Simanaitis Says

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SHERLOCKIAN WOMEN

IT’S GOOD fun researching Sherlock Holmes through the chronicles of Dr. John H. Watson as represented by his literary agent Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. At this website, for instance, I’ve cited Holmes and his calculations, his canines, his cars, his carriages, his Christmas celebrations, his clothing, his cuisine. And that’s only the c’s.

Here, it’s Sherlockian women as a topic, because it just happens that I was rearranging shelves of Sherlockiana and came upon a monograph on the subject.

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A Woman’s Place in the Canon: Being a Reference Source for all Female Names Mentioned or Inferred Throughout the CANON with Comments About Each, compiled by Jennie C. Paton, second, revised and enlarged edition, Hudson’s Crony Press, 1989.

Ms. Paton’s 73-page monograph touches on the famous, the infamous and the obscure of feminine Sherlockiana. Here are tidbits on several.

Probably the most famous Sherlockian female is Irene (pronounced “I-re-ne”) Adler. A New Jersey-born contralto, Irene tricked Holmes more than once in “A Scandal in Bohemia.”

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Irene Adler in disguise, at right, wished Holmes a good evening. Image by Sidney Paget.

Irene Adler earned a great deal of respect; as Watson notes, “To Sherlock Holmes, she was always the woman.”

It has been postulated that Irene had a Holmesian love child who grew up to be famed New York detective Nero Wolfe. Indeed, I’ve suggested that Sherlock wasn’t the father—it was Sherlock’s brother Mycroft.

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Irene Adler, the woman to Sherlock (and Mycroft?) Holmes. Image by J. Allen St. John.

Paton prudently avoids this added scandal, content with the one involving Adler and the King of Bohemia.

She (Paton, not Adler) catalogs a total of 354 Canonical women. She’s able to alphabetize 272 of them, both by first and last name, together with who they were and where they appear in the chronicles. The remaining 82 are described though unnamed in the Canon.

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A Sampling of Sherlockian Women. Compiled from A Woman’s Place in the Canon.

The list of women includes a cross-section of the Sherlockian world. For instance, Queen Victoria presented Holmes with an emerald tie-pin for recovering submarine documents in “The Bruce-Partington Plans.” In return, Holmes honored her with a patriotic V.R. done in bullet pocks of the 221B sitting room wall.

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The wall of the sitting room at 221B Baker Street. Image from the International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry; photo by Jonathan H. Liu.

Nor is Victoria the only Canonical monarch. In “The Sussex Vampire,” Holmes mentions a queen who sucked poison from a wound. Paton says she must be Queen Eleanor of Castile, wife to England’s Edward I who reigned 1272 to 1307.

Queen Anne, who reigned 1702 to 1714, also earns citations in three adventures, “The Three Gables,” “The Reigate Squires” and “The Illustrious Client.” The first two are in reference to architectural style; the third, to a street in London’s West End.

Victorians admired their Greek and Roman mythology, and Watson included a total of eight Canonical goddesses: Athene (goddess of wisdom and arts), the Fates (Atropos, Clotho and Lachesis), the Furies (Alecto, Megaera and Tisiphone) and Iris (goddess of the rainbow).

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The Fates: Clotho spins the thread of life; Lachesis measures it; Atropos cuts it off at the end of life. Image from http://goo.gl/a6ny91.

In full disclosure, Paton notes that the Sherlockian Iris is a racehorse of the Duke of Balmoral in “The Silver Blaze.” One assumes she’s a mare.

Paton dedicates the monograph “To my husband, whose patience is unplumbed when it comes to my obsession.” What fun this obsession must have brought both of them. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2015

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