“The Yellow Face” Or, Don’t feel bad, Holmes, nobody’s perfect.

“The Yellow Face” was first published in February of 1893 and takes place, as always, according to Baring-Gould on April 7, 1888.

Watson’s comments about Holmes’ physical fitness regimen, or lack thereof, send Baring-Gould’s Holmesians into paroxysms of speculation. For one, based on the fact that Holmes is a talented boxer, the Holmesians set about trying to determine Holmes’ weight. Apparently, according to Holmes himself, his height is six feet, which surprised me. I thought he was rather taller than that – I had always assumed he was at least 6′ 2″ – but I suppose for the Victorians, six feet was probably an above-average height. But they’re discussing his weight here and, based on his conversation with McMurdo in The Sign of Four, they conclude that he and Holmes must weigh roughly the same. H.T. Webster theorizes that McMurdo, described as short and deep chested, sounds like a typical middle-weight and places his weight, and Holmes’ at 11 stone or 154 pounds. Which makes Holmes EXACTLY the same build as me! Which I don’t buy, mostly because I’m nowhere near as skinny as Holmes ought to be.

But the Holmesians also express disbelief at Holmes and Watson’s exercise habits. Edward Van Liere sums it up best, saying that how Holmes and Watson managed to stay in shape ‘will always be a mystery. Search as we will, we can find no evidence that either Holmes or Watson kept themselves in training. This seems remarkable since there were times when they needed their strength and stamina in order to put their foes out of commission, and indeed there were occasions when their very lives depended upon it. . . . I, for one, am ready to believe that they did not lead such sedentary lives as Doctor Watson would have us think’ (BG, 576). I’m with him, for as often as Watson shows us them sitting around in the front room of Baker Street, smoking or drinking brandy, and given that Holmes can be a bit of a coke-fiend, there must have been some regular exercise going on that he wasn’t mentioning. Otherwise, I think the criminal world of London wouldn’t have had much to worry about in the way of physically being caught.

I have to take a moment here to thank Baring-Gould for converting any mention of money for us. Leslie seems to be very lazy about it – only occasionally helping us out when Watson starts to mention shillings and sixpence, etc. For example, in this story alone, Baring-Gould can be relied upon to tell us that the pipe Grant (or Jack) Munro bought cost him $1.87, that his tobacco cost him $0.16 an ounce, that Effie’s husband left her $22, 500, that Munro made $4,000 a year, and that he paid about $400 a year for his villa. The only problem, of course, is that I think he’s converting to 1960s rates of currency. But still! He’s making the effort.

We’re back to a bit of the doldrums on this one…what else did the Holmesians talk about? Oh! The Crystal Palace! I mean, it all sounds very interesting and pretty anyway, but Baring-Gould mentions that R.J. Cruikshank mentions that the ideas of construction used were ‘first worked out in building the conservatory at Chatsworth to house the giant Victoria Regina lily’ (BG, 582). My eye screeched to a halt on that sentence and I thought ‘Wait. How big is this lily?!’ Googling led me to believe that he actually means the Victoria regis lily, now known as the Victoria amazonica lily. And they are pretty BIG. Apparently they get to be 6-7 feet in diameter! That’s a me/Sherlock Holmes-sized lily! I don’t think these are the biggest ones there are, but look:

That’s a BAMF plant.

Also, just a note to all you botanists out there, if you’re taking a picture of a giant water lily? Put something in it for scale. There are hardly any pictures of this giant plant that gives you any idea of how big they are.

And…I think that’s about it. Tune in next week when we’ll read “The Stock-Broker’s Clerk,” one where Holmes actually gets it right. 😉

*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.

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