“The Adventure of the Three Students” Or, I’ll keep it short because I keep getting distracted by QI!

Aha! The Strand has finally caught up with Collier’s! They got it first this time, publishing “The Adventure of the Three Students” in June 1904 and those slowpokes over at Collier’s didn’t publish it until September 24. So well done Strand! “The Adventure of the Three Students” takes place, according to Baring-Gould,

Sounds like most of the discussion surrounding this short story is about whether or not it took place in Oxford or Cambridge and, based on that, whether Holmes went to school at Cambridge or Oxford and, surprise, surprise, there is no consensus among the Holmesians!

Holmes is quite grumpy throughout, beginning with his “ungracious acquiescence” of Soames’ case, which Ronald Knox points out, is rather out of character for Holmes. He uses this to support his theory that all of Watson’s post-Reichenbach stories are made up (NA, 1066). But he is very cruel to Watson, too!

  • “Not one of your cases, Watson–mental, not physical.” (NA, 1070)
  • When Soames fails to follow Holmes’ deductions about the pencil found in his rooms: “Watson, I have always done you an injustice. There are others.” (NA, 1070)

But! More interestingly, I think, is the theory that Watson made the entire case up in an attempt to distract Holmes from his seven percent solution! But the Holmesians say he hasn’t done a good job of it and there is much doubt about whether or not Watson is a) clever enough to pull it off and b) a good enough of an actor to pull it off.

Grrr, I’m in quite a Holmesian slump – I’m just not feeling inspired and witty about my write-ups. I’m going to be strong and carry on, though, and hope for bluer skies once we get to The Hound of the Baskervilles… Next week, it’s time for “The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez.”

*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.

“The Adventure of the Six Napoleons, Or it’s so boring I seem to have misplaced an entire week!

Okay, I could have tried to brazen things out and pretended that I didn’t actually miss a week of my Sherlock Holmes Book Club or I could have tried to convince you that you were crazy and that you actually just forgot that you’d read all about “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons,” but instead, I didn’t. I was honest with you. And I think that should earn me a bit of a free pass. Also, I was super-busy at work last week and the last thing I felt like doing when I got home was sitting on the computer for even an hour longer. Also, despite Leslie’s claim that this is a “favourite of readers” (NA, 1033), I find “The Six Napoleons” to be mind-numbingly boring! So those are my excuses. Also, it’s my blog and if I want to be lazy, I can. So there.

“The Adventure of the Six Napoleons” was first published in April of 1904 (once again The Strand gets in there ahead of Collier’s) and takes place, according to Baring-Gould, Friday, June 8 to Sunday, June 10, 1900.

And, embarrassingly enough, I actually don’t have any fun notes to share with you! Which means I totally could have posted about this last week if this particular short story hadn’t lulled me into a coma. Sorry, ACD, but it’s just not one of my favorites! Don’t judge me!

Tune in next week when things will hopefully be a little more exciting than this week with “The Adventure of the Three Students.” I foresee a lively discussion of which university Holmes attended, Oxford or Cambridge, at the very least!

*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.

“The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton” Or, That cat Charles Augustus Milverton is one bad mother–SHUT YOUR MOUTH!

“The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton” was first published in March of 1904 and takes place, after much discussion and dissension among the chronologists, Thursday, January 5 to Saturday, January 14, 1899.

One of the chronologists uses Watson’s horror at Holmes’ suggestion of going housebreaking to date the story to early in their career, when Watson was not yet used to Holmes’ occasional disregard for the law. Leslie suggests that it was ‘likely to have been inserted by him later for dramatic effect’ (NA, 1017). I, on the other hand, think he was trying to lessen his guilt, thinking ‘Hmm, best to not make myself sound too enthusiastic about joining in the housebreaking.’ Baring-Gould offers yet another option – he points out that the date that they were breaking into Appledore Towers was a Friday the 13th and suggests that Watson may have been feeling a bit superstitious (BG, 571)!

Another attempt at dating the adventure comes from the use of the word snick to describe the sound of the lightswitch in Milverton’s home. According to William E. Plimental, lightswitches were not in public use by the dates normally assigned to CAM – instead, he dates the adventure to 1900 or 1901 which is later than most chronologists do (NA, 1022). Baring-Gould goes into further detail about this, though. Gavin Brend pointed out that electricity only became available in Hampstead in 1894 which would mean that this adventure must have taken place after Holmes’ return (BG, 567). But Elliot Kimball points out that, as someone who appreciates luxury, it was entirely possible that Milverton would have had his own little power plant which could have been installed as early as 1880 and that the question of the electricity can’t be relied upon for dating the story.

There is much discussion over Holmes’ treatment of Milverton’s maid, Agatha. Rather than just a flirtation, David Galerstein ‘points out that it was winter and the weather was sever; it is therefore obvious that Holmes and Milverton’s maid would have to meet indoors, in her bedroom. Only by sleeping with the maid, Galerstein insists, could Holmes acquire the inside information he so urgently needed’ (NA, 1016). Judy L. Buddle agrees, suggesting that ‘Holmes’ “swagger” evidences some enthusiasm for the job’ (NA, 1016). Alan Wilson even goes so far s to suggest that Holmes and Agatha had a son, named Sylvanus Escott, for some reason (NA, 1016). Quite scandalous, Holmes!

Good old D. Martin Dakin comes to the aid of the manipulated Agatha, chastising Holmes for placing the happiness of a society lady above that of a housemaid. Dakin dismisses Holmes’ claim that his hated rival will quickly step in after Holmes abandons her as being based on the ‘Victorian tradition that the affaires de coeur of domestic servants were something comic and not to be taken seriously’ (NA, 1017).

Brad Keefauver, though, seems to think that Holmes’ fake engagement was mutually beneficial and that perhaps it was even Agatha being the manipulator. According to Keefauver, ‘What man, carefully trying to win a girl’s heart, proposes after seeing her for only a few days, especially if he knows his intentions aren’t sincere? Holmes could have gained the information he needed by simply romancing her; he needn’t have asked her to marry him . . . unless, of course, it was Agatha who forced the proposal out of him’ (NA, 1017). Though it was still rather cruel of him to accept, even if it was Agatha’s idea, knowing he would eventually abandon her.

This story also features a two-mile run across Hampstead Heath, the truth of which many Holmesians doubt. Gavin Brend points out that ‘”by the time a runner has travelled one mile (let alone two), he will have a fairly accurate idea of the pursuit behind him” Since Watson makes no mention of such a chase, Brend disabuses the notion that he and Holmes felt compelled to run for two miles–although he does allow that they may have travelled two miles across Hampstead Heath, running part of the way’ (NA, 1028).

Only one Holmesian, it would seem, brings up the possibility that it was, in fact, Holmes who killed Milverton. This surprises me, well, for one, knowing how the Holmesians do love their wacky theories, but it also kind of makes sense with a lot of the vagaries of Watson’s details. But Bruce Harris is the only one who has come out and said it, theorizing that ‘Holmes and Milverton had a homosexual affair […] and that Holmes eliminated him to suppress the evidence’ (NA, 1029). Apparently this idea didn’t go over well with the other Holmesians – John Linsenmeyer ‘voices his “strong conviction” that while Holmes might have killed Milverton for “good and sufficient reason . . . .[Harris’] suggestion . . . is unacceptable’ (NA, 1029).

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

  • Milverton lived in Hampstead, ‘a residential borough (now part of Camden) popular witht eh artistic and literary crowd’ which was ‘the home of George Du Maurier, John Keats, and Karl Marx, among others. Hampstead’s Highgate Cemetary contains the graves of several luminaries, including Marx, George Eliot, Michael Faraday, Christina Rossetti, and Herbert Spencer’ (NA, 1007). [Milverton lived where I lived! Though I never attempted to blackmail anyone while I was there.]
  • Leslie takes Watson’s rubber-soled tennis shoes to task, wondering why in the world he would have had sneakers on hand. Watson’s would must not have been acting up at this time because, as Leslie points out ‘the plague of wearing tennis shoes as daily wear had not yet affected men’s fashions’ (NA, 1018). [Oh, I’ve missed snarky!Leslie – and now we know that he favors a more formal dress code.]
  • Based on the complexity of Holmes and Watson’s escape from Milverton’s home after his murder, D. Martin Dakin ‘believes that the woman, having infiltrated Milverton’s household as a servant, returned to some other portion of the house to resume her duties, providing her with the perfect cover’ (NA, 1026). [Rather a clever criminal, I’d say!]
  • When Holmes compares Milverton to the serpents at the London Zoo, Baring-Gould says that ‘it is unfortunate that the Zoo, in Holmes’ day, did not have a panda on display, for it seems likely that Holmes would have encountered the animal during his Tibetan expedition, and would have been happy to renew its acquaintance’ (BG, 559). [‘To renew its acquaintance’? How darling, Baring-Gould!]

Tune in next week for “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons”!

*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.

“The Adventure of Black Peter” Or, Wait, what’s this about Norway?

“The Adventure of Black Peter” was first published in 1904 (again in Collier’s first rather than in the Strand) and took place, with none of Baring-Gould’s usual rigmarole with weather or phases of the moon, Wednesday, July 3 to Friday, July 5, 1895. Frankly, he’s very quiet this week – the only other thing he brings up is Humfrey Michell’s distrust of Neligan. According to Michell, ‘it would have been a simple matter for him to obtain the record of the missing securities from the family and take the appropriate steps to obtain title to them for the benefit of the creditors. The only explanation [he] can think of […] is that young Neligan was a liar and was after something else than share certificates. If so, he was a very successful one, because he bamboozled Sherlock Holmes’ (BG, 407). I have to admit to not completely understanding what securities even are, but I believe that Michell does and, if he’s correct, it certainly makes sense. But what else would he have been after?

Evidence of Holmes’ aversion to telephones (and I know how he feels!) abounds in this story, using telegrams and asking Hopkins to wire him and sending a wire to Dundee rather than just making a few simple phone calls. In The Sign of Four, there is a telephone across the road, so there wouldn’t even have had to be a telephone in Baker Street. Leslie points out that ‘it seems odd that Holmes, always on the cutting edge of his own field, would shy away from the use of the telephone, which was spreading rapidly through England (NA, 1004). Can’t say I blame him, though!

At the very end of the story, Holmes mentions that he and Watson can be contacted in Norway if they’re needed during the trial and there is a bit of speculation about what in the world he’s talking about. D. Martin Dakin is, alas, unable to come up with any connections to the story – the only thing he can seem to think of is that Holmes was going in search of some of Neligan’s securities, but even that makes no sense because, as he points out, ‘neither he nor they ever got as far as Norway. (What did Neligan senior hope to do there anyway?)’ (NA, 1004). He has a good point there… Howard Brody suggests that ‘Holmes and Watson were off to investigate whether Neligan’s dinghy had been swept into the maelstrom off the Norwegian coast that Edgar Allan Poe wrote about’ (NA, 1004). Chris Redmond, though, has a very intriguing theory, suggesting that ‘Neligan was not, in fact, murdered, but instead bribed Carey to report his death, and that Holmes went to Norway to attempt to trace his whereabouts (and the whereabouts of the missing securities)’ (NA, 1005).

In another theory regarding a different alliance, Leslie points out that it seems an odd coincidence for Neligan, twelve years after his father’s disappearance, to happen to visit Peter Carey ‘on the very same night that Carey is visited by the only other man who knows what happened on that fateful night in 1883’ (NA, 1003). He suggests that Neligan and Cairns were working together – Cairns manipulated by Neligan into doing the confronting – and that when ‘Cairns was goaded into an impulsive act of violence […] Neligan decided to dissociate himself from Cairns’ (NA, 1003). It makes sense to me – it is a pretty big coincidence…

Ah, up next is…”Charles Augustus Milverton”! Which should be pretty interesting, I’d wager – tune in next week to find out!

*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.

“The Adventure of the Priory School” Or, Holmes, even Watson’s not going to buy that ‘deduction’….

“The Adventure of the Priory School” was first published in 1904 (again, Collier’s has beaten the Strand to the press here) and, according to Baring-Gould, takes place Thursday, May 16 to Saturday, May 18, 1901. Despite having read his notes, I can’t say I’m really sure how Baring-Gould dates this story – it seems that all his usual sources have deserted him! The moon, which was full on the night the boy disappeared, was not full on the asserted date in 1901 and, woe of woes, the weather has finally failed him! It has been dry weather when the story takes place, but ‘it rained on only four days in both May of 1900 and the May of 1901′ (BG, 616). I love that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, Baring-Gould soldiers on anyway!

This is the first one where there have been significant variations from the original manuscript to the published version here. I suppose it might just mean that that “The Priory School”‘s manuscript is more accessible and that, given the opportunity to compare them, all the short stories might have such differences. It’s interesting to see the differences between what must have been Watson’s notes and what he finally decided to present to the public:

When despairing of the talents of the local police force, the original manuscript reads “Had the object been to lose the heir instead of to find him, you could have hardly acted with greater indiscretion” (NA, 938).

Upon his reassuring Huxtable (Okay, I can’t be the only one who keeps picturing him wearing a Bill Cosby sweater, can I?) that he and Watson will soon be on the scene, the original left poor Watson out: “…and perhaps the scent is not so cold but that one old hound like myself may get a sniff of it” (NA, 941). Oh, Holmes, you can be so cruel sometimes!

For some reason, Watson has deleted ‘an uncharacteristic remark of concern expressed by Holmes […]: “That unfortunate Dr. Huxtable will be seriously ill, I fear. Do you hear him pacing up and down the passage?” (NA, 946). I guess Watson wanted to make sure to preserve Holmes’ reputation as, what is it, a brain without a heart? I bet he actually took the poor man a pudding cup to make him feel better, but Watson just wasn’t having that in his story.

When theorizing about whether the missing boy had left on his own or in the company of someone else, ‘Watson cuts Holmes’ refreshingly naive statement that follows in the manuscript: “If it were with someone then it was probably with someone whom he knew and trusted. A lad of that age does not willing set out alone in the dark with a stranger” (NA, 952).

When the man in a dog-cart hares off down the road from the inn, Holmes originally thought it was ‘Two men in the dogcart, so far as I could see. Wilder and Hayes–a curious couple to run together’ (NA, 960), leading Leslie to wonder if this is evidence of Holmes’ failing eyesight. Looks like more reading letters aloud is in Watson’s future!

Upon discovering a bicycle outside the inn, Holmes strikes a match in the darkness so that he can examine the tire, but apparently, this was a bit of dramatic license on Watson’s part because it originally read ‘The lamp still gleamed from the bicycle. Holmes slipped it off, and turned it towards the machine. I heard him chuckle in the darkness as the narrow tunnel of vivid light fell upon the patch of a Dunlop [DUNLOP DUNLOP] tyre’ (NA, 961).

I have to say that the Duke of Holdenesse has an impossibly impressive beard. All I can say is that I hope he used it to win longest beard contests. (And I can’t find Frederic Dorr Steele’s version, but it looks almost exactly like Paget’s.)

I find this beard hard to believe...

Leslie points out that this is one of only two instances of Watson smoking cigarettes (the other is in The Hound of the Baskervilles). Both of them take place in the early 20th century (though I think Baring-Gould, rebel that he is, dates Hound at the end of the 19th instead), leading him to wonder if cigarette smoking was ‘a late-acquired and short-lived vice for Watson[.] Or was the doctor instead unable to embrace the rebellious image that cigarettes conveyed?’ (NA, 949) Apparently, cigarette smoking was much more dodgy than smoking a pipe or a cigar; Iain Gately says that ‘cigarette smoker were naturally inferior specimens and best shunned’ (NA, 950). Of course, Holmes smoked anything he could get his hands on, so my guess is that the habit wore off on Watson, who was embarrassed about caving to peer pressure. Probably his shady editor, ACD, added in the two accounts of his smoking. I am full of theories this week – I’ll find my way into a Holmesian journal yet!

There is much discussed about Holmes’ deductions here – mostly concerning the bicycles tire tracks (which I’ll get to in just a moment) – but my darling D. Martin Dakin points out that part of Holmes’ narrowing down which direction the kidnappers must have gone involves the word of a policeman whose job is to stand ‘on duty all night on a lonely road in the heart of the country where apparently no one was likely to pass […] It seems an extraordinary waste of the poor man’s time and energy. What was he supposed to be doing? He wasn’t even patrolling the roads, just standing still in an isolated spot for six hours at night!” (NA, 945) It does seem a bit weird – maybe the policeman, knowing full well who Holmes was, was trying to impress him and maybe, just maybe, get a mention when Watson wrote up the story? That’s my theory, anyway.

I’m not going to go into Holmes’ deductions about which direction the bicycle was going because they involve extraordinarily complex mathematics and I really don’t feel up to it (and I’m running late with my post!), but I am going to say that I’m with T.S. Blakeney who says that ‘Holmes probably had a dozen other small indications to guide him; though he might mention only one factor, he usually had others in reserve as evidence by the twenty-three additional points of difference in the joint letter of the Cunninghams’ (BG, 617). I think either Holmes was simplifying for Watson or Watson dozed off during his explanation and had to make something up later when he went to write up the case.

