Wednesday, July 26, 2017

"The chain of events is certainly one of extraordinary interest." [NAVA] 


Nepotism, bullying, carelessness and a locked room mystery — "The Naval Treaty" has it all. A young government employee is given a top secret assignment that keeps him at his desk late at night, but the document he was working on goes missing. And it's up to Sherlock Holmes to find the culprit.

Clocking in at 12,701 words, this story is the longest of the 56 short stories in the Sherlock Holmes canon. But should it really have taken Holmes that long to figure out the mystery? We discuss some of the finer points of the story, including glaring plot point that you may have missed before.


Download | 7.1 MB, 15:35 




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Music credits

Performers: Uncredited violinist, US Marine Chamber Orchestra 
Publisher Info.: Washington, DC: United States Marine Band 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"there can be no question as to the authorship" [SIGN] 


"The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone" took place in July 1903 and it shares a distinction with one other Sherlock Holmes story: like "His Last Bow," this is the only other story that is told by a third person.

We review some theories, summed up by Leslie Klinger, BSI ("The Abbey Grange") in his Daypark Press publication of a Baker Street Irregulars dinner memento in 2001. From Christopher Morley to O.F. Grazebrook, Gavin Brend, Martin Dakin and more, there are clever and preposterous suggestions as to whose pen was behind this story.

Not to mention the question of the layout of 221B Baker Street, the mysterious bay window, the condition of the wax bust, and more.

See which theory you side with in this episode of Trifles...


Download | 7.4 MB, 16:12 




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Music credits

Performers: Uncredited violinist, US Marine Chamber Orchestra 
Publisher Info.: Washington, DC: United States Marine Band 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"among the harpooners my research was nearing its end" [BLAC] 


We have one of the most iconic openings in the Sherlock Holmes stories in "The Adventure of Black Peter" - the year '95, Holmes in disguise, returning from the butcher's with his weapon of choice: a harpoon.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle pulled on his own knowledge of whaling vessels and voyages (as referenced in an earlier IHOSE episode), but how likely was the occurrence which we learned of in this story? The era of hand-held harpooning was over by that time. How does one go about practice-harpooning a pig in polite London society? And what of the physics of the demonstration?

These questions and more await in this episode of Trifles...


Download | 8.1 MB, 17:41 




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Jeff Decker, BSI in The Baker Street Journal. Vol. 41, No. 1 (1991)

Music credits

Performers: Uncredited violinist, US Marine Chamber Orchestra 
Publisher Info.: Washington, DC: United States Marine Band 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

"there really was a plot" [GLOR] 


Independence Day is celebrated in the United States on July 4. It marks the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a document that preceeded the American Revolution. This, as well as numerous other acts of rebellion in the years leading up to the war, represented a principled stand against British authority.

And we have rebellion against British authority aptly represented in "The Gloria Scott," which William Baring-Gould placed in July of 1874. Trevor Sr. was sentenced to transportation for "breaking my country's laws" while he was a banker - namely, embezzlement. And perhaps the rebellious streak continued with Trevor, Jr. as he brought his dog on campus, to which we offer a toast penned by John Baesch, BSI, ASH.


Download | 9.7 MB, 21:11 




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Music credits

Performers: Uncredited violinist, US Marine Chamber Orchestra 
Publisher Info.: Washington, DC: United States Marine Band 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"Saw through my game, I suppose" [3GAR] 



Once again, we have a con man at work, eager to enrich himself. He finds his mark, manages to get him away from the scene where his work needs to happen, and is eventually caught red-handed by Sherlock Holmes. Does this plot device sound familar? It should. Or at least it did, once we got the names of the minor characters straight...

This tale has been recognized as sharing the plot of "The Red-Headed League" and "The Stock-Broker's Clerk". If indeed the plot is strong enough to be employed three times, which story makes the best use of it, and why?

Download | 7.7 MB, 16:47 




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Music credits

Performers: Uncredited violinist, US Marine Chamber Orchestra 
Publisher Info.: Washington, DC: United States Marine Band 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"she will not believe me" [IDEN] 



In the early stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson was admittedly new to the bio-docu-drama genre that he was creating. And while we've gotten comfortable with putting "The Adventure of..." in front of nearly every short story about Sherlock Holmes, a handful of these early stories were not titled that way. "A Scandal in Bohemia" and "A Case of Identity" were the first and third stories to be published in The Strand and did not carry that title.

But aside from that difference, "A Case of Identity" stands out. Not because it was devoid of a crime, but because its premise seemed inherently unbelievable. A young lady not recognizing her own stepfather? How is it that Watson (and Arthur Conan Doyle) managed to pull this off?

Download | 7.1 MB, 15:35 




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Music credits

Performers: Uncredited violinist, US Marine Chamber Orchestra
Publisher Info.: Washington, DC: United States Marine Band.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"He had described his household" [WIST] 




We're acutely aware of some of the fathers in the Sherlock Holmes stories, and the dastardly deeds associated with them. Individuals such as Jephro Rucastle and Grimesby Roylott spring to mind.

But what about figures who occupied a position as head of the household who weren't necessarily fathers themselves? With Fathers Day coming up this weekend, we thought this was an excellent time to take a moment and reflect on who these individuals are and what their role in the Canon was.


Download | 7.2 MB, 15:50 




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Music credits

Performers: Uncredited violinist, US Marine Chamber Orchestra
Publisher Info.: Washington, DC: United States Marine Band.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

"not long after my marriage" [ENGR] 



In this episode, we look at how married life was treating Dr. Watson in "The Adventure of the Boscombe Valley Mystery." William S. Baring-Gould placed this at June 6 or June 8, 1889. It was published as the fourth short story in the collection known as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.


In the opening scene, Holmes sends for the recently married Watson to accompany him on a case, and Mary Watson, far from nagging her husband about his penchant for dashing off with his friend, actually urges Watson to go. Watson gives her a charming compliment in return by alluding to their romantic meeting in The Sign of Four. The affectionate circle is completed when Holmes gives Watson very gracious thanks for agreeing to come along on the trip.

What are we to make of Watson's home life? Is he simply using a literary technique by making his marriage seem able to weather the storm of Holmes? Or was Mary genuinely understanding of the push-pull relationship between the doctor and the detective?

A tribute to the late Peter Sallis, an appearance by Felix Unger and Oscar Madison, and more surprises await.

Download | 6.8 MB, 14:49 




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Music credits

Performers: Uncredited violinist, US Marine Chamber Orchestra
Publisher Info.: Washington, DC: United States Marine Band.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

"back to the same establishment" [GOLD] 


The last time we met, we were in the middle of a pub quiz. How were you doing? We're going to pick up where we left off, talking about various public houses, bars, taverns and inns that were mentioned in the Sherlock Holmes stories. Each played an important role in the story in which it was set.

And as a bonus, we'll get you inside some of the real-life establishments* that you might stroll past the next time you're in London.

*We're pleased to report that the Criterion is open, but under the name Savini at Criterion.

Download | 6.6 MB, 14:25 




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Music credits

Performers: Uncredited violinist, US Marine Chamber Orchestra
Publisher Info.: Washington, DC: United States Marine Band.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"gone to the nearest public-house" [SOLI] 


We owe the entire Canon to Watson's drinking habits. Because he found himself at the Criterion Bar, he eventually found his way to Holmes. And just as importantly, public houses, taverns and bars play a role throughout the Sherlock Holmes stories.

These locations are where they gathered intelligence, and met clients, or simply refreshed themselves. In the spirit of British pubs, we'll treat you to a bit of a pub quiz. Let's see how you do.

Download | 6.3 MB, 13:27 




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Music credits

Performers: Uncredited violinist, US Marine Chamber Orchestra
Publisher Info.: Washington, DC: United States Marine Band.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

"His Grace is surprised, Dr. Huxtable" [PRIO] 


The opening of "The Adventure of the Priory School" is one of the best in the entirety of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Dr. Huxtable lands on the bearskin rug and from Watson's brandy administration to Holmes helping himself to the contents of Huxtable's pockets, it's vintage Sherlock Holmes.

What do we know of Dr. Huxtable, and more importantly, what did he know about the Duke of Holdernesse? His days-long delay in seeking help meant that the trail was slightly cold for Holmes — a strange priority, even if His Grace was concerned about publicity. Just when did Dr. Huxtable first get to know the Duke and what did his station require?

From tennis to tails, and Monty Python to Morgan Freeman reading the Canon, we've got it all.

Download | 10.2 MB 22:14




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Links


Music credits

Performers: Uncredited violinist, US Marine Chamber Orchestra
Publisher Info.: Washington, DC: United States Marine Band.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

"by the honour of your mother" [SIGN] 


There's no question that fathers play a significant role in many of the Sherlock Holmes stories. But what about mothers? As Mothers Day will be celebrated on May 14 in the United States, we thought it was an appropriate time to look at mothers and motherly figures in the Canon.

From independent women to those who tragically lost their mothers, we see a common thread of strength. Where did Conan Doyle draw his examples from? And what did Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson make of such women? Its all here in Trifles.

Download | 6.6 MB 14:30




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Music credits

Performers: Uncredited violinist, US Marine Chamber Orchestra
Publisher Info.: Washington, DC: United States Marine Band.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"have a look at the horse" [SILV]


One of the best regarded stories in the Sherlock Holmes canon is "Silver Blaze." The story has so many elements to it that lend themselves to the lore of Sherlock Holmes: the Baker Street opening, the image of Holmes and Watson in the railway carriage, a number of famous quotes. We'll be revisiting this story again in Trifles.

