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THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

by Arthur Conan Doyle


ADVENTURE XII. THE ADVENTURE OF THE COPPER BEECHES

"To the man who loves art for its own sake," remarked Sherlock
Holmes, tossing aside the advertisement sheet of the Daily
Telegraph, "it is frequently in its least important and lowliest
manifestations that the keenest pleasure is to be derived. It is
pleasant to me to observe, Watson, that you have so far grasped
this truth that in these little records of our cases which you
have been good enough to draw up, and, I am bound to say,
occasionally to embellish, you have given prominence not so much
to the many causes celebres and sensational trials in which I
have figured but rather to those incidents which may have been
trivial in themselves, but which have given room for those
faculties of deduction and of logical synthesis which I have made
my special province."

"And yet," said I, smiling, "I cannot quite hold myself absolved
from the charge of sensationalism which has been urged against my
records."

"You have erred, perhaps," he observed, taking up a glowing
cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood
pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a
disputatious rather than a meditative mood--"you have erred
perhaps in attempting to put color and life into each of your
statements instead of confining yourself to the task of placing
upon record that severe reasoning from cause to effect which is
really the only notable feature about the thing."

"It seems to me that I have done you full justice in the matter,"
I remarked with some coldness, for I was repelled by the egotism
which I had more than once observed to be a strong factor in my
friend's singular character.

"No, it is not selfishness or conceit," said he, answering, as
was his wont, my thoughts rather than my words. "If I claim full
justice for my art, it is because it is an impersonal thing--a
thing beyond myself. Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it
is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should
dwell. You have degraded what should have been a course of
lectures into a series of tales."

It was a cold morning of the early spring, and we sat after
breakfast on either side of a cheery fire in the old room at
Baker Street. A thick fog rolled down between the lines of
dun-colored houses, and the opposing windows loomed like dark,
shapeless blurs through the heavy yellow wreaths. Our gas was lit
and shone on the white cloth and glimmer of china and metal, for
the table had not been cleared yet. Sherlock Holmes had been
silent all the morning, dipping continuously into the
advertisement columns of a succession of papers until at last,
having apparently given up his search, he had emerged in no very
sweet temper to lecture me upon my literary shortcomings.

"At the same time," he remarked after a pause, during which he
had sat puffing at his long pipe and gazing down into the fire,
"you can hardly be open to a charge of sensationalism, for out of
these cases which you have been so kind as to interest yourself
in, a fair proportion do not treat of crime, in its legal sense,
at all. The small matter in which I endeavored to help the King
of Bohemia, the singular experience of Miss Mary Sutherland, the
problem connected with the man with the twisted lip, and the
incident of the noble bachelor, were all matters which are
outside the pale of the law. But in avoiding the sensational, I
fear that you may have bordered on the trivial."

"The end may have been so," I answered, "but the methods I hold
to have been novel and of interest."

"Pshaw, my dear fellow, what do the public, the great unobservant
public, who could hardly tell a weaver by his tooth or a
compositor by his left thumb, care about the finer shades of
analysis and deduction! But, indeed, if you are trivial. I cannot
blame you, for the days of the great cases are past. Man, or at
least criminal man, has lost all enterprise and originality. As
to my own little practice, it seems to be degenerating into an
agency for recovering lost lead pencils and giving advice to
young ladies from boarding-schools. I think that I have touched
bottom at last, however. This note I had this morning marks my
zero-point, I fancy. Read it!" He tossed a crumpled letter across
to me.


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