A Study in Scarlet … Dispelling Ignorance: Mormons, Massacre, and the Modern Mind

It has been distressing to see the now-all-too
typically-characteristic derision borne of Ignorance,
in those who express their distaste for Doyle’s
first adventure with Mr Sherlock Holmes:

Their “complaint” ?

… the Inexplicable “Wild West Story”
that comprises roughly the second half of the novel.

As a boy reading Holmes, whenever we,
as schoolchildren, encountered an unfamiliar word

or did not know to what some historical reference referred,
we … laid aside the book we were reading
and opened up the household OXFORD Dictionary,
or went to the local library.

We Made the Effort to Learn.

It was NEVER a hardship, for us in the 1960’s, to
educate ourselves – raise ourselves to a higher standard
than that which we had just ten minutes earlier.

Today – with precious rare exception,
anything that requires minimal personal effort
and the humility to learn,
is immediately dismissed as ‘too difficult’.

The refusal to pause … and discern between
Vacuous Opinion – (which should be kept private
… to conceal one’s foolishness);

and Apathetic or Intentional Error – (which should be
exposed and withstood … to defend honourable folk
from malignant bullies),

has all but vanished from the world that deifies “Me”
and is insulted that anyone should care enough to
make the effort to correct their error.

I was often asked by students, as a schoolteacher
in Italy, if I could recommend the best thing
for my Italian students to read in order to become
proficient in proper, grammatical English.

Without hesitation, my reply was always …

“find an unabridged, un-modernised, unedited copy of
“The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”.

“There”, I would point out, “you will see how English
was – and should be – spoken and written;
spelled and punctuated.”

Familiarise yourself with Holmes’ English
of a century ago,
and you will immediately be able to detect
the difference between properly spoken English,
and the barely-literate grunting of the
21st century.

Conan Doyle’s 1887 introduction of Holmes
was the very same introduction that I read
to Italian schoolchildren 120 years later.

And I cannot recall there ever being any difficulty
for 14-year old Italian students,
in understanding the Victorian narrative.

What woeful tragedy then, in modern-day minds
who claim English to be their ‘native tongue’,

but require their books, ‘bibles’, and ‘English’
to be dumbed down, modernised, or edited.


It is in this 1887 novel, A Study in Scarlet,
that Edinburgh native and physician,
Arthur Conan Doyle recounted the meeting of
Holmes and Watson,

and provided the reader with a glimpse
into the background of both literary figures.

Having changed his character’s name
from “Sherrinford” to “Sherlock”;

and replacing “Ormond Sacker”
with “John Watson”,

Conan Doyle introduced Sherlock Holmes
to the world at large in the one shilling edition
of Beeton’s Christmas Annual.

Written within living memory of the 1857 Mountain
Meadows Massacre in America – wherein 120 men, women,
and children were butchered by Mormons in Utah –
Conan Doyle drew upon the outrage for this, his first novel –

“A Study in Scarlet”.

A summary of history will enable the reader today to
understand the outrage that existed at the time – and should
exist today – over the savagery of which men are capable,

when they place the proclamations of self-appointed,
pseudo-religious ‘leaders’ over and above the old Bible
– while pretending to the world that they have something
(however tenuous) to do with “Christianity”.

1. Some sadistic tyrant claims to follow the Bible.
2. Said tyrant rapes/brutalises/massacres peaceful people.
3. Mindless humanity therefore blame the Bible
which the perverted tyrant used as a cover for his depravity.

If infantile multitudes had the maturity to control themselves
at any mere mention of the word “Bible” – WITHOUT the
knee-jerk vomiting of obscenities as though they were
starring in the 1973 film, “The Exorcist”,

they might be able to exercise that once-commonplace adult
quality that used to be known as “discernment”.

