Sunday, 12 March 2023

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 12th March 2023

Date of Meeting: 12th March 2023


Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)






"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) moved for the removal of face-masks at meetings. No one seconded.


"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) presented the following paper on Holmes's heritage:

Sami Holmes

On a recent visit to Tromsø in northern Norway, I was fortunate enough to visit the nearby Sami Arctic Reindeer experience which is run by the indigenous Sami (sometimes Sámi or Saami) people of the region. It was a great day out and was very educational. But the thing which I was really struck by was an elderly Sami gentleman who was dressed in traditional Sami clothing. It was not the colourful gákti tunic which caught my eye, but the reindeer fur hat he was wearing. The hat was worn leather out and fur in. Possessing two large, cosy looking earflaps, which he had tied together above the hat, it looked remarkably like a deerstalker adapted for arctic conditions. When he brought a pipe to his lips, I was thrust upon an inevitable train of thought. Could this be the “ear-flapped travelling-cap” Watson spoke of in “Silver Blaze”? A little research shows that variations of this style of hat were common among the Sami people, though usually they seem to have been less bulky.


Three Sami women


Immediately I began to think of that passage from “The Empty House” where Holmes recounts his adventures during the Great Hiatus:

“You may have read of the remarkable explorations of a Norwegian named Sigerson, but I am sure that it never occurred to you that you were receiving news of your friend.”

Notably, Holmes didn’t say he was posing as a Norwegian. He merely said that when Watson was reading about the Norwegian, he was reading about Holmes. Was Holmes admitting his true ancestry then? Having looked at the evidence I believe there is a good case for suggesting that his true heritage was from the Sami people of northern Norway. (I should note here that the Sami inhabit not just northern Norway, but also the north of Finland and Sweden and the Russian Kola Peninsula. However, as will become clear, I am drawn to the notion that Holmes was one of the north Norway Sami people. Indeed, this is the most likely as about half of all Sami live in Norway.)

It is well known that Holmes was cagey with Watson about his family history. He never really gave a lot away. The most we learn comes from the introductory section of “The Greek Interpretter”:

“My ancestors were country squires, who appear to have led much the same life as is natural to their class.”

This is incredibly vague. Perhaps this is deliberate. While it immediately conjures up images of landed gentlefolk in rural England, could it not also refer to the Sami going about their routine business in the countryside of northern Norway?

Certainly, this is possible, but I must next ask myself why, if it were true, Holmes would wish to keep his Sami heritage secret. The simple answer is persecution. I’m not going to go into great detail because I fear I will not do the subject justice. However, in short, like many indigenous peoples across the globe, the Sami have suffered a great deal of discrimination and abuse at the hands of the dominant cultures who have invaded their lands. While things have improved for them in recent years, the “Norwegianization” of the Sami people which was active government policy from the 1850s through to the 1980s attempted to destroy the Sami and their way of life. To avoid any prejudice which might follow him, Holmes may have chosen not to be up front about his Sami roots.

Accepting, then, the possibility of a Sami Holmes, I sought further evidence in The Canon to support the hypothesis. For starters there is the name Holmes gave himself when he reverted to his Norwegian persona – Sigerson. It was my Norwegian friend Chris Aarnes Bakkane who first drew my attention to the fact that Sigerson is not a Norwegian name. As a Norwegian, Holmes knew this. So why would he choose an incorrect name? It must have further meaning for him. Siger is actually a Swedish name meaning a military victory. By calling himself Sigerson, Holmes is suggesting that he is the child of a military victory. Could he be subtly referring to the invasion of Sami lands by the Norse people? That is, his “SHerlock Holmes” persona was born out of the victimisation of his Sami ancestors by the Norse people?

The fact that Holmes chose to be Norwegian in “The Empty House” is telling enough, but it should be noted that at the end of “Black Peter” Holmes announces that he is leaving the country to go “somewhere in  Norway”. While there is some tying up of loose ends to do there from the case, this is very unusual behaviour for Holmes. He normally would send a few telegrams and let someone else do the donkey-work. This exceptional trip may be seen as evidence of Holmes seizing an opportunity to return home for a while.

Further ties to the Sami regions can be seen by the frequent help Holmes offers to Scandanavian royalty. This comes up in The Noble Batchelor, A Scandal in Bohemia and The Final Problem. Could his ties to this monarchy have been diplomatically motivated? Was Holmes attepting to alter policy towards the Sami people in a quid pro quo manner?

Holmes’s dressing gown has drawn much attention from Holmesian scholars in the past due to its colour changing properties. In “The Man with the Twisted Lip” it was blue. In “The Blue Carbuncle” is was purple. And in “The Bruce-Partington Plans” it was mouse-coloured. This seems excessive for a dressing gown. But what if Watson was mistaken. What if these were actually three different gákti – the robe like garments traditionally worn by the Sami people. These come in a variety of colours including reds, blues and medium-browns which could easily match up with the colours of robe Watson recorded. At those times of day when English gentlemen would relax in their dressing-gowns, what could be more natural for Sami Holmes than to relax in the traditional garments of his home.

