“The ‘Gloria Scott’ Or, Sorry, I’m just not feeling witty today. Any suggestions?

“The ‘Gloria Scott'” was first published in February of 1893 and takes place Sunday, July 12 to Tuesday, August 4 and Tuesday September 22, 1874 (also my -106th birthday!).

Baring-Gould hosts a long discussion about Holmes and his tobacco habits, whether he preferred a pipe, cigars, or cigarettes, and John Hicks proves, pretty convincingly, that Holmes was definitely a pipe smoker. And you all know what his pipe looks like right?

WRONG! According to John Dickson Carr, the curved pipe – a calabash or a meerschaum – although being a Holmesian trademark, did not make its way to England until the time of the Boer War (1889) (BG, 108). So why do we associate it with Holmes? ‘Because Gillette, in playing the role of Holmes, found it difficult to speak his lines with a straight pipe between his lips; because Steele worked from photographs of Gillette as Holmes in drawing his famous illustrations for Collier’s Magazine” (BG, 108). Paget got it right by drawing a straight pipe for Holmes in his illustrations.

Seeing as this tale provides everything we know of Holmes’ university years, much discussion is also made of which university he attended. Obviously, the argument boils down to Oxbridge, but which one? Leslie outlines the Holmesian’s main sticking points:

  • The bull terrier that bit Holmes’ ankle and whether the dog would have been permitted in the college.
  • The setting of “The Three Students” (arguments abound) and Holmes’ familiarty with the setting.
  • The setting of “The Missing Three-Quarter” (Cambridge) and Holmes’ lack of familiarity with the setting.
  • Reginald musgrave’s (“The Musgrave Ritual”) blue-blooded background and the choice of university he would be likely to make (Oh, is he the third friend?).
  • Which school the author of the theory attended. (Oh, Leslie, you brought the snark!) (NA, 502)

Things are inconclusive at best and I feel like Leslie is leaving a lot out here – perhaps we’ll revisit the topic when we get to The Return...

The Holmesians point out that Holmes does not have a great sense of direction when it comes to the larger scope of things. He refers to Norfolk as being the North, but it’s actually in the east of England. And he does it again in “The Adventure of the Priory School” leading the Holmesians to conclude that, ‘for Holmes, “the north began some 120 miles from London in a generally northerly direction”‘ (BG, 109). Leslie likens it to ‘the New Yorker who perceives everything outside of the city limits as “out West”‘ (NA, 509). Such a city boy, Holmes!

Baring-Gould is very hard on Watson in this story. Discussing Holmes’ remark about the Trevors’ library (at odds with Watson’s earlier description that Holmes’ knowledge of literature is nil), he tells us that H.W. Bell theorizes ‘that Holmes’ knowledge of literature in 1881 was in fact “nil” [and that] it was Watson’s influence and example that affected the change’ (BG, 109). Baring-Gould, however, thinks this is ‘ascribing too much influence to a man whose preference ran to yellow-backed novels and the sea stories of Clark Russell’ (BG, 109). Why so cruel, Baring-Gould?! Grudgingly, he adds that ‘in fairness to Watson, however, it should be noted that it was he who tagged A Study in Scarlet with an apt quotation from Horace’ (BG, 109).

Those Holmesian matchmakers are at it again, trying to set Holmes up with Victor Trevor’s dead sister this time (some even think he did actually marry he). Esther Longfellow goes so far as to theorize that he was left heartbroken at her death which led to his never marrying (again), though Leslie points out that there is no evidence for such a claim. I’ve noticed this trend with some of the Holmesian’s theories – they just formulate them whether or not they have evidence to support them. That’s not a scholarly theory, Holmesians. Know what that is? IT’S FANFIC. Others credit, not Victor Trevor’s sister specifically, but some unhappy encounter that soured him on women. Elmer Davis suggests that perhaps ‘in youth [Holmes] was strongly attracted to some blameless nitwit, perhaps the daughter of a neighboring country family; and that the discovery, happily not too belated, of her stupidity sickened him not only of her, but of an emotion which such a woman–even such a woman–could inspire’ (BG, 110).

