“The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet” Or, ACD anticipated me by 110 years, the bastard!

“The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet” was first published in May of 1892 and takes place from Friday, December 19 to Saturday, December 20, 1890. Lovely Baring-Gould falls back once again on the weather, seeing as the substantial snow fall plays such a pivotal role in Holmes’ investigations. Setting May 1892 as the outer limits of his search (since that is the date is was published), Baring-Gould discovers that there are only two Februarys with enough snow – in 1881, discounted because Watson had not yet shared a case with Holmes, and in 1886, discounted because the snowfall occurred on a Sunday which doesn’t match up with Watson’s other statements in his account. What Baring-Gould is looking for, then, is ANY day between 1881 and 1892 which had substantial snow fall (BG, 282). That’s a lot of research for one man, but never fear! Because Baring-Gould has minions to do that sort of thing for him!

Yes! He has minions! In this instance, E.L. Hawke of the Royal Meteorological Society did his bidding, searching through the London weather archives to discover that there were in fact TWO Thursday snowfalls – March 17, 1887, which was not possible because Holmes was on the Continent at the time, bringing the affair of the Netherland-Sumatra Company to a close and December 18, 1890, which Baring-Gould…accepts! Well done, minion. Well done. Baring-Gould has been appeased.

But! Baring-Gould later admits that ‘the moon was wrong for both of the dates suggested by the snowfall’ (BG, 297). Oh, fatal mistake, Baring-Gould! Never expose your vulnerable underbelly! Interestingly, if we accept Baring-Gould’s dates, this is the last case Holmes and Watson go on before “The Final Problem.” Interesting. Also, I’m having a hard time keeping my head wrapped around the dates because Watson isn’t married here, but by the time we get to “The Final Problem,” approximately four months later, he is.

And Moriarty is back from his holiday! According to Leslie, ‘If the coronet was indeed “one of the most precious public possessions of the Empire,” Burnwell must have anticipated difficulty in disposing of it. Robert Pattrick suggests that he had made an arrangement to do so with Professor Moriarty’ (NA, 343). Baring-Gould goes one further and expands of Pattrick’s quote, saying that ‘the entire affair of the Beryl Coronet has sinister overtones which have never been properly examined. Burnwell’s careful cultivation of the friendships of both Arthur and Mary smacks of a devious plot being brewed. Surely it was not entirely by chance he was lurking outside the house the very night the Coronet was brought there. It seems probable that [Burnwell] was a Moriarty agent assigned especially to confiscate the Coronet’ (BG, 297). I’m so jealous that Pattrick got to this before I could – THIS is the essay I want to write! (It occurs to me that maybe Leslie didn’t mention it because Baring-Gould’s theory is not a popular one? Poor Baring-Gould – I like your theory!) Given that this is supposedly the last case before “The Final Problem” I’m going to have to keep on eye out for Pattrick to see what he has to say from now on…

One hypothetical statement from Holmes (‘You owe a very humble apology to that noble lad, your son, who has carried himself in this matter as I should be proud to see my own son, should I ever chance to have one’ [BG, 296]–they very conveniently forget the ‘should I ever chance to have one’) sets the Holmesians off in a veritable orgy of speculation! Here’s a little summary:

Holmesian = Who they think Holmes’ illegitimate child is

Rex Stout = Lord Peter Wimsey

Dr. John D. Clark and Baring-Gould = Nero Wolfe [That’s Rex Stout’s character, right?]

Mr. Marion Prince = Inspector Stanley Hopkins [What?! How would that even work?!]

A. Carson Simpson = Joseph Rouletabille (the young reporter-detective hero of seven novels by Gaston Leroux)


As Leslie says, ‘one must be amazed that [Holmes] actually found time to handle cases’ (NA, 343)!

There is more evidence here that Holmes is a bad shot – I think it’s mentioned quite early on (probably in…The Sign of the Four? I think?) that Holmes often leaves the guns to Watson. When he confronts Burnwell, he says that he ‘clapped a pistol to his head’ (NA, 349). Robert Keith Leavitt observes that, ‘”Whenever [Holmes] had occasion to pull a gun on a really desperate character, he got as near as possible to his man before showing his weapon.” Aware of his own poor marksmanship, Leavitt argues, Holmes made it a practice to clap his pistol against his captive’s head’ (NA, 349).

