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HOLMES WAS a man of many disguises. Here in Part 2, we’ll learn of Escott the plumber, maybe William Escott the Shakespearean actor, and an adventure in which just about everyone assumes disguises at one time or another.
(William) Escott. In “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton,” 1899, Holmes learns the layout of the Milverton home by romancing this blackmailer’s housemaid Agatha. “I am a plumber with a rising business, Escott by name,” Holmes tells Watson. “I have walked out with her each evening, and I have talked with her. Good heavens, those talks.”
“However,” Holmes says, “I rejoice to say that I have a hated rival who will certainly cut me out the instant that my back is turned.”
In The World of Sherlock Holmes, 1975, Sherlockian Michael Harrison suggested a possible origin of the Escott moniker dating from October 1879 during Holmes’ university days: “Holmes made his first appearance on the boards, as Horatio in Hamlet. ” His billing? William Escott.
Harrison said the stage name “derived from, as Baring-Gould points out, Holmes’ three Christian names, ‘William S. (for Sherlock) Scott.’ ”
A Faux Personae Feast. “A Scandal in Bohemia,” May 1887, has a multiplicity of faux personae. A mysterious client’s appearance has “a richness which would, in England, be looked upon as akin to bad taste.” The man turns out to be the King of Bohemia, in disguise.
During the investigation, Holmes has reason to portray both “a dissipated groom” and “a simple-minded Nonconformist clergyman.”
Watson reports encountering “a drunken-looking groom, ill-kempt and side-whiskered with an inflamed face and disreputable clothes…. Accustomed as I was to my friend’s amazing powers in the use of disguises, I had to look three times before I was certain that it was indeed he.”
Later in the adventure, Watson says Holmes “disappeared into his bedroom, and returned in a few minutes as an amiable and simple-minded Nonconformist clergyman.”
Near the end of the adventure, Irene Adler, to Holmes, aka the woman, put her acting skills to good effect: Holmes and Watson had reached 221b Baker Street when a passerby said, “Good night, Mister Sherlock Holmes.”
“There were several people on the pavement at the time,” Watson writes, “but the greeting appeared to come from a slim youth in an ulster who had hurried by.”
“I’ve heard that voice before,” says Holmes, staring down the dimly lit street. “Now I wonder who the deuce that could have been.”
Gotcha, Holmes. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019