Conan Doyle/Sherlock Holmes Primary References in the Early Works of P. G. Wodehouse
I have cited original book and periodical appearances through 1922 only. For information concerning alternate titles, rewrites, and book appearances of magazine pieces, please see Neil Midkiff’s story page.
Periodicals and Books
WORK (Article, Public School Magazine, December 1900)
Mephistopheles (looking towards bookshelf): Hullo, you’ve got a decent lot of books, pommy word you have. Rodney Stone, Vice Versa, Many Cargoes. Ripping. Ever read Many Cargoes?
SCHOOL STORIES (Article, Public School Magazine, August 1901)
One could name scores of writers of to-day who are capable of writing good school-stories but who devote themselves to more mundane topics. Conan Doyle, for instance. . . .
UNDER THE FLAIL (Column, Public School Magazine, November 1901)
There are the same works of art on the walls, the genuine “R.N.P.” over the mantelpiece, the autograph photo of the Editor of this journal (as he appeared in the character of Shakespeare at the Duke of X’s fancy-dress ball), the complete sets of Conan Doyle, Anstey, and Jacobs, and the sampler worked in childhood’s happy hours by a relation of the landlady.
THE STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE OF MR. BUXTON-SMYTHE (Short story, Public School Magazine, December 1901)
Note: Holmesian parody with St. Asterisk’s school setting (Neil Midkiff)
THE POTHUNTERS (Serial, Public School Magazine, January–March 1902; extended to full length in book publication)
“. . . Ever read ‘Great Expectations’? Dickens, you know.”
“I know. Haven’t read it, though. Always rather funk starting on a classic, somehow. Good?”
“My dear chap! Good’s not the word.”
“Well, after you. Exit Livy, then. And a good job, too. You might pass us the great Sherlock. Thanks.”
He plunged with the great detective into the mystery of the speckled band, while Vaughan opened “Great Expectations” at the place where he had left off the night before. (ch. V, February 1902)
Mr. Thompson took a keen pride in his powers of observation. He would frequently observe, like the lamented Sherlock Holmes, the vital necessity of taking notice of trifles. The daily life of a Sixth Form Master at a big Public School does not afford much scope for the practice of the detective art, but Mr. Thompson had once detected a piece of cribbing, when correcting some Latin proses for the master of the Lower Third, solely by the exercise of his powers of observation, and he had never forgotten it. (ch. X, March 1902)
The Head, slightly discomposed by this Sherlock-Holmes-like reading of his thoughts, pulled himself together, and said, “Ah—just so. I think it very possible.” (ch. XVI, book)
THE TABBY TERROR (Short story, Public School Magazine, February 1902)
“No human being has done this horrid thing,” said Montgomery. He always liked to introduce a Holmes-Watsonian touch into the conversation.
“Just cast your eye over that butter. You follow me, Watson?”
THE ADVENTURE OF THE SPLIT INFINITIVE (Short story, Public School Magazine, March 1902)
Note: Holmesian parody with St. Asterisk’s school setting (Neil Midkiff)
THE PUGILIST IN FICTION (Article, Sandow’s Magazine of Physical Culture, March 1902)
There are two novels in the library of pugilistic fiction which stand alone, Dr. Conan Doyle’s “Rodney Stone” and Bernard Shaw’s “Cashel Byron’s Profession.”
“Rodney Stone” is an epic of the ring.
With “Rodney Stone” must, of course, be classed the short story “The Master of Croxley,” a fine specimen of Conan Doyle’s descriptive style in matters of the ring.
WRESTLING AT THE HALLS (Article, Sandow’s Magazine, April 1902)
“Where have I seen that face before?” I murmured to myself. Then I knew. “Why, it’s Sherlock Holmes;” But it wasn’t. It was Mr. Jack Carkeek. Except that he is broader and thicker than the great detective, they might pass for one another anywhere.
In the dressing-gown he looked more like Sherlock Holmes than ever. Even the voice was the voice of the late Sherlock, as presented at eight every evening by Mr. Charles Frohman.
EARLY DAYS OF INTERNATIONAL BOXING (Article, Sandow’s Magazine, July 1902)
Most people will remember the “Eytalian Gondoleery Cove” in “Rodney Stone”:— . . . . ’E was so broad ’e ’ad to come edgewise through the doors. ’E ’ad so, upon my Davy! ’E was so strong that whenever ’e ’it the bone had got to go; and when he’d cracked a jaw or two it looked as though nothing in the country could stand against ’im . . . . Vell then, ven Bob was put up opposite this great Eytalian man, I says, ‘Slap ’im in the vind, Bob,’ ’cos I see vid ’alf an eye ’e vas as puffy as a cheesecake; so Bob he goes in, and as he comes the vorriner let ’im ’ave it amazin’ on the conk, . . . . At first ’e vas that dazed ’e didn’t know if ’e was in church or in ’Orsemonger gaol, but ven I’d bit ’is two ears ’e shook ’isself together. ‘Ve’ll try it again, Buck,’ says ’e. ‘The mark,’ says I. And ’e vinked all that vas left of one eye. So the Eytalian ’e lets swing again, but Bob ’e jumps inside, and ’e lets ’im ’ave it plumb square on the meat safe as ’ard as ever the Lord would let ’im put it in. Vell, the Eytalian ’e gets a touch of the gurgles, and ’e shut isself right up like a two-foot rule. Then ’e pulled ’isself straight, and ’e give the most awful Glory Hallelujah screech as ever you ’eard. Off ’e jumps from the stage . . . . and ve chased ’im all the vay to Voppin’, and ve only cotched im in the shippin’ office, vere ’e was askin’ ’ow soon ’e could get a passage to voreign parts.” Not unlike the “Gondoleery Cove” was John Gorrick, alias Bungaree...
DUDLEY JONES, BORE HUNTER (Short story, Punch, April 29, 1903 and May 6, 1903)
Note I: One of the Notes and Phrases journals contains a story plot: “Mem for Windsor or Punch. Barry Painful article – the man who took up as his profession the extinction of bores. He was a man of vast information, & if anybody had a friend staying with them who persisted in collaring the conversation, on any subject, the man was sent for & by means of his superior information crushed him (e.g. the Switzerland and foreign travel bore etc.) Mem. Might make a long story. A sort of Dr. Watson friend to tell the story, & the tale to begin by person calling in the expert for advice, as he has a man staying with him who is a combination of all the sorts of bores known.”
Note II: “Dudley Jones, Bore-Hunter neatly parodies Holmes’ adventures by taking the most distinctive elements of Doyle’s stories to an amusingly absurd level. Holmes’ detailed listings of the personal traits of practically everyone in London, Holmes’ violin, Watson’s awe of Holmes’ genius, Holmes’ frequent disguises, and Holmes’ and Watson’s frequent journeys on the midnight mail all come in for some ribbing. There are also references to The Sign of Four (in which Holmes goes to see a man about a dog), “The Speckled Band” (in which a villain “falls into the pit he has digged for another”), and (in the story’s opening paragraph) a parody of “The Final Problem,” in which Holmes had been “killed” by falling into Reichenbach Falls. (Daniel Neyer)
BACK TO HIS NATIVE STRAND (Lyric parody, Punch, May 27, 1903)
[“Sherlock Holmes” is to reappear in the “Strand” Magazine.]
Oh, Sherlock Holmes lay hidden more than half a dozen years.
He left his loving London in a whirl of doubts and fears.
For we thought a wicked party
Of the name of Moriarty
Had dispatched him (in a manner fit to freeze one).
They grappled on a cliff-top, on a ledge six inches wide;
We deemed his chances flimsy when he vanished o’er the side.
But the very latest news is
That he merely got some bruises.
If there is a man who’s hard to kill, why he’s one. (Etc.)
GRIT: A TALK WITH SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE (Interview, V.C. Magazine, July 2, 1903)
One of the reasons why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books make such delightful reading is the vividness and truth of the outdoor episodes in thereof. (Etc.)
THE GOLD BAT (Serial, The Captain, October 1903–March 1904)
As the prize-fighter in Rodney Stone says, “When you get a good Irishman, you can’t better ’em, but they’re dreadful ’asty.” (November 1903, ch. VIII.) (from Neil Midkiff)
“Hullo, Sir Nigel. This is Sir Nigel. Out of the ‘White Company,’ you know. Don’t let him nip your fingers. This other one’s Sherlock Holmes.” (December 1903, ch. IX, “Mainly about Ferrets.”)
THE PRODIGAL (Vignette, Punch, September 23, 1903)
[It is rumoured that Sherlock Holmes, when he reappears, will figure in a series of stories of American origin.]
I met him in the Strand. It was really the most extraordinary likeness. Had I not known that he lay at the bottom of a dem’d moist unpleasant waterfall, I should have said that it was Sherlock Holmes himself who stood before me. (Etc.)
A PREFECT’S UNCLE (Novel, Adam and Charles Black, September 1903)
Skinner was a sort of juvenile Professor Moriarty, a Napoleon of crime.
THE PARROT (No. 18) (Verse, Daily Express, October 20, 1903; attributed and numbered by Terry Mordue)
Welcome, Holmes, alive and hearty!
You’ve escaped from Moriarty,
And your talents to the public
You’ve consented to restore.
If you’re solving nothing bigger,
I should like to see you figure
On the problem of the Parrot
And his “Food will cost you more.” (Etc.)
THE PARROT (No. 25) (Verse, Daily Express, October 28, 1903; attributed and numbered by Terry Mordue)
“Smash my timbers! Tack to starboard!
Blow my dickey! Luff to Larboard!”
Note: The phrase “Blow my dickey!” occurs in several historical novels by Arthur Conan Doyle, e.g. Rodney Stone, The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard and Tales of the Ring and the Camp. (Terry Mordue)
SOCIETY WHISPERS FROM THE STATES (Article, Punch, August 24, 1904)
The event of the evening was, of course, the twenty-round contest between “Corny” Vanderbilt and “Bill” Gillette. The histrion had height and reach in his favour, but the nightly doses of morphia which he was compelled to inject while playing Sherlock Holmes in London have had their inevitable effect on his stamina. . . .
THE HEAD OF KAY’S (Serial, The Captain, October 1904–March 1905)
The mind wanders, in spite of all effort to check it, through a long series of all the ghastly stories one has ever read. There is one in particular of Conan Doyle’s about a mummy that came to life and chased people on lonely roads—but enough! (November 1904, ch. VIII)
VALE! (Verse, Daily Chronicle, October 20, 1904)
[Sherlock Holmes is to retire from public life for ever, and means, according to Sir Conan Doyle, to keep bees.]
