Oh, I’m feelng woefully uninspired to be witty about “The Five Orange Pips” – Leslie was just plain boring this time around and all Baring-Gould did was obsess over the date and the weather and how many wives the scourge of three continents Watson has had (I know I say that every time, but it’s just that every time I really do mean it and then Baring-Gould ascends even greater heights of date nitpicking! And the wives is actually an entire essay on the subject and references some characters, cases, and evidence that we have yet to come across, so I’m going to save that for later.). I have literally one note from Leslie and a handful from Baring-Gould, so here we go!
“The Five Orange Pips” was first published in November 1891 and, according to Baring-Gould and his weather reports, takes place from Thursday, September 29, to Friday, September 30, 1887.
Both Leslie and Baring-Gould point out theories that none other than our old friend Moriarty has a hand in the mystery. In “The Horsham Fiasco,” Mr. Benjamin Clark says that ‘If the smokescreen of Klan persecution were eliminated, attention would logically be turned to the question of who, after John’s death, inherited Elias’ considerable fortune and Joseph’s handsome competence. We have at least prima facie evidence suggestion that the love of money ran strong in the Openshaws…Also consider the propensity to violence apparent in the Colonel. Is the assumption improbably that these strains were to be found commingled in less diluted form in the blood of a relative whose name was never made known to us? Could that unknown, an individual of genius-like cleverness and fiendish greed, have engineered the whole scheme? By any chance could he have been–“Dear me, Mr. Holmes, dear me!”‘ (BG, 403). If you ask me, that seems like an awful lot of work for Moriarty to go through when he could have just quietly poisoned his relatives instead, but maybe that’s just not as fun. Who knows?
There is another nice Moriarty-related call back (or call forward, I suppose) which occurs early on. When Openshaw first arrives, he tells Holmes that he is there on the recommendation of Major Prendergast who Holmes’ helped to clear his name when he was wrongfully accused of cheating at cards in the Tankerville Club Scandal. Baring-Gould points out that the Tinkerville Club ‘must have borne an evil reputation: a fellow member of the Major’s was none other than the notorious Colonel Sebastian Moran’ (BG, 392), right-hand man to Moriarty. Which I guess also lends a bit of credence to Moriarty’s involvement – surely it would have been easy for Moran to ‘encourage’ Prendergast to send Openshaw to Holmes to make sure Holmes knew who he was really dealing with.
“The Five Orange Pips” is also the first of the short stories to mention unpublished tales of Holmes and Watson – ‘the adventure of the Paradol Chambers, of the Amateur Mendicant Society, who held a luxurious club in the lower vault of a furniture warehouse, of the facts connected with the loss of the British barque Sophy Anderson, of the singular adventure of the Grice Patersons in the island of Uffa, and finally of the Camberwell poisoning case” (NA, 134). According to Leslie, there are over 110 unrecorded cases mentioned in the canon, though ‘John Hall, in The Abominable Wife, points out that there is meaningful information about only thirty-nine of these cases. My favorite, of course, which will be mentioned (but not explained) later is, I imagine, one of many a Sherlockian favorite – the Giant Rat of Sumatra. Sounds so exciting, doesn’t it?!
I also noticed, along the lines of the unrecorded cases, some often-glossed-over lines. When Watson is relating how he chooses which cases to write up, he says that ‘it is no easy matter to know which to choose and which to leave. Some, however, have already gained publicity through the papers, and others have not offered a field for those peculiar qualities which my friend possessed in so high a degree, and which it is the object of these papers to illustrate.’ Okay, fair enough, right? He goes on, though! ‘Some, too, have baffled his analytical skill, and would be, as narratives, beginnings without an ending, while others have been but partially cleared up, and have their explanations founded rather upon conjecture and surmise than on that absolute logical proof which was so dear to him’ (NA, 133). Now, I know we all (or at least I do) think of Holmes as infallible, but I admit that, statistically, there must have been one or two cases that he was unable to solve. What I find shocking, however, is Watson’s admission here that Holmes sometimes fell back on conjecture and surmise! I would think he would sooner admit defeat than not have absolute logical proof. It just seems so wrong and out of character! Really, Watson, I’m surprised at you for saying such a thing.
There is also much discussion among the Sherlockians about Watson’s description of the sound of the wind as it ‘cried and sobbed like a child in the chimney’ (BG, 390). Now, obviously, he doesn’t really mean that the wind sounds like a child in a chimney sounds but that the wind in the chimney sounds like a crying and sobbing child, but the Sherlockians (You’re either a Sherlockian or a Holmesian depending on whether you’re American or British, but I can never remember which way round it is…) have taken great joy in deliberately misunderstanding him. Mr. Bliss Austin in the awesomely named essay “What Son Was Watson?” says that ‘it is high time that someone investigated this matter of how a child in a chimney sobs’ (BG, 390) and Felix Morley discusses (slightly off-topicly, I would say) which William Clark Russell novel Watson is reading in his essay called “How the Child Got into the Chimney” (BG, 391). Poor Watson. Dammit, Baring-Gould, he’s a doctor, not a writer!
And I’m afraid that’s it! A short discussion this time. Tune in next week, when I’ll be discussing (hopefully in greater depth) “The Man With the Twisted Lip.”
*Most of my notes, I think, come from the New Annotated simply because I find its format easier to work through and it is, therefore, the version that I’m reading first (I’m only reading the notes in the Baring-Gould). Much of the information is doubled up, but there is some that is unique to either volume, so if you see NA, that’s the Baring-Gould edition and BG is the New Annotated. No, I’m totally kidding – it’s the other way (the logical way) round.