Weekly Forum: 2 September 2014

The Diurnal/Nocturnal Holmes and Watson

Have we ever thought empirically about the division of the Canonical adventures as per the time of day? Does the case activity take place primarily in the day or in the night? Is there a pattern to the Canon? Is Holmes more or less diurnal or nocturnal than Watson; does Watson run on a similar or different internal clock to Holmes?

If we add to the equation body type (somatotype), we can think in terms of Holmes as the ectomorph and Watson as the mesomorph or possibly endomorph. What does that portend for their diurnal/nocturnal characteristics, if anything?

4 Replies to “Weekly Forum: 2 September 2014”

  1. Some quick observations:
    The “nocturnal” behaviour and characteristics are very pronounced in one of Holmes’s literary ancestors, namely Poe’s M.Dupin.
    “It was a freak of fancy in my friend (for what else shall I call it?) to be enamored of the Night for her own sake; and into this bizarrerie, as into all his others, I quietly fell; giving myself up to his wild whims with a perfect abandon. The sable divinity would not herself dwell with us always; but we could counterfeit her presence. At the first dawn of the morning we closed all the massy shutters of our old building; lighted a couple of tapers which, strongly perfumed, threw out only the ghastliest and feeblest of rays. By the aid of these we then busied our souls in dreams –reading, writing, or conversing, until warned by the clock of the advent of the true Darkness. Then we sallied forth into the streets, arm and arm, continuing the topics of the day, or roaming far and wide until a late hour, seeking, amid the wild lights and shadows of the populous city, that infinity of mental excitement which quiet observation can afford.” (E.A.Poe, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”)
    (it is suggestive, by the way, the similarity of these roamings with some of Holmes’s and Watson’s walks. See RESI, 424: <>)
    Holmes does not fully share these tastes: when he occasionally stays up all night (SIGN, TWIS, SPEC) it is usually because he is engaged in work of some kind (“save upon those not infrequent occasions when he was up all night”, HOUN, 669) But he’s certainly more nocturnal than Watson, though the good doctor is a late riser (STUD) and so probably he doesn’t go to bed with the sun. E.g. in GOLD, 608 we find him staying up very late reading by the fireplace together with Holmes (“all virtuous folk have been long in bed.”)
    Maybe someone has an idea about how to connect these bits of information with the different somatotypes of our two friends.

    1. “Reggie”

      Interesting! It might be instructive to list each story and give it a category of either “day” or “night” based on when most of the action occurs. I’m not sure if there has ever been a list of all the times in all of the stories (like the dates).

  2. It could be an interesting topic for research. Unfortunately I’m too busy at the moment, we’re deep into the organization of our Annual Meeting and I have to complete an article for the next number of our magazine. Maybe in the next weeks, if I have some time to spare…

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