My favorite bit of Holmesian research (and I’m not just saying this because he pointed it out (!) as his own favorite) is Leslie’s revelation about the Dunlop tire tread. During their search of the surrounding area, Holmes and Watson come across a set of bicycle tire tracks and Holmes says, rather proudly, I think, that he is familiar with forty-two different impressions left by tyres and identifies this track as that of a Dunlop tire (NA, 948). But Leslie points out that ‘by 1891, marketing departments had seen a prime opportunity presenting itself on the surface of the tyre, and they began adding the maker’s name as a central feature of the tread’ (NA, 949). So basically, the tracks that Holmes and Watson are examining say, quite plainly, DUNLOP DUNLOP DUNLOP! I can just picture Holmes trying to pass this off as a brilliant deduction (Watson, of course, would play along). Man, I seriously wish I could draw because I think this would make a very funny Holmesian comic.

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

  • ‘”I must have a peep through that [window], Watson. If you bend your back and support yourself upon the wall, I think that I can manage.” An instant later, his feet were on my shoulders, but he was hardly up before he was down again.’ [There’s a lovely bit of slapstick here in the BBC radio play adaptation of this short story – when Holmes climbs up onto Watson’s shoulders, he’s wearing shoes with spikes in them and Watson’s like ‘Why can’t you bring a pair of slippers along for this sort of thing?!’ Makes me laugh every time.]
  • Frederick Bryan-Brown takes issue, right off the bat, with Dr. Huxtable’s card, saying that ‘”Etc.” is not a word well thought of in educational circles, being normally interpreted as “I don’t know any more” or “I can’t be bothered to put any more.” …Also the Dr. in front, when the PhD is behind, is somewhat redundant and merely to impress credulous parents. True Classical scholars from the major universities go for Doctor of Letters or nothing, and one suspects Huxtable of travelling to Europe in the summer vacation to buy his Doctorate…’ (BG, 607). [Hahaha! I think Mr. Bryan-Brown may win the Snark Award (but it’s very persuasive snark that definitely appeals to the editor in me).]
  • This story comes in at number 10 on ACD’s list of his top twelve Holmes stories! I have to say that I’m a little surprised – it’s not one that really stands out to me, though that might be because it follows “The Solitary Cyclist” and because of the importance of bicycles in both of them, they tend to blur together…

And I think we’re back in the swing of things – that was more of a return to our pre-Final Problem/Empty House write ups! Tune in next week when I’ll be chatting about “The Adventure of Black Peter.”

*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.

“The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist” Or, I don’t know…something about a bicycle built for two?

All right, I’m giving myself until I finish this post to think of a hilarious bicycle-related subtitle and then I’m just going with the first thing that pops into my head.

“The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist” was first published in, huh. Wait a minute. According to Leslie, it was published in Collier’s on December 26, 1903 and then in the Strand in January 1904. Is this the first time that the States got him first?! I’m amazed. And, according to Baring-Gould, it took place, despite what Watson says, Saturday, April 13 to Saturday, April 20 1895.

The only interesting note I have from Leslie is in the essay on Victorians and bicycling which follows the short story. The Catalogue of an Exhibition on Sherlock Holmes Held at Abby House Baker Street, London NW1, May-September 1951 (I imagine this to be like the Holmesian version of the travelling Harry Potter exhibit that’s making the rounds) included a letter from the managing director of Raleigh Industries Limited, Nottingham which accompanied one of their bicycles included in the exhibition which read:

Dear Lord Donegall,

Referring to your letter of the 20th April, in which you inform me of your present researches into the whereabouts of the cycle belonging to Miss Violet Smith . . ., I am pleased to be able to tell you that on looking back through our files for 1895 and 1896 we have been able to trace a Humber bicycle which we delivered to Miss Smith’s father at Charlington Hall. As you recall in your letter, Miss Smith married and having no further use for the vehicle sold it back to us. Many years later when it became apparent that our earliest products would be of historical interest, it was placed among other examples of this firm’s craftsmanship. It was not, however, until your letter called attention to the fact, that Raleigh Industries Limited realised the very special value of this bicycle, in view of its association with the immortal detective, Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

I know I’m kind of reaching here for anything at all to talk about (and Leslie points out some inaccuracies here, too), but I just love the extent to which the bicycle company played along with the Holmesians here in their contribution to the exhibit.

And the only thing I have to say regarding Baring-Gould is that he seems to be developing a new obsession – not that he’s letting go of his exhaustive efforts to pinpoint dates in the canon – and that is the inaccuracies of Watson’s train timetables. Twice he points out mentions of trains which never existed – even correcting him by two minutes (apparently there was a 9:15 train from Waterloo to Farnham, but not, as Watson says, a 9:13 one). And it only makes me love him the more.

And once again, that’s it! I’d say we’re working towards The Hound of the Baskervilles at this point – things ought to liven up a bit once we get there. Next week, however, it’s on to “The Adventure of the Priory School” – keep your fingers crossed that the Holmesians have some spectacular revelation waiting for us!

*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.

“The Adventure of the Dancing Men” Or, Get your acts together, Holmesians!

“The Adventure of the Dancing Men” was first published in December 1903 and, according to Baring-Gould who is up to his old tricks here, takes place Wednesday, July 27 to Wednesday, August 10 and Saturday, August 13, 1898 (I’m not sure why he didn’t just call it July 27-August 13, but that’s what he says…). I think he probably has one of those logic puzzle setups for each short story where he’s like ‘It was raining on this day, but it can’t have been a Monday; the moon had to be out for Hilton to see the note on the sundial, but it was overcast on that day.’

I also think we are probably soulmates.

But! I am shocked to see that Baring-Gould let a typographical error through! The title of the short story is correct, but in his running heads, it’s ‘The Adventure of the Dancing Man’! *gasp* I guess that’s what happens when you devote so much time to logic puzzles…

Frankly, I think the Holmesians are in a bit of withdrawal after the excitement of “The Final Problem” and “The Empty House” – the theories are less than sparkling and aren’t nearly as numerous as they were. I’m sure we’ll recover, it’s just making for a bit of a Holmesian doldrum at the moment.

I think this is usually one of the short stories that has the main citation of Watson’s gambling problem  – it’s certainly not the only one; there are hints of it in “Shoscombe Old Place” and I think there are also hints of it in “Silver Blaze,” too – Holmes mentions that he keeps Watson’s chequebook locked up in his desk for him. Most Holmesians think this is a sign of Holmes looking after Watson and keeping him from gambling away everything. Good old D. Martin Dakin, though, ‘suggests instead that the doctor may have temporarily broken the lock or mislaid his own desk key, or that his desk simply wasn’t the kind that locked’ (NA, 866). It makes sense, but I’m going to have to go with Watson’s a gambler – there’s too much evidence to the contrary, Martin.

Though he solves it, the question is whether or not it, like “The Five Orange Pips” counts as a success since he does lose his client. The Holmesians seem rather at a loss as to why Holmes didn’t hightail it out to Ridling Thorpe when Hilton Cubbitt first turned up at his door. He did it for what’s-her-name – not “The Crooked Man,” the one where she thinks her husband’s dead, but he just works as a beggar instead” – and that seemed to be a much less pressing issue. No one really seems to have an explanation for Holmes’ lackadaisical approach to this case – not even a crazy one, like I don’t know, that Holmes had travelled from the future and was busy trying to fix his time machine so he could go back in time to actually save Cubbitt. Or, you know, something like that.

I don’t even have any miscellaneous thoughts! See? The doldrums!

Oh, one last thing – ACD agrees with everyone else who loves this one – he ranked it #3 on his list of favorites! We’ve passed all my favorites, so I’m looking forward to see what he ranks as #1.

Tune in next week for “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist” when hopefully the Holmesians will be back in form (and hopefully so will I – I’m SO hungry right now and not thinking straight!).

*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.

“The Adventure of the Norwood Builder” Or, Stop him, Gromit!

“The Adventure of the Norwood Builder” was first published in November 1903 and took place, once again thanks to Baring-Gould and his beloved weather reports (ah, it’s good to be home again), Tuesday, August 20 to Wednesday, August 21, 1895 (and also once again going against many of his fellows most of whom date this case to 1894).

