[Ads-l] Follow-up: Quote: Elementary, My Dear Watson

Christopher Philippo toff at MAC.COM
Wed Jul 20 08:27:04 EDT 2016


>The most Holmesian phrase - "Elementary my dear Watson" - is never uttered in the books. Gillette is perhaps the man who did most to bring it in, although he never used the exact phrase.
>In the play he wrote the line: "Elementary my dear fellow." Others subsequently swapped "fellow" with "Watson".
>PG Wodehouse is often credited with this swap in his spoof novel Psmith. But the Oxford English Dictionary queries this.
>It seems that the term was already being used in newspapers before Wodehouse's 1915 novel. So some uncertainty remains as to who coined it.
>Conan Doyle included the term "elementary" in Holmes's deductive vernacular. He also included "my dear Watson". But never in the same sentence.
>It seems that Gillette almost put the two together. And others later finished the job. The line, "Elementary my dear Watson" probably became famous when the talkies came in - it was used in The Return of Sherlock Holmes in 1929, which starred Clive Brook.
de Castella, Tom. "William Gillette: Five ways he transformed how Sherlock Holmes looks and talks." BBC News Magazine. January 26, 2015. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-30932322

"[William Gillette] credited as the first person to coin the phrase, 'elementary, my dear Watson,' regardless of the fact that the idiom, in its complete form, does not appear in any published version of the play."
Hayes, Paul Stuart. "Introduction." The Theatrical Sherlock Holmes. Hidden Tiger [Lulu.com], 2012. 8. https://books.google.com/books?id=Z6ARBAAAQBAJ&pg=PA56

"Elementary my dear fellow!  Elementary!"
Gillette, William. Sherlock Holmes: a play, wherein is set forth the strange case of Miss Alice Faulkner. Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1935.
https://books.google.com/books?id=--4EAQAAIAAJ&q=%22Elementary,+my+dear+fellow%22

"William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes (audio + video)" https://youtu.be/AklHzlu0KCc?t=2m20s [1936 audio of Gillette saying "Elementary my dear fellow!  Elementary!"; video of Gillette from 1916 film]

It would be nice to find evidence of Gillette using the line in his 1899 play, perhaps from a review.

Though not Sherlock Holmes, this is curious:

"All of this is quite elementary, my dear 'Fellow of the Chemical Society.'"
Luis. "Letters to the Editor: The Natural Forces." English Mechanic and World of Science 58(1487). September 22, 1893. 108. https://books.google.com/books?id=X0ZCAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA108&dq=%22elementary+my+dear%22

By September 22, 1893 there had been two Sherlock Holmes novels and twenty-one or twenty-two stories.  I'm not sure if there was a Sherlock Holmes play predating September 1893 which the above letter might have been riffing; one by Charles Rogers is variously reported to be from 1892, 1893, or 1894.  Or perhaps the phrase could have appeared in the caption to one of the illustrations of Sherlock Holmes stories in The Strand - but if so, one would expect fans to have noted that long ago.  Is the use of "elementary my dear fellow" in 1893 when Sherlock Holmes' popularity was growing simply a coincidence?  Or was the phrase in some form potentially somehow a cliche even before Sherlock Holmes was created in 1887?

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