In my research into Sami culture I came across some interesting images associated with noaidi - something akin to a Sami version of a shaman. One of the common tools of the noaidi is a Sami drum. These drums are used by the noaidi to induce a trance like state and to predict the future. A kind of die would be placed upon the skin of the drum which is decorated with various symbols. The symbol upon which the die stopped held meaning about the future. The symbols seemed reminiscent of others encountered by Sherlock Holmes:

Sami drum decoration

These stick man images are very similar to the images used in the code of “The Dancing Men”. In that adventure Holmes was very quick to suggest that the stick figures held definite meanings. Could this have been because he had seen such figures hold definite meanings in his past?

One of our guides at Sami Arctic Reindeer even spoke to us a little of the old Sami indigenous polytheistic religion. Specifically she told us about the many spirits they believe in, including one who protects each dwelling place. Compare this idea to Holmes’s statement in The Valley of Fear: “I'm a believer in the genius loci.” The genius loci is a very similar spirit from classical Roman religion.


At this point, Holmes’s Sami heritage seems indisputably evident. But I would even take my theory further and identify the specific type of community he came from. The Sami have traditionally pursued one of four livelihoods: sheep herding, reindeer herding, fur trapping or coastal fishing. I am convinced that Holmes’s heritage was in one of the fishing, or Sea Sami, communities. This would make sense for a Norwegian Sami - the fishing in this area is especially productive, although it is fair to note that the Mountain Sami of the region still do well with reindeer. Looking to The Canon, while there is little reference to deers, sheep or fur trapping in Holmes’s day-to-day speech, fishing comes up repeatedly.  For example, Holmes twice uses the metaphor of net fishing when speaking about catching Moriarty and his gang in “The Final Problem”:

“I have woven my net round him until now it is all ready to close.”

“It was a net from which it seemed to me a few hours ago that there was no possible escape.”

And again in “The Mazarin Stone”:

“I've cast my net and I have my fish.”

Holmes is keen to highlight the attractions of fishing at his friend’s home in “The Gloria Scott”:

“There was excellent wild-duck shooting in the fens, remarkably good fishing…”

The tool he reaches for in “The Musgrave Ritual” is of note:

“Then I took two lengths of a fishing-rod, which came to just six feet, and I went back with my client to where the elm had been.”

In “Shoscombe Old Place” Holmes seems much excited about one aspect of his journey to this manor house:

“Is there good fishing in that part of Berkshire?”

In the same adventure, Holmes proves his talent in this area:

“My companion seemed to have no further plans for the day, and we did actually use our fishing tackle in the mill-stream, with the result that we had a dish of trout for our supper.”

In “The Lion’s Mane” his first observation at the crime scene is that of fishermen going about their business:

“On the sea two or three fishing-boats were at no great distance.”

Indeed, might Holmes’s retirement to a coastal region not be considered telling in itself?


Here then, I rest my case. The evidence seems to me to be piled in favour of my assertion that Holmes was of north Norwegian Sea Sami heritage, which goes a long way to explaining his reluctance to speak about his ancestry with Watson.

Any other business:

As the previous day had been International Hug-A-Holmesian Day, "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) sat in the corner hugging himself for two hours. He did not cry very much.

Thursday, 23 February 2023

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 23rd February 2023

 Date of Meeting: 23rd February 2023


Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) apologised for leaving his paper until the last minute and therefore presenting a very rushed piece.



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) moved for all hostilities to cease immediately. Then "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) poked him in the eye.


"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) presented the following paper on putting the "Ho" in "Holmes":

How Did Holmes Really Make His Money? 

On a recent rereading of A Study in Scarlet, I was struck by Holmes’s selective secrecy when talking to Stamford. Holmes keeps his reason for being at St. Bart's hidden from the fellows around him, as we can see from Stamford’s comments to Watson:

“No—I have no idea what he intends to go in for. I believe he is well up in anatomy, and he is a first-class chemist; but, as far as I know, he has never taken out any systematic medical classes. His studies are very desultory and eccentric, but he has amassed a lot of out-of-the way knowledge which would astonish his professors.”

“Did you never ask him what he was going in for?” I asked.

“No; he is not a man that it is easy to draw out...”

And yet, Holmes is not very secretive about other issues, such as the state of his finances:

“He was bemoaning himself this morning because he could not get someone to go halves with him in some nice rooms which he had found, and which were too much for his purse.”

This seems to be around the wrong way. The young men at St. Bart's could reasonably be expected to discuss what they were studying and experimenting on, whereas such personal information as your financial situation would be forthcoming only to very close chums. We can surmise then that Holmes was fairly close to Stamford, to have been discussing the state of his purse. Which makes his reluctance to talk about what he is studying all the more puzzling.

From here I began to consider the experiment Stamford had witnessed Holmes conducting:

“When it comes to beating the subjects in the dissecting-rooms with a stick, it is certainly taking rather a bizarre shape.”

“Beating the subjects!”

