fialleril: [I kind of want to be this man when I grow up] (J.M. Barrie)
[personal profile] fialleril
I love J.M. Barrie. "Yes, Fia," you say, "we know." But here's the thing. I am always more interested in an author's work than in the author themselves. Sometimes I do not care about the author at all. This is even more true in film media, where actors and directors are just...not at all interesting to me.

But. Then there is Barrie. As much as I like his work, I am actually more interested in the man himself. And just. What is up with that? I mean, I don't even know.

But then he goes and does amazing things like writing self-insert fanfic for Sherlock Holmes.

Yes. Really. And because said fic is in the public domain, and also pretty short, I will share it with you as proof!

First, context!

First of all you should probably know that Arthur Conan Doyle and James Matthew Barrie were BFFs. They met shortly after they both moved to London, and their rise in fortunes more or less coincided. They played cricket together. Sometimes they could get very snarky. And, this one time, they wrote an opera together.

It was a horrible idea.

It went something like this: some time after ACD had murdered Sherlock Holmes in cold blood, and was trying to move on with his life, Barrie had been contracted to write this opera, but after completing only the first act, he got very sick. So he wrote to his BFF and asked if he couldn't help him out a bit. ACD agreed.

Long story short, they wrote this opera together. It was awful. It was worse than awful. It bombed spectacularly.

ACD seems to have been somewhat upset by this. (Possibly because, at this point, he had killed off Holmes and was now trying to be a ~*serious author*~, and this was a bit of a setback.) Barrie, on the other hand, seems to have found it hilarious.

Reason number 549 to love Barrie: he lols at himself. And then writes snarky parody fanfic, ostensibly to cheer up his BFF.

Here is the fic in question.

The Adventure of the Two Collaborators

In bringing to a close the adventures of my friend Sherlock Holmes I am perforce reminded that he never, save on the occasion which, as you will now hear, brought his singular career to an end, consented to act in any mystery which was concerned with persons who made a livelihood by their pen. 'I am not particular about the people I mix among for business purposes,' he would say, 'but at literary characters I draw the line.'

We were in our rooms in Baker Street one evening. I was (I remember) by the centre table writing out 'The Adventure of the Man Without a Cork Leg' (which had so puzzled the Royal Society and all the other scientific bodies of Europe), and Holmes was amusing himself with a little revolver practice.

It was his custom of a summer evening to fire round my head, just shaving my face, until he had made a photograph of me on the opposite wall, and it is a slight proof of his skill that many of these portraits in pistol shots are considered admirable likenesses.

I happened to look out of the window, and, perceiving two gentlemen advancing rapidly along Baker Street, asked him who they were. He immediately lit his pipe, and, twisting himself on a chair into a figure 8, replied:

'They are two collaborators in comic opera, and their play has not been a triumph.'

I sprang from my chair to the ceiling in amazement, and he then explained:

'My dear Watson, they are obviously men who follow some low calling. That much even you should be able to read in their faces. Those little pieces of blue paper which they fling angrily from them are Durrant's Press Notices. Of these they have obviously hundreds about their person (see how their pockets bulge). They would not dance on them if they were pleasant reading.'

I again sprang to the ceiling (which is much dented) and shouted: 'Amazing! But they may be mere authors.'

'No,' said Holmes, 'for mere authors only get one press notice a week. Only criminals, dramatists, and actors get them by the hundred.'

'Then they may be actors.'

'No, actors, would come in a carriage.'

'Can you tell me anything else about them?'

'A great deal. From the mud on the boots of the tall one I perceive that he comes from South Norwood. The other is obviously a Scotch author.'

'How can you tell that?'

'He is carrying in his pocket a book called (I clearly see) "Auld Licht Something". Would anyone but the author be likely to carry about a book with such a title?'

I had to confess that this was improbable.

It was now evident that the two men (if such they can be called) were seeking our lodgings. I have said (often) that Holmes seldom gave way to emotion of any kind, but he now turned livid with passion. Presently this gave place to a strange look of triumph.

'Watson,' he said, 'that big fellow has for years taken the credit for my most remarkable doings, but at last I have him - at last!'

Up I went to the ceiling, and when I returned the strangers were in the room.

'I perceive, gentlemen,' said Mr Sherlock Holmes, 'that you are at present afflicted by an extraordinary novelty.'

The handsomer of our visitors asked in amazement how he knew this, but the big one only scowled.

'You forget that you wear a ring on your fourth finger,' replied Mr Holmes calmly.

I was about to jump to the ceiling when the big brute interposed.

'That tommyrot is all very well for the public, Holmes,' said he, 'but you can drop it before me. And, Watson, if you go up to the ceiling again I shall make you stay there.'

Here I observed a curious phenomenon. My friend Sherlock Holmes shrank. He became small before my eyes. I looked longingly at the ceiling, but dared not.

'Let us cut out the first four pages,' said the big man, 'and proceed to business. I want to know why -'

'Allow me,' said Mr Holmes, with some of his old courage. 'You want to know why the public does not go to your opera.'

'Exactly,' said the other ironically, 'as you perceive by my shirt stud.' He added more gravely: 'And as you can only find out in one way I must insist on your witnessing an entire performance of the piece.'

It was an anxious moment for me. I shuddered, for I knew that if Holmes went I should have to go with him. But my friend had a heart of gold. 'Never!' he cried fiercely. 'I will do anything for you save that.'

'Your continued existence depends on it,' said the big man menacingly.

'I would rather melt into air,' replied Holmes proudly, taking another chair. 'But I can tell you why the public don't go to your piece without sitting the thing out myself.'


'Because,' replied Holmes calmly, 'they prefer to stay away.'

A dead silence followed that extraordinary remark. For a moment the two intruders gazed with awe upon the man who had unravelled their mystery so wonderfully. Then, drawing their knives -

Holmes grew less and less, until nothing was left save a ring of smoke which slowly circled to the ceiling.

The last words of great men are often noteworthy. These were the last words of Sherlock Holmes: 'Fool, fool! I have kept you in luxury for years. By my help you have ridden extensively in cabs where no author was ever seen before. Henceforth you will ride in buses!'

The brute sank into a chair aghast. The other author did not turn a hair.

To A. Conan Doyle
From his friend, J.M. Barrie.

Yes, Barrie did just refer to himself as "the handsomer of our visitors." Yes, he did call ACD a "big brute."

And yes, in a piece ostensibly written to cheer ACD up, he more or less told his friend, "Yeah, people only want to read your Holmes stories, and you shot your career in the foot when you killed him. LOL."

J.M. Barrie is awesome, you guys.

ETA: Ha ha, citing a source would be good, yes?

I stumbled across this little gem in a collection of ACD's Holmes-related writings, published under the title The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. He published Barrie's little fanfic in the midst of a longer essay on the creation of Holmes, entitled "The Truth About Sherlock Holmes." I thought it was so amazing that it had to be shared.

October 2012

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