“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.

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“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.