Simanaitis Says

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THE WORLD’S GREATEST consulting detective had, appropriately, one of the world’s greatest chroniclers. Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are tidbits about chronicler Dr. John H. Watson gleaned from the Sacred Canon, a variety of sources, and my usual Internet sleuthing.

Watson’s CV. Sherlockian Michael Hardwick provides a bio in The Complete Guide to Sherlock Holmes, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986. Briefly: “WATSON, JOHN H., MD, Medical practitioner and author. Born c. 1852. MD, 1878, Army Medical Department, 1878–1880 Service in Afghanistan, att. Northumberland Fusiliers and Berkshires. Wounded at Battle of Mailand, 7 July 1880. Arrived back in England, late Nov 1880, and left service. Introduced to Sherlock Holmes by Stamford at Bart’s Hospital chemical laboratory, 1 (?) Jan, 1881.”

Hardwick also cites Watson’s three marriages: “(i) Nov 1886, wife’s name unrecorded; (ii) c. 1887–89, probably to Mary Moran; (iii) c. 1902, wife’s name unrecorded.”

You know how it is with some exes.

Watson and Holmes. In “The Adventure of the Red Circle,” Holmes observes, “I should say that only a clean-shaven man could have smoked this. Why, Watson, even your modest moustache would have been singed.” This and the following illustration by Sidney Paget.

Watson’s Vices. In A Study in Scarlet, when meeting at Bart’s to arrange a shared residency, Watson confesses his vices: “I keep a bull pup… and I object to row, because my nerves are shaken, and I get up at all sorts of ungodly hours, and I am extremely lazy. I have another set of vices when I’m well, but those are the principal ones at present.”

The bull pup is never heard of again. See “ ‘Sit!’ Said the Cynologist” here at SimanaitisSays.

Watson observes, “I had neither kith nor kin in England, and was therefore as free as air—or as free as an income of eleven shillings and sixpence a day will permit a man to be.”

Eleven and six is just a tad more than harf-a-quid, that is, about $6 in 1880. According to the CPI Inflation Calculator, this works out to $151.83 in U.S. dollars at the time of this writing.

A Modest Medical Practice. Having confessed to laziness, Watson wasn’t exactly a Harley Street A-Type. In fact, his offices were in Kensington, 1886–1888; Paddington, 1889–1890; Kensington, 1890–1894; and Queen Anne Street, Marylebone, 1902–?

Was he moving up in the medical world? Harley Street is also in Marylebone.

Regardless of the location, as Watson noted in “The Final Problem,” “The practice is quiet… and I have an accommodating neighbor. I should be glad to come.”

And it’s good he did, for the enlightenment of all Sherlockians. Tomorrow in Part 2, our analysis of Watson’s chronicling continues, including the matter of a doctor’s handwriting. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020


  1. fred vainas
    April 13, 2020

    Great stuff. Not being familiar with London’s neighborhoods, I’m missing some subtleties. Do Watson’s addresses show a downward trend, or a general lack of movement?

    • simanaitissays
      April 14, 2020

      Hi, Fred,
      Nor do I know the subtleties of London neighborhoods, but getting closer to the legendary Harley Street of medico lore seems a step up.
      With all due respect to the good doctor, is it possible his frequent absences from the office might have worried earlier landlords? “Is Watson an MD,” they’d ask, “or what?”
      TFIC (tongue firmly in cheek)—ds

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