"How are you? You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive." These were the first words ever spoken by Sherlock Holmes to Dr. Watson upon their being introduced by young Stamford in the chemical laboratory of St. Bartholomew's Hospital. The two men moved into their mutual lodgings at 221-B Baker Street the following day. Thus, began one of the most successful companionships in literary history. There are 4 novels and 56 short stories in what we Sherlockians refer to as the Canon or Sacred Writings. Of the 60 stories, 57 were recorded by John H. Watson, M. D., two were written by the Master, himself and one was written in the third person, presumably by a man named Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The short stories are divided into 5 books, The Adventures, The Memoirs, The Return, His Last Bow, and the Case Book of Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes believes that a man's "brain-attic" should only contain the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he should have a large assortment and keep them in the most perfect order. His self-made trade of consulting detective is based on his well-honed skills of observation and deduction. Since Holmes "plays the game for the game's own sake", he only takes cases which present singular features. When Holmes is hot on the scent, he is often likened to a bloodhound and has been known to exclaim: "The game is afoot!"
Dr. Watson tells us that while Holmes was not a difficult man to live with, he did possess some rather eccentric habits such as keeping tobacco in the toe-end of a Persian slipper, cigars in the coal scuttle, and his correspondence transfixed by a jackknife to the mantel. Sherlock enjoyed relaxing with his violin or an ounce of shag tobacco smoked in his favourite pipe, the old and oily clay. Much to the chagrin of the long-suffering Mrs. Hudson, landlady at 221-B, Holmes once engaged in pistol practice--indoors! The initials V. R. (Victoria Regina), now permanently adorn the wall.
Although Holmes took a deserved pride in his many successes, he admits to being bested 4 times, 3 by men and once by a woman. In A SCANDAL IN BOHEMIA Watson tells us, "To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman." This statement, of course, refers to Irene Adler the one woman to have outsmarted Holmes. Some contend that Holmes fell in love with Irene, but Watson declares: "It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind." However, as Holmes would say"It is a capital mistake to theorize in advance of the facts." Therefore, it is highly suggested that readers gather the data themselves by reading the Canon.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle, famous physician, prolific writer, patriot, sportsman and spiritualist, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and studied medicine at University of Edinburgh. It was there that Doyle met a man with remarkable deductive powers, Dr. Joseph Bell, who would serve as the basis for Sherlock Holmes and the anatomist, Professor Rutherford, who became the model for Professor Challenger.
In 1881, Doyle graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine. After a brief, but unhappy partnership with fellow student Dr. Budd, in Plymouth, Doyle set up his own practice in Southsea, Portsmouth. As patients were few and Doyle was beginning to achieve a degree of success with his early attempts at fiction, he surrendered his profession in favor of a literary career. While visiting a patient in 1885, Doyle met Louise Hawkins, who soon became his wife. "Touie", as she was affectionately called, encouraged her husband in his literary pursuits.
The first Sherlock Holmes story, A STUDY IN SCARLET, was purchased by Ward, Lock and Co. for a mere £25 and published in Beeton's Christmas Annual, in 1887. The story met with only moderate success, however, and it was the American firm, J.B. Lippincott Co. which saved Sherlock Holmes from a possible premature end by commissioning Doyle to write THE SIGN OF FOUR, published in 1890. In July 1891, Holmes and Watson started appearing in the pages of Strand Magazine, but by 1893--2 novels and 24 short stories later--Doyle had become so disgruntled with the detective that he dispatched Holmes to a watery grave at the bottom of Reichenbach Falls. As Doyle told his mother, "it takes my mind from better things." Doyle's real passion was writing historical novels such as MICAH CLARKE (1889), THE WHITE COMPANY (1891), RODNEY STONE (1896), and the Brigadier Gerard series. These are the literary works for which Doyle wished to receive a reputation. Another memorable character created by Doyle was the redoubtable Professor Challenger, who made his debut in the novel THE LOST WORLD in 1912. Doyle wrote several more stories relating the adventures of the cantankerous professor including THE POISON BELT.
In 1900, Doyle volunteered to serve as physician during the Boer War in South Africa. Subsequently, he wrote THE HISTORY OF THE GREAT BOER WAR and was awarded a knighthood in 1902. Meanwhile, public outcry at the death of Sherlock Holmes caused the reluctant author to acquiesce and write another Holmes story. THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES was published in the Strand in August 1901, much to the satisfaction of Sherlock Holmes fans. This proved to be a posthumous account by Dr. Watson, however, and it was not until 1903, with THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE that Holmes was truly resurrected. The series continued until 1927.