When discussing his return to Baker Street, an instance of Watson’s pawky sense of humor seems to have fallen to the ACD’s editing pen. According to Leslie, the sentence originally read ‘At the time of which I speak, Holmes had been back for some months, and I, at his request, had sold my practice and returned to share the old quarters in Baker Street as a Junior and insignificant member of the firm‘ (NA, 830). I think there’s something particularly charming in this sentence – Holmes, going so far as to finance the purchase of Watson’s practice, has obviously missed his Boswell and Watson is so quick to uproot his life at Holmes’ insistence. I guess old habits die hard.

Once again, I find myself nudging Paget further down the list of my favorite Holmes illustrators – Frederic Dorr Steele has pushed him down to #3 there (I think Gutschmidt’s still got the number one position, though) with this:

He looks a bit like Jon Hamm to me… Though Baring-Gould, in a rare fit of snark, points out that Holmes seems to have worn his dressing gown out to Deep Dene House (BG, 425).

Though Holmes laments the lack of interesting cases, Watson assures us this is far from true, mentioning the ‘shocking affair of the Dutch steamship Friesland, which so nearly cost us both our lives’ (NA, 831). Leslie points out that ‘in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, it was the S.S. Friesland, a Dutch-American liner, that sighted Professor George Edward Challenger’s pterodactyl when it escaped from the Queen’s Hall’ (NA, 831). Surely SOME Holmesian has put forth the theory that Holmes and Watson were off tracking dinosaurs here! And, sure enough, Baring-Gould doesn’t let us down. Ray Kierman steps up to the plate, suggestion that ‘Holmes and Watson, retained by Challenger, had chartered the steamship and “placed the vessel in the very path [Holmes’] matchless brain told him the beast would pursue [on its flight back to Maple White Land] . . . There seems no doubt that Holmes lured the monster to the very decks of the vessel, and there . . . fought it out . . . There seems little doubt, either, that Watson, in the nick of time, when the pterodactyl had Holmes down for the last prod of its vile and lethal beak, stepped forward and sent a bullet through the brainless [?!] skull of the creature . . .”‘ (BG, 415). Sounds very exciting, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately T.S. Blakeney steps in to ruin all the fun, pointing out that the year of The Lost World seems to be 1906 and, as the Norwood Builder takes place in 1894 (See? Baring-Gould’s playing the renegade again!), the dates simply don’t match up.

My miscellaneous thought [Let me show you it!]:

  • Ordinarily I wouldn’t explain my obscure subtitle here (I certainly haven’t before), but this one is so bizarre, I can’t help myself. In the BBC radio play version of “The Norwood Builder,” the voice actor who plays Oldacre sounds SO much like Wallace from Wallace and Gromit that the entire thing becomes an Aardman claymation episode  in my head. It’s impossible to take the ominous Oldacre seriously when I keep expecting him to say ‘Cracking cheese, Gromit!’ at any moment!

And that’s it! After the craziness of the previous two short stories, it’ll be an adjustment returning to the fairly normal theories. Also, I have to say that I don’t feel like I did “The Empty House” justice – I wrote it up too quickly and Baring-Gould was in the doghouse (I didn’t quote anything from him) because he organized his essays poorly. If I get around to it, I may attempt to rewrite that one eventually…

Anyway, tune in next week for “The Adventure of the Dancing Men” – a perennial favorite!

*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.

“The Adventure of the Empty House” Or, back in the saddle again!

For me and Holmes! After being on auto-post for a month, I’m having to get back into the swing of things – I forgot how long it takes me to do these! (No dinner for me tonight! Um, I may actually be turning into Holmes, after all…)

“The Adventure of the Empty House” was published on September 26, 1903 and takes place Thursday, April 5, 1894.

Some of the Holmesians aren’t buying Watson’s fainting at Holmes’ return, seeing as he is an ex-soldier who has actually seen battle. Walter P. Armstrong Jr., who obviously falls into the Holmes-really-did-die-at-Reichenbach camp, thinks that ‘Watson did not faint at all, but in fact invented his dramatic reaction in a burst of poetic license. “A Watson who in real life had never fainted,” he reasons, “might easily in composing an imaginative account of an emotional scene which never happened depict Watson as fainting”‘ (NA, 789). Others, thought, like S.C. Roberts, figures that Watson’s in an emotional state given the recent death of his wife along with Holmes and sees nothing exraordinary about his fainting when faced with a resurrected Holmes. I’m kind of surprised there hasn’t been a zombie!Holmes book written amongst all the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Android Karenina, etc. hype. Where are my zombie Holmesians at?! Hmm, maybe that’ll be my new theory to get myself into the journals….

There is some discussion here that will tie into one of the theories later – Holmes mentions that he read Watson’s account of his death at Reichenbach “some months later” referring, presumably, to a short period of time after the incident at the falls. But Reichenbach actually happened in 1891 – Watson didn’t publish it until 1893. Sure, maybe Holmes was just all coked up and lost track of time, or maybe he read an early draft written by Watson….which he got how?

And who here doesn’t buy Holmes’ hooey about faking his death so that the criminals of London would get lazy? You can’t see me, but my hand is up, along with Leslie, Stanley McComas, and June Thomson. First of all, Moran, the main guy that Holmes is after now that Moriarty is gone, saw him alive! Uh, Holmes, I think the jig (gig?) is up. According to McComas, ‘Moran saw him alive, so Moran will believe he is dead. Every underworld character in London must have known Holmes was alive. Watson’s acceptance of this incongruous tale can only be put down to his shock at seeing Holmes again’ (NA, 793).

June Thomson sees Holmes’ tale as an ‘attempt to excuse the unexcusable.’ She says that ‘”while Holmes excels at scrutinising objective, external situations, he is far less adept at analysing his own actions and motivations, and thus has chosen to shift the burden of fault onto Watson’s shoulders. […] His first instinct when faced with the need to explain his own unacceptable behaviour was to look for something or someone else to blame, in this case, Watson’s inability to dissemble. By doing this, he could justify his conduct not only to Watson but also to himself.” Thomson is unsympathetic toward Watson, labelling him “not given himself to subtle psychological inquiry and prone anyway to believe Holmes was usually right”–which, in fact, he does here’ (NA, 794). Wow, that was a lot of quote of quoted quotes, but I think I got it – at any rate, I thought it was a fascinating read of Holmes’ story because it totally doesn’t make sense.

Are you also wondering why Moran didn’t just shoot Holmes with his fancy-schmancy airgun? Because I always did. According to Noah Andre Trudeau, Moran was actually planning on shooting Moriarty so he could take over as leader of the criminal world. He did this, but then as he aimed to fire on Holmes, his gun jammed, leaving him to ineffectually hurl rocks at Holmes (NA, 793).

Okay. I know what we all want here. And I’m going to give it to you, so here we go! A list of all the wild and crazy things Holmes may or may not have been doing during The Hiatus (NA, 815-825):

1. The Fundamentalists (i.e., Holmes did pretty much what he told Watson he did)

  • Boring! Who cares if he did what he said he did?

2. The Hiatus Never Happened (i.e., What it says on the box)

  • Turns out I was wrong about Walter P. Armstrong, Jr. – he’s the leading proponent of this school of thought, arguing that ‘”Holmes did not return. He did not return because he had never been away… Not only was Holmes in London, but he was living in the same house with Watson all the time. Watson deceived us. But we cannot blame him, for the deception was necessary in order to trap the wily members of the Moriarty gang who remained.'”
  • Richard Lancelyn Green agrees, saying that ‘the only logical place where Holmes could have gone into hiding and, at the same time, maintain contact with the criminal world was in London. He returned to live at 221B, venturing forth in disguise, and only Mrs. Hudson, Mycroft, and Lestrade (What?! Lestrade but not Watson?!) were in his confidence.’
  • Then we have a couple of Holmesians who think it was a replacement Holmes who came back – Anthony Boucher chooses Holmes’ cousin Sherrinford while Stefan Ernston concludes that it’s Holmes’ sister instead. But Harry Halen gets his own bullet point for his version of the imposter theory.
  • He thinks that ‘In Tibet [Holmes] underwent a “tantric materialization ritual” that resulted in Sherlock Holmes II, a live copy of the detective–a phantom body with almost all the intellectual and physical faculties of the original. In the company of his newly-born identical brother, the real Holmes, in the guise of a tobacco merchant named Anaxagoras Gurr, arrived in Russia at the invitation of Anton Chekhov. The two Holmeses parted in Riga: the phantom Holmes returned to London and the real Holmes began working in Russia, first in the Baltic provinces.’ I…don’t even know what to say to that one.
  • Robert Keller goes the Scooby Doo route, proposing that Holmes did actually die at  Reichenbach and then returned to be “the world’s first consulting ghost.”‘

3. The Hiatus Was Spent Elsewhere (i.e., In useful ways, just…elsewhere)

  • Quite a few Holmesians think he went to the States and worked on the Lizzie Borden case. Jon Borden Sisson even concludes that Holmes committed the murders because he was having an affair with Lizzie.
  • There are also many Holmes the Spy theories, spying in Russia, spying in Egypt, and spying in Persia being the two main locales.
  • Alan Olding thinks that Holmes may have spent some time in Australia.
  • Bob Reyom, thinks Holmes spent the Hiatus studying the motets of Orlando di Lasso and Gordon R. Speck considers that Holmes spent some time in Cremona collecting samples from the Stradivari workshop and then headed to Montpel(l)ier to analyze them.