“Yes, to verify how far bruises may be produced after death. I saw him at it with my own eyes.”

Stamford has already painted a picture of Holmes as someone who is usually cagey about his studies. Why then did he break this silence and offer this implausible explanation on this occassion? I suspect it’s because he wanted to divert Stamford from the truth. Stamford had walked in on something he wasn’t supposed to see and was given a quickly conjured lie to cover Holmes’s true motives. What was Holmes doing, then? My suggestion is that Holmes was, in reality, practicing his spanking technique.

Naturally, my next question had to be: why was he practicing his spanking technique? The immediate and obvious response was that Holmes was honing his skills as a BDSM Dom. Clearly Holmes was offering niche male prostitute services. This was not something he could be open about in Victorian society, so we immediately come to understand why Stamford and the others at St. Bart's were left in the dark about Holmes’s studies.

At this point I should make my thoughts clear: I’m not suggesting that Holmes didn’t work as a consulting detective, I am suggesting that he supplemented his income with his sex work. Clearly, his work with Scotland Yard was above board. I also believe the adventures Watson had with Holmes all took place as described. But these adventures never really seemed to generate the money Holmes had accumulated by the end of his career. This is because the real money came from the sex work Holmes supplemented his income with.

So now we know what Holmes was really up to at St. Bart's – he was honing his BDSM skills. No doubt, had we been able to see him studying, we would have seen him researching human pleasure receptors and the nervous system. The dissecting rooms would have served him well for bodies on which he could practice all manner of bondage and sadomasochistic techniques. Certainly, in a medical institution, he could have gathered valuable information about human anatomy that might have been difficult to come by elsewhere. All of these skills would lead to Holmes becoming one of the most well-paid Dom sex workers in London.


There is some further evidence in A Study in Scarlet to support this theory. Once Watson and Holmes were living together, Watson began watching and recording Holmes’s behaviour. Some of his observations are rather telling:

Sometimes he spent his day at the chemical laboratory, sometimes in the dissecting-rooms, and occasionally in long walks, which appeared to take him into the lowest portions of the City.

Now we can see the reason for his visits to “the lowest portions of the City”. He was learning from the existing sex workers of Whitechapel, Limehouse and similar areas.

Watson also notices that Holmes “…was possessed of extraordinary delicacy of touch…”. No doubt this delicate touch was useful for someone who wanted to be able to tease, titillate and torture their submissive clients.

Perhaps the most telling passage is found towards the end of chapter two:

…I found that he had many acquaintances, and those in the most different classes of society. There was one little sallow rat-faced, dark-eyed fellow who was introduced to me as Mr. Lestrade, and who came three or four times in a single week. One morning a young girl called, fashionably dressed, and stayed for half an hour or more. The same afternoon brought a grey-headed, seedy visitor, looking like a Jew pedlar, who appeared to me to be much excited, and who was closely followed by a slipshod elderly woman. On another occasion an old white-haired gentleman had an interview with my companion; and on another a railway porter in his velveteen uniform. When any of these nondescript individuals put in an appearance, Sherlock Holmes used to beg for the use of the sitting-room, and I would retire to my bed-room. He always apologized to me for putting me to this inconvenience. “I have to use this room as a place of business,” he said, “and these people are my clients.” Again I had an opportunity of asking him a point blank question, and again my delicacy prevented me from forcing another man to confide in me. I imagined at the time that he had some strong reason for not alluding to it, but he soon dispelled the idea by coming round to the subject of his own accord.

There are several parts of this paragraph which now appear in a different light.

Watson speaks of visitors from “…different classes of society…” suggesting that he found some of Holmes’s clients suspiciously different from the norm. Following this he mentions a “…grey-headed, seedy visitor… who appeared to me to be much excited…” That word “seedy” suddenly makes more sense. As does the fact that he is “excited”. One would expect someone consulting a detective to be distraught, “excited” makes far more sense for a submissive visiting their favourite dom.

The need for Holmes to use the large airy sitting room to conduct his business also makes more sense to me now. Holmes very clearly states “I have to use this room as a place of business… and these people are my clients.” If all Holmes was doing (as he later claimed) was having a chat with them, why did he “have to use” so much space? Whereas a sex-worker with an exotic repertoire might well find all that room useful as a makeshift dungeon.

I think Watson might actually have had some suspicions. He says: “my delicacy prevented me from forcing another man to confide in me”. All he is talking about is Holmes’s occupation. In normal human interaction this is not considered a delicate question. Indeed, it is often one of the first things we ask each other when we are getting to know new people. It is as if Watson is subconsciously aware of the potential delicacy in asking this particular person such a question.

Again, to be clear, I don’t think ALL of Holmes’s clients were for his sex-work, but I’m convinced at least SOME of them were. Certainly, I feel we can trust that Lestrade was only there for the consulting detective. But that porter in velveteen or the fashionably dressed young lady could easily have been there for more kinky reasons.