Being the creator of the Great Detective, Doyle was frequently called upon to solve real-life mysteries and in several cases was quite successful. Two of the most notable are the cases of George Edalji and Oscar Slater, whom Doyle had helped free from wrongful imprisonment.
Throughout his adult life, Doyle had a fascination with spiritualism and the supernatural. He devoted much writing to the subject in his later years. The recent movie, A FAIRY TALE is based on a real event in Doyle's life. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, (who penned these words by Watson about Holmes in THE FINAL PROBLEM)--"whom I shall ever regard as the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known"--lived to the age of 71.
Children of the Canon
Though it doesn't immediately come to mind when we think about the Sherlock Holmes stories, there were many instances where children played major or minor roles. There are at least 10 children mentioned by name and several other references to children throughout the Canon.
Forever surprising Watson, (and us), Sherlock Holmes demonstrates his gift with children. From the very first story, A STUDY IN SCARLET, we observe Holmes' ability to organize the "Baker Street division of the detective police force",--"'Tention!" cried Holmes, in a sharp tone, and the six dirty little scoundrels stood in a line like so many disreputable statuettes." The Baker Street Irregulars, of whom we are only privileged to know Wiggins and Simpson by name, consisted of only six members in STUDY IN SCARLET--"half a dozen of the dirtiest and most ragged street Arabs that I ever clapped eyes on."--but by the second story, SIGN OF FOUR, their number had increased twofold--"in rushed a dozen dirty and ragged little street Arabs." We get the clear impression that these boys were as excited about helping the great detective in his investigations as they were about earning a shilling.
Among the other children mentioned by name is the ever-present Billy, "the young but very wise and tactful page", who appears in VALLEY OF FEAR, THE PROBLEM OF THOR BRIDGE, THE ADVENTURE OF THE MAZARIN STONE, and possibly as "the boy in buttons" in A CASE OF IDENTITY, and the unnamed page in THE NOBLE BACHELOR, THE YELLOW FACE, and THE NAVAL TREATY. Going through the Canon from beginning to end we find young Jack Smith whose father owned the Aurora (SIGN), Patience Moran, daughter of the lodge-keeper at Boscombe Valley Estate (BOSC), Bill, the young boy who helped Mr. Breckinridge (BLUE), Edward Rucastle who killed cockroaches with a slipper (COPP), Lucy Hebron who hid behind a mask (YELL), Arthur, Lord Saltire, the Duke of Holderness's kidnapped son (PRIO), and Jack Ferguson who tried to poison his baby brother (SUSS).
In addition to those named, numerous other children appear in various stories throughout the Canon. There is the young girl who works for Jabez Wilson (REDH), the plaintive "child in the chimney" (FIVE), the little boy for whom Neville St. Clair bought the box of bricks (TWIS), the two lads who slept in the loft (SILV), the dubious page (RESI), the children deduced by Mycroft whilst gazing out the window at a man in the street (GREE), the daughters of Don Murillo (WIST), and the Gibson children (THOR). As this list serves to illustrate, there were quite a number of children who played rather significant roles in the Canon.
Dogs in the Canon
As anyone who’s ever been to England can attest, the Britons love their dogs and treat them much like children. Dogs are a common sight in stores and restaurants, on buses, trains and the underground. It should come as no surprise then, that dogs are mentioned in nearly 1/3 of the stories in the Canon.
Beginning at the beginning, in A Study In Scarlet, we are told that Watson keeps a bull pup.* It is also in STUD that we witness the unhappy demise of Mrs. Hudson’s poor, decrepit terrier, upon which Holmes tests his theory about Jefferson Hope’s pills, "Now would you mind going down and fetching that poor little devil of a terrier which has been bad so long, and which the landlady wanted you to put out of its pain yesterday." In the second story, SIGN, we are introduced to Toby, whom Watson describes as "an ugly, long-haired, lop-eared creature, half spaniel and half lurcher, brown and white in colour, with a very clumsy, waddling gait." Despite his homely appearance, Toby proves an estimable assistant to Holmes in tracking down Jonathan Small. In a later story, MISS, Holmes employs another tracking dog, "Let me introduce you to Pompey," said he. "Pompey is the pride of the local draghounds -- no very great flier, as his build will show, but a staunch hound on a scent." It is uncertain why Toby never reappears in the Canon, but he enjoys continued fame in pastiches, such as Meyer’s The Seven Percent Solution, as well as the feature length cartoon, Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective.