4. Ah, Here Come the Crazies (i.e., there was a Hiatus, just not what you’re expecting [seriously, no one could have come up with a couple of these])

  • Benjamin Grosbayne–Holmes married Irene Adler, became a distinguished operatic conductor, and toured the musical centres of the world with his wife.
  • Martin J. King–Holmes went to Hoboken, NJ, and shacked up with Irene, resulting in the birth of their son, Nero Wolfe.
  • Stanley McComas–Holmes and Irene got married in Florence and then spent the next three years travelling around Asia.
  • Alastair Martin–The way Leslie words it is a little confusing, so I’m just going to quote it directly. Moriarty is ‘the widow of Count Dracula whom Holmes encountered at the Reichenbach, wed, and spent three years with during the Great Hiatus.’ Now does that mean it’s Moriarty, widow of Count Dracula, that Holmes encountered and then wed or that it’s Moriarty, widow of Count Dracula that Holmes encountered at Reichenbach, and then wed. Either way, wow, Martin. But just when you think it can’t get any crazier, enter…
  • James Nelson–In Tibet, Holmes met and mated with THE ABOMINABLE SNOW-WOMAN. What the what?! I don’t even…

I actually do have some miscellaneous thoughts on this one [Let me show you them!]:

  • The book Watson notices when he’s helping Holmes the mysterious bookseller pick up his books is called The Origin of Tree Worship. Problem is, no such book exists. S. Tupper Bigelow, really coming through with the research here, notes that the closest match is James Ferguson’s 1868 book Tree and Serpent Worship: Illustrations of mythology and art in India in the first and fourth centuries after Christ from the sculptures of the Buddhist Topes at Sanchi and Amravati prepared under the authority of the Secretary of State for India in Council with Introductory Essays and descriptions of the plates which not only has a hell of a subtitle there, it also weighs over 11 pounds! (NA, 786) [Sounds like quite a book!]
  • Along similar lines, Leslie notes that ‘book collectors argue unendingly over the exact “five volumes” carried by Holmes’ (NA, 789). [Aw, Holmesians! You got me again!]

And I’m super-hungry, so I’m going to call it there. So he’s back! And we’ll be reading about what he’s up to next in “The Adventure of the Norwood Builder.”

*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.

“The Final Problem” Or, hope you’ve got your handkerchief ready, Watson!

“The Final Problem” was published in December 1893 and takes place Friday, April 24 to Monday, May 4, 1891.

My organizational skills seem to have deserted me. Continue at the risk of your own sanity!

What a way to start your story, Watson! Seriously, it must have been like if the last Harry Potter book started off ‘Harry Potter was dead, to begin with.’ And people didn’t know it was coming either! No internet to leak things, you know. They must have sat down thinking ‘Oh, yay, it’s time for a new story about Sher–WHAT THE WHAT?! HE’S DEAD?!’ According to Leslie, the death of Sherlock Holmes ‘stunned the British public, cost the Strand Magazine twenty thousand subscribers, and led to an outbreak of black armbands’ (NA, 713).

But wait. Take another look at those dates – it takes place in 1891, but Watson didn’t publish it until 1893. Holmes has been dead for two years. Bert Coules, the director of the most recent BBC radio productions of Sherlock Holmes (and OMG, they are completely and utterly awesome), points out that ‘the reporting of the death of a figure as famous as Holmes should have raised a massive public outcry. Yet until now, there was none, leading one to wonder whether those other accounts somehow came to the conclusion that Holmes was still alive. Coules theorises that perhaps Watson engineered some sort of media cover-up regarding Holmes’ death; after all, “the tone of the opening and closing of the piece is certainly in keeping with the initial breaking of devastating news, rather than the amplifying of already-known facts”‘ (NA, 714). I like the idea that Watson had enough power and influence to be able to pull something like this off. I have a harder time thinking of a good reason for him to do it – frankly, the only thing I can come up with is that he thought it would keep London’s criminals at bay (out of fear of Holmes) for a bit longer. But Moran was aware of the truth and I would have expected that the criminal factor of London knew what had really happened long before Watson did. (I’m purposefully trying to be a little bit vague here just in case…)

Okay, remember when Moriarty comes to visit Holmes at 221B (pretty ballsy move, if you ask me) and he’s all ‘Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?’ Well, ‘David Merrel makes the startling suggestion that Holmes actually pulled the trigger, immediately killing Moriarty, and that the rest of his tale is a “cover-up,” indulged in by brother Mycroft, for the purpose of preserving his reputation’ (NA, 722). Part of me wants to say that someone has been watching a little too much Star Wars here, but the other part of me really quite likes this idea. Who’s to say that Holmes, who was not legendary for his faith in Scotland Yard, decided to take matters into his own hands (and some Holmesians assert that he did just that, only in a much more roundabout fashion) and take care of the problem when it was served up to him on a silver platter.

Remember I also said that Ronald Knox thinks Mycroft is working for Moriarty? Well, it sounds to me like he’s a double agent – though which one of them he’s actually working for, I can’t tell. Leslie says that Knox believes that Mycroft is ‘working for Moriarty while feeding information to his brother. It is clear . . . that someone leaked information from Holmes’ camp to the professor, and he accuses Mycroft of being the “mole.”‘ Don’t get too concerned, though, Knox also believes that ‘Holmes knew of his brother’s deceptions and boldly risked relying on him, concealing from Watson Mycroft’s equivocal part’ (NA, 731). So I guess that sounds like Mycroft really is a baddie. Seems to me that it takes quite a lot of energy to be a double agnet, though, so I think either Mycroft somehow became indebted to Moriarty and had no choice or maybe Mycroft is really the brains behind Moriarty, manipulating him into doing his bidding. Though it’s hard to take Flipperman seriously.

The movie has me trained too well:

‘Have you seen the morning paper, Watson?’


‘You haven’t seen about Baker Street, then?’

‘Baker Street?’

‘They set fire to our rooms last night. No great harm was done.’

Your rooms. Good heavens, Holmes, this is intolerable!’

Our rooms. They must have lost my track completely after their bludgeonman was arrested.’ (NA, 730)

I think we’ve stumbled across a Holmesian version of Mean Girls here! Like Moriarty follows Holmes across Europe and into Switzerland, Leslie follows poor, hapless Michael Kaser through their timetable. I swear, there are about three half-page notes about when Holmes and Watson left one place and arrived at another and each one starts off ”Michael Kaser erroneously concludes…’ Well, if he’s wrong, why do you keep including him in the discussion? Let it go, Leslie!

Speaking of which, do you want to see the cutest thing ever? It’s Dr. Julian Wolff’s map of “Operation Reichenbach.”

Wanna hear something heartbreaking? Watson got lost on his way back to Reichenbach. He says that ‘for all [his] efforts, two more [hours] had passed before I found myself at the fall of Reichenbach once more’ (NA, 740). According to Leslie, Baedaker states that, from the Hotel Reichenbach in Meiringen, it is only a quarter-hour walk to the upper falls, concluding that Watson must have gotten lost on his unguided return but was embarrassed to say so (NA, 740). I think heartbroken is the better adjective here, Leslie. What if he had managed to return in the 15 minutes it should have taken him. Would he have interrupted or even prevented Holmes’ deadly confrontation with Moriarty?

Pope R. Hill, Sr. points out that ‘”the crowning absurdity in the published account is shown by the tracks. On the three-foot ledge, Holmes is supposed to have walked with his back to Moriarty. This would have meant certain death for Holmes, with absolutely no chance for him to bring about the death of Moriarty… If Holmes had backed away from Moriarty, one set of tracks would be pointing forward and the other backward. Both sets were said to lead in the same direction toward the end of the path which meant one man was walking in front of the other with his back turned. Neither man would have walked in front of the other like that, for it would have meant his certain death and the escape of his opponent”‘ (BG, 316). Frankly, I’m with Hill here, but other Holmesians cite the many instances of good sportsmanship that occurs in their confrontation as proof that gentlemanly rules were in effect here: Holmes’ note that Moriarty allowed him to leave for Watson, Holmes’ alpenstock that he left on the trail rather than taking with him despite being an expert singlestick player and swordsman, and Moriarty’s lack of a weapon when he could easily have surprised Holmes (though I’d like to point out that he did leave a back-up plan in place which hardly seems sporting of him).

