Well! That was a day! I always laugh whenever anyone talks about how much they’d looooove to work in a library “with all the books.” I’ve worked in libraries for 11 of my 20 working years; it has very little to do with books. I am behind, I know, so here’s a short one!
Well, in line with our theme of “What would so-and-so get for Christmas,” I decided to consider the world’s most patient landlady (not housekeeper). It’s very easy to lose the real Mrs. Hudson amongst all of the screen versions, so I went back and searched for all of the places she shows up in the Canon, just to make sure I did not do the same. First off, I was very surprised by all of the”Hudson” mentions that were not her. Going by the searchable Canon at arthur-conan-doyle.com, she appears in 30 of the 63 total uses of the word “Hudson,” the others being “Hudson street” (“The Adventure of the Crooked Man”); the villainous sailor Hudson (“The Gloria Scott”), and Morse Hudson, (“The Six Napoleons”). Whenever we encounter her in the Canon–with one key exception–she is usually doing something domestic: cooking, serving food, showing in clients, or fretting over the mess up in 221 B. She worries about her lodgers, wants to care for Holmes when he’s “ill” (“The Dying Detective”), and is hysterically overjoyed to have him back after the Hiatus–all in line with a maternal nature. The major exception in her depiction as a stereotypical middle-aged or older woman is the role she plays in “The Empty House”: going in to turn the wax replica of Holmes every fifteen minutes so that Sebastian Moran might be fooled into shooting it.* The only other thing we know about her is that she is a Scotswoman (“The Naval Treaty”). We don’t know how old she is, what she looks like, if she’s a widow; divorcée, or married, if she has ever had children, or what thoughts and concerns she might have that don’t relate to the men in 221B. We don’t even know her first name.
This gives actors, writers, and readers plenty of room to imagine Mrs. Hudson in so many ways. There may be more varied versions of her than there are of Professor Moriarty. She’s been old, young, dowdy, attractive, cis female, trans (“Elementary”), motherly, rather harsh (the Guy Ritchie version), a former exotic dancer once married to a Florida drug kingpin, and a plump mouse with a mob cap. One might think that Sherlock Holmes has turned his deductive skills her way at least once, but with the exception of BBC’s modern Sherlock, we never know what he sees. I am tempted to imagine that he sees her in a maternal role, to the point that–like a young adult son–he doesn’t quite see her as “real.” So, when he and Watson give her Christmas gifts, I figure they’re rather unimaginative. A new-fangled vacuum. Pretty tea towels. Fancy tea. Chocolates.
But what if Mycroft–who seems to know everything–knows Mrs. Hudson as well? What if there are times when she says she’s “visiting her sister,” that she’s really hanging out in Mycroft’s parlor, playing cards, drinking brandy, and discussing world affairs? What if her fur coat (Russian sable), Plato’s Republic in the original Greek, and Indian brass candlesticks aren’t necessarily left over from her marriage? Perhaps someone knows that, once in awhile, she likes to get out of the kitchen.
Now for today’s question:
Why do people tend to think Mrs. Hudson’s first name is Martha?
And the prize…..
I didn’t find a date on this Grossett and Dunlap printing of Tales of Sherlock Holmes, but I am guessing sometime in the 1940’s, going by the Basil Rathbone cover photo. Unfortunately, that’s the only illustration in the book. It’s a cheap edition; the pages have browned and there is some foxing (little brown spots) and a brown fade mark on the inside cover. But the binding is very tight, and the jacket has just some minimal small tears and shelf wear. It’s a marvel there’s still a jacket at all. For your chance to win, just send your answer in via blog comment or FB message.
I’d also like to offer my apologies for being behind. I worked this afternoon, and will do an 8-hour shift tomorrow. After that, God willing, I will be able to catch up on posts and winners. So–this gives everyone some extra time to squeeze in replies for drawings that haven’t happened yet! See you tomorrow!
Day 5 Winner!!!!
Congratulations to Rick Krisciunas. Holmes and Watson were served cocoa in the morning in “The Adventure of the Priory School.” Otherwise, they seem to prefer coffee in the morning.
*If you stop to think about it, every fifteen minutes is a bit mechanical; we should all be grateful that Moran didn’t think this through. Also, as a middle-aged woman who is maternal and (kind of) domestic, I am not saying these are bad things. They are not. But they are easy ways to handle a secondary character.