Following the scent on our hunt through the Canon, we observe two dogs named Carlo, the one, "a giant dog, as large as a calf, tawny tinted, with hanging jowl, black muzzle, and huge projecting bones" COPP, and the other a poor creature whose suffering at the hand of young Jack Ferguson resulted in "A sort of paralysis. Spinal meningitis." SUSS. Additionally, there is Roy, Professor Presbury’s wolfhound, regarding whom Holmes makes these observations: "My line of thoughts about dogs is analogous. A dog reflects the family life. Whoever saw a frisky dog in a gloomy family, or a sad dog in a happy one? Snarling people have snarling dogs, dangerous people have dangerous ones", CREE.
Many Canonical dogs that have unfortunately remained nameless, may yet have left their marks indelibly upon our memories. For example, it’s highly improbable that anyone could forget the redoubtable hound of the Baskervilles, HOUN. Perhaps less famous, but no less important is Dr. Mortimer’s curly-haired spaniel, HOUN. Equally unforgettable is the curious incident of the dog that did nothing in the night-time, SILV. Likewise, the Shoscombe spaniels come to mind, SHOS. Nonetheless, our list would not be complete without mentioning the dog that was indirectly responsible for Holmes’ pursuit of his chosen career, "Trevor was the only man I knew, and that only through the accident of his bull terrier freezing on to my ankle one morning as I went down to chapel", GLOR.
Further Canonical foraging leads us to discover several other dogs. Here are some quoted passages: "You don't keep a dog?" "Yes, but he is chained on the other side of the house.", REIG. "Then he has a beast of a dog which roams the garden. I met Agatha late the last two evenings, and she locks the brute up so as to give me a clear run.", CHAS. "There was a scandal about his drenching a dog with petroleum and setting it on fire -- her ladyship's dog, to make the matter worse -- and that was only hushed up with difficulty.", ABBE. "By the way, what was it you put into the wood-pile besides your old trousers? A dead dog, or rabbits, or what?", NORW. "All he wants is an old dog to help him to do the running down.", REDH. "If you come pestering me any more with your silly talk I'll set the dog at you.", BLUE. "I saw the faithful little creature, an Airedale terrier, laid out upon the mat in the hall", LION
Meandering our way along, we are wont to notice several references to dogs without benefit of the animal actually being present. Witness this account of Jefferson Hope: "Year passed into year, his black hair turned grizzled, but still he wandered on, a human bloodhound, with his mind wholly set upon the one object upon which he had devoted his life.", STUD. A description of Blessington/Suttton went as follows: "He was very fat, but had apparently at some time been much fatter, so that the skin hung about his face in loose pouches, like the cheeks of a bloodhound", RESI. Holmes remarks: "The cunning dog has covered his tracks", in BRUC. Excerpted from SPEC we have: "The object which had caught his eye was a small dog lash hung on one corner of the bed." In CROO, Watson speculates that the animal in question may be a dog.: "Did you ever hear of a dog running up a curtain? I found distinct traces that this creature had done so." The situation in which Boss McGinty finds himself renders this appraisal: "He felt like a man holding a fierce bloodhound in leash.", VALL.
Finally, as we peruse the remaining cases, it becomes apparent that the master himself cannot escape comparison to the beloved beast. As early as SIGN, Watson says this about Holmes: "So swift, silent, and furtive were his movements, like those of a trained bloodhound picking out a scent, that I could not but think what a terrible criminal he would have made had he turned his energy and sagacity against the law instead of exerting them in its defense." Another Watsonian observation runs like this: "See the foxhound with hanging ears and drooping tail as it lolls about the kennels, and compare it with the same hound as, with gleaming eyes and straining muscles, it runs upon a breast-high scent -- such was the change in Holmes since the morning." BRUC. And lastly, we read this analogy: "Holmes took his pipe from his lips and sat up in his chair like an old hound who hears the view-halloa." DEVI.
Clearly, dogs are as ever-present in the Canon as they are in real life, and just as well-loved.
*Some scholars theorize that this term refers to a bad temper or a gun, however, for the purpose of this monograph it will be taken literally.
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