Weekly Forum: October 14 2014

Mrs Watson (No, the Other One)

Mrs. J. Watson and son John (ca 1854)
Mrs. J. Watson and son John (ca 1854)

Very little has been written about Mrs Watson, John Watson’s mother. There is no Canonical evidence, but from the abundant evidence about her son, what can we say about Doctor Watson’s mom?

Significant Comment on September 30 Weekly Forum

Melissa Anderson “Faith” has posted a significant comment on the Weekly Forum of September 30 concerning Doctor Watson and his military service. It is concise, well-stated, thoughtful and goes to the core of the Canon.  Well worth reading. Thank you, “Faith.”

Words . . .

This morning, the tree nursery is coming to plant a Chinese Fringe Tree in our yard (Google image it if you haven’t seen one).

Those three words led me to ask myself if I could cite the use of each word in the Canon. Rather than do the research, I decided to let our intrepid Canonical Concordance Commandos attack the question.  Where are the words Chinese, fringe and tree in the Canon?  How many appearances for each?

More On Mycroft

For a moment, forget all of the “character business” we know about Mycroft and think of him in context of the Canonical structure.  What is Mycroft’s role and purpose in the Canon?  Is he a major or minor character?   Is he essential to understanding something about Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson? Is he simply interesting but not essential? If Mycroft was not included in the Canon, would we notice his absence?

Consider what Sherlock tells us: 1) Mycroft is older; 2) Mycroft has greater powers than Sherlock; 3) Mycroft is even more intellectually powerful and ascetic than Sherlock; 4) Everything concerning Mycroft is static whereas everything about Sherlock is dynamic; Mycroft is ennui and Sherlock is energy.

Is Mycroft a literary device to illuminate Sherlock? What is Watson’s opinion of Mycroft, or does he have one?

Your thoughts . . . .?

Mycroft: Did He Pass Away?

Margie Deck “Gwen” from Seattle’s Sound of the Baskervilles and one of our most active Members has sent along a very interesting question.  She refers to the Sherlock Peoria blog and a posting that ask whether Mycroft might have passed away when “The Dying Detective” was written.  Here is the link:


Margie wonders whether anyone would like to reason a response to this question. The premise of the theory is that if Holmes was dying Watson surely would have notified Mycroft, yet no mention of Mycroft is made.

Thoughts? Can you support or refute the position?

A Survey Question for the Membership: Train Journeys

A question recurs:  How many different train trips are mentioned in the Canon?  Not subway or ‘tube’ trips, but true train journeys.
Buttons, who has logged many train trips criss-crossing England in all directions, as well as Wales and Scotland, over nearly thirty years, likes to believe he has been on most of the rails that conveyed the good Doctor and Mr Holmes. He particularly remembers one wonderful, uninterrupted, non-stop trip of two days from Penzance in Cornwall to John O’Groats at the very northern end of Scotland (nearly as far apart as you can get in Great Britain), notable for its crossing of the great, lonely moors, the necessity for transfers to narrow-gauge, two-coach branch lines, and the excellent quality of the dining car food, drink and service.
Anyone care to offer a catalogue of the individual journeys by story taken by our favourite Victorian friends?

Photography in the Canon

The Sherlock Holmes Society of London is sponsoring a seminar looking at Photography in the Canon. This worthy topic, of course, raises the question: What are the photographic references in the Canon; which stories, and what are the specific instances? Frankly, Buttons cannot think of a single one off the top of his head. He’s confident many of our members will do much better. He will, however, contemplate the question during today’s ‘pie and pint’ break.

Dr Watson and Differing Nationalities

The Canon is filled with differing nationalities, nations, and international references; perhaps more so than any other collection in the detective fiction genre.

Many of the stories and books contain elements of international travel, foreign settings, citizens of many countries, and other story elements that hinge on a “global vision” as set down by the writer.

A catalogue of this fulsome “internationality” would be of interest. Anyone care to expand on this aspect of the scholarship? Anyone care to comment on Dr Watson’s reasons for introducing so much of the non-British world into the Canon?