If people had the maturity to control themselves at any
mere mention of the word “Bible”, without the knee-jerk
vomiting of obscenities as though they were starring
in the 1973 film, “The Exorcist”, they might be able to
exercise what used to be called “discernment” …

It might also help them to understand why Conan Doyle
evidently felt compelled to centre his first novel
around an incident involving what was touted as some
supposedly Christian-esque sect in America.

It seems wholly unknown in the 21st century that a (genuine)
Christian is one whose life – conduct and conversation – at all times,
is characterised by the doctrine and example of Christ … and NOT
the “special revelation” proclamations of
Popes, Pastors, Faith-“healers”, or Evangelical Showmen.

The mature will have the intelligence to discriminate
the true from the false; and realise that those who are
… truly … godly people WILL conduct themselves
in accordance with the old Bible –

which makes no allowance for mass murder,
emotional hysteria, or fleecing the gullible.

What outraged the consciences of Victorian society
had nothing to do with any biblical account of
an Old Testament war against sadistic nations

who held parties where they placed their babies
on to the red-hot ‘arms’ of bronze statues of Molech,
and then beat drums and danced while the tiny babes
died screaming in agony …

… this massacre involved the butchery of peaceful settlers
in America – women and children included.

THAT is why the “Wild West” story appears.

In appalling perversion of biblical writ, it was maintained
by Joseph Smith

– whose claim to angelic visitation and Extra-Biblical
revelations (a feature of EVERY sect, cult, and Charlatan)
became Mormonism, in April of 1830 –

that the blood of Christ was insufficient to atone for
some sins … and that the only way for redemption
was for “sinners” to have their Own blood spilled.

This blasphemy against the Christ (kindly note:)
of the Bible, permitted murder on any “sinner”
over the age of eight.

For Smith’s successor Young, to murder certain people
… was to “love” them enough to shed their blood.

Such was the Mormon notion of “Blood Atonement”.

And at Mountain Meadows, Utah … that principle
was certainly carried out – children and all.

A Utah settler from Denmark, named Anderson
– for the sin of adultery – was held over an open grave,
whereupon his throat was sliced open from ear to ear.

They held him poised over the grave as the blood drained
into it; dressed his corpse in fresh clothing,
and dropped him into the grave.

This was the mentality immediately before
the massacre at Mountain Meadow.


A party of settlers going under the name of
“The Fancher Party” was attacked by a band of Mormons
and “Indians” (which, many strongly suspected)
might not have been ‘Indians’.

Successfully holding the attackers at bay,
the company noticed one of their potential killers
approaching under a White Flag.

Accepting the White Flag of peace, the Fancher Party
let down their defences, spoke with the representative,
and agreed to the Mormon proposal of safe passage
out of the area.

Having surrendered their weapons, the emigrants
began to trek in the direction that their Mormon
escorts led them.

The men – at the front of the convoy – were
butchered first.

The women … and children judged to be over
the age of 7 years … were slaughtered next.

Younger children, presumably, became “Mormons”
whether they wanted to or not.

In the wake of this historical atrocity, a man named
Lee was the only one of the Mormon killers to be executed
(by firing squad under the command of a certain Marshal Nelson)
for his blind allegiance to Brigham Young, Governor
of the Utah Territory.

Lee’s final words before execution included:

“I do not believe everything that is now being taught
and practiced by Brigham Young. I do not care
who hears it. It is my last word – it is so.

I believe he is leading the people astray, downward
to destruction … I studied to make this man’s will
my pleasure for thirty years.
See, now, what I have come to this day!”

It is firmly asserted – by its present adherents, that
modern Mormonism no longer practices
“Blood Atonement”

… yet, IF the mind-set has indeed been removed,

it is puzzling to note that Mormons have repeatedly
pushed blame elsewhere; and tried to bring about
the wholesale banning of Conan Doyle’s
“Study in Scarlet”.

I am a British Citizen.