We’ve seen some times together,
My Sherlock, you and I,
In fair or foulest weather;
I hate to say good-bye.
But if, upon reflection,
You feel that you require
A respite from detection,
Then certainly retire. (Etc.)
THE ADVENTURE OF THE MISSING BEE (Vignette, Vanity Fair UK, December 1, 1904)
(Sherlock Holmes is to retire from public life after Christmas, and take to bee-farming in the country.)
“It is a little hard, my dear Watson,” said Holmes, stretching his long form on the sofa, and injecting another half-pint of morphia with the little jewelled syringe which the Prince of Piedmont had insisted on presenting to him as a reward for discovering who had stolen his nice new rattle; (Etc.)
AS IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN (Playlet, Vanity Fair, February 9, 1905)
“It’s all the fault of these novelists. Haggard, don’t you know, read that Sherlock Holmes hadn’t really fallen over the cliff, so he didn’t see why he shouldn’t try the same game.”
OUR RUTHLESS AUTHORS (Article, Books of To-Day, March 1905)
What is the feeling of the country on the subject may be gathered from the Judge’s remarks in the recent case of Scrappy Remnants versus Doyle; in which, it will be remembered, the paper sued Sir A Conan Doyle, for damages in compensation for injuries done to A W Blodgett, of their staff, while collecting material for No 2 of their “Authors in their Studies” Series. Blodgett, our readers will recall, deposed, before expiring of his wounds, that he had been attacked in the passage leading to the defendant’s work-room by a luminous hound, obviously of the Baskervilles, which had sprung upon him and worried him.
SHERLOCK HOLMES’S LAMENT (Verse, Daily Chronicle, October 3, 1905)
[Sir A Conan Doyle has stated that he considers the British police to be the best in the world.]
Sir Arthur, in those happy days
(Now dead) when first you made me,
Upon my word I never thought
That you would have betrayed me.
I always used to think that you
Shared my contempt for men in blue. (Etc.)
THE NEW REVOLUTION (Topical humorous commentary, Books of To-Day, April 1906)
Mr Sherlock Holmes, the eminent specialist in criminal research, has sold his deer-stalker cap in favour of a sombrero.
AMONG THE IMMORTALS (Playlet, World Magazine, October 30, 1906)
Two figures reclining on a bank of asphodel, with a jug of nectar between them, are easily recognisable as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. Under a tree to the left the Hound of the Baskervilles is barking spasmodically at a large cat. (Etc.)
THE LOST LAMBS (Serial, The Captain, April–September 1908, and in book form as the second half of Mike, 1909)
For the Doctor Watsons of this world, as opposed to the Sherlock Holmeses, success in the province of detective work must always be, to a very large extent, the result of luck. Sherlock Holmes can extract a clue from a wisp of straw or a flake of cigar-ash. But Doctor Watson has got to have it taken out for him, and dusted, and exhibited clearly, with a label attached.
The average man is a Doctor Watson. We are wont to scoff in a patronising manner at that humble follower of the great investigator, but, as a matter of fact, we should have been just as dull ourselves. We should not even have risen to the modest level of a Scotland Yard Bungler. We should simply have hung around, saying: “My dear Holmes, how——?” and all the rest of it, just as the downtrodden medico did.
It is not often that the ordinary person has any need to see what he can do in the way of detection. He gets along very comfortably in the humdrum round of life without having to measure footprints and smile quiet, tight-lipped smiles. But if ever the emergency does arise, he thinks naturally of Sherlock Holmes, and his methods.
Mr. Downing had read all the Holmes stories with great attention, and had thought many times what an incompetent ass Doctor Watson was; but, now that he had started to handle his own first case, he was compelled to admit that there was a good deal to be said in extenuation of Watson’s inability to unravel tangles. It certainly was uncommonly hard, he thought, as he paced the cricket field after leaving Sergeant Collard, to detect anybody, unless you knew who had really done the crime. As he brooded over the case in hand, his sympathy for Dr. Watson increased with every minute, and he began to feel a certain resentment against Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was all very well for Sir Arthur to be so shrewd and infallible about tracing a mystery to its source, but he knew perfectly well who had done the thing before he started!
. . .
Mr. Downing unlocked the door, and there on the floor was the Clue!
A clue that even Dr. Watson could not have overlooked.
. . .
Give Dr. Watson a fair start, and he is a demon at the game. Mr. Downing’s brain was now working with a rapidity and clearness which a professional sleuth might have envied. (July 1908, ch. XIX) (see also Something New, 1915)
There are moments when the giddy excitement of being right on the trail causes the amateur (or Watsonian) detective to be incautious. Such a moment came to Mr. Downing then. If he had been wise, he would have achieved his object, the getting a glimpse of Mike’s boots, by a devious and snaky route. As it was, he rushed straight on. (July 1908, ch. XX) (see also Something New, 1915)
Mr. Downing’s eye, rolling in a fine frenzy from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven, also focussed itself on the pile of soot; and a thrill went through him. Soot in the fireplace! Smith washing his hands! (“You know my methods, my dear Watson. Apply them.”) (August 1908, ch. XXII)
“Evidence!” said Mike, “My dear man, he’s got enough evidence to sink a ship. He’s absolutely sweating evidence at every pore. As far as I can see, he’s been crawling about, doing the Sherlock Holmes business for all he’s worth ever since the thing happened, and now he’s dead certain that I painted Sammy.” (September 1908, ch. XXVIII)
THE GLOBE BY THE WAY BOOK (Globe, June 1908)
Arthur Conan Doyle: “Human sleuth-hound; started measuring footprints 1868; in his second year ran to earth larcenous nursemaid; first smiled quite thin-lipped smile, 1872.” (Who’s Who)
THE GUARDIAN (Short story, Windsor Magazine, September 1908)
I got a black eye and rather a whack in the mouth, but gave him beans also, particularly in the wind, which I learned to do from reading ‘Rodney Stone’—the bit where Bob Whittaker beats the Eyetalian Gondoleery Cove.
THE LUCK STONE (Serial, Chums, September 1908–January 1909, written by Wodehouse and Herbert Westbrook as “Basil Windham”)
“This is going to be a regular Sherlock Holmes business. You’ve come to the right man. I’ll see you through. We’ll do it to-night.” Jimmy’s heart leaped. (October 21, 1908, ch. 12)
“After all, one’s handicapped at school when one tries to work the detective act. Sherlock Holmes wasn’t wondering the whole time that he was hunting for clues whether he would get expelled. That’s what does one in. It hampers one.” (November 4, 1908, ch. 15)
PSMITH IN THE CITY (Serial as “The New Fold”, The Captain, October 1908–March 1909; Novel, September 1910)
“One moment.” Psmith held up his hand. ‘I will get my Sherlock Holmes system to work.” (November 1908, ch. VIII)
“My dear Holmes, how—! Elementary, my dear fellow, quite elementary.” (November 1908, ch. VIII)
“Furthermore, by judicious questioning, I found that Hawk was once in the Navy, and stationed at Malta. Now, who’s going to drag in Sherlock Holmes?” (ch. XIII of 1909 US book and 1921 revision; this passage not in Circle serialization)
PSMITH, JOURNALIST (Serial, The Captain, October 1909–March 1910)
“I wonder what he’s got in the basket. I must get my Sherlock Holmes system to work. What is the most likely thing for a man to have in a basket?” (October 1909, ch. III)
“This thing is beginning to get clearer. You are like Sherlock Holmes. After you’ve explained a thing from start to finish—or, as you prefer to do, from finish to start—it becomes quite simple.” (January 1910, ch. XIX)
“I fancy,” said Psmith, “that this is one of those moments when it is necessary for me to unlimber my Sherlock Holmes system. As thus. If the rent collector had been here, it is certain, I think, that Comrade Spaghetti, or whatever you said his name was, wouldn’t have been. That is to say, if the rent collector had called and found no money waiting for him, surely Comrade Spaghetti would have been out in the cold night instead of under his own roof-tree. Do you follow me, Comrade Maloney?”
“That’s right,” said Billy Windsor. “Of course.”
“Elementary, my dear Watson, elementary,” murmured Psmith. (January 1910, ch. XIX)
It was not necessary for Psmith to get his Sherlock Holmes system to work. (January 1910, ch. XIX)
“Sherlock Holmes was right,” said Psmith regretfully. “You may remember that he advised Doctor Watson never to take the first cab, or the second. He should have gone further, and urged him not to take cabs at all. Walking is far healthier.” (March 1910, ch. XXVI)
THE MATRIMONIAL SWEEPSTAKES (Short story, Cosmopolitan, February 1910)
“You gathered that, eh? Sherlock Holmes has nothing on you at the deduction business.”
Note: The Sherlockian reference is not present in the British publication of the story as THE GOOD ANGEL (The Strand, February 1910)
PILLINGSHOT, DETECTIVE (Short story, The Captain, September 1910)
He was toasting muffins at the study fire one evening, while Scott, seated on two chairs and five cushions, read “Sherlock Holmes,” when the Prefect laid down his book and fixed him with an earnest eye.
“Under the bed? What’s the good of that? Did you go over every inch of the strip of carpet leading to the chair with a magnifying-glass?”
“Hadn’t got a magnifying-glass.”
“Then you’d better buck up and get one, if you’re going to be a detective. Do you think Sherlock Holmes ever moved a step without his? Not much. Well, anyhow. Did you find any foot-prints or tobacco-ash?”
“There was a jolly lot of dust about.”
“Did you preserve a sample?”
“My word, you’ve a lot to learn. Now, weighing the evidence, does anything strike you?”
“Why, in ‘Silver Blaze’ it was a burnt match that first put Holmes on the scent.”
“Sherlock Holmes never gave anything away.”
“I’ve been reading those Sherlock Holmes stories,” he said, “and Sherlock Holmes always got a fee if he brought a thing off.”
ABSENT TREATMENT (Short story)
“Suppose someone had come to Sherlock Holmes and said, ‘Mr. Holmes, here’s a case for you. When is my wife’s birthday?’ Wouldn’t that have given Sherlock a jolt?” (The Strand, March 1911)
“Suppose someone had come to him and said, ‘Mr. Holmes, here’s a case for you. When is my wife’s birthday?’ Wouldn’t that have jarred Sherlock?” (Collier’s, August 26, 1911)
HELPING FREDDIE (Short story, The Strand, September 1911, and in My Man Jeeves, 1919)
So, doing the Sherlock Holmes business, I deduced that the fat child was her cousin.
LINES AND BUSINESS (Short story, Pictorial Review, March 1912)
So, pulling the Sherlock P. Holmes stuff, I deduced that the fat child was her cousin.
IN ALCALA (Short story, London Magazine, December 1911)
“You’ve noticed it? Bully for you! Back to the bench for Sherlock Holmes.”
THE PRINCE AND BETTY (Novel, US version, W.J. Watt, February 1912)
Sherlock Holmes—and possibly even Doctor Watson—would have deduced that he had something on his conscience. (ch. III)
“Did you ever read the Sherlock Holmes story entitled ‘The Five Orange Pips’? Well, when a man in that story received a mysterious envelope containing five orange pips, it was a sign that he was due to get his.” (ch. XXVII)
A JOB OF WORK (Short story, The Strand, January 1913)
Franklyn Bivatt, an unpleasant little millionaire with a weak digestion, a taste for dogmatic speech, and a personal appearance rather like one of Conan Doyle’s pterodactyls.
THE EIGHTEEN-CARAT KID (Novelette, The Captain, January–March 1913)
As my first essay in detective work, I could have wished that the tracking down of Ogden Ford and his friend Augustus had been more of a feat, but I am bound to admit that it was a singularly soft job. Dr. Watson could have done it on his head. (February 1913, ch. VII)
THE LITTLE NUGGET (Novel [expansion of “The Eighteen-Carat Kid”], Munsey’s, August 1913)
I shall lay myself open to a charge of denseness such as even Dr. Watson would have scorned when I say that, though I thought of the matter a good deal on my way back to the school, I did not arrive at the obvious solution. (ch. VIII)
DOING CLARENCE A BIT OF GOOD (Short story, The Strand, May 1913)
RALLYING ROUND CLARENCE (Short story, Pictorial Review, April 1914)
Mark you, Sherlock Holmes would have made the same mistake. On the evidence, I mean.
THE LITERATURE OF THE FUTURE: Or Every Man His Own Futurist (Article, Vanity Fair, June 1914)
Sir A. Conan Doyle would have Jones drop the Maharajah’s Emerald under the elevated or pick up a paper covered with cipher writing, and Sherlock Holmes would have The Mystery of Thirty-third Street on his hands.
BILL, THE BLOODHOUND (Short story, Century, February 1915)
He might have been a failure in the matter of disguise, but Sherlock Holmes could not have put more quiet sinisterness into that “Ah!”
Note: The Sherlockian reference is not present in the version of this story in The Strand, April 1915.
SOMETHING NEW (Serial, Saturday Evening Post, June 26–August 14, 1915, and Novel, D. Appleton & Co., 1915)
For the Doctor Watsons of this world, as opposed to the Sherlock Holmeses, success in the province of detective work must always be, to a very large extent, the result of luck. Sherlock Holmes can extract a clew from a wisp of straw or a flake of cigar ash; but Doctor Watson has to have it taken out for him and dusted, and exhibited clearly, with a label attached.
The average man is a Doctor Watson. We are wont to scoff in a patronizing manner at that humble follower of the great investigator; but as a matter of fact we should have been just as dull ourselves. We should not even have risen to the modest height of a Scotland Yard bungler.
Baxter was a Doctor Watson. What he wanted was a clew; but it is so hard for the novice to tell what is a clew and what is not. (July 31, 1915, ch. IX)
There are moments when the giddy excitement of being right on the trail causes the amateur—or Watsonian—detective to be incautious. (July 31, 1915, ch. IX)
Doctor Watson himself could have deduced it from the evidence. The Honorable Freddie had fallen downstairs. (August 7, 1915, ch. IX)
THE NEW PLAYS: So-called Because They Are Nearly All Old Ones (Article, Vanity Fair, July 1917)
A Barrie play nearly always has that quaint attraction which one derives from reading a story in an old magazine which one liked as a boy. The Sherlock Holmes tales, with the original illustrations by Sidney Paget, always produce that effect.
A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS (Serial, Saturday Evening Post, May–June 1919)
Sherlock Holmes himself might have been misled. One can hear him explaining the thing to Watson in one of those lightning flashes of inductive reasoning of his: “It is the only explanation, my dear Watson.” (May 10, 1919, ch. I)
What would Sherlock Holmes have done? (May 17, 1919, ch. V)
THE NATION’S SONGS: Revealing, for the first time, the identity of their author (Article, Vanity Fair, December 1919)
The ignorant public—who, as Sherlock Holmes bitingly says, could hardly tell a compositor by his thumb, or a weaver by his tooth, and who have to think twice before deciding whether a man they meet on the street is a retired corporal of marines with a mole on his left shoulder and a sister living in Canarsie, or a vers libre poet with a golf handicap of forty-seven—will doubtless be baffled.
THE LITTLE WARRIOR (Serial, Collier’s, April–August 1920)
“When I first got here, you know, it seemed to me the only thing to do was to round up a merry old detective and put the matter in his hands, like they do in stories. You know! Ring at the bell. ‘And this, if I mistake not, Watson, is my client now.’ ” (July 3, 1920, ch. XIII §2)
THE NEW PLAYS: Which Go to Prove that What is Wanted, Just for the Moment, is An Evening of Gloom (Article, Vanity Fair, May 1920)
A Number Three company of Grumpy or Sherlock Holmes or Lightnin’ would be worth seeing, but it is impossible to imagine The Cat-Bird without John Drew.
His book was “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” and the particular story which he selected for perusal was the one entitled “The Speckled Band.” He was not a great reader, but, when he read, he liked something with a bit of zip to it. . . The tale, it may be remembered, deals with the activities of an ingenious gentleman who kept a snake, and used to loose it into people’s bedrooms as a preliminary to collecting on their insurance.
Squiffy read on:— “Suddenly another sound became audible—a very gentle, soothing sound, like that of a small jet of steam escaping continuously from a kettle.”
AUNT AGATHA MAKES A BLOOMER (Short story, Cosmopolitan, October 1922)
I don’t pretend to be good old Sherlock Holmes or anything of that order, but the moment I looked at her I said to myself, “That girl plays the organ in a village church!”
Note: The Sherlockian reference is not present in the British publication of the story as AUNT AGATHA TAKES THE COUNT (The Strand, April 1922), but is present in “Aunt Agatha Speaks Her Mind,” the corresponding chapter in THE INIMITABLE JEEVES (1923).
“By the Way” columns from the Globe and Traveller
Wodehouse’s first contribution to the Globe’s “By the Way” column was in August 1901; he worked as editor of the column until around the end of the decade, eventually contributing to some 1,400 columns. All of the ‘By the Way’ columns are unsigned, and at least two people contributed to the column every day; the paragraphs displayed here were all written on days Wodehouse worked on the column (as verified by entries in his journal, Money Received for Literary Work) and although he did refer to the Sherlock Holmes canon repeatedly during his career, these snippets have not been formally attributed as being written by him. The following excerpts from “By the Way” may not be reproduced or republished in any form without permission. To the extent that the selected “By the Way” column excerpts are shown to have been written by Wodehouse, they should be treated as © by the Trustees of the Wodehouse Literary Estate in appropriate territories, and are reproduced here by permission. Transcription by John Dawson, with research notes credit to Raja Srinivasan.
The end of the automobile race was not, after all, the glory of the French Knyff, but the glory of the English Edge. Sir Conan Doyle might now write a new version of “The bow was made in England—in England!” How much more up to date, “The Car was made in England—in England!” And how much more useful for commercial purposes. (June 30, 1902)
Note I: “The MOTOR-CAR RACE. Mr. S. F. Edge’s Victory. There appears to be an unusually heavy crop of objections in connection with the Paris to Vienna motor-car race which has been exciting English and Continental automobilists for so long a period. In the case of Mr. S. F. Edge, who won the Gordon-Bennett International Cup for completing that part of the course which lies between Paris and Innsbruck (380 miles) objectors state that as he was running his car down a precipitous slope of the Arlberg Pass he got in a river, and was assisted in getting out by some rustics. This is contrary to the regulations. Mr. Edge, however, denies the charge. The Chevalier René de Knyff, who had arrived first at Belfort at the rate of 62 miles an hour, had a lead of Mr. Edge twenty miles from Innsbruck when a mishap robbed him of the race.” (Manchester Evening News, July 1, 1902)
Note II: Conan Doyle’s poem “The Song of the Bow,” from his 1891 book The White Company:
What of the bow?
The bow was made in England:
Of true wood, of yew-wood,
The wood of English bows;
So men who are free
Love the old yew-tree
And the land where the yew-tree grows. (Etc.)