Which brings us to Moriarty. To begin, just a quick, interesting note: ‘Professor Moriarty’s Christian name is never given in “The Final Problem,” although in “The Empty House” Holmes calls the professor James Moriarty, curiously the same name as his brother’s’ (NA, 714).

He is one devious bastard, by the way (though I guess that’s to be expected when you’re the Napoleon of Crime – kind of in your job description, I’d say). When Moriarty just misses Holmes and Watson’s first train, Eustace Portugal ‘contends that Moriarty deliberately missed the train in order to lull Holmes into a false sense of security’ (NA, 731). But we can forgive him that one since theories abound that Holmes was not trying to outrun Moriarty but to lure him to Switzerland for a face-to-face confrontation. But you know what I don’t think we can forgive? Playing on Watson’s dying wife’s health to get him back to the hotel and away from Holmes. Mary Morstan’s health is iffy at this time and it’s widely accepted that she eventually died from consumption. So what does Moriarty do but send a letter from a lady similarly afflected! How could Watson refuse! ‘”The genius of Moriarty is here revealed that he chose the surest way of decoying Watson away from Holmes, knowing from his dossier on Watson that Mrs. Watson was herself a consumptive in an advanced stage”‘ (NA, 738).

So many theories, so little time and so I present, a summation (NA, 746-748):

  • Moriarty is imaginary. These are always my favorites, I think, and I’m going to have a hard time not just copying the entire section from Leslie’s appendix here.
    • Benjamin S. Clark–‘Holmes staged the entire affair to obtain a three-year rest-cure for his drug addiction.’
    • Irving L. Jaffee–‘Holmes imagined Moriarty and travelled to the falls bent on suicide.’
    • A.G. MacDonnell–‘Moriarty was invented by Holmes to explain his lack of success in an increasing number of cases; Holmes’ ego would not allow him to admit that ordinary criminals had outsmarted him, so he invented a master criminal.’
    • Bruce Kennedy–‘Holmes made up the entire story to take a three-year vacation’ or ‘Watson made up the entire story, at the request of Colonel James Moriarty, to memorialize his brother, who died saving Holmes’ life.’ [I’m not sure being immortalized as a criminal mastermind is really the right way to accomplish this, though…]
    • Jerry Neal Williamson–‘Professor James “Moriarty” was in fact Professor James Holmes, an elder brother of Sherlock’s, a younger brother of Mycroft’s. “The flight from England must have been made to give James a chance to escape with his life. . . . Acting as a decoy, Sherlock Holmes ‘fled,’ vanished, and lived on the funds of his honest brother [Mycroft] until the gang was gone and James was a free but broken man.”‘
    • Frederick J. Crosson–‘Holmes invented the story of Moriarty as a cover-up for a secret diplomatic mission he needed to undertake.’
    • T.F. Foss–‘The Holmes brothers and Watson made up the story to provide a foil for Holmes.’ [Does he mean Holmes was in on it or is he talking about Sherrinford (I always forget if he really exists or if he’s an old-school fandom creation…)]
  • Moriarty is innocent.
    • Daniel Moriarty (!) [That’s Leslie’s quotation mark, not mine!]–‘Moriarty was persecuted by Holmes as revenge for Holmes’ being forbidden to woo Moriarty’s daughter.’
    • Nicholas Meyer–‘Moriarty was ‘Holmes’ childhood tutor, the seducer of Holmes’ mother, upon whom Holmes projects a fantasy of criminality.’
    • Mary Jaffee–Moriarty was just a random dude who happened to be on Reichenbach Falls when a coked-up Holmes freaked the hell out and threw him over the ledge.
  • Moriarty lives.
    • Eustace Portugal–‘Holmes died at the falls and Moriarty took his place.’ [Though how he got around Watson, I’ll never know…]
    • Auberon Redfearn–‘Moriarty escaped death because his black cloak (Watson notices only a “black figure,” but a black cape or cloak is standard garb for villains) acted as a parachute until it caught on a branch on Moran was able to rescue him.’
    • Roger Mortimore–‘Holmes killed the wrong man at the Reichenbach Falls and Moriarty took on a new identity–Colonel Sebastian Moran.’ [Didn’t do him much good, did it?]
    • Jason Rouby–‘Holmes let Moriarty go and Moriarty subsequently achieved moral rehabilitation and, assuming the name J. Edgar Hoover, pursued a career in law enforcement in the United States.’
    • C. Arnold Johnson–‘Moriarty returned to London as Fu Manchu.’
    • William Leonard–‘Moriarty was in fact […Wait for it…] Count Dracula (!) [That exclamation mark is all mine!] and thus survived the fall.’
    • Robert Pasley and Rev. Wayne Wall–‘Moriarty was the Devil incarnate and thus could not be killed.’
  • Holmes is guilty.
    • Walter P. Armstrong, Jr., W.S. Bristowe, and Gordon R. Speck–‘Neither Holmes nor Watson was fooled by Moriarty’s note and Holmes had anticipated a confrontation and took comfort in his knowledge of Baritsu.’
    • Albert and Myrna Silverstein–‘Because Holmes could not obtain sufficient evidence to convict Moriarty, he enticed Moriarty to follow him to the falls for the express purpose of killing him. [I kind of like this one…]
  • The wrong person was killed.
    • Larry Waggoner–‘It was only a relative, a cousin or brother, of Moriarty who was thrown into the cauldron.’
    • Marvin Grasse–‘Watson and Mycroft dumped Holmes himself into the Reichenbach Falls.’
    • Tony Medawar–‘Watson did it alone after Moriarty failed.’ [Ooh, chalk another one up to dark!Watson.]
    • Page Heldenbrand–‘Holmes had a tryst at the falls with Irene Adler and she fell into the falls, perhaps committing suicide.’
  • Holmes really did die at Reichenbach.
    • Anthony Boucher–‘After Holmes’ death, Mycroft replaced him with his cousin “Sherrinford.”‘
    • Monsignor Ronald A. Knox–‘The entire post-Reichenbach Canon was made up by Watson, to supplement his income.’
  • Moriarty had crazy – and I mean CRAZY – technology with him that may or may not have backfired.
    • On the question of why neither Holmes’ nor Moriarty’s bodies were found (while it’s true that the Reichenbach falls are very violent, according to the Holmesians, a short way downstream, things become much calmer – and also the Swiss would have had quite a bit of experience at dragging the post-falls stream for bodies [How gruesome, Holmesians!]), A. Carson Simpson, batting for the D. Martin Dakin team, believes Moriarty, at least, was never found ‘because he had developed an Atomic Accelerator, a weapon more terrible than the atomic or hydrogen bomb, which he turned upon himself as a last resort’ (BG, 318).
    • Taking issue with this theory is Poul Anderson himself, who points out that ‘in order to accelerate mass, and so shrink it, energy must be applied. A shrinkage of one-half through velocity would require an energy equivalent to the original mass. Thus, to reduce, let us say, a 6-foot, 170-pound man to three feet, an energy of 170 pounds must be applied. Now a mass of one gram is equivalent to 9 x 1020 ergs, sufficient to raise a 30,000-ton ship more than 19 miles into the air. Mass-energy to the amount of 170 pounds, necessarily applied to Moriarty’s body through the law of equal and opposite reaction, would not only have destroyed the Reichenbach Falls in one annihilating blow but probably would hav eleft a large hole in place of the entire Republic of Switzerland. Mr. Simpson[‘s theory] goes yet further: postulating that objects [i.e., Moriarty’s body] were shrunk to nearly zero size. In order to do this, Moriarty would have to convert the entire sidereal universe into energy, a project somewhat too large even for his ambitious nature’ (BG, 318).
    • No, I totally stopped reading about one bullet point ago, too, but I just wanted you to see to what lengths the Holmesians will go!
  • Moriarty is really two young children who–well, you know my favorite theory, right?! 😉

Leslie makes a rather heartless comment here – in Holmes’ note to Watson, he writes ‘I am pleased to think that I shall be able to free society from any further effects of his presence, though I fear that it is a cost which will give pain to my friends, and especially, my dear Watson, to you.’ To which Leslie snarks, ‘What friends? In “The Five Orange Pips,” Holmes says to Watson, “Except for yourself I have none” (NA, 742). Really, Leslie? Is now the right time to bring that up?