And I understand that Great Britain became “Great”
in the 18th century … because it butchered people
who could not fight back … made slaves of multitudes
… and terrorized, invaded, and occupied the lands of
those who did not acquiesce –

much as another nation took over the reins
a century later, and now boasts freely and loudly
of its “greatness” and “might”.

Yet I – as a British man – do not seek to ban
the truth of British tyranny in the 17- and 1800’s.

I had nothing to do with it …

despise those who did …

and believe that political corruption and murder
should be open to historical criticism and loathing.

And that the citizens – of any country – should be capable
of summoning enough integrity and maturity
to stop living in a fantasy world of ego, apathy,
and the fanatical pagan religion of nationalism.

It strikes me as strange then, that certain Mormons
in the American state of Virginia, should seek to ban
“A Study in Scarlet” as being “anti Mormon”
[ The Guardian, 16 August 2011 ] …

… rather than acknowledge the incident
upon which it was based,
and have the maturity and integrity to reassure
the world that nothing like it could ever happen again
at their hands.

Conscience, in the most of humanity,
has observably been a thing of the past
for the last thirty years.

The massacre at Mountain Meadows
most definitely did occur:

Conan Doyle based this novel upon it,
and I forward the title now
for your consideration.

P Livingstone

Mr Holmes … and Mr Brett

A Craftsman …

I had been contentedly enjoying a frothy Mocha coffee,
when the man and wife walking past my table
outside the coffee shop – paused,
and then came back to ‘have a word’.

The man said that they had seen me a few times,
and – having always noticed the pipe, waistcoat,
and watch-chain, had several times
wanted to come and say ‘hello’.

Sitting down, they chatted about life, and the world,
and the change in people; lamenting, as they did,
over the utter loss of anything of refinement.

The man mentioned – amongst his examples –
the noticeable “garbage” that constituted television,
he said, for the past twenty years.

Learning that I had no television, he asked
if there was anything I remember ever enjoying
on the TV.

As anything manufactured by Hollywood
was immediately excluded,
I was able to name only the 1995 BBC production
of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ … which led me
to mention the death of actor Jeremy Brett.

In the later 1980’s, I felt a strange kinship with Mr Brett
based upon his confessed meticulous attention to detail
on (what was for me) the last continuously running,
Quality Production to be broadcast on a television set.

Twenty years Before the insulting displays which had
previously flowed from the Hollywood sewers;

and, After an array of modern characterisations
which bore little or no resemblance to the literary figure,

Jeremy Brett was the only actor
to ever make a visible effort
to bring the character descriptions of Conan Doyle,
or the illustrations of Sidney Paget
to life in the character of … Mr Sherlock Holmes.

To have recently seen in a 30-second ‘film trailer’,
this much-beloved character of Holmes … degraded
by the cheap and tawdry antics of an American actor who,
with money from his producer wife,
portrayed ‘Holmes’ as a martial arts thug;

accompanied by a ‘Watson’ who
as the pair sat in a Hackney cab,
leaned forward to punch ‘Holmes’ across the face
– was absolutely appalling.

Now, while it is evidently essential to have
ill-disciplined thugs as ‘heroes’ in America,

one would have hoped that Hollywood MIGHT
have the decency

to Leave Victorian Britain
– ( and the historical characters whose literary identities
are a part of that time and that place ) –

But then of course, Decency no longer exists
in a world that glories in displays
of crude behaviour, vulgarity, and violence.

Britain itself has discarded its once-renowned ‘reserve’
in order to pander to the boorish obscenity
of the 21st century television watcher.

Even the BBC have degraded Conan Doyle’s meticulous,
violin-playing, theatre attending, pipe smoking gentleman
to a vulgar, smart-mouthed yuppie
contending with ludicrous comic-book-esque ‘villains’.

It is not enough that Hollywood portrays its ‘super heroes’
as obnoxious, liquor-swilling, ‘partying’,
irresponsible, smirking, mental adolescents
who simply don a stretchy suit to become a ‘super hero’

– but now, beloved literary characters
are similarly degraded
in order to suit modern immaturity,
selfishness, and depravity.