All of the above information came from the period during which Watson was snooping into Holmes’s business. Holmes must have become aware of this and would surely have wanted to divert Watson’s attention elsewhere. It is notable that around this time, Holmes voluntarily “outed” himself to Watson as a consulting detective. He even unnecessarily took Watson along to investigate the “The Lauriston Garden Mystery”. No doubt, this was a distraction technique. By showing Watson his hobby of detective work, he avoided scandalising the young Victorian doctor with his true profession, that of a high-class niche sex-worker.

While Holmes and Watson became very close friends, I don’t believe Holmes ever confided his true vocation. Indeed, it was possibly because he wanted to keep his sex-worker status secret that he went on to embark upon so many adventures with Watson.


I have really only considered the evidence found in A Study In Scarlet in composing this paper. I feel certain supporting evidence could probably be found in many of the other adventures Watson recorded, but I have yet to track it down. I will remark, though, that one example does occur to me. Much later in their friendship, Holmes and Watson were involved in the business of “His Last Bow”. This ends with the capture of Von Bork – the German agent:

The German lay upon the sofa sleeping stertorously with a strap round his upper arms and another round his legs.

Holmes certainly seems to have known how to quickly and effectively place another person in a state of bondage…

Any other business:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) asked if anyone would like to accompany him the 221BCon in April. No one wants to accompany "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) to 221BCon in April. 

Tuesday, 24 January 2023

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 24th January 2023

Date of Meeting: 24th January 2023


Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) is sorry he ever ever started this obsession.



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) gave a condescending wave of his hand to indicate he was happy to proceed.


"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) presented the following paper on why Holmes is so boring:

What Does It Mean to be a Consulting Detective? 


The way Sherlock Holmes conducted the majority of his work seems to have been forgotten by the general public. Even some scholars of The Great Detective seem to ignore his bread-and-butter work. People have asked, for example, how Holmes funded his lifestyle when his investigations seem to take so long and he frequently accepts no payment for his services. Others have asked how Holmes could possibly fit in the many cases which Watson frequently suggests he undertook. 

For example: “…I have notes of many hundreds of cases…” (SECO), “…a travel-worn and battered tin dispatch-box… crammed with papers, nearly all of which are records of cases…” (THOR), “…I have a mass of material at my command…” (VEIL). 

When cases such as The Hound of the Baskervilles seem to have taken several weeks to solve, it seems unlikely that Watson could amass very much in the way of records during the “seventeen [years Watson] was allowed to cooperate with [Holmes] and to keep notes of his doings” (VEIL). 


This, of course, neglects the bread-and-butter work Holmes performed. Indeed, before Watson arrived on the scene, Holmes was far more like his brother Mycroft – a sedentary character, processing data and returning his verdict. Remember those first days in Baker Street when Watson was still trying to figure out what Holmes’s occupation was: 


During the first week or so we had no callers, and I had begun to think that my companion was as friendless a man as I was myself. Presently, however, I found that he had many acquaintances, and those in the most different classes of society. There was one little sallow rat-faced, dark-eyed fellow who was introduced to me as Mr. Lestrade, and who came three or four times in a single week. One morning a young girl called, fashionably dressed, and stayed for half an hour or more. The same afternoon brought a grey-headed, seedy visitor, looking like a Jew pedlar, who appeared to me to be much excited, and who was closely followed by a slipshod elderly woman. On another occasion an old white-haired gentleman had an interview with my companion; and on another a railway porter in his velveteen uniform. When any of these nondescript individuals put in an appearance, Sherlock Holmes used to beg for the use of the sitting-room, and I would retire to my bed-room. He always apologized to me for putting me to this inconvenience. "I have to use this room as a place of business," he said, "and these people are my clients." (STUD) 


Finally, Holmes confesses that he is “a consulting detective”. And it seems odd to me that, while most Holmesians can state this fact confidently, many seem to forget what it actually means. Policemen, private detectives and the general public DO come to him with their problems and mysteries. However, in most cases he does not run around investigating and solving the cases which are brought to him. He states this very clearly:  


"I listen to their story, they listen to my comments, and then I pocket my fee." (STUD) 


This is Holmes’s main source of income: short consultations for which he pockets a fee. He could certainly fit in a good many of these consultations per day, and it may well have proved highly profitable for him. Indeed, until Watson arrived on the scene, this was his preferred method of working. This can be seen by his admission that he can’t solve all cases without leaving his room – that occasionally he is forced to get out and seek data himself: 


“Now and again a case turns up which is a little more complex. Then I have to bustle about and see things with my own eyes. You see I have a lot of special knowledge which I apply to the problem, and which facilitates matters wonderfully.” (STUD) 


It is clear from his wording that these active cases are the exception. Far more frequently, we can infer, he can solve the whole matter from his chair. 


Most of our evidence for this early consulting detective work comes from one account – A Study in Scarlet. There is scant information about Holmes’s doings before this case. This is largely due to A Study in Scarlet being the adventure in which Holmes met his biographer – Dr John H. Watson. There are only two cases in The Canon which precede STUD. These are ‘The Gloria Scott’ and ‘The Musgrave Ritual’. 


