetting, most of the illustrations in good quality, a red ribbon marker, and it contains an introduction by David Stuart Davies. It comes highly recommended by me.

If you just want to give people a selection of Sherlock Holmes stories to whet their appetite, in a lovely gift edition, I am recommending this which is priced at £5.75:

Buy it here:

It contains 15 of the "best" Sherlock Holmes stories, including A Scandal in Bohemia, The Red-Headed League, The Man with the Twisted Lip, The Blue Carbuncle, The Speckled Band and Silver Blaze. It is a beautiful pocket hardback edition, with gold gilt writing, a glorious pattern embossed on a rich red wine cover, with beautiful typesetting, glorious high quality illustrations, gold gilt pages, a red ribbon marker, and it contains an afterword by David Stuart Davies, a short biography of Arthur Conan Doyle and a Bibliography. To summarise this edition in a nutshell - IT IS TO DIE FOR! It comes highly highly highly recommended by me. PLEASE do not buy the Moffat and Gatiss editions - buy this one instead - it is truly beautiful, the BBC books are cheap and tacky by contrast. This is a gift edition which would make a to-die-for present.

Finally, in terms of value for money, and a lovely gift edition, if you want the entire Canon, I am recommending this which is priced at £7.65:

Buy it here:

It contains all 4 novels and 56 short stories, has all the Paget illustrations, and is a lovely hardback edition, with a deep rich red cover, gold gilt writing and red pages. You simply cannot beat it for value for money and quality and it is a lovely edition. This is actually the edition that I acquired when I rediscovered Sherlock Holmes last year and it is the edition that I got Mark Gatiss to sign for me the first time I met him.

In my humble opinion, these are by far and away the most beautiful editions currently in print. I have been shopping around extensively. It anyone knows different, please let me know in the comments.
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OMG ... OMG ... OMG ...!!!

My heart stopped. I had a meltdown. Could Harry and Aliona's Argentine Tango have been any HOTTER???

Harry has now overtaken Jason as my favourite to take the Strictly Crown.

Wishing Artem a speedy recovery.

Go on Russell!

Sorry, Audley, but it is time to go home.

Remember ... Keep Dancing!

Follow the link to the official BBC website:
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Remembrance Sunday: I Vow to Thee, My Country

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I Vow to Thee, My Country

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

I heard my country calling, away across the sea,
Across the waste of waters she calls and calls to me.
Her sword is girded at her side, her helmet on her head,
And round her feet are lying the dying and the dead.
I hear the noise of battle, the thunder of her guns,
I haste to thee my mother, a son among thy sons.

And there's another country, I've heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

Cut and pasted from Wikipedia:

I Vow to Thee, My Country is a British patriotic song created in 1921 when a poem by Sir Cecil Spring-Rice was set to music by Gustav Holst.

The origin of the lyric is a poem by diplomat Cecil Spring-Rice which he wrote in 1908 whilst posted to the British Embassy in Stockholm. Then called Urbs Dei or The Two Fatherlands, the poem described how a Christian owes his loyalties to both his homeland and the heavenly kingdom. The first verse, as originally composed, had an overtly patriotic stance, which typified its pre-first world war era.

In 1912, Spring-Rice was appointed as Ambassador to the United States of America where he influenced the administration of Woodrow Wilson to abandon neutrality and join Britain in the war against Germany. After the Americans entered the war, he was recalled to Britain. Shortly before his departure from the US in January 1918, he re-wrote and renamed Urbs Dei, significantly altering the first verse to concentrate on the huge losses suffered by British soldiers during the intervening years.

The first and second verses refer to the United Kingdom, and particularly to the sacrifice of those who died during the First World War. The last verse, starting "And there's another country", is a reference to heaven. The final line is based on Proverbs 3:17, which reads in the King James Bible, "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace."

It is associated with Remembrance Day services all over the Commonwealth of Nations.

Diana, Princess of Wales, requested that this hymn be sung at her wedding in 1981, saying that it had "always been a favourite since schooldays". It was also sung at her funeral in 1997 and her ten-year memorial thanksgiving service in 2007.

The third verse is a possible source for the title to both the play and the film Another Country, where the hymn is sung.
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Anthem For Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen

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Anthem For Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, -
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds.