Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff

DID POIROT EVER MEET HOLMES?

THE WORLD’S two greatest consulting detectives, Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, had overlapping careers. It was around the advent of the Great War, World War I to those of us recognizing that another was to follow. Both detectives were often consulted by signatories of the Entente Cordiale, but did Holmes and Poirot ever meet? Let’s examine the evidence as presented by Julian Symons, British chronicler of crime fiction.

M

Julian Symons, 1912 – 1994, British chronicler of crime fiction, novelist, poet.

Symons wrote some three dozen works of crime fiction, an equal number of non-fiction biography, history and literary criticism and two books of poetry. I focus here on his Great Detectives: Seven Original Investigations and “Sherlock Holmes and the Poirot Connexion,” a short story first appearing in The Illustrated London News.

m

The Great Detectives, by Julian Symons, illustrated by Tom Adams, Harry. N. Abrams, 1981; “Sherlock Holmes and the Poirot Connexion,” The Illustrated London News, April 1987.

The two detectives have a great deal in common. Holmes had Dr. John H. Watson as friend and chronicler. Watson came home on military pension after the 1880 Battle of Maiwand. (“You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.” says Holmes when they’re introduced.) Poirot had Captain Arthur Hastings as friend and chronicler. Hastings was invalided home from the 1916 Battle of the Somme.

Chronicler Watson had Arthur Conan Doyle as literary agent. Similarly, Hastings had as literary agent a woman named Agatha Christie. Indeed, each had skeptics claiming these relationships were otherwise construed.

Each detective had an occasionally less-talented friend at Scotland Yard: Holmes’ Inspector G. Lestrade; Poirot’s Inspector (later Chief Inspector) James Harold Japp. Each detective seems to have had a brother, Mycroft Holmes and Achille Poirot (or is Achille just Hercule in disguise?). And each had a singularly fascinating female interest, Holmes’ Irene Adler and Poirot’s Vera, Countess Rossakoff.

m

Vera, Countess Rossakoff. Hastings wrote that Poirot liked women “large and flamboyant and Russian for choice.” This, other images and quotes from Great Detectives.

What’s more, both detectives had eccentricities galore. Well known to Sherlockians are Holmes’ 221b Baker Street digs, his enthusiasm for home target practice, his recreational drug habit and his mouse-colored dressing gown.

m

Hercule Poirot, born around 1864, died between 1947 and 1953, Belgian consulting detective extraordinaire.

Whereas Holmes is angular and tall, Poirot is gently refined and short. Symons cites, “hardly more than five feet four inches… His head is a perfect egg shape, and is carried a little to one side.” Poirot is always elegantly and immaculately attired, with perfectly knotted cravat and pointed patent leather footware. Even informally, he wears “a very marvelous dressing gown.” There’s reason to believe his carefully trimmed moustache and slick-backed hair profit from a pomade “to restore the natural colour….”

Poirot’s dinner is “the supreme meal of the day,” carefully crafted and presented. Though residing in London, he eschews English tea for hot chocolate, no doubt of the best Belgian variety.

m

Poirot’s elegant London apartment. “A large luxury flat with impeccable chromium fittings, square armchairs, and several rectangular ornaments. There could truly be said not to be a curve in the place.”

Poirot is a Belgian of Flemish background; despite this, his native tongue is French, not Flemish; Catholicism, his faith. He’ll remind people that he most definitely is not French, but Belgian. (In Murder By Death, a neat sendup of cozy and hard-boiled genres, Neil Simon has a Sam Spade type call the Poirot-like character “Frenchy.” The latter sputters, “I am not a Frenchy! I am a Belgie!”)

m

An Autumn Crocus plant, a bottle labeled “Colnatium.” Two clues for Holmes in the death of Sir Charles Mulready. These, the following image and quotes from “Sherlock Holmes and the Poirot Connexion.”

Did Poirot and Holmes ever meet? Julian Symons offers tantalizing evidence in this regard. Sir Charles Mulready is found dead, a secret Plan X for the English/French Entente Cordiale is missing from his room. Sir Charles’ German stepson, Hans, is of an Oscar Wilde persuasion and has been blackmailed by German Intelligence. Monsieur Calamy, the French entente negotiator, is a house guest of the Mulreadys. Calamy is accompanied by his valet and chef (who, oddly, isn’t known for his cooking, but makes excellent hot chocolate).

m

Holmes and Calamy’s chef cooperate in finding the missing Plan X.

“You are an agent of the French Government,” Holmes said rather stiffly.

“At the moment that is so, but I am, like yourself, a private detective. It is truly an honour to meet the greatest detective in Britain.”

Symons observes, “The narrative ends here, so that the pseudo-chef’s identity remains uncertain. The scandal of Sir Charles’s death was evidently hushed up. Hans Mulready had in later life a successful stage career as a female impersonator.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2015

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: