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“I, Too, Mourn the Loss”: Mrs. Hudson and the Absence of Sherlock Holmes

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Abstract

This chapter examines the representation of Mrs. Hudson in selected episodes of Sherlock and the 2011 short story “The Adventure of the Concert Pianist” by Margaret Maron, focusing particularly on the questions raised by the representation of ageing female characters, agency, and detection in popular culture. Drawing on a range of critical approaches, the analysis focuses on the similarities and contrasts offered by the two texts, and reflects on the implications for the depiction of Mrs. Hudson in contemporary reimaginings of Sherlock Holmes. The chapter concludes that, despite energetic attempts to revitalize Mrs. Hudson’s character, especially by Maron, the issue of Mrs. Hudson’s representation, and the trivialization of ageing femininity in popular culture, remains pertinent.

Keywords

  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Popular Culture
  • Short Story
  • Female Character
  • Detective Character

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Notes

  1. 1.

    An early version of this chapter was presented as a conference paper at “New Directions in Sherlock,” UCL, April 11, 2014.

  2. 2.

    The quotation in the title is taken from Maron (235).

  3. 3.

    For the purposes of this chapter and my argument, my definition of the term and practice of “adaptation” is broad and encompasses literary and media reimaginings.

  4. 4.

    This chapter primarily concerns itself with Mrs. Hudson and the scope given to her for taking on a detective role, and therefore an extended discussion of her landlady status and property ownership is outside the scope of this present examination.

  5. 5.

    See discussions by Dolan and Tincknell; Hogan and Warren.

  6. 6.

    Tom Ue and Jonathan Cranfield discuss the proliferation of twenty-first-century Sherlock Holmes reimaginings and the growth of fan culture; see Ue and Cranfield (5).

  7. 7.

    I have also discussed this topic in my 2014 article on contemporary literary recastings of Doyle, entitled “Sherlock Holmes Reimagined: An Exploration of Selected Short Stories from A Study in Sherlock: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon.”

  8. 8.

    Cited in Vanacker (102).

  9. 9.

    Erisman also makes this point.

  10. 10.

    Also cited in Plunkett 2012.

  11. 11.

    A review in Kirkus Reviews states that Maron’s story “elevates Watson to the role of detective…complete with Mrs. Hudson as his Watson.” My reading of the story differs from this, focusing instead on the characters staying “in character.”

  12. 12.

    See O’Leary for further commentary on the specifics of Mrs. Hudson’s marginalization in the canon, and her textual appearances in Doyle.

  13. 13.

    The important theme of ageing and femininity is also taken up in recent critical debates on contemporary culture by scholars such as Hogan and Warren, Whelehan, and Dolan and Tincknell.

  14. 14.

    Other film adaptations for the big screen, such as Guy Ritchie’s, are not included in this assessment, although the significance of Ritchie’s adaptations should be stated.

  15. 15.

    See Lavigne (13).

  16. 16.

    Although Maron’s text is not a novel, Hadley’s point about the dual focus still applies.

  17. 17.

    This exchange reveals Mrs. Hudson’s understandable preoccupation with autonomy and the right to control her own space, an important feminist theme within the text.

  18. 18.

    I also discussed the significance of the girl detective figure in my 2014 article (11) (see note 7).

  19. 19.

    A poisoning plot is described in Dorothy Sayers’s Strong Poison (1930).

  20. 20.

    Although this specific reference pertains to Palmer’s discussion of academic feminism and female rivalry, the point can be extended to female relations more widely, as she demonstrates.

  21. 21.

    See also Erisman, and Effron.

  22. 22.

    In Maron, the description of the person waiting for Mrs. Hudson to return, “an elderly deformed man with a curved back and old-fashioned white whiskers”(251), bears close resemblance to the disguised Holmes in Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Empty House.” Holmes’s use of this disguise in that story has been commented on by Don Fallis. Also see Jones.

  23. 23.

    See my earlier discussion of Vanacker’s analysis.

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Correspondence to Charlotte Beyer .

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Beyer, C. (2017). “I, Too, Mourn the Loss”: Mrs. Hudson and the Absence of Sherlock Holmes. In: Naidu, S. (eds) Sherlock Holmes in Context. Crime Files. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-55595-3_4

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