Many Holmesians don’t seem to think much of Holmes’ generosity. Holmes spends 3,000 pounds of his own money to recover the missing jewels from the coronet and asks Holder to write him a check for 4,000 pounds. This extra 1,000 pounds not only encompasses any expenses that Holmes accrued during his investigations, but also remember that Holder had said he was offering a thousand-pound reward. So really, Holder would owe him more than 1,000 pounds – Holmes is letting him off a bit cheaply. I mean, Holmes has to pay his rent somehow – he can’t always be doing pro bono work, especially for the clients that can afford it, otherwise he couldn’t afford to be so generous with those who can’t! But nooooo. This is a little bit confusing, but apparently, Richard Oldberg ‘suggests that Holder’s client selected Holder as his banker precisely because he expected Holder to be la about security and discretion and conspired with Sir George Burnwell to steal the coronet and then blackmail Holder. To avoid a public scandal, which would ruin Holder’s reputation as a banker as well as besmirch the “exalted name,” Holmes went along with Holder’s explanation–for a price’ (NA, 349). How dare he suggest that Holmes is (well, sort of) blackmailing Holder! D:

Which brings us to the state of Holmes’ bank account. And it’s not too shabby! Leslie kindly does some of the calculations for us–3,000 pounds is approximately $15,000 in 18-whoever-you-choose-to-believe–but leaves the rest for me to attempt. Earlier, he tells us that Holder’s mysterious client *cough*PrinceofWales*cough*’s loan of 50,000 pounds is equivalent to $6 million in today’s money. So. If I’ve done my math right [and it’s entirely possible that I haven’t], Holmes’ 3,000 Victorian pounds = 360,000 current dollars! Talk about Mr. Moneybags!

My miscellaneous thoughts! [Let me show you them!]

  • I was reading along, minding my own business, reading about Holder’s son and adopted daughter, when I read THIS SENTENCE: ‘When we were taking coffee in the drawing room that night after dinner, I told Arthur and Mary…’ [SAY WHAT NOW?! DAMMIT, SUBCONSCIOUS!]
  • Frankly, I think this one is not quite the that Holmes thinks it is. I called it halfway through Holder’s story. Page 331, I wrote [Arthur is protecting Mary who is in love w/his disreputable friend.]. Holmes must have been trying to make Watson feel better about not catching on sooner.
  • Matinee idol, indeed! PHWOAR, Paget!

  • When Holmes stops by during his investigation, he says ‘I must not sit gossiping here, but must get these disreputable clothes off and return to my highly respectable self’ (NA, 341). He then hurries UPSTAIRS. [WHOA, WHOA, WHOA. UPSTAIRS?! Everybody knows that Holmes’ room is off their sitting room and it’s Watson’s room that’s… Ohhhh, I see what’s going on here. ;)]
  • John Hall suggests that Mary must have been the mastermind behind the theft, pointing out that Burnwell ‘had no motive to steal the coronet and could not possibly have arranged the theft as Holmes suggests in the time allotted’ (NA, 350). [For obvious reasons, I like the idea of Mary being the mastermind.]

Lately, each week, I think ‘Holmesians, you’re letting me down! What on Earth am I going to talk about?’ and each week, I seem to be able to just ramble on and on and on! Let’s see if I can keep it up next week, when I’ll be typing about “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches.” See you then!

*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.


2 thoughts on ““The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet” Or, ACD anticipated me by 110 years, the bastard!

  1. Hi! I sort of stumbled across some of your posts and it looks like you’ve really done your research on this series! It’s great!
    By the way, I don’t think Holmes claps his gun to people’s heads because he’s a bad shooter, based on the fact that he writes VR on his wall from across the room and is the first one to put five bullets into the hound in ‘Hound of the Baskerville’ without a single one going astray, ahead of Watson and Lestrade. I have nearly zero knowledge of shooting, though, so I don’t know how good an accomplishment that would be, but surely he can shoot a man from across the moor if he’s capable of these.
    That part about Holmes’s son made me laugh. I’m just a bit surprised you didn’t write about Holmes visiting the son after 12 a.m just to let him know all was well; I thought that was really touching.

  2. Hi! I realize you wrote this some years ago, but I stumbled over this and couldn’t help but comment. You really have done loads of research on this series!
    Firstly, I do not think there’s evidence that Holmes is a bad shot. He does write VR from across the room and kills the hound in ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ with five bullets, and not a single one went astray. It just may be that he claps his gun to his suspect’s head to instill fear in him, because I think Holmes simply isn’t capable of shooting a man unless he’s threatening Holmes’s life.
    I’m slightly surprised you didn’t mention the fact that Holmes visits Arthur after midnight, even after he’s had a tiring day, just to let him know all is well!

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