Kumar Bhatia, JHWS “Bobbie” from Dubai Sends a Very Interesting Question for Your Responses

Below is “Bobbie’s” question:

Watson tells us that he was “. . . standing at the Criterion bar” when he met Stamford, “. . . who had been a dresser under me at Bart’s.”

The Criterion was then, and is even today, an upscale establishment. How could Dr Watson afford the price of a pre-lunch drink (or perhaps even two) at the undoubtedly pricey Criterion given the state of his finances which, in his own words, was hardly sound: “So alarming did the state of my finances become, that I soon realized that I must either leave the metropolis and rusticate somewhere in the country, or that I must make a complete alteration in my style of living . . . .”

Did the long-shot mare he had bet on over the Christmas racing season come in a whopping twenty to one and permit Watson the luxury of a celebration at the Criterion?

Kumar provides us with a number of avenues for research: 1) the Christmas racing season and plausible long-shot horses; 2) the evidence for Stamford picking up the tab; 3)  the potential of Dr Watson having a tab at the Criterion; 4) or perhaps the simple explanation: he wished to do so without regard to his finances.

Please comment if you have an idea on this question you wish to share. And “Thank You” to Kumar Bhatia “Bobbie” for his always interesting and thoughtful contributions.

Another Research Question

What do we know of shaving and barbering in the Canon? Equally, what do we know of  hairstyling and cosmetics? Please reply directly to “Comments” here.

How About Just a Tiny Quiz to Tide Us Over . . .?

AND THE RESULTS ARE . . . It would seem that this question could be the basis of a very interesting paper for The Watsonian. There are echoes in both solutions below to indicate the presence of myth, folklore, religion, and supernatural belief. And, there may well be additional names that fit the specter of the Hound.

Dean Turnbloom “Stoker” sends this interesting and historically pertinent solution to the question:

Cusith or Cù-Sìth was a Hellhound, harbinger of death (Scotland, the Hebrides, Ireland). According to Scottish folklore, the Cù-Sìth is said to be the size of a young bull with the appearance of a wolf. Its fur is shaggy, and usually cited as being dark green though sometimes white. Its tail is described as being long and either coiled up or plaited (braided). Its paws are described as being the width of a man’s hand. The Cù-Sìth is thought to make its home in the clefts of rocks in the Highlands, and also to roam the moors and highlands. The Cù-Sìth was feared as a harbinger of death and would appear to bear away the soul of a person to the afterlife, similar to the manner of the Grim Reaper. In this role the Cù-Sìth holds in Scottish folklore a function similar to that of the Bean Sidhe, or banshee, in Irish folklore.

According to legend, the creature was capable of hunting silently, but would occasionally let out three terrifying bays, and only three, that could be heard for miles by those listening for it, even far out at sea. Those who hear the baying of the Cù-Sìth must reach safety by the third bark or  be overcome with terror to the point of  death.

Congratulations to Mr Turnbloom who resides in Santee, California.

Kenneth Siarkiewicz sends his analysis and suggests “Lucifer” as the hellhound’s name, a name that seems eminently logical, fitting and in keeping with the supernatural speculation of the story.

“Cooper” also suggests the name might be ‘Black Shuck” from one of the English folk-legends. This legend bears quite a close resemblance to the Hound. It is spectral and foreboding and deserves to be read in its full description on Wikipedia (follow the link) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Shuck

Congratulations to “Cooper” who resides, reads and thinks in Tucson, Arizona. Kenneth joined the Society in August and we appreciate his contribution in helping us to think about this unique question.


The hound in The Hound of the Baskervilles is not given a name in the text by Dr Watson. From the Canonical textual evidence and from inference, what is the likely name of the hound?

Submit answers to buttons@johnhwatsonsociety.com by 12 Noon (Pacific) Friday. The answers will be judged and the results will be posted here by Saturday.

Have fun . . .

Weekly Quiz #7: 1 November to 6 November 2013

Weekly Quiz #7
1 November to 6 November 2013

RESULTS: Elinor Hickey “Misty” was second in with 16/20; Dean Turnbloom “Stoker” was third in and tied with 16/20; and James O’Leary “Pippin” was first in with 15/20. They go forward to the Monthly Quiz on 8 November 2013.