‘The Gloria Scott’ is not tremendously salient to this discussion as it is set before Sherlock Holmes became a detective. Indeed, it isn’t really a “case” at all, Holmes just happened to be at hand when some mysterious events took place and was then summoned back by a friend who needed him. However, his actions in the case are indicative of how he would later conduct himself when he set up in business. All we see him do in terms of detective work is consider the evidence placed before him and give his findings. There is no running about, examining the scene of the crime or setting traps. He is, in essence, merely consulted. 


‘The Musgrave Ritual’, however, is a different kettle of fish. Holmes is very active in this case. Here, he travels to the site of the mystery where he performs physical investigations to arrive at a solution. However, upon examining the text it can be seen that Musgrave never expected Holmes to take such an active role. After seeing the Musgrave Ritual itself and determining that is was essentially a treasure map, Holmes has to seek Reginald Musgrave’s permission to visit his home: “…with your permission we will take the first train down to Sussex, and go a little more deeply into the matter upon the spot.” Indeed, all that Musgrave ever asked of Holmes was that he try to throw some light upon what he considered to be an inexplicable business. It seems, that even early on in his career, Holmes was aiming for the role of a consulting detective rather than a private investigator, and that his clients were aware of this. 


In fact, ‘The Musgrave Ritual’ provides some evidence that by Watson’s time, Holmes was very much established not as a consultant. Near the start of the account, he says to the good doctor: “You see me now when my name has become known far and wide, and when I am generally recognized both by the public and by the official force as being a final court of appeal in doubtful cases.” Note he claims to be recognised as a “court of appeal”. That is, he is well known as someone who considers the facts presented to him and offers his advice, as opposed to someone who actively investigates and brings things to a conclusion. 


From what I can see, when I read A Study in Scarlet, the only reason Holmes became more interested in his occasional active cases was because Watson showed him that they could be good fun. His decision to visit the scene of the first murder is preceded by the business regarding ‘The Book of Life’. This was a magazine article which Holmes brought to the attention of Watson. Unaware that Holmes was the author of the piece, Watson pooh-poohed the notion that an observant man could tell a great deal about other people just by looking at them. After some discussion of the topic, the Lauriston Garden Mystery is brought to Holmes’s attention. His first reaction is to say he is unlikely to attend the scene of the crime because he is “…the most incurably lazy devil that ever stood in shoe leather…”. Suddenly he changes his mind and says he will go, but he insists that Watson should accompany him. Although it is not explicitly stated, this has always read to me as if Holmes was only prepared to actively investigate this case in order to prove a point to Watson. He wanted to show his companion the truth of his claims in ‘The Book of Life’. There follows a good deal of investigating, hunting, induction, abduction, deduction, trap setting, and fighting. By the end of all this activity Watson is forced to accept the truth of Holmes’s article. But it goes both ways: Holmes is forced to admit something too. He says that he “would not have missed the investigation for anything. There has been no better case within my recollection. Simple as it was, there were several most instructive points about it.” Or to put it more plainly – he had fun. It was Watson, then, who gave Holmes a reason to conduct the occasional active case. 


In The Canon we are mostly being given an insight into the rare cases -  those which Holmes embarked upon, not because they were his bread-and-butter work, but because he found them fun. The disguises and tricks of ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’, the trap setting of ‘The Red-Headed League’ and the fisticuffs and gunfire of ‘The Solitary Cyclist’ are all examples of cases Holmes took on so that he and Watson could have fun. 


That said, there are parts of The Canon which show Holmes performing his consultancy work. ‘A Case of Identity’, for example, is very much an account of a consulting detective at work. Holmes is given most of the evidence by Mary Sutherland, he sends telegrams to collect the remaining details and then he presents his solution (albeit to the wrong person). There is no activity on his part. He solves the case exactly how he told Watson he solves most crimes: “There is a strong family resemblance about misdeeds, and if you have all the details of a thousand at your finger ends, it is odd if you can't unravel the thousand and first,” (STUD). Compare this with what he says of Mary Sutherland’s problem: “…her little problem, which, by the way, is rather a trite one. You will find parallel cases, if you consult my index, in Andover in '77, and there was something of the sort at The Hague last year.” Indeed, Holmes’s work as a consultant is hinted at in many of the other Canonical accounts. Frequently the tales start with Holmes in a very passive role until events force him to take physical action. We see this, for example, in ‘The Five Orange Pips’, ‘The Copper Beeches’, ‘The Greek Interpreter’ and ‘The Dancing Men’. I am sure these are not the only examples. 


All this said, it is understandable that people forget what Holmes really did for a living. His consultancy work would generally have made for a very dull narrative: someone comes in, Holmes listens to their problem and then tells them the solution. Even Watson would have a hard time making an exciting read out of them. Indeed, Watson said in ‘Thor Bridge’, regarding the case notes to be found in his tin dispatch box: “Some, and not the least interesting, were complete failures…” In saying that the failures were not “the least interesting” he is also indicating that at least some of the cases were not interesting. In ‘The Veiled Lodger’ he admits to us that when picking which cases he would write up from the many in his notes “the problem has always been not to find but to choose.” Given that he had some amount of choice, it is hardly likely that Watson would choose the dull cases to write up. This is what leads us to an incorrect bias in our picture of Holmes at work. To summarise: 


  1. The majority of Holmes’s work was consultancy work. A small amount of his work was active.
  2. The consultancy work tended to be unexciting.
  3. Watson only wrote about Holmes’s exciting work.
  4. Therefore, Watson only wrote about the uncharacteristically active or exciting cases. 
  5. Watson was Holmes’s sole biographer.
  6. Therefore, the student of Holmesiana only has Watson’s account to judge Holmes by.
  7. Therefore, the student of Holmesiana only has the uncharacteristically active or exciting cases as evidence of Holmes’s methods. 
  8. Therefore, the student of Holmesiana comes to regard Holmes as a much more active detective than the passive consulting detective he really was. 


It is Holmes running across the moor to save a man from a demon dog that we are familiar with, not the unrecorded consultant charging a healthy fee for a brief conversation. But by neglecting his boring day-to-day work, we are remembering a fraction of the man as he really was. This is what leads us to forget exactly what Holmes meant when he called himself “a consulting detective”. 


The alert Holmesian will no doubt take issue with my claim above that Watson was Holmes’s sole biographer. Rightly so. ‘The Blanched Soldier’ and ‘The Lion’s Mane’ are, of course, auto-biographical accounts of Holmes’s adventures. ‘The Lion’s Mane’ could be discounted if one were so inclined – this is a story about Holmes in retirement. He was no longer a consulting detective when these events took place. However, in it we still see elements of Holmes operating as a consultant would. Most of his mystery solving is performed in this story by him being presented with evidence by other people and then weighing up what it means. True, he examines the body of McPherson and the scene of the mystery. But this is merely due to McPherson dying right in front of him – Holmes was already on scene; he didn’t travel there. He also travels to the Bellamy household, but when he gets there, he plays a passive role, simply listening to their testimony. To be fair, once the problem is solved, Holmes does become active again – he travels to the bathing pool and kills the Lion’s Mane jellyfish – but it is to be remembered that this menace had killed one of his friends, so a little more than usual personal involvement is understandable. 


‘Blanched Soldier’ too, contains a great deal of consulting detective work. Holmes explains his method at the end of his account and admits that he had come to his conclusions before he ever set foot outside 221b. The only reason he travelled to the Emsworth residence was because Colonel Emsworth proved such a barrier to everyone else. Holmes was compelled to deal with the man directly. 


Two other cases bear mention, as it is unclear who wrote them. ‘His Last Bow’ and ‘The Mazarin Stone’ are unusual in that they are written in the third person. My personal belief is that they were written by Watson, but he wrote them in this manner in order to make it clear that he was not present for many of the events and was forced to rely on Holmes and others filling in the gaps in his knowledge. ‘His Last Bow’ may be dismissed from consideration. Holmes was not working as a consulting detective during this adventure – he was called out of his retirement to work as a secret agent on behalf of his country. ‘Mazarin Stone’ is of more interest. We learn that Holmes was very active indeed in this case. He had been tailing his suspect in a variety of disguises for several days. As with other cases which Watson wrote up, this was one of the exceptions. In fact, if my theory that Watson is the author of this account is correct, it goes someway to demonstrating how boring most of Holmes’s other cases were. That is, he chose to write up a case which he had little direct involvement in, as opposed to the many dull cases he had witnessed at first hand. 


Of course, one then begins to wonder exactly why Watson kept so many notes about the dull cases. His tin dispatch-box was crammed with jottings about Holmes’s consultations – most of which, as we have seen, would have been utterly tedious. At some point he must have realised he would never use them. You might expect him to stop taking notes the moment he realised a client was bringing Holmes another quick-chat sort of a problem. But those in the Sherlockian community who have been bitten by the collector bug know how these things go. It can be difficult to let any piece of Sherlockiana escape you, no matter how low it is in quality. Watson was the first Sherlockian, and he seems to have been no different to the rest of us in his collecting mania.


(Addendum: The interested reader may wish to supplement this paper by listening to this episode of Trifles: which coincidentally contradicts many of the claims I made here by highlighting other salient parts of The Canon.)

Any other business:

No one was left awake to raise any other business.

Thursday, 15 December 2022

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 15th December 2022

 Date of Meeting: 15th December 2022


Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)



No time.



No time.


We didn't have much spare time this month, so we kept it brief. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) presented the following festive treat:

It's Christmas time - a special time

With tinsel and with stars.

A time when friends can give each other

Pickled eggs in jars.


Any other business:

No time.

Wednesday, 16 November 2022

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 16th November 2022

Date of Meeting: 16th November 2022


Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK



"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)



No thank you.



No thank you.