ACD ranked “The Final Problem” at number 4 on his list of favorites.

But I have saved the best for last. Remember a few stories ago, when I mentioned that Nathan Bengis was now on my shortlist of Holmesians? Here’s why. ‘In the London Mystery Magazine for June 1955, a document purporting to be the last will and testament of Mr. Sherlock Holmes was reproduced in facsimile, with a prefatory note, unsigned, ascribing the discovery of the paper to Mr. Nathan L. Bengis, Keep of the Crown of the Musgrave Ritualists of New York’ (BG, 317). Want to know what it said? Trust me, you do:

I give and bequeath unto my devoted friend and associate, Dr. John H. Watson, often tried, sometimes trying, but never found wanting in loyalty; my well-intentioned though unavailing mentor against the blandishments of vice, my indispensable foil and whetstone; the perfect sop to my wounded vanity and too tactful to whisper ‘Norbury’ in my ear when necessary; the ideal listener and the audience par excellence for those little tricks which others more discerning might well have deemed meretricious; the faithful Boswell to whose literary efforts – despite my occasional unkindly gibes – I owe whatever little fame I have enjoyed; in short, to the one true friend I have ever had, the sum of 5,000 pounds; also the choice of any books in my personal library (with such reservations as are mentioned below), including my commonplace books and the complete file of my cases, published and unpublished, with the sole exception of the papers in pigeonhole ‘M,’ contained in a blue envelope and marked ‘Moriarty’ which the proper authorities will take over in the event my demise should make it impossible for me to hand them over in person.

To George Lestrade, of Scotland Yard, my gilt-edged German dictionary, in the hope he will find it useful should he again see the handwriting of Miss Rachel on the wall.

To Tobias Gregson, ditto, my leatherbound Hafiz, the study of whose poetry may supply a dash of that imagination so necessary to the ideal reasoner.

To the authorities of Scotland Yard, one copy of each of my trifling monographs on crime detective, unless happily they shall feel they have outgrown the need for the elementary suggestions of an amateur detective.

To my good brother, Mycroft Holmes, the remainder and residue of my estate, which he will be agreeably surprised to find, even after the foregoing bequests, to be not inconsiderable, and which will enable him, I hope, to take a much needed holiday from governmental works to surroundings more congenial than those of the Diogenes Club; in the expctation that he will remain celibate for the rest of his natural life–and unnatural too, for that matter.

Sherlock Holmes


So! Wipe that tear from your eye and join me next week for “The Empty House”!

*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.

“The Naval Treaty” Or, YOU KNOW WHAT’S UP NEXT, DON’T YOU?!

“The Naval Treaty” was published in two parts in October and November 1893 (way to make the next one come during the Holidays, ACD, that’s just what everyone needs) and takes place Tuesday, July 30 to Thursday, August 1, 1889.

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

  • When Holmes is interviewing Percy (and given that Watson totally used to bully him at school, I agree with Leslie that its odd Percy would contact him for help), Watson notes that he takes a few notes on his cuff. According to Leslie, Watson ‘observes that Dr. Mortimer used his shirtcuff similarly in The Hound of the Baskervilles, but the context suggests that Watson thought it a sign of untidiness and absentmindedness’ (NA, 680). [I’m not sure whether Leslie means that Watson thought Dr. Mortimer was untidy and absentminded or that Holmes is untidy and absentminded. Either way, we’ve got judgemental!Watson at our disposal!]
  • The doctor who looks after Percy on his trip home from town is named Dr. Ferrier. Leslie comments that ‘surprisingly, no one has suggested any connection with the Ferriers of A Study in Scarlet‘ (NA, 684). [That is surprising! The Holmesians do so love their tenuous connections.]
  • There’s this weirdly poetic moment with Holmes admiring a flower where he delivers this whole speech:
  • ‘What a lovely thing a rose is! . . . There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion,’ said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. ‘It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to reset in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are really necessary for our existance in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.’ (BG, 178). [Not only is he wrong (the color and smell of flowers attracts bugs to pollinate them, but I’m with Percy and Miss Harrison with a resound WTF here?!]
  • ‘It was a sound which a mouse makes when it is gnawing a plank, and I lay listening to it for some time under the impression that it must have come from that cause. Then it grew louder, and suddenly there came from the window a sharp metallic snick’ (NA, 698). According to Leslie, The Oxford English Dictionary credits “The Nava Treaty” as the first usage of this word to mean a sound (NA, 698). [Aw, look at you, ACD, coining words and everything!]
  • ‘S.C. Roberts, a tireless champion of the point of view that Holmes attended university at Oxford, points out that Holmes had several intimate conversations with Phelps (who had had a “triumphant” career at Cambridge), none of which made any reference to the school. “If Holmes had in fact also been a Cambridge man, it is almost inconceivable that neither he nor Phelps should have mentioned the University which they had in common”‘ (NA, 702). [I sense some snark there, Leslie – a tireless champion, is he? I wonder if this means Leslie’s in the Cambridge camp…]
  • When Holmes sends Watson and Percy off to Baker Street, Holmes says that ‘Mr. Phelps can have to spare bedroom to-night’ presumably meaning Watson’s old room. [Hmm, so Holmes is telling Watson to sleep in his room?]


*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.

“The Greek Interpreter” Or, In which Holmes introduces us to Flipperman!

“The Greek Interpreter” was published in September 1893 and took place Wednesday, September 12, 1888.

We finally get a little bit of information about Holmes family here. Not much, but it has set the Holmesians to salivating. Michael Harrison finds it interesting the Holmes mentions his grandparents (and his relation to the French painter, Vernet), but not his parents. This omission makes him ‘wonder whether Holmes and his brother may have been orphans brought up in separate households “possibly by some dutiful but somewhat unaffectionate relatives–possibly not”‘ (NA, 637). June Thomson also sees an unhappy childhood in Holmes and Mycroft’s pasts. ‘She concludes that Mycroft must have experienced this situation as well, observing that both brothers were bachelors without friends and decidedly unsociable’ (NA, 637).

Ah, Mycroft. The Holmesians have a lot to say about him, too, but first I’m going to take issue with Watson’s description of him. We all know that Mycroft is, to put it nicely, on the round side of things, but Watson describes his hand as being ‘like the flipper of a seal’ (NA, 643). Please excuse my nonexistent photo editing abilities, but this is what Mycroft always looks like in my head because of that:

He's holding his flippers because the Diogenes Club doesn't take to that kind of silliness too kindly.

I know they’re not a seal flippers, but that’s what my brain has come up with and is relentless with it. Seriously, every time:

Holmes is totally cool with it by now, but Watson's still getting used to it.

But enough of that. Many theories abound regarding Mycroft and his mysterious job in the government. J. S. Callaway ‘suggests that Mycroft Holmes was the head of the Secret Intelligence Service of the British government’ (NA, 663). Some Holmesians suggest that Mycroft was either Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales or Oscar Wilde. One theory even suggests that Mycroft is himself an anthropomorphic computer – ooh, maybe he’s a Cylon! But my favorite is Ronald Knox’s theory. In “The Bruce-Partington Plans” Holmes ‘reveals to Watson that Mycroft’s position is so important that: “occasionally he is the British Government.”‘ (NA, 639) The question then becomes why didn’t Holmes tell him this in the first place.  ‘Ronald Knox dismisses Holmes’ lame explanation (“I did not know you quite so well in those days”) and . . . guessing that only the utmost discretion could have caused Holmes to keep his friend in the dark, Knox concludes, “he told Watson as little as possible about Mycroft . . . because there was a secret in Mycroft’s life which must at all costs be hushed up”‘ (NA, 639).

And what is his secret? Mycroft is in league with…Professor Moriarty. Dun dun DUUUUUUUUUNNNN! WE HAVE A MORIARTY SIGHTING!

  • One of the questions here is why it took Mycroft so long to get Holmes involved in the case. Mr. Melas tells Mycroft that the baddies are starving somebody and he waits two days to call Holmes? ‘Ronald Knox intimates some ulterior, perhaps sinister, motive, explaining, “The case was clearly urgent; here you had a man starving; Mycroft, for all his indolence, would surely have called in his brother if he had not been squared in the interest of the villains”‘ (NA, 654).
  • Knox also points out Mycroft’s seemingly foolish action of advertising in the papers for information. Surely the baddies would have seen it and know that Melas had betrayed them. ‘Knox sees this as further evidence that Mycroft, too clever to make such a naive error, was in league with the villains: “He was in effect sending a signal to his accomplices in Beckenham, to say, ‘Your secret is out, and the police are already on your track. Charcoal for two”‘ (NA, 655).
  • Knox is also convinced that Mycroft purposefully wasted time by suggesting they visit J. Davenport in Lower Brixton in order to buy his confederates more time out in Breckenham. ‘Was Sherlock taken in by Mycroft’s conduct? Knox believes not. While Sherlock says  nothing, “it is probable,” Knox asserts, “that Sherlock knew a good deal about his brother’s nefarious associations, and was at pains to conceal his knowledge”‘ (NA, 659).