Neither before nor after Mr Brett’s intensely scrutinised
meticulous portrayal, have either Holmes
or Watson been portrayed in a manner
that is completely faithful to their creator’s original.

Growing up, we never had a television in our home
and the only sights I ever caught of one were
when calling at the home of a school-mate.

I remember once, the high excitement
of being asked by one schoolmate
if I would like to come to his house that Saturday morning,
to see a Sherlock Holmes film on their TV.

I cannot adequately relate the thrill of anticipation
in the prospect of actually seeing
my favourite literary figure ‘brought to life’, as it were –
moving … speaking … “living” ( !!! )

rather than just being described
on the printed page of a book.

The day arrived – Finally !!! – and I scarcely knew whether to
join my friend in lying on the floor in front of the TV,
or sitting on the settee and leaning against the armrest.
The excitement was incredible !

As the credits began, I could hardly believe
that I was about to see Holmes and Watson in action.

I could NOT believe it.

And then …


I kept looking at my friend … then, at the screen …
then, out the window.

What … Was … This ???

THIS was not Holmes and Watson.

Some obnoxious, big-headed narcissist,
pontificating to some bumbling, dim-witted fool
who all but walked into walls ???

WATSON !!! — I finally yelled at the screen,
was a doctor — a combat Physician —
a British Army Surgeon !!!

whose clear-headed skill and expertise
saw him piecing together
men torn apart by cannon fire
in Afghanistan.

WHAT this Bumbling, Stupid … OAF
… had to do with John Watson, M.D.
was beyond me.

This wasn’t just … wrong:

it was Offensive.

I remembered thanking my friend for his kindness
and thoughtfulness in inviting me to his home – but,
I asked him (as politely and delicately as I could),
if he particularly want to see this.

We ended up getting on our bicycles
and riding down to The Melrose
where we picked up a bag of sweets each,
and headed off for Orangefield Park
to watch the swans,
while working our way through the little paper bags
of lemon bon-bons.

That night in bed, I looked through my illustrated
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes …
and did my best to forget about the disgrace that I saw
on that television set.

Fleeing the pain of being brusquely thrown away
by the girl I loved, I literally ‘ran away’ and joined the military.
And it was there – 14 years after that ‘TV experience’
that – in 1984, I saw Sherlock Holmes ‘brought to life’
in personality and mannerisms
by Jeremy Brett.

Here too, John Watson, ‘late of the British Army’
was presented as the thoughtful and sober-minded physician,
by fellow actors David Burke, and then, Edward Hardwicke.

THIS – for the first time Ever, was
Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.

Jeremy Brett had not only meticulously scrutinised
every detail written by Conan Doyle about Holmes,
but studied – in detail – the illustrations of Sidney Paget –

at one time, going ( to the horror of the series’ producers )
to the extent of cutting his own hair to replicate
the unusual haircut of Holmes in one particular drawing
where Paget had Holmes sitting in thought, legs drawn up
against his body, whilst staring into the fire.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s own daughter
wrote to commend Brett
for his portrayal of her father’s fictional creation
telling him that HE was the ‘Holmes of my childhood’.

Even on the death of his wife in 1985,
Brett never wavered from his meticulous portrayal
of Sherlock Holmes. Although deeply despondent,
he consistently presented the Holmes of literature
to multitudes who probably did not even appreciate
what they were seeing.

( It is certain that, if they did – if there was
even the SLIGHTEST appreciation for Brett’s faithfulness,
public outcry would have prevented
the abominations in the years that followed.

But, of course, half-way through the 1990’s … humanity
was well on its way ‘out’. )

I am still amazed, regularly, at the compliments
received – almost daily (just this morning, as I write these words)
simply because I dress the way that I do.
But, it explains a great deal to me
about the ease with which Brett’s Holmes
can be ‘replaced’ by such low-quality vulgarity.