But for this time, our focus is on the horse. With the Kentucky Derby approaching on May 6, it's an apt time to consider the heritage of Silver Blaze and the associated activities that were happening during that time. Noted sports columnist Red Smith had some thoughts about Holmes's actions and the racetrack bookie, and S. Tupper Bigelow took an opposite tack. Who was right? You'll have to tune in to hear.

Download | 7.7 MB 16:54





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Music credits

Performers: Uncredited violinist, US Marine Chamber Orchestra
Publisher Info.: Washington, DC: United States Marine Band.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain" [3GAR]


In "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches," we're treated to a range of emotions and reactions from Sherlock Holmes. The opening scene is one of those Canonical gems: Outside, there is a thick fog, while inside, we see a cheery fire, the gleaming breakfast table, and an eloquently irritable Holmes with his cherry-wood pipe, expounding upon art and detection just long enough to bring us up to the arrival of his attractive and interesting young client.

We have a plethora of information about Holmes's personality in not only this opening, but the story itself: his annoyance with Watson and the general public, his charming way with female clients, his thinking, and the age-old question of whether he was attracted to Violet Hunter.

Hop on board with us as we explore the glimpses we have of Sherlock Holmes in "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches," the story that originally appeared in the Strand Magazine in June 1892 and was the final story in the Adventures.


Download | 8.2 MB 17:51



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Links



Music credits

Performers: Uncredited violinist, US Marine Chamber Orchestra
Publisher Info.: Washington, DC: United States Marine Band.


Transcript

Narrator: [00:00:02] Welcome to Trifles, a weekly podcast about the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Clive Merrison: [00:00:08] It is of course a trifle but there is nothing so important as trifles.

Narrator: [00:00:14] Yes the beeches were copper, of the pince-nez was golden, and the blaze was silver, but there were so many other details to pick apart in the stories.

Jeremy Brett: [00:00:23] Pray, be precise as to details.

Narrator: [00:00:25] You know the plots, but what about the minutiae? Have you ever stopped to wonder about the difference between Holmes's pipes? Or how often he smoked cigars versus cigarettes? Or what Egyptian cigarettes are like?

Denis Quilley: [00:00:38] You are very inquisitive Mr. Holmes.

Jeremy Brett: [00:00:41] It's my business to know what other people don't know.

Narrator: [00:00:45] Scott Monty and Bert Wolder will have the answers to these questions and more in Trifles.

Clive Merrison: [00:00:53] The game's afoot.

[00:00:58] Episode 17: Glimpses of Holmes in the Copper Beeches.

Scott Monty: [00:01:06] Hi and welcome to Trifles - that Sherlock Holmes podcast about all the little details and the Sherlock Holmes stories. I'm Scott Monty.

Burt Wolder: [00:01:17] I'm Burt Wolder.

Scott Monty: [00:01:18] And here we are at the end of April. Is it here already? It seems like we were just at the end of March.

Burt Wolder: [00:01:25] It seems like it just started, oh well.

Scott Monty: [00:01:27] My goodness, my goodness. Well, if you're binge-listening, God bless you. And it's not good for the ears to do that you really should wait at least a week in between episodes - doctors recommend.

Burt Wolder: [00:01:42] Yes. But binge listening qualifies you for a binge donations.

Scott Monty: [00:01:47] That is true. So get on over to SherlockHolmesPodcast.com and click on that Patreon button or the PayPal button, if you would care to support us. E-mails and advertising and sound file hosting and transcription services -- all of this goes into the cost of running this little show. So if you can do your part, that would be very helpful to us. And while you are there, while you are online, go to the listening platform of your choice whether it's Stitcher or Spreaker or iTunes or IHeartRadio or Google Play and leave us a rating or review to let other people know what you think of the show. And as always your comments here are welcome. You can reach us at: ihose.co/trifles17. That is the URL for the show notes for this episode.

Scott Monty: [00:02:49] And in this episode we are talking about the Copper Beeches. This is one of those wonderful iconic stories in the Canon. It originally appeared in The Strand Magazine in June of 1892. And it was the final story in the series that became The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. And chronologists have had a little bit of debate about this story. It's clearly in the spring they can all agree on that. Watson says early spring but we get anything from March through May and any years ranging from 1885 all the way up to 1891, really bumping up against Holmes and his run-in with Professor Moriarty which we just talked about in the previous episode.

Burt Wolder: [00:03:40] Well we prefer to think of it in April, which is one of the reasons why we're talking about it in April and Baring-Gould's chronology put it at April of 1889.

Scott Monty: [00:03:50] I like that. I think that works just fine. And again you know in I think it was Episode 14: The Speckled Band, we talked about that iconic opening. And again we have one of those here with the Copper Beeches we've got a thick fog happening outside. We've got a cheery fire. We've got the gleaming breakfast table which of course Watson is seated. And then you've got Holmes. Who is who is eloquent and irritable at the same time.

Burt Wolder: [00:04:35] But this is another wonderful moment. You know that you would call today the meta moment, where the characters in a particular tale comment about the way their adventure is portrayed with the public. And Holmes, as Watson says, "picked up the long cherrywood by which he was I wont to smoke when he was in a disputatious mood," begins by criticising or commenting anyway about Watson's portrayal of his cases "You have erred perhaps in attempting to put her in life to each of your statements, instead of confining yourself to the task of placing upon record that severe reasoning from cause to effect which is really the only notable feature about the thing." And they go and they go on for a considerable time to have a discussion about... Watson's reporting abilities.

Burt Wolder: [00:06:27] Now this is this is what we would call in modern terminology meta. This is a very meta kind of thing to do that you're referring to the physical publication the actual circulation that hits the streets within the confines of the story which also happens to peer inside that publications. And this is something that isn't unique to this particular tale you know. Conan Doyle use this technique again and again, which as we mentioned before, this added to the confusion of the general public. Is Sherlock Holmes real or fictional?

Burt Wolder: [00:07:06] Yeah but you know, we started the episode by asking for comments. And here's the case where Sherlock Holmes refers in this conversation to comments that were likely received about some of the original adventures because he says to Watson, "You can hardly be open to a charge of sensationalism, for out of these cases which you have been so kind as to interest yourself in, a fair proportion do not treat a crime in its legal sense at all. The small matter in which I endeavored to help the King of Bohemia, the singular experience of Miss Mary Sutherland, the problem connected with the man with the twisted lip, the incident of the noble bachelor. Well these were all matters which are outside the pale of the law. But in avoiding the sensational I fear you may have bordered the trivial." And that is just so remarkable. The details in that well constructed couple of sentences there what's packed in there now.

Scott Monty: [00:08:03] It really is. I mean there's just this one and these one or two pages the introduction of the Copper Beeches gives us so much information or just a just a window into Holmes's personality. And some of the things that they may have talked about on any given day. This happened to be upon the day that a client was visiting them. But it really gets you into some of the background of of this friendship.

Burt Wolder: [00:08:31] But also the the lovely thing is he goes on to criticize the readers.

Scott Monty: [00:08:36] Yes. Yeah.

Burt Wolder: [00:08:38] Watson says well you know I think you know these stories have been really novel and interesting and Holmes says, "Oh what do the public - the great unobservant public, who could hardly tell a weaver by his tooth or a compositor by his left thumb, care about the inner shades of analysis and deduction? But indeed..." And then of course we get to the story because he says well "if you're trivial, I cannot blame you, because...criminal man has lost all enterprise and originality. As to my own practice has is probably degenerating into recovering lost lead and and giving advice to young ladies because I've touched bottom" and look at this letter that I have. And of course it's the note from Violet Hunter.

Scott Monty: [00:09:21] And if you've had the opportunity to watch the Granada version of this for Jeremy Brett, I think it's one of the better episodes in the series. This of course was the debut of Natasha Richardson in the role of Violet Hunter. And the derision with which Holmes greets her after having this morning spat with Watson -- and it was portrayed extraordinarily well between the two actors David Burke and Jeremy Brett. Miss Hunter is welcomed to the room. She's sitting by the table. Holmes and Watson are also seated nearby and Holmes is referencing the letter and as if to completely manifest the level of divisiveness that he has -- the derision that he has for her. He tosses the the paper, spinning it in the air toward the table as if to say 'I'm washing my hands of this' and then he turns his head and puts it in his hand. Just a marvelous representation of that prickliness by which Holmes was certainly affected in the opening of this story. And this disputation -- Watson mentions that Holmes always chooses his his cherrywood pipe when he was in a disputatious mood. Why? What about cherrywood would connect it with disputatious versus a clay pipe or say a churchwarden or something?

Burt Wolder: [00:10:57] Well it's a good question -- clearly it's a long pipe you know so I don't think there's anything in the actual smoking experience of a cherrywood that would push one's attitude this way or that way, but it's clearly a long pipe and unlike a churchwarden which can be clay or refers to a long briar pipe a cherrywood pipe would have a thicker stem and it also be probably far from cherry, so you're more free to wave it around like a baton or pointed at people. That's always what I thought.

Scott Monty: [00:11:35] Well that's a good point. That's a very good point now it would have nothing to do with the with the mouthpiece though.

Burt Wolder: [00:11:42] Right now at the end of the mouthpiece particularly in the 19th century it would have been horn or amber or I guess an early form of hard rubber bakelite. But no, it wouldn't have anything to do with the actual part you'd put in your lips.

Scott Monty: [00:11:56] But that that wild gesticulating would have been accommodated by a longer or thicker stemmed pipe.

Burt Wolder: [00:12:06] Yeah or would have had it would have had a stem of cherrywood probably and would end it at a different tip and you'd be more free to point it around and wave it around than you would with something that was more fragile.

Scott Monty: [00:12:16] That makes sense.

Burt Wolder: [00:12:20] The lovely thing about this you know is that unlike. Well first of all this is so archetypal in terms of the stories here is a woman alone in mysterious circumstances and another and one of the first of the many Violets we'll encounter in the stories. But she begins immediately by getting to the point: "You will excuse my troubling you, I'm sure," she says. "But I've had a strange experience. And as I have no parents or relatives from any sort from whom I could ask advice I thought perhaps you'd be kind enough to tell me what I should do." Well, Watson says, "I could see that Holmes was favorably impressed by the manner and speech of his new client." And he looks over in searching fashion proceeds to hear her story.

Scott Monty: [00:13:05] Now and in this case I think he had great respect for Violet Hunter -- this woman who was was on her own was carrying herself very well and simply came to him for some advice. He was a little confused as to why she should be consulting him, but she said she should go down to the Copper Beeches firmer in mind about things.

Burt Wolder: [00:13:35] Well, she you know she tells him the whole story and says you know it ends by saying basically what do you think. And he says, "Well, Miss Hunter, if your mind is made up, that settles the question.

Scott Monty: [00:13:45] Right. And of course there came that key phrase. Watson notes, "As to Holmes, I observed that he sat frequently for a half hour on end with knitted brows and an abstracted air but he swept the matter away with a wave of his hand when I mentioned it. 'Data! data! data!' He cried impatiently. I can't make bricks without clay.

Burt Wolder: [00:14:11] Right. Well before that you know right at the end of that little interchange with Violet she says well you wouldn't advise me to use would you. And he says in another great telling remark, "Oh I confess that it is not the situation which I should like to see a sister of mine apply for.

Scott Monty: [00:14:29] That's right.

Burt Wolder: [00:14:30] And of course we know from Conan Doyle that he [Conan Doyle] had several sisters. I think all of which all of whom were with governesses at different times in different places.

Scott Monty: [00:14:42] And at the end of that data data data paragraph Watson said, "And yet he would always wind up by muttering that no sister of his should ever have accepted such situation." So great admiration for this woman and almost seeing her as a peer as as an extension of the family because he probably saw something of himself in her -- that independent streak. Holmes may well have may as well have been an orphan by virtue of the way he conducted his life. So would it have been that dissimilar from Violet Hunter.

Burt Wolder: [00:15:20] And the other the other lovely thing in this particular story is that eventually they go down to Hampshire. And previously we've seen interesting things happen in Holmes' train travels particularly in I believe "The Naval Treaty" when are you going back to London and Holmes remarks about "the schools -- the boarding schools, the beacons of hope the lighthouses." Well here, Watson is pretty happy to be out of the fog of London out in the countryside and he sees comments to Holmes about "the little red and gray roofs of the farmstead peeping out from the light green the new foliage." It's a beautiful description. "Are they not fresh and beautiful?" And Holmes says, oh Watson, "you look at these scattered houses and you were impressed by their beauty. I look at them and the only thought which comes to me is a feeling of their isolation, and of the impunity with which crime may be committed there." "Good heavens!" "Oh they always fill me with a certain horror. It is my belief Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside." "You horrify me, Holmes.

Scott Monty: [00:16:32] Yeah, it is one of the curses of the criminal mind, or of the mind that thinks about crime -- that Holmes would naturally turn his thoughts to that - this isolation. We come across it -- oh where was it? The inn where Holmes and Watson stopped where Reuben Hayes and his wife tended the inn in "The Priory School." Of course we later find out that they were holding the kidnapped boy upstairs. You know these these areas of isolation allow people to get away with more when they're not under the eyes of the law. And just to conclude, returning to our friend Ms Hunter, we know that Holmes may have shown some sort of affection or may even have been smitten with regard to her. We have to wonder if she returned the feeling, if she reciprocated this romanticized feeling. And you know we mentioned Mrs. Hudson getting knocked up in "The Speckled Band," well we have another wonderful quote here in "The Copper Beeches" where she said, "I remember nothing until I found myself lying on my bed trembling all over. Then I thought of you Mr. Holmes." [MUSIC] [Laughter]

Clive Merrison: [00:18:06] Is of course a trifle, but there is nothing so important as trifles.

Narrator: [00:18:11] Please join us again next week for another installment of Trifles. Show notes are available on SherlockHolmesPodcast.com. Please subscribe to us on iTunes and be sure to check out our longer show. I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, where we interview notable Sherlockians, share news, and go into even more depth on certain topics.

Peter Barksworth: [00:18:33] You take my breath away, Mr. Holmes.

Colin Jeavons: [00:18:37] It's those busts again.

Jeremy Brett: [00:18:39] Correct, Lestrade.



--


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"it is with a heavy heart" [FINA] 


"The Final Problem" is a shocking tale, both for contemporaries of the Strand Magazine as well as for first-time readers of The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Christopher Morley wrote: "Devoted readers have rarely had such a shock as the opening words of this story when it first appeared in the Strand Magazine."

And so too did we. Some reflections on the drastic turn of events and of the reactions to readers around the world.


Download | 8.6 MB 18:56



Please leave us a rating and review on iTunes or Google Play, and consider supporting our efforts through Patreon or PayPal.


Links





Music credits

Performers: Uncredited violinist, US Marine Chamber Orchestra
Publisher Info.: Washington, DC: United States Marine Band.
Copyright: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0


Transcript


Narrator: [00:00:01] Welcome to Trifles - a weekly podcast about the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Clive Merrison: [00:00:06] "It is of course a trifle, but there is nothing so important as trifles."

Narrator: [00:00:11] Yes, the Problem was Final, the House was Empty and his Bow was Last, but there are so many other details to pick apart in the stories.

Jeremy Brett: [00:00:19] Pray, be precise as to details.

Narrator: [00:00:22] You know the plots,but what about the minutiae? Why would the Pope engage Sherlock Holmes's services? Why did he receive the Legion of Honor from France? And why would he refuse a knighthood?

Denis Quilley: [00:00:33] You are very inquisitive Mr. Holmes.

Jeremy Brett: [00:00:35] It's my business to know what other people don't know.

Narrator: [00:00:38] Scott Monty and Burt Wolder will have the answers to these questions and more in Trifles.

Clive Merrison: [00:00:45] The game's afoot.

Narrator: [00:00:48] Episode 16: The Surprise of a First Reading of the Final Problem.

Scott Monty: [00:00:55] Hi there and welcome to Trifles, the Sherlock Holmes podcast where we delve into some of the nitty gritty details of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I'm Scott Monty.

Burt Wolder: [00:01:07] I'm Burt Wolder.

Scott Monty: [00:01:09] And are you - are you ready for this? Have you recovered from the Easter episode yet?

Burt Wolder: [00:01:15] Oh there's just a few flakes of chocolate around my lips and we're just clearing up the eggshells. But other than that, it's all fine.

Scott Monty: [00:01:24] Well you'll have to speak louder because I still have jelly beans in my ears. I don't know how they got there but we are we are through with -- which is interesting. We talked about the resurrection of Holmes - the Return - and the Empty House in particular. And now we're going back to look at the final problem seems a little out of order. We let the calendar dictate what we do and allow us to dictate what you do. Before we get into this, please leave us a rating or a review on the platform of your choice wherever you happen to listen to us. It would be very helpful if you told other people what you think of the show. Share this update with them of course show notes are available at ihose.co/trifles16. Feel free to leave us a comment there and we do appreciate the comments that have been flowing in. And as always, your support with Patreon or even PayPal would be very helpful just to help keep the show going. Over on SherlockHolmesPodcast.com.

Scott Monty: [00:02:32] So let's talk a little bit about "The Final Problem." Do you remember the first time you read "The Final Problem," Burt?

Burt Wolder: [00:02:41] It's vaguely -- you know I first encountered the Sherlock Holmes stories in the fifth grade through a volume from my school library and I remember that it was a big heavy book. I remember the illustrations in the book and I remember that the book ended with The Final Problem. And I remember that it included that Paget illustration of Holmes and Moriarty entwined, hurtling over the falls. Yeah, I remember a keen disappointment for having just discovered this magnificent hero to - it seemed very rapidly to me - come to his demise.

Scott Monty: [00:03:25] Had you had you read through all of the Adventures and all of the Memoirs at this point in kind of the book form?

Burt Wolder: [00:03:34] Yes. Yeah. The book that I'd gotten from the school library included the Memoirs and I'm pretty sure included all-- I know The Final Problem was the last story -- so I'm pretty sure it included all the Adventures and Memoirs.

Scott Monty: [00:03:49] Usually you know when you come across them in a classroom setting, you'll read one or two stories out of order. The Red Headed League and the Speckled Band are usually the two most common stories that are used to introduce children around that time frame fifth sixth seventh grade.

Burt Wolder: [00:04:06] It could be too that my library had two separate volumes and they just got the first one I like it because they go on but I remember being one. One big book.