"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) presented a poem he wrote about alphabetical animals from the Canon:

Holmesian Alphabetical Animals

A is first and is for ASS.
    Watson claimed he was one.
(He, of course, meant the donkey
    And not the slang for bum).
“What an ass I have been!”
    He cried out just the once.
For Watson really was not all
    That much of a dunce.
 “Oh, what an ass I have been!” I exclaimed. (REIG)
    Found at Stoke Moran
Brought over from India
    By a very evil man.
This writhing little primate
    Gave Watson a start
When he sprang from the bushes in
    A frenzied sudden dart.
…out from a clump of laurel bushes there darted what seemed to be a hideous and distorted child, who threw itself upon the grass with writhing limbs and then ran swiftly across the lawn into the darkness…
“It is a nice household,” he murmured. “That is the baboon.” (SPEC)
C is for the CHEETAH,
    One more Roylott pet.
He prowled the grounds unrestrained
    At Stoke Moran and yet
Neither of our heroes
    Ever spied the large feline.
They heard it, though, when at night
    It once gave out a whine.
“From outside came… a long drawn catlike whine, which told us that the cheetah was indeed at liberty.” (SPEC)
D is for the famous DOG
    Who did nowt in the night -
Not a bark, a whine or howl
    Not a growl or bite.
This was the clue Holmes needed
    To help him solve the case
Of the evil murder horse
    Who kicks men in the face.
“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
“The dog did nothing in the night-time.” (SILV)
E is for the EAGLES
    Flocking about with crows
Though only metaphorically -
    A simple line of prose.
In fact, eagles never flock,
    They’re more often alone.
But Holmes was no keen bird-watcher,
    I doubt he would have known.
“Sir Robert is a man of an honourable stock. But you do occasionally find a carrion crow among the eagles.” (SHOS)
F is for the FERRET,
    Watson said Lestrade looked like.
He meant it as a compliment,
    Not some nasty slight.
Lean, agile and furtive.
    Sly looking as well.
Qualities which helped him put
    The criminals in cells.
A lean, ferret-like man, furtive and sly-looking, was waiting for us upon the platform… I had no difficulty in recognising Lestrade, of Scotland Yard.(BOSC)
G is for a GUDGEON –
    A small, freshwater fish,
In Watson’s time it could be found
    Served up on a dish.
Sam Merton was compared to one.
    You’ll agree to the match:
Sam was a common type, you see,
    And dead easy to catch.
“Sam's not a shark. He is a great big silly bull-headed gudgeon. But he is flopping about in my net all the same.” (MAZA)
H is, of course, for the HOUND
    Of the Baskervilles -
The dark curse of that family,
    The cause of all their ills.
It stalks all over Dartmoor
    With a fire in its eyes
Scaring the timid locals
    With its loathsome evil cries.
“Hugo Baskerville passed me upon his black mare, and there ran mute behind him such a hound of hell as God forbid should ever be at my heels.” (HOUN)
I is for an ICHNEUMON.
    (That’s a mongoose to you.)
Henry Wood had a pet one.
    (And a cobra too.)
He named his mongoose Teddy.
    It was amazing quick
To catch the cobra every night
    As a canteen trick.
“It's a mongoose,” I cried.
“Well, some call them that, and some call them ichneumon,” said the man. “Snake-catcher is what I call them.” (CROO)
J is for the JACKALS
    Who ate poor Mrs. Dawson.
She failed, in the Mutiny,
    To take the precaution
Of not being a colonist
    Who made the locals mad.
Mind you, the jackals got a meal,
    So, it was not all bad.
“I rode down to see what it was, and the cold struck through my heart when I found it was Dawson's wife, all cut into ribbons, and half eaten by jackals and native dogs.” (SIGN)
K is for a little KID
    (That’s a goat as a child)
Led to a jungle tree somewhere
    Out there in the wild
By the hunter - Colonel Moran -
    To be tied to a tree
For bait to tempt the tigers
    That he shoots at with glee.
“Have you not tethered a young kid under a tree, lain above it with your rifle, and waited for the bait to bring up your tiger? This empty house is my tree and you are my tiger.” (EMPT)
L is for the LANGUR –
    An Old-World primate.
The grey ones are all fairly small
    And they have a black face.
Old Presbury was one of this
    Monkey’s greatest fans.
He liked to mash up and inject
    Their little monkey glands.
“It is possible that the serum of anthropoid would have been better. I have, as I explained to you, used black-faced langur because a specimen was accessible. Langur is, of course, a crawler and climber, while anthropoid walks erect and is in all ways nearer.” (CREE)
M is for the MICROBES,
    Such as the ones curated
By a nephew killer
    At once dreaded and hated.
Culverton Smith knowingly
    Amassed and abused them.
People close to him dropped dead
    Whenever he used them.
“For him the villain, for me the microbe.” (DYIN)
N is for a NIGHT-BIRD.
    (Although that’s unspecific
“Night-bird” starts with letter N
    Which, for me, is terrific.)
It could be a night-jar.
    It could be an owl.
In fact, it could be any
    Of the nocturnal fowl.