Gentlemanly decorum … and lady-like femininity
are clearly a ‘threat’ – offensive –
to the vicious self centred, domineering mentality
of modern masses.

Those few who do appreciate these things, are overwhelmed
enough to pass an appreciative comment
– which is what happens to me.

A very sad statement when wearing a shirt with a collar,
and shoes that require polish;
or a waistcoat (commonly seen in the 1970’s) …
is remarked upon with sincere appreciation
by a few discerning souls who remain in the world.

Human beings are now, brutal;
and they want to see brutality.

And so, the modern “Holmes” becomes a snide creature
perfectly suited to the ‘standards’ of the 21st century
– the gentlemanly dignity having gone out of modern men
who now dress like slobs.

It can be no surprise to realise
that a self controlled, dignified Holmes
would be ‘boring’ to profanity-spewing yobs,
who do not possess the class to even tuck in their shirts.

I cannot imagine that anyone under say, 50,
can possibly imagine the extent of decline
in precision workmanship …

or the cheapening – ( if not outright dismissal ) –
of absolutely everything that requires Skill,
mature Experience,
and meticulous Attention to Detail.

Jeremy Brett was a man who delivered that
precise attention to detail:
he was a skilled craftsman – a master
in his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes.

Comments on the Internet openly demonstrate that,
to present Brett’s Victorian Gentleman Holmes
to modern-minded masses, is – truly,

to throw pearls before swine.

Sherlock Holmes was a Victorian Gentleman:
he was neither a wise-cracking, martial arts thug;
nor an obnoxious vulgar yuppie.

It is a disgrace that every last thing – in the 21st century,
must be brought down
to the gutter level of the crude masses;

a statement upon the modern world
that some things cannot be left alone
simply … out of respect.

Jeremy Brett was a flamboyant, extroverted theatre actor
who was known to address those with whom he worked
as ‘darling’.

Yet he made it a studied habit to become ‘Holmes’ –
an intense, irritable, introverted character
who was utterly disconnected from humanity,
and would spend an entire night
smoking one bowl of tobacco after another
in the course of fixating upon a problem.

It is (for me) disturbing to note that the producers
of the Sherlock Holmes series
seemed so unmoved at Mr Brett’s declining health
that they even allowed him to film
during that final two years of the series –

when Brett’s features had so swollen
from treatment for depression
that he barely resembled the Brett / Holmes
of the first four seasons.

When filming the exceedingly poorly ‘interpreted’ screenplays
for the last two years, Jeremy Brett was a
very sick and weak man.

Edward Hardwicke, born on the 7th of August 1932 …
He died from cancer, age 78, on the 16th of May, 2011.

Jeremy Brett, born on the 3rd of November, 1933 …
He died from heart complications on the 12th of September, 1995.

He was 61.

I remember, in the late ‘80’s, reading of Mr Brett’s
life-long struggle with melancholy;
his meticulous drive for PRECISE attention to detail;

and his constant effort to rise above
the mundane, ‘lowest common denominator’ laziness
of the changing world around him.

We had ( it seemed to me )
a great deal in common.

I thought, in 1989, about writing a letter to him –
to thank him, and (perhaps) encourage the man.

But I remember thinking: “How many ‘fan’ letters
must that man receive in a week? He would never even
notice one from the likes of me.”

And I never did send one.

But the point is, of course – upon sober reflection:

He may never know who I was …
… but I knew who he was.

And – given the disgusting spectacle
that has had the impertinence to pass
as “Sherlock Holmes” in the years since,

I truly wish that I had, at least, made the effort
to write … and say “Thank You.”

I suppose that is what these words
are about, really …

My way of doing now, what I never did then —

leaving a few words to say,

Thank You, Mr Brett,
for the joy that your skill, dedication, and efforts
have given me.

You brought a childhood literary hero to ‘life’.

And for that, I am exceedingly grateful.

P Livingstone