'The Last Bookman' at 82

This rare photograph of Vincent Starrett was published in the Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine of August 10, 1969, page 62. The biographical note that accompanies the article states:

Starrett at 82. Still a pretty snappy dresser.

“A former reporter, foreign correspondent, and Tribune book columnist, Vincent Starrett has been a devoted bibliophile for most of his 82 years. He is the author of innumerable poems and books himself, including Born in a Bookshop, his autobiography, and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. The Last Bookman, published in 1968, is a collection of other writer’s reminiscences about Starrett.”

The biographical note was redundant.  By 1969, Starrett had become an institution in Chicago, and his association with Sherlock Holmes was well recognized.

In the article, Starrett recounts a Nov. 2, 1951 visit made by Rathbone to the author’s rooms.  The two roamed Starrett’s bookshelves (glimpsed in the background of the photo) and discovered their reading tastes often coincided.

“For a few minutes two tired booklovers, one with graying hair, one with long white hair (and both 'thinning'), became school boys again."

The visit was a memorable one for both men, as Starrett noted in reprinting this quote from his guest book:

“Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself. Talent instantly recognizes genius. (Sherlock Holmes to Dr. Watson.) Thank you for a memorable visit with you and your friends upon your bookshelves. Affectionately, Basil Rathbone.”

Starrett also briefly recounts his interview with the poet T.S. Eliot one spring afternoon in 1952.

“My first glance at T.S. Eliot … came as a shock, although a pleasant one. He resembled Sherlock Holmes in precisely the way that those incomparable Sherlocks of stage and radio, William Gillette and Basil Rathbone. Tall, dark, distinguished ­– and lean – he looked the part.”

An advertisement for Conferment by Needle, a 1980 booklet by Michael Murphy about the Sherlockian relationship between Starrett and T.S. Eliot.

Later than week Starrett invited Eliot to accept membership in the Hounds of the Baskerville (sic). Eliot accepted, but noted that he was “already an honorary Musgrave Ritualist and an honorary Trained Cormorant.”