“I Believe You Have Had a Letter From My Namesake”: Profiles of the Five Arthurs in the Canon

The discussion of ”The Priory School” at our last meeting and the ill-treatment of Arthur, Lord Saltire, inspired one member to research the incidence of characters named Arthur in the Canon. The following is adapted from her presentation.

A man who was not very kind to his namesake characters.

The Incidence of Arthurs in the Canon
by Terri Zensen

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used his own first name for characters who exemplified innocence, except for one case in which it was used as an alias by a very inventive forger.

1. The Priory School

Arthur, Lord Saltire: This young, innocent son of the Duke of Holdernesse is maligned and abducted by his half-brother, James Wilder, to force the Duke to break his estate’s entail. Arthur is not a developed character; his only real significance is his disappearance from his school, which causes Sherlock Holmes to be brought into the case. The Duke is upset at the headmaster for consulting Holmes, who sets off to discover the whereabouts of poor Arthur. Some odd cow tracks lead the Master to the resolution of the case.

2. The Bruce-Partington Plans

Arthur Cadogan West: This Arthur’s death brings Mycroft Holmes out of his usual haunts and into 221B Baker Street. Cadogan West’s death and the discovery of the missing submarine plans make the case a matter of national security. Arthur is blamed for the theft; fortunately for his reputation, Holmes is on the case. Then another man—Sir James Walter, the official guardian of the papers—is found dead. Col. Valentine attests that his brother’s honor had been compromised. Holmes finally unravels the case, saving both the country and the memory of poor Arthur Cadogan West.

3. The Beryl Coronet

Arthur Holder: Our next Arthur is accused of stealing the beryl coronet, left as collateral for a £50,000 loan. His father, Alexander Holder, the banker holding the treasure, wants his son prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Arthur remains silent even when imprisoned for the crime, trying to protect his cousin, Mary Holder, whom he saw passing the coronet to a confederate. Holmes discovers that the true culprit is Sir George Burnwell, a rakish friend of Arthur’s. Sir George was romantically involved with Mary, who has run away. The Master traces the gems—which, he learns after threatening Sir George at gunpoint, have been sold—and buys them back, returning them to Alexander Holder and clearing Arthur’s name.

4. A Study in Scarlet

Arthur Charpentier: This namesake is falsely accused of the killing of Enoch Drebber and Joseph Stangerson. This son of Madame Charpentier, keeper of a boarding house where the two men had stayed for several weeks, is a sub-lieutenant in Her Majesty’s Navy. Drebber’s attempt to force himself on Alice, Mme. Charpentier’s daughter, caused Arthur to take off after Drebber with a cudgel. Inspector Gregson arrests him for the murders. Holmes then unravels the scarlet thread—the tale of the Mormons and the true reason for the deaths of Drebber and Stangerson—and effects the arrest of the true culprit.

5. The Stockbroker’s Clark

Arthur Pinner: This is the one case in which a character named Arthur is not an upstanding citizen. Arthur Pinner convinces Hall Pycroft to abandon the position he is about to take up at the firm of Mawson and Williams in favour of taking a job as business manager of the Franco-Midland Hardware Company. Pycroft becomes suspicious about what is occurring and consults Holmes and Watson. The detective and his chronicler confront Pinner and discover the scheme: This man is not truly named Arthur Pinner but is, in fact, one of the notorious Beddington brothers, forgers and cracksmen who were recently released from prison. “Pinner”’s brother is posing as Hall Pycroft with the intention of absconding with bonds from Mawson and Williams.

So the only Canonical character named Arthur who is neither a crime victim nor a falsely accused innocent is not a true bearer of the name. This blog will leave any conclusions from these facts to those appropriately trained in psychology.

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