A strange animal is causing excitement among the residents on the Latrobe River, near Moe, Australia. It is described as having black hair, a short neck, and a long tail. It travels along pantingly, with its tongue out, almost touching the ground. A grimbly monster! Can the Hound of the Baskervilles have emigrated? (January 3, 1903)
Note: “A THIRSTY ANIMAL.” The first three sentences above are nearly verbatim from a general news release, which continues: “When first seen, writes a Melbourne correspondent, it was at the tub of milk at Cosgriff’s farmstead. Dogs were set upon it, when the animal, darting through the woodwork of a gate and tearing it off its hinges, made off to the river bank and there disappeared. It has been seen repeatedly since, and several shots have been fired at it, but without effect.” (Nottingham Evening Post, January 2, 1903)
In a large drapery firm in Lyons an official is specially retained in order to teach the employés to bow to the patrons of the establishment. If the employé is too awkward ever to shine in the art he is dismissed. Evidently the question “What of the bow!” is as important in France as Sir Conan Doyle has made it in England. (June 1, 1903)
Note: “A ‘bowing-master’ is an important official in a large drapery firm in Lyons. It is his duty to teach the young person behind the counter the art of making a graceful bow to a patron or patroness of the establishment.” (Hull Daily Mail, May 27, 1903)
In a bedroom in Aspenlea-road, Fulham, the atmosphere of which they shared with two other adults and two children, a sanitary inspector found Salvatori Necundi and Giuseppe Corozzi peacefully engaged in making ice-cream. It was the theory of Sherlock Holmes’ that the stuffier the room he was in the better he could think. To the intellectual exercise of stirring ice-cream fresh air would evidently have been fatal. The closer the room, the closer the attention. (June 6, 1903)
Note: “HOW SOME ICE CREAM IS MADE. In a bedroom in Aspenlea-road, Fulham, where two other adults and two children were lying in bed asleep, a sanitary inspector found Salvatori Necundi and Giuseppe Corozzi making ice-cream. The two Italians were fined 20s. each, including costs.” (Portsmouth Evening News, June 6, 1903)
The female opossum which disappeared from an incubator at Dundee University College, has been discovered in a radiator in the main corridor. But of the two little ’possums which escaped with her no trace can be found. A sinister fact in connection with the affair is that there was a happy smile on the mother’s face when she was discovered. The significance of this, when one remembers the celebrated case of the tiger of Niger, may be imagined. Altogether, it is a black business, and to sooner the authorities take advantage of Sherlock Holmes’ reappearance to put him on the track, the better. (June 8, 1903)
Note: “The three opossums which made their appearance in Dundee in a box of bananas from Jamaica have added to their exploits by disappearing from the University College, to the authorities of which they were handed over. The elder possum and its two young ones were deposited in an incubator, but on the attendant going in the morning to feed the animals he was surprised to find that they had disappeared.” (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, June 8, 1903)
It is said that an American publisher possesses a letter containing a proposition from the creator of Sherlock Holmes for a contract on the basis of a cent and a half per word. The offer was declined. “But,” may well have emended the detective-author, “if a scent and a half cost a cent and a half?”—— (September 1, 1903)
Carried away by a passion for realism, a Liverpool boy, aged twelve, playing Red Indians with some companions, had struck at a small friend with a potato knife. The result was, that, having received a birching, he reformed, and is now astonishing the youth of the neighbourhood in the rôle of Sherlock Holmes. As the part involved the constant smoking of cigars, he is an object of much envy among his peers. (December 21, 1903)
There is something almost uncanny in the diabolical shrewdness of the Post Office authorities. A letter was posted with the following address: “Mrasers Miggings, Orborn, The Big Eling-draper manufacture.” It took those astute Sherlock Holmes some three minutes to discover that the letter was intended for Messrs. Thomas Wallis and Co. How they arrived at the conclusion we do not undertake to say. (April 4, 1904)
A correspondent, compared with whom lynxes are astigmatic and Sherlock Holmes a mere bungler, has detected a flaw in our spider problem. The spider, he points out, would only have to walk 33 feet; for if he (or she) were a cute spider, he (or she) would jump or fall lightly to the ground floor from the starting point, and walk only the remainder of the journey. (November 24, 1904)
Note: The “spider problem” ran in By the Way on November 22, 1904: “On the walls of a room 30 ft. long, 12 ft. wide, and 12 ft. high, writes a correspondent, there are a spider and a fly. The spider is on the centre line of one end-wall, and 6 ft. from the ground; the fly is on the centre line of the other end-wall, and is 3 ft. from the ground. What is the shortest distance the spider will have to walk to reach the fly without using its web at any part of the journey? We do not know. Perhaps our readers can tell us.”
A special commission has excluded Sir A. Conan Doyle’s book, “The Return of Sherlock Holmes” from all the school libraries in the State of Minnesota. The authorities consider that it “savours too much of Old Sleuth.” We can imagine the great detective’s rage. If we remember rightly he gave Watson a bad five minutes for comparing him to Lecoq. (May 27, 1905)
Note I: Monsieur Lecoq was a fictional detective created by Émile Gaboriau, a 19th-century French writer and journalist. The character was a major influence on Sherlock Holmes, who, in A Study in Scarlet, calls him “a miserable bungler.”
Note II: “Old Sleuth” was the first dime novel detective of the “rough and tumble” genre, premiering in a series of stories in The Fireside Companion in 1872. He was the first character to use the word “sleuth” to denote a detective.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has been fined for driving at an excessive speed. The detective is said to have determined the rate by taking the temperature of the axle bearings, adding the amount of dust accumulated on the mudguards, and dividing by the distance of the hotel indicated by the label found on the luncheon basket in the carriage. (June 5, 1905)
Note: “SIR A. CONAN DOYLE FINED. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was summoned on Saturday before the Guildford County Justices for driving a motor-car on the Portsmouth-road at a speed exceeding twenty miles an hour. The police evidence showed that Sir Arthur covered a quarter of a mile in thirty seconds, equal to a speed of thirty miles an hour. A fine of £5 was imposed.” (Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, June 5, 1905.)
(While we amuse ourselves daily abusing Scotland Yard, the Yankee expert who comes over here to examine its working goes back full of admiration for both its men and its methods.—The “Tatler.”)
In the days that now are dead,
Sherlock Holmes has often said,
Many bitter things about you,
Till in time we came to doubt you,
Unduly influenced by what we read,
We were rather swept away by what we read.
But never mind his sneers,
To judge from what one hears,
T’other side of the Atlantic
You win admiration frantic;
Not a solitary sleuth-hound but reveres
You’re the only institution he reveres.
(September 28, 1905)
Note: The attribution panel of the Globe Reclamation Project does not consider “Consolation” attributable to Wodehouse.
