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YESTERDAY, WE BEGAN an analysis of Dr. John H. Watson’s chronicling of the world’s greatest consulting detective. Today in Part 2, we discuss penmanship, obfuscation, a downright goof, and the views of Sherlock Holmes on the matter.
Watson’s Handwriting. Imagine a world before word processing. Indeed, one in which typewriters (“What’s a typewriter, Grandpa?”) were akin to sewing machines: devices used by women employed to produce things, not create stories.
As the word suggests, a writer of the era wrote.
William Baring-Gould observed in The Annotated Sherlock Holmes Volume 1, “Watson’s handwriting was the despair of typesetters.”
No wonder. Have you ever known any M.D. to have exemplary penmanship?
In fact, this may explain some of the disparities that appear in the Sacred Canon. For instance, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, it was typeset that Watson saw action on the moor “several miles away.”
What astounding visual acuity!! What do you suppose he actually wrote?
Watson’s Obfuscation. Baring-Gould also noted, “Writing as he did of events in the very recent past, Watson had to be exceedingly careful that he did not land himself, or Holmes, or both, in serious legal trouble.”
There were evidently times when obfuscation was warranted.
And Watson is Only Human. Occasionally, Watson flat-out goofed. How else to explain “Watson’s War Wound” described here at SimanaitisSays? Where did that Jezail bullet actually hit the doctor? His shoulder? His leg?
Sherlockians have a variety of opinions on this, including a bizarre one involving a ricochet.
Holmes on Watson’s Chronicling. In The Sign of Four, Holmes says, “Detection is, or ought to be, an exact science, and should be treated in the same cold and unemotional manner. You have attempted to tinge it with romanticism, which produces much the same effect as if you worked a love-story or an elopement into the fifth proposition of Euclid.”
Yet, in “A Scandal in Bohemia,” Holmes also admits, “I am lost without my Boswell.” ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020