Scott Monty: [00:04:14] Yeah. Well I remember and I still have a version of it having a copy of The Illustrated Sherlock Holmes, which was a reproduction of the pages of The Strand Magazine as they originally appeared with those Paget illustrations. And of course The Final Problem was published in The Strand Magazine in December 1893. And of course Sherlock Holmes and the Strand started their association in June of 1891. So this would have been over two years of uninterrupted Sherlock Holmes stories, and just about every month in The Strand Magazine. And all of a sudden we come upon this story -- which by the way is also one of these chronological amazing opportunities, or chronological instances where all of the chronologists agree: April 24th 1891 is the date of this story. And when when you're first reading it, the opening sentence may make grip you, but then you get into the adventure. Ah, that couldn't be. And it's not until you get to the end of the story that the full impact of it really begins to weigh upon you and the opening sentence or the opening phrase is: "it is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen to write these, the last words and which I shall ever record the singular gifts by which my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes was distinguished." It's -- you know, Conan Doyle just had a way of gripping you of hooking you. And in our friend Christopher Morley remarked on this in his famous book Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Textbook of Friendship. You want to read his excerpt? Because you do a great Morley.

Burt Wolder: [00:06:24] Well it's easy to do a representation of someone who sadly passed away in 1957. There are a lot too many extant copies of his recorded voice bubbling around. But he writes in the textbook: "Devoted readers have rarely had such a shock as the opening words of this story when it first appeared in The Strand Magazine. The Adventures of Holmes and Watson had been running since July 1891 with only a few months vacation in the Summer of '92 for the author to think up new plots. Few characters of fiction have so immediately won readers' hearts and the sudden news of Holmes death caused consternation. A study of the files of the Strand shows the editor's attempts to console his readers by various substitutes and imitations. Doyle himself was bored with Holmes and did not relent until 1901 when the Hound began seriously serially in the same magazine.

Scott Monty: [00:07:31] There it is and then of course Watson concludes the story saying he "endeavored to clear his memory by attacks upon him whom I shall ever regard as the best and wisest man whom I have ever known.

Burt Wolder: [00:07:53] Yes.

Scott Monty: [00:07:54] Talk about finality.

Burt Wolder: [00:07:58] And as we find out nine years later, not really so. But one of the things you know we should point out that really adds to the verisimilitude - the reality - of this particular story is a technique that we observed back in our discussion of the Speckled Band. In Watson's opening you remember the Speckled Band Watson's openings he says, "well you know the lady in question sadly passed on and there's been some recent commentary about the supposed -- the circumstances of the death of Grimesby Roylott, so I really must set the record straight..." Well here, Watson says "my hand has been forced, however by the recent letters in which Colonel James Moriarty defends the memory of his brother and I have no choice - no choice but to lay the facts before the public exactly as they occurred. I alone know the absolute truth of the matter and I'm satisfied that the time has come when no good purpose is to be served by its suppression." So you've got you know again this lovely additional -- this is really the truth is it wasn't my idea that this fellow's been writing these things now. Well now I'm going to set the record straight.

Scott Monty: [00:09:07] Well and to hammer things home even further, Watson continues to say "as far as I know there have only been three accounts in the public press that in the Journal de Geneve upon May 6th 1891, the Reuters dispatch in the English papers on May 7th, and finally the recent letters to which I have alluded."

Burt Wolder: [00:09:38] Now we've glossed over the fact that one of the great canonical conundrums occurs in the passages we just looked at. Which is the fact that there appear to be two brothers Moriarty both named John.

Scott Monty: [00:09:51] And then there's a third one which we find later in the Valley of Fear, is there not? It was a station master.

Burt Wolder: [00:10:00] Is there? I don't remember the station but I see one.

Scott Monty: [00:10:05] Well we're assuming a station master and a colonel wouldn't be the same thing, right?

Burt Wolder: [00:10:13] Right. Is there that specific a reference to Moriarty in The Valley of Fear? I don't remember that.

Scott Monty: [00:10:18] Let me see.

[00:10:23] I remember, you know the closing: "You must give me time, Watson" about addressing the evil of Moriarty But that places the case before The Final Problem, obviously.

Scott Monty: [00:10:39] No, I'm drawing a blank on that one. Maybe I made that up out of whole cloth.

Burt Wolder: [00:10:50] I like it. Sounds good.

Scott Monty: [00:10:53] Oh here it is. This is "you told me once Holmes that you had never met Professor Moriarty." "No I never have." "How do you know about his rooms.

Burt Wolder: [00:11:05] I've been there on three separate occasions.

Scott Monty: [00:11:08] "You found something compromising?" "Absolutely nothing. That's what amazed me. However, you have now seen the point of the picture. It shows him to be a very wealthy man. How did he acquire wealth? He's unmarried. His younger brother is a station master in the West of England."

Burt Wolder: [00:11:29] Oh right. OK. So there are three of them. Well wait a minute now. One was Curly, right? And then Curley died. And then it was Curly Joe. No then there was Shemp.

Scott Monty: [00:11:40] Hey, that HUUUURRRTS!

Burt Wolder: [00:11:43] This is the Shemp of the Moriarty clan.

Scott Monty: [00:11:48] I love it.

Larry Fine: [00:11:50] Hey Moe, mine hernia.