Sir A. Conan Doyle says, in an interview, that he is “entirely of the opinion that our police force is the best in the world.” These unconsidered remarks—and from such a source—have given great pain to a famous private detective now living in retirement, whose views on the subject are well-known. (September 30, 1905)
“Sherlock Holmes” is to be revived again. The shock of hearing that Sir A. Conan Doyle approved of our police force has dragged him from his retirement. (October 5, 1905)
Note I: Conan Doyle says the English Police Force is the best in the world. What will Sherlock Holmes say to this? (Hull Daily Mail, October 2 1905)
Note II: Conan Doyle and actor William Gillette’s dramatic production of “Sherlock Holmes” premiered in 1899 and was revived several times, including a run March 6, 1905 – November 1905.
We like the enterprise of the detective who was admitted to a house to keep an eye upon the master, and in the intervals of watching him stole a gold watch and four uncut rubies. We have often thought that Sherlock Holmes might have made a little in this way from time to time, if he had had the necessary initiative. (February 3, 1906)
Note: “FEMALE DETECTIVE IN COURT. A strange case was heard in Dumfries Police Court yesterday, when Agnes Dawson, of Glasgow, who had been acting the part of a female detective in connection with recent unsuccessful divorce proceedings, was charged with having stolen from the house of the wife at Dumfries a gold watch and four uncut rubies. The prisoner obtained entrance to the wife’s house as a lodger. She took whatever opportunities offered to search for any letters or incriminating documents that could be used against the wife. She was found guilty.” (Dundee Courier, February 3, 1906)
It is apparently an error to say that theatrical managers do not read the plays submitted to them. A whole battalion of ten, in single file, rejected Sir Conan Doyle’s successful “Brigadier Gerard” before it was accepted by Mr. Louis Waller. This should encourage the great unacted. After all, the odds are only 10 to 1 against them. (March 8, 1906)
Note: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is delighted at the success of his play “Brigadier Gerard.” Many actor-managers refused it, and critics have nearly all agreed with them. On the other hand, the public like the play—just as Sir Arthur always felt sure they would. (Aberdeen Journal, March 8, 1906)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is an enthusiast on the subject of cricket, but his remarks “On Fielding” are intended rather for the lover of English classics than for the man who finds he does not cover quite enough ground at cover-point. (June 20, 1906)
Note: On June 15, Arthur Conan Doyle unveiled a memorial tablet to Henry Fielding at Widcombe Lodge in Bath (where Fielding had stayed and worked on his novel Tom Jones). As reported in the Bath Chronicle of June 21, 1906: “Sir A. Conan Doyle, before unveiling the tablet, said that if it was the intention of Bath to put up a tablet upon every house in that city which had been inhabited by a famous man, he thought would it be the most spotted city in Europe because he was quite sure that there was no city its size that had had more famous men within its precincts. When they read the whole literature of the Eighteenth Century, they found that there was no politician, literary man, or artist of note who did not sooner or later find his way to Bath. He should imagine that it would be very difficult indeed to point to any old house in the city that had not some celebrity under its roof.” (Thanks to Neil Midkiff for background research.)
It seems that the sale of Blue-books is disappointing, and those concerned are wondering why this is. Personally, we think that the wrong men are entrusted with the task of turning them out. We should like to see a Blue-book written by Sir A. Conan Doyle and Mr. Rudyard Kipling in collaboration, with comic chapters by Mr. W. W. Jacobs. (August 4, 1906)
Note: The Blue Books, published by the government, contained estimates of the domestic and national product, income and expenditure for the United Kingdom.
The monks of Great St. Bernard will probably not enter a car for the Tourist Trophy next year. They have got a couple of cars, but are not allowed to use them without a team of horses attached. When a Great St. Bernard chauffeur wants to get on to his top speed and open the throttle, he simply ties a cracker to the tail of the nearest horse.
We should like to have the views of the horses on the car. Readers of Sir A. Conan Doyle’s poems will remember that his horse, when hitched to a motor and asked to pull, wore an expression “as if to say, ‘Well, blimey! What will they arsk me next?’ ” (November 26, 1906)
This was the ’orse we fetched ’im; an’ when we reached the car,
We braced ’im tight and proper to the middle of the bar,
And buckled up ’is traces and lashed them to each side,
While ’e ’eld ’is ’ead so ’aughtily, an’ looked most dignified.
Not bad tempered, mind you, but kind of pained and vexed,
And ’e seemed to say, “Well, bli’ me! wot will they ask me next?
I’ve put up with some liberties, but this caps all by far,
To be assistant engine to a crocky motor-car!”
It does not do for a policeman to be too Sherlock-Holmesy. A Marylebone constable told the magistrate that two table knives he had found on prisoners, arrested on suspicion, would be handy for putting into windows and forcing back the catches. “Yes,” promptly responded Mr. Paul Taylor, “and for putting butter on to bread.” (November 28, 1906)
Note: Paul Taylor was a magistrate at Marylebone Police Court.
I am indebted to Arthur Robinson, Neil Midkiff, Karen Shotting, Raja Srinivasan, and the late Terry Mordue for their assistance in compiling this list, and to Neil Midkiff for final editing and web conversion. Please send comments, corrections, and additions to Johndawsonkc@msn.com.
—John Dawson, November/December 2013