Later it will become less clear whether Mycroft is a double agent ultimately working for Holmes or for Moriarty, but that’s all to come in “The Final Problem.”

Holmes’ description of the Diogenes Club as “the queerest club in London” and Mycroft as “one of the queerest men” leads Leslie to address whether or not the word had implications of homosexuality then as it does not. The answer? It did, despite the fact that ‘Watson uses it in many nonsexual contexts throughout the Canon’ (NA, 638). Graham Robb ‘slyly compares Holmes to Wilde as “the other leading wit and aesthete of the Decadent Nineties,” noting the detective’s love of “introspective” German music (any excuse for it),

his penchant for cleanliness, and his proud declaration that having “art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms” Remember also that Watson refers earlier to Holmes’ “aversion to women.” The sexuality of Sherlock Holmes is oft debated by scholars, whose views range from traditional (Holmes loves Irene Adler) to outlandish (Holmes was a woman)’ (NA, 639). And yet, you never give us sources, Leslie! The only one you mention (again!) is the erotica in which The Diogenes Club is an S&M club (The Sexual Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, if you were wondering). Okay, to be fair, he also mentions a scenario in which Mycroft was a co-founder of the Playboy Club of London, but that was written for the Playboy Club’s member magazine (although Leslie calls it a tour de force, so I’m intrigued!). Poor Mycroft, he runs either a gay S&M club or the Playboy Club – no middle ground for Flipperman! Where are my scholarly essays, Leslie?!

I’m intrigued by what went on in these gentlemen’s clubs – did dudes just sit around and smoke and play cards and read the paper and make outlandish bets? I know they often had different ideologies – like there was a conservative club and a liberal club and a unionist club and a club for men who liked art and, obviously, a club for men who liked complete silence. Still, it seems like there must be more to it… I’ll just have to get a hold of Ralph Nevill’s London Clubs: Their History and Treasures and find out for myself, I guess!

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

  • I think this is the first – I’ll have to keep my eyes open to see if it’s the only – time that Watson calls Holmes by his first name. It really threw me off for a while until I realized it was to help the reader keep the various Holmeses in the conversation straight. Though why he didn’t just call his Holmes Holmes and Mycroft Mycroft is beynd me!
  • Leslie notes that ‘the villains’ choice of charcoal fumes–with its strange, almost cinematic (not to mention inefficient) effect–seems a puzzling one, especially in light of the fact that they had already dealt Melas a “vicious blow.” Yet they are hardly alone in their folly, as [my beloved] D. Martin Dakin marvels: “It is an odd thing how many of the scoundrels with whom Holmes had to deal seemed unable to resist the temptation to dispose of their victims by some complicated and lingering process which left them a chance to escape…” (NA, 661). [I guess this is just the precursor of sharks with lasers on their heads. Or…]

  • Mr. Melas describing how they got him to go with them the second time says that ‘His visitor, on entering his rooms, had drawn a life-preserver from his sleeve, and had so impressed him with the fear of instant and inevitable death that he had kidnapped him for the second time’ (NA, 663). [Can someone explain what’s so scary about a life preserver and how the laughing man managed to hide one up his sleeve? (I presume it’s not, you know, a boating life preserver, but still…what is it?!]
  • “The Greek Interpreter” takes place during the Jack the Ripper killings, in fact, the fourth had just occurred on September 8. Many of the Holmesians seem convinced that he had a hand in attempting to solve it (though it would have ultimately gone in the failures column), but there is no explanation as to why it’s never mentioned. Maybe because it would have been such a high-profile failure? Baring-Gould also mentions that there is a theory that Watson was Jack the Ripper (BG, 594), so maybe Holmes was trying to cover up for his friend. [Talk about dark!Watson. Also, I’m pretty sure I read a fic like that once…]

Only “The Naval Treaty” and then it’s the money short story – we’re almost to “The Final Problem”!

*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.

“The Resident Patient” Or, A three-hour tour!

“The Resident Patient” was published in August 1893 and took place Wednesday, October 6 to Thursday, October 7, 1886.

“The Resident Patient” gives us a very clear view of clever Watson. Yay! Upon returning from their three-hour jaunt through the city (That’s a hell of a walk, gents!), Holmes comments that their visitor is a doctor…and Watson gets it! Baring-Gould points out that, despite his self-deprecation (and his portrayal in many adaptations – Leslie blames Nigel Bruce [NA, 609]), Watson is actually one clever dude. Okay, he didn’t actually use the word dude. But still. He points out that in “A Scandal in Bohemia,” ‘Watson makes several pertinent deductions from the King’s newspaper before the Master adds his own. Watson easily connects the five orange pips with a seafaring man with no other indication than the postmarks. In The Sign of Four, he is able to deduce, with only a little prompting from the sleuth, that the murderer entered through the roof, improbable as that was. In The Hound of the Baskervilles, his reconstruction of Dr. James Mortimer from his walking stick is shrewd if not altogether accurate (BG, 268). Leslie points out that The Hound of the Baskervilles shows off Watson’s deductive powers quite impressively, since Watson’s letters to Holmes ‘are filled with keen observations and deductions and … Holmes compliments Watson, saying “Our researches have evidently been running on parallel lines”‘ (NA, 610).

I think I’m starting to get too antsy for “The Final Problem” and I’m sort of looking ahead too much to be pulling as many interesting from these short stories as I maybe should, but just one more thing before I move on to the next story – is there a division among the Holmesians? Those who are super-focused on working out the dates *cough*BaringGould*cough* and those are more lackadaisical about them? Because Leslie makes a remark here that ‘”The Resident Patient” is generally thought to have occurred in 1887, although there is little agreement among the chronologists’ (NA, 630). Sounds like a subtle jab to me! I don’t think he’s including himself in that group – although he gives a chronological table in the appendix, he certainly doesn’t discuss it to the lengths that Baring-Gould does – only in one or two stories has it popped up. He hardly ever dates them at all! I’m desperate for some Holmesian gossip.

So tune in next week for “The Greek Interpreter” where we’ll meet Holmes’ *gasp* brother and ponder who he may actually be working for (Hint: It may not be who you think it is.). After that, we’ve only got “The Naval Treaty” and then it’s on to the main event!

*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.

“The Crooked Man” Or, No, Watson, you can’t have a pet mongoose!

“The Crooked Man” was published in July 1893 and takes place Wednesday, September 11 to Thursday, September 12, 1889.

Apparently “The Crooked Man” is considered to be a locked room mystery. According to The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing, only “The Speckled Band” is a locked room crime, but Leslie adds also The Sign of Four, “The Empty House,” and this one to the list (NA, 588). I question whether or not it’s actually a locked room mystery, though, considering how easy it was for both the footman and Henry Wood to get into the room through the large French windows. Not much of a mystery there!

My miscellaneous thought! [Let me show you it!]

  • ‘…Could you put me up to-night?’
    ‘With pleasure.’
    ‘You told me that you had bachelor quarters for one, and I see that you have no gentleman visitor at present. Your hatstand proclaims as much’
    ‘I shall be delighted if you will stay.’
    ‘Thank you. I’ll fill a vacant peg then. Sorry to see that you’ve had the British workman in the house. He’s a token of evil. Not the drains, I hope?’
    ‘No, the gas.’
    ‘Ah! He left two nail-marks from his boot upon your linoleum just where the light strikes it. No, thank you, I had some supper at Waterloo, but I’ll smoke a pipe with you with pleasure.’
    ‘I see that you are professionally rather busy just now,’ said he, glancing very keenly across at me.
    ‘Yes, I’ve had a busy day,’ I answered. ‘It may seem very foolish in your eyes,’ I added, ‘but really I don’t know how you deduced it.’ (NA, 583-584)
    [Stop showing off, Holmes, he already said you could sleep over.]

And I’m afraid that’s it – most of Leslie’s other notes were about the British military and I didn’t find much of interest to discuss. Hopefully next week, when I’ll be discussing “The Resident Patient” will be a bit more riveting. At the very least we only have three more stories before we get to “The Final Problem”!

*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.