"But why did you say just now that there were very particular reasons why I should study this case?"
"Because it was the first in which I was ever engaged."
Upon reading those two lines from GLOR, one knows immediately which is Sherlock Holmes and which is Dr. Watson. Aside from being friend and biographer of the master detective, the doctor found himself in the role of student more than once. As in the above statements, we find Watson not speaking of recording Holmes's cases or transforming them into pretty stories, but actually studying them. True, Watson did end up writing so many of the cases as stories; and true, he was not the fastest learner in the world, but a student he most definitely was. Holmes berates him time after time, but aren't teachers always hardest on those pupils they expect the best from? And at times, Watson definitely deserved it.
Take GLOR for example. Holmes tells Watson to study it. Why? Because it was the first case in which Holmes was ever engaged. The first case in which Holmes asked a girl to marry him, in other words. That may seem a cheap play on words at first, but remember CHAS? Of course you do.
Sherlock Holmes becomes engaged to Milverston's housemaid for one reason and one reason alone: "I wanted information, Watson." By the time his courtship is done, Holmes knows the layout of the house and grounds, the habits of the household, and even how to get the dog locked away for the night. "You must play your cards as best you can," Holmes tells Watson.
So what of GLOR? Watson, gentleman that he is, left the engagement out of the record of the story, but I think we can be sure that Holmes' s fiancee was a maid in the Trevor household at the time. I expect he became seriously smitten with the girl during his month in Donnithorpe, and actually did ask her to marry him with only that thought in mind.
When Holmes lef t the Trevor household, the girl's letters became his steady source of information on the strange goings-on there, a source of data that would stay with him long after his relationship with that girl had ended. Eventually, Holmes had Watson studying GLOR, the first case in which he was ever engaged. The result?
Watson getting a good scolding from his teacher again, that's what. Listen to this:
"He gave a most dismal groan. 'I feared as much,' said he. 'I really cannot congratulate you."'
As always, Watson seems to have botched things again. The case was SIGN, and in attempting to apply Holmes's methods, Watson seems to have made every blunder imaginable. First, he asked the client to marry him-the last person a detective needs to draw information from. Second, he doesn't ask her to marry him until the case is all but solved. And third (and most damning of all), Watson actually does marry his fiancee, which prohibits him from ever using the method again (or at least until a "recent bereavement" or some other tragic turn).
Some things are best left to professionals, and Holmes's engagement method of gathering information seems to be one of them. Even- at that, I doubt if we'll ever see a diamond ring taking its place next to the magnifying glass and tape measure as tools of the investigatory trade.
Some dangers even Holmes could not take lightly.
Brad Keefauver first encountered Sherlock Holmes in the Strand (theater, not magazine-though he'd like you to think otherwise) as a boy and has been writing about him ever since. His monthly column in PLUGS & DOTTLES has been plaguing the Sherlockian world for well over a decade now, and his three books on Holmes, THE ELEMENTARY METHODS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, SHERLOCK AND THE LADIES, and THE ARMCHAIR BASKERVILLE TOUR have established him as one of the pre-eminent (or at least prolific) writers in modern Sherlockiana. He's one of those wacky Illinois Sherlockians you always hear about, and is constantly making excuses for not going to the annual dinner of the Baker Street Irregulars, hoping that they will one day move it from New York to Orlando so he has an excuse to go to Disney World. You can email Brad with your comments or questions.This work is copyrighted © 1997-2003 by Brad Keefauver. My deep thanks to Brad for allowing me to publish this work on Yoxley Old Place.
Note: This work first appeared on the web at 'The Express Office' by David Hobbet
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