Vincent Starrett Week: The Poem That Launched a Thousand Prefaces (and One Blog Title) V.S. Week, Day # 1

Once upon a time a Sherlock Holmes enthusiast from Chicago (actually born in Toronto) wrote a poem:


Here dwell together still two men of note

Who never lived and so can never die:

How very near they seem, yet how remote

That age before the world went all awry.

But still the game’s afoot for those with ears

Attuned to catch the distant view-halloo:

England is England yet, for all our fears–

Only those things the heart believes are true.

A yellow fog swirls past the window-pane

As night descends upon this fabled street:

A lonely hansom splashes through the rain,

The ghostly gas lamps fail at twenty feet.

Here, though the world explode, these two survive,

And it is always eighteen ninety-five.

Vincent Starrett

[Vincent Starrett in 1918.]

It’s one thing to read a poem but sometimes it helps to actually hear it recited by someone more familiar with the piece. Luckily, the University of Minnesota Library’s Media Archive contains a set of recordings that you can hear by clicking here. It’s unclear who the reader is but according to the description: “Unidentified male voice reading Vincent Starrett’s poem “221B”. There are three different readings in this short recording, the first ending with the bark of a dog. The voice does not appear to be that of E. W. McDiarmid (who is heard on the other side of this tape). Perhaps it was another Norwegian Explorer, or Starrett himself.” A mystery….

And on that note, welcome to Vincent Starrett Week On!!

Wednesday would be Vincent Starrett’s 122nd birthday (which is “221" in reverse!). ‘Autolycus of Chicago’ is fantastically important to the Sherlockian community for a number of reasons, but personally his The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes was my introduction to ‘higher’ Sherlockian criticism; or less pretentiously, Starrett and his amazing little 70+ year old book revealed a world just beyond The Canon that I instantly recognized I had to be a part of - a world where temporal movement seems to happily orbit around the year eighteen ninety-five. 

Over the next few days I’ll be posting mostly Vincent Starrett-related material (e.g. Midweek Starrett Links Roundup & Friday Starrett Links Compendium) in homage to a man whose legacy lives on in a multitude of ways - one of which is having helped furnish a name for my blog. 

If you have any specific Vincent Starrett suggestions, links, questions, etc. I would love to read them. 

[Vincent Starrett’s book of literary quotations. A true Bookman.]

(Vincent Starrett Week, Day # 1)

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