Burt Wolder: [00:11:56] Well if you're going to talk about Hernia, we're back in Shakespeare.

Scott Monty: [00:12:02] But let's think back let's get back on track here. The shock that a reader has when coming across this final story in the Sherlock Holmes stories you know whether it's in the Strand magazine and you were a contemporary of Conan Doyle reading this, and and reading that final line which seemed like it had a great deal of finality to it. Or whether you're -- you've got this collected edition and you come to the final story in it and you close the cover and that's it. Unless you have the complete Sherlock Holmes in which case you know there's about two thirds more of the book. You have to finish. Even so - even knowing that there are more stories to come for the modern day reader, it's still a great shock and a wave of emotion -- at least from my experience -- passed over me. How could this happen? Our hero was at the height of his powers -- was at the height of his career and now he's gone.

Burt Wolder: [00:13:11] Well, you know there are a lot of -- I mean I don't want to trivialize it -- but there are a lot of contemporary echoes of that: it's the great shock and disappointment and unhappiness people had when Star Trek was canceled after its first two seasons all those years ago and look what happens. I mean, you become deeply entwined and you deeply enjoy the adventures of this character and then for no apparent reason, you come to a stop sign. And it's hurtful, yeah.

Scott Monty: [00:13:49] And for the folks that lived through it the folks that didn't have a Sherlock Holmes story for what, seven years, until the Hound came out. And even then Watson was very clear that it was a retrospective not a resurrection. And then another nine years beyond that before the return came about I think is that right. Or no, another two years before the Return came out, that's a lifetime and the Strand magazine. You know this was its lifeline. This was the fuel that helped the magazine maintain its subscription numbers. Now we are told -- and there's never been any concrete evidence to prove this -- but the the urban legend is that when Sherlock Holmes was perceived to have died at the Reichenbach Falls, that Victorian gentleman began to wear mourning. They wore the black crepe around their arms and in a show of sadness and mourning obviously, and of solidarity. That's how much Sherlock Holmes crept into the public's imagination.

Burt Wolder: [00:15:08] But we've never found any any confirming support for that. That may be an urban legend. And I notice that in Morley's writings he says well, you know from the standpoint of the letters of the editors of the Strand, it was clear they were trying to respond to their readers and suggest imitations and other things, so there's clearly some sounds like there's some support for that. But for the crepe armbands, perhaps not.

Scott Monty: [00:15:36] Yeah.

Burt Wolder: [00:15:38] You know one thing that's never been remarked in all of the-- or maybe it has been, maybe I just don't remember it -- in the scholarship around the departure of Sherlock Holmes over the Reichenbach Falls is the the roots of that. You know, Conan Doyle, among many other things in his enthusiasms, popularized skiing as a sport and an activity and an exercise. And as we know Conan Doyle was also in later years more and more involved in psychical research and spiritualism. The society for Psychical Research that he was a part of included among its members Arthur Balfour and Balfour became prime minister. He was a conservative politician; he became prime minister of the UK in 1902. And there are a lot of parallels between Balfour's character - in particular his apparently, his desire not to physically exert himself that are reminiscent of Mycroft. But Balfa also had a younger brother -- Francis Maitland Balfour I think -- who died trying to scale Montblanc in Switzerland in the early 1880s. And so there's some thinking that says you know as Conan Doyle was in Switzerland and saw the Reichenbach and had the past experience of Balfour's brother dying sadly in that sort of mountain setting, he thought to himself what a great place to entomb this character.

Scott Monty: [00:17:20] And it also explains why Conan Doyle preferred Parker Pens over Montblanc.

Burt Wolder: [00:17:29] Yes - too deadly. Too dangerous.

Scott Monty: [00:17:33] You'll put your eye out!

Burt Wolder: [00:17:35] One slip and I'm gone. "Dear Lord Molesworth, Your No. 7 Broad is precisely what I've needed all my life. Arthur Conan Doyle."

Scott Monty: [00:17:48] I think that will wrap that one up nicely.

Clive Merrison: [00:17:51] It is of course a trifle, but there is nothing so important as trifles.

Narrator: [00:17:56] Please join us again next week for another installment of Trifles. Show notes are available on SherlockHolmesPodcast.com. Subscribe to us on iTunes and be sure to check out our longer show I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere where we interview notable Sherlockians, share news, and go into even more depth on certain topics.

Peter Barksworth: [00:18:21] You take my breath away, Mr. Holmes.

David Burke: [00:18:25] It's with a heavy heart that I take up my pen to write these, the last words in which I shall ever record the singular gifts by which my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes was distinguished. I shall ever regard him as the best and the wisest man I've ever known.

--

Our Team

Scott Monty and Burt Wolder are both members of the Baker Street Irregulars, the literary society dedicated to Sherlock Holmes. They have co-hosted the popular show I Hear of Everywhere since June 2007.

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