You can’t fail to notice that the baddie here shares a name with our beloved housekeeper. Christopher Morley points out that ‘Holmes never admitted to Watson why he chose Mrs. Hudson’s lodgings’ theorizing that ‘she was the widow of the ruffian Hudson who blackmailed old Mr. Trevor’ (BG, 111). And, although Mrs. Hudson is traditionally a widow, Manly Wade Wellman, my most favorite of the Holmesians, points out that ‘It is the careless habit of many to consider her a widow, but Watson never says so’ (BG, 111). Baring-Gould includes a strange, and contradictory, quote from Zasu Pitts’ “Mrs. Hudson Speaks” which says that ‘I never saw that bad Hudson and I certainly never wanted to. A convict indeed! My Hudson was a respectable tradesman, I’d have you know, in a very small way in Peckham, and he died when I was barely 25 years old’ (BG, 111). To which I say, wait, what?! Is this canon? Or Holmesian fanfic? I’m thinking it must be because surely my Manly Wade Wellman wouldn’t make such a mistake…

There are many, many holes in Trevor senior’s story – too many for me to list here, but they include dates, locations, and motives among other things – but one that stood out to me was something that a Mr. Welch pointed out. Supposedly, Trevor senior never regained consciousness after receiving the ominous note from Beddoes, save for an instant at the end. Therefore, it was impossible for him to have written the postscript regarding the letter in question and to have placed the papers in the Japanese cabinet (BG, 122). Sounds to me like someone is faking his death and was planning on meeting up with his ‘distraught’ son in, I don’t know…the Terai?!

I have miscellaneous thoughts this week! [Let me show you them!]

  • In Leslie’s introduction, he mentions thatthis case was brought to him by Victor Trevor “(one of only three persons ever acknowledged by Holmes to be his friend)” (NA, 501). [Wait, what? Who’s this third friend?!]
  • Holmes comments on the fishing here and again in “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place.” [I find this strange – fishing seems like too passive an activity for Holmes to enjoy…]
  • Know what a dog-cart is? I don’t either, but fortunately, we have Baring-Gould to tell us:

    He also tells us that ‘the dog-cart shown above was not a cart drawn by a large dog, as some might think, but a sportsman’s vehicle’ (BG, 113). I laughed when he said that some might think it was actually pulled by a dog, but when I was googling for that image, I found pictures of similar vehicles being pulled by actual dogs! I’m sorry I laughed at you, Baring-Gould.
  • The amount that Jack Prendergast made through his fraud in today’s money? $22 MILLION! [That’s some impressive criminaling, there.]
  • ‘”An instant later the explosion occurred, though Hudson thought it was caused by the misdirected bullet of one of the convicts rather than the mate’s match.’ Leslie questions why Hudson would have had an opinion. ‘Could it be that he was not “a young seaman” but one of the “dozen convicts”? It seems unlikely that as Hudson and perhaps a few others were blown into the water, they were discussing exactly what happened’ (NA, 525). [I say, old boy, did you see what happened? Also, have you seen where my leg went? Snarky!Leslie is snarky!]

Wow, I actually had a lot to say this week – and I even left out a Baring-Gouldian discussion of the dates given in this one for the simple reason that I didn’t feel like it. Tune in next week for “The Musgrave Ritual.”

*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.


6 thoughts on ““The ‘Gloria Scott’ Or, Sorry, I’m just not feeling witty today. Any suggestions?

  1. Look up Zasu Pitts on wikipedia. When I saw the name, I had a sharp intake of breath. I first saw her in the Gale Storm Show on early TV, and then recognized her in old screen comedies. Erich von Stroheim said she was the greatest dramatic actress (!!) (which worked for silents, but didn’t work in talkies – if you ever hear her voice, you’ll know why.) So I’m really surprised she wrote about Holmes. Was the Mrs. Hudson thing a play or an essay?

    • So…you gasped?

      Hmm, I’ll have to look her up.

      I’m not sure – it wasn’t very clear from the citation. I think it must be a play or something – maybe she played Mrs. Hudson? – see Manly Wade Wellman’s conflicting quote. He’s quoted all over the annotateds, so I doubt he’d get his Hudson facts wrong…

  2. The nearest I can find is that she may have written (!) a pastiche published in a book called armchair something or other, a compilation of pastiches and other stuff. My gasp was because she always played scatterbrained ladies in the shows I saw her in.

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