“From outside came the occasional cry of a night-bird...” (SPEC)
O is for the OXEN
    On the Alkali Plain
Which passers-by might observe
    Ev’ry now and again.
They’re dead. They’re desiccated.
    Mostly rotted away.
Nothing more than sun-bleached bones.
    What fun! Hip hip hooray!
They are bones: some large and coarse, others smaller and more delicate. The former have belonged to oxen, and the latter to men. (STUD)
P is for a great big PIG.
    Come near! Just take a look!
Sherlock’s suspended this big pig
    From a butcher’s hook.
Watch him as he tries and tries –
    Like a frenzied buffoon –
To transfix the hanging hog
    With a whaling harpoon.
“If you could have looked into Allardyce's back shop you would have seen a dead pig swung from a hook in the ceiling, and a gentleman in his shirt-sleeves furiously stabbing at it with this weapon.” (BLAC)
    Toby is his name.
He has such a splendid nose
    It has garnered him fame.
By tracking across London
    A trail of creosote
He led Holmes and Watson
    To Mordecai Smith’s boat.
“You will bring Toby back in the cab with you.”
“A dog, I suppose.”
“Yes,—a queer mongrel, with a most amazing power of scent. I would rather have Toby's help than that of the whole detective force of London.” (SIGN)
R is for a giant RAT
    Of origins Sumatran.
The details of it are so sparse
    They will always dishearten
Any inquiring scholar
    Who is set and intent
On learning more about this
    Large Asian rodent.
“Matilda Briggs was not the name of a young woman, Watson,” said Holmes in a reminiscent voice. “It was a ship which is associated with the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared.” (SUSS)
S is for a captive STOAT –
    Kept in a little cage
In Sherman’s shop where it fills up
    With anger, ire and rage.
It waits in patience by the bars
    With a gleam in its eye
And tries to bite a chunk out of
    Any passers-by.
“Ah, naughty, naughty, would you take a nip at the gentleman?” This to a stoat which thrust its wicked head and red eyes between the bars of its cage. (SIGN)
T is for the TIGER CUB
    Which Watson once fired
At an invading musket. Or
    So he claimed while tired.
It is small wonder really
    That Watson would err – he
Was talking with his one true love:
    A governess called Mary.
I endeavored to cheer and amuse her by reminiscences of my adventures in Afghanistan... To this day she declares that I told her one moving anecdote as to how a musket looked into my tent at the dead of night, and how I fired a double-barrelled tiger cub at it. (SIGN)
U is for a UNICORN.
    (Yes, I know that they’re not real.
But you try finding U beasts
    And then see how you feel.)
In the canon, there’s one unicorn
    Though preceded by “sea”,
It’s the name of Black Peter’s boat
    Which is good enough for me.
“Peter Carey was master of the Sea Unicorn” (BLAC)
V is for a VIPER,
    Sometimes mispronounced
(“I have a wiper in the bag”
    Is what Sherman announced).
Snakes with deadly venom and
    Snakes with fatal bites,
Are not something that one should drop
    On Watson in the night.
“Go on!” yelled the voice. “So help me gracious, I have a wiper in the bag, an' I'll drop it on your 'ead if you don't hook it.” (SIGN)
W is for some WORMS –
    The kind which gnaw on wood.
Butler Brunton found some while
    He was up to no good.
They’d destroyed the wooden box,
    Which among other things,
Held the remains of the crown
    Of ancient English kings.
“It was furred outside by a thick layer of dust, and damp and worms had eaten through the wood, so that a crop of livid fungi was growing on the inside of it.” (MUSG)
    A partridge much adored.
Like the one Holmes once left out
    Upon his sideboard.
(Though, perhaps it’s only fair
    That I should make it clear
Xenoperdix are a breed
    Found just in Tanzania).
“There is a cold partridge on the sideboard, Watson, and a bottle of Montrachet. Let us renew our energies before we make a fresh call upon them.” (VEIL)
Y is for the YELLOW BAND
    Wrapped round Roylott’s head
The serpent that bit him and
    Struck the blackguard dead.
An Indian Swamp Adder –
    Holmes clearly named it so.
Though no such snake really exists,
    As far as science knows.
Round his brow he had a peculiar yellow band, with brownish speckles, which seemed to be bound tightly round his head. As we entered he made neither sound nor motion.
“The band! the speckled band!” whispered Holmes. (SPEC)
Z is for the ZOO, that is
    The one where Sherlock went.
The one where he gazed horrified
    At myriad serpents.
They were slithery and wicked with
    Cruel eyes on flattened faces -
Reminiscent of The Blackmailer
    From one of Holmes’s cases.
“Do you feel a creeping, shrinking sensation, Watson, when you stand before the serpents in the Zoo and see the slithery, gliding, venomous creatures, with their deadly eyes and wicked, flattened faces? Well, that's how Milverton impresses me.” (CHAS)
Thus ends my safari
    Through the alphabet
Of Holmesian creatures
    And Sherlockian pets.
I did my best though I confess,
    Others could do better.
So now you try name a beast
    From Canon for each letter.


Any other business:

No thank you.