Watson used colour sparingly in his writing with only a few exceptions. Compared to imagist writers, however, he was not a “colourful” writer. “Colour in the Canon” would make a superb research paper for The Watsonian (any takers?).

This week’s quiz is concerned with those few colours. Identify the object being described by the colour and an associated word or two in the text, the story, and all the accurate page citations (5 point bonus) in the Doubleday one-volume edition of 1930 (the “W” edition).

Colour – – – – Object/Person – – – – Story – – – – Page

  1. Yellow (Nov. 1895)
  2. White (rustic)
  3. Amber (pile)
  4. White (curve)
  5. Red (bully)
  6. Green (mottled)
  7. Gray (jack-in-a-box)
  8. Gray (scraped)
  9. Green (dreaming)
  10. Brown (study)
  11. Black (insane)
  12. Glossy black (noble maybe)
  13. Purple (girt round)
  14. Red (wire)
  15. Brown (first usage)
  16. Black (smoke tree)
  17. Crimson (guilty)
  18. Gray (mist)
  19. Pink (curve)
  20. Lavender (aristocrat)

file_download.pngDownload Week 7 Questions and Answers

Baron Maupertuis and Ron Lies, JHWS “Chips”

Our member, Ron Lies, “Chips” takes part in a Sherlockian group on the web led by “Judith” who poses interesting questions for the participants to discuss. Here is a recent example concerning “The Reigate Squires”:

Judith: This case opens with Watson saying: “The whole question of the Netherland-Sumatra Company and of the colossal schemes of Baron Maupertuis are too recent in the minds of the public, and too intimately concerned with politics and finance, to be fitting subjects for this series of sketches.”

Questions and Ron Lies’s responses:

A. Why would being too recent in the minds of the public make these cases not fitting subjects for this series of sketches? This implies that they would be fitting later.  Either a subject is fitting or not, right?

RL: No, a subject could be too painful and fresh in peoples’ minds, whereas the
passage of time might mitigate the pain.

B. Wouldn’t the fact that these cases are still fresh in the minds of the public make them more marketable?  Why not strike while the iron is hot?

RL: No, I think that the Doctor Watson was trying to not to bring up again the pain and the destruction of the financial dreams of the lives of the people who were swindled by Baron Maupertuis. Watson was trying in his own way to soften the pain and the destruction to the vast numbers of people ruined by The Baron’s swindles.

C. Is it possible that Watson is just toying with his readers and making mountains out of mole hills?

RL: Doctor Watson would not toy with his readers or make mountains out of mole hills. His code of conduct would not allow him to do so. Doctor Watson was crediting the readers with reasonable intelligence. He felt some readers would wonder why the question of the Netherland-Sumatra Company and of the colossal schemes of Baron Maupertins” were not being addressed by Sherlock Holmes
and himself.

Yours in Sherlock and Watson,

“The Game is Afoot”  aka Ron in Denver, JHWS “Chips”

What do you think? What other explanations may be reasonable for Holmes and Watson not acting in response to the Baron Maupertuis schemes? Please feel free to make comments. We thank “Chips” for his sending these insights on this shadowy corner of the Canon.

End of Summer . . . Resumption of Quiz Activity? 

With the last days of summer vacation dwindling, perhaps the participation in quizzes will return … let’s hope so since our members do so well. Here is one to think about:

Thugs, pugs and toughs in the Canon. Who can create the definitive catalogue of these colorful supporting characters?

The Canonical Horses

No matter where you were in 1895 England, horses abounded. The Canon presents horses often. Can you organize them by story, breed, use, name, colour, etc., as may one day be helpful to scholars of the works?

Everyone on Vacation?

Buttons is surprised there has not been a response to the lawyer question. On vacation or working on the Treasure Hunt? Feedback appreciated.


With seemingly no takers on “death” let’s lighten up a bit.

We know Dr Watson has a “pawky” sense of humour which is defined as “shrewd and cunning, often in a humourous manner; chiefly British.”

We also know Holmes rarely laughs, but are there instances of Dr Watson laughing?

Death in the Canon

Dr Watson writes often of death, either through murder or other causes. Can you catalogue the deaths – of all and any types – mentioned in the Canon? This would make an interesting paper: “Thanatopsis and the Sacred Canon”