published Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Holmes class brings Victorian London here

Janis Hashe discusses sections of a book on Arthur Conan Doyle's life during the first meeting of her class, "The Game's Afoot: Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle," at the English Rose tearoom.
Janis Hashe discusses sections of a book on Arthur Conan Doyle's life during the first meeting of her class, "The Game's Afoot: Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle," at the English Rose tearoom.
Photo by Alyson Wright.

Ever since she was a child, Janis Hashe has been fascinated by the Sherlock Holmes stories and the life of author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

"I read every single story. I sought out all the books," she said. "You never get tired of them; you just reread them every once in a while."

She began teaching classes on Holmes and Conan Doyle in her native California and continued when she moved to Chattanooga six years ago.

Hashe has partnered with The English Rose tearoom, 1401 Market St., to bring a bit of Holmesian British culture to the sessions.

"The ambiance is so good," said English Rose manager Dee Grier. "It's a great venue (to learn about Holmes)."

At a break during the first session, on Oct. 23, Grier served tea and sherry trifle to Hashe and six students, all of whom are Holmes fans of varying degrees.

"We went to Baker Street," said Brett Harper, referring to 221 Baker St. in London, the address of the fictional Holmes and now the location of The Sherlock Holmes Museum. "It was a little disappointing. We didn't find him (Holmes) there."

Jim Parrish said he also visited 221 Baker, and brought photographs of the trip. Parrish has a treasured volume at home, "The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes." The book is now 43 years overdue.

"If it ever catches up with me," he said, "I'll owe a fortune in library fines."

After reading the Holmes books when she was younger, Hashe began learning about the author as well.

"I discovered his own life was almost as interesting as the stories. He lived enough lives for four or five different people," she said. "It's completely fascinating."

Katherine Benefield said she is also fascinated by Conan Doyle.

"I want to know if he is more like Sherlock or more like Watson," she said.

At the first class, Hashe leads the group in a discussion of Conan Doyle's early life. Then they break for tea, followed by a discussion of the story "A Study in Scarlet." This year marks the 125th anniversary of the novel.

Hashe said she was attracted to the Holmes stories by the character himself and the way the author presents him.

"Conan Doyle has done what all great creators of classic characters have done," she said. "He doesn't tell you everything."

Hashe has enjoyed the BBC series, which places the characters of Holmes and Dr. Watson in the contemporary world.

"I think that is just a brilliant series," she said.

The "The Hounds of the Baskerville" episode was less successful, she said, because the lack of the Gothic elements in modern times took away from the story.

This year, CBS premiered "Elementary," starring Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson. And Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law have starred as the principal characters in two feature films, "Sherlock Holmes" in 2009 and "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" in 2011.

Hashe has seen the first of the movies. She called it fun but said Downey is "so not Sherlock Holmes."

The character, she said, has inspired others.

"We really wouldn't have had ("Star Trek's") Mr. Spock, who was a direct heir to Holmes."

For more information on the class, contact Janis Hashe at 622-2862.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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