“The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez” Or, Maybe you should’ve written about the leech, Watson…

The Strand continues its dominance in the industry by publishing “The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez” a good three months before Collier’s managed it, in July of 1904.

I’m a bit out of practice as far as typing these up goes, so you’ll have to bear with me and my potential lack of organization. Baring-Gould is comfortingly back to his old tricks using the weather report to back up his dates – and there is much weather in this one to base his theories on. The story opens with Holmes and Watson tucked up at home in Baker Street while a wild storm rages outside. Baring Gould says that on November 14th, the wind “achieved a pressure of 29.5 pounds to the inch and there was 0.35 inch of rain” (BG, 357).

This adventure opens with another list of unpublished cases, including “the repulsive story of the red leech and the terrible death of Crosby the banker” (BG, 357). As leeches are not usually red, many Holmesians assume that Watson is using leech as “used in its extended meaning of ‘physician,’ and that the ‘red’ refers to 1) the color of his hair [ . . . ]; or 2) the color of his clothes [ . . . ]; or 3) his association with blood-letting [ . . . ]; or 4) his political complexion in which he would naturally select the capitalist Crosby as his victim” (BG, 350). Although the murderous doctor theory is probably the more practical on, A Carson Simpson wasn’t quite ready to completely discount a gigantic, mutated leech. I like him.

Leslie points out that a few Sherlockians have taken issue with Holmes’ “deduction” that, based on the fact that the pince-nez are expensive, the woman they’re looking for must be well-dressed. Vernon Rendall points out that “a good salesperson, after all, can persuade a customer that she needs an expensive, fashionable pair of spectacles–rimmed with gold, even–before price is ever discussed. Eyeglasses [ . . . ] were once not as ubiquitous as they are today, and thus it stands to reason that a woman might be willing to spend extra money on an accessory that must be worn so prominently and so often” (NA, 1103). More compellingly, I think, he points out the example of Henry Baker’s hat in “The Blue Carbuncle” as an accessory purchased under more prosperous times and kept as a no-longer-affordable luxury. Seems to be a bit of a reach there, Holmes!

On the subject of Anna and her poison, Baring-Gould and Leslie seem to support different theories. Baring-Gould reports only that the kind of poison she took is believed to be one called Tr. Aconite, a conclusion arrived at by J.W. Sovine who writes that “she swallowed the poison from a small phial, which suggests a potent liquid. She lived about fiteen minutes . . . and was conscious and able to talk correctly until nearly the end, which rules out hypnotics, opium derivatives and corrosive poisons. The poison was too slow for cyanide” (BG, 366). Leslie, on the other hand, leaves out any discussion of what kind of poison she may have taken and turns instead to whether or not she actually took any sort of poison. Certainly her story is very sympathetic and we know Holmes can be a sucker for a good story. Brad Keefauver “finds it ‘a little too convenient’ that Anna is the only witness to her self-poisoning and, in a melodramatic scene, collapses ‘only after she’s had time to tell her story in its entirety” (NA, 1120). It is Keefauver’s theory that “a sympathetic Holmes–who had only just that year come back from the dead himself–knowingly allowed Anna to fake her own demise and escape with her life” maintaining that “‘If Anna Coram did put on a death scene that could fool both an experienced policeman and a doctor, I think we can rest assured that Sherlock Holmes was not taken in by it'” (NA, 1120).

Just an interesting note from Baring-Gould, that the manuscript for this short story is believed to be the only one given away by ACD as a present. It was inscribed “Sherlock Holmes original manuscript from Arthur Conan Doyle to H. Greenhough Smith, a souvenir of 20 years of collaboration. Feb. 8/16” (BG, 367). There’s no information given about who this H. Greenhough Smith was or in what capacity he collaborated with ACD and, unfortunately, Leslie makes no mention of it in his notes. A mystery for the ages, I suppose, along with its current whereabouts – Baring-Gould writes that it was auctioned in London March 26, 1934 where it brought 120 pounds and then disappeared.

My miscellaneous thoughts! (Let me show you them!)

  • Under an illustration of Watson welcoming Stanley Hopkins to Baker Street, Baring-Gould writes that “as we have previously noted, Mr. Marion Prince has advanced the theory that Stanley Hopkins was the son of Sherlock Holmes” (350). (To which I say “Wait, what?! How did I miss this theory?!”)
  • Baring-Gould confirms that there was, indeed, a six o’clock train for Holmes, Watson, and Hopkins to catch on the morning of the 15th. (Oh, Baring-Gould, how I’ve missed you and your timetables…)

Whew! It feels good to be back, albeit at a slower rate. I can’t make any promises as to when the next installment of the Sherlock Holmes Book Club will be, but I’m aiming for a leisurely one a month, so at some point in November, our next story will be “The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter.”

*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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4 thoughts on ““The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez” Or, Maybe you should’ve written about the leech, Watson…

    • Oh, that certainly is a good reason for ACD to have given him a manuscript as a gift! Thanks for solving the mystery. Was there a reason he gave him this particular manuscript?

      And thanks also for the link to the list of manuscript whereabouts – I’m glad Pince-Nez resurfaced! I think I remember a couple of others that Baring-Gould lost track of – I’ll have to see if they’ve turned up since.

  1. good to see you are continuing with your series!!! i’ve been reading your reviews every week since about february and they inspired me to take up a sherlocking project of my own. tonight i’ll finally catch up with you and start the review on the pince-nez. shall we compare notes?

  2. Wait, so Sherlock Holmes fathered Stanley Hopkins when he was about eleven years old!? (BLAC, LAST) I’m confused…I’m going to try to find this article and see exactly what was meant by this hypothesis.

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