“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.

The Charles Augustus Milverton Virtual Picnic

Once again we must cancel an event: Watson’s Picnic, originally scheduled for June 11, because of that dastardly COVID-19.

We are instead planning a virtual picnic with a discussion of “Charles Augustus Milverton,” a gripping story of blackmail, burglary, and murder. Attendees are encouraged to bring their devices outside, weather permitting, and to enjoy picnic food while talking about the story and listening to presentations.

Sidney Paget, The Strand, April 1904

We ordinarily have our Blind Auction at Watson’s Picnic; we are working on the logistics of holding it over Zoom.

To avoid conflicting with a meeting of The Parallel Case of St. Louis, we have moved the date one week later: It will be held on Saturday, June 18. Details are on the Events page; keep an eye on that or our Facebook page for any changes or updates.

At our virtual meeting today, we had several fascinating presentations about “The Priory School” We also welcomed as a new member Rich Krisciunas (from Michigan!). As Rich is already a member of several Scions, he will skip the Egg phase and go straight to a full membership.

Physical distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation. All interested guests are welcome to join us, as Rich did. The one advantage of the virus is that it is making it more common for us to meet Sherlockians from geographically distant locations!

“His Orders Were to Stay in the House”: More Upcoming Virtual Gatherings

That fiendish pandemic is still preventing Sherlockians from gathering socially. Fortunately, we now have videoconferencing, and three more free virtual gatherings have been announced.

  • Saturday, June 19, 12:30 pm PT: NMSOBC meeting to discuss “The Priory School.” Email bluecarbuncle1971@gmail.com for the Zoom info.
  • Saturday, June 27, 5 pm PT (virtual cocktail hour, 4:30 pm): The Torists International, a scion society based in Chicago, invites all Sherlockians, friends, and family to “an infinitely introspective program.” The meeting will include a eulogy for Sherlockian scholar and Torist co-founder Tony Citera; the investiture into the Torists of the winners of the Beacon Society-Joel Senter Memorial Contest 2020; a presentation on the sources of the ciphers in “The Dancing Men”; and a reading of Vincent Starrett’s 221B. Register here; email Jonathan Shimberg for more info.
  • Saturday, October 10, 10 am PT: Save the date for the virtual Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium! Speakers will include Mina Hoffman; Leslie Klinger, BSI; Bonnie MacBird, BSI, ASH; Angela Misri; and Rob Nunn. Visit the Symposium website for more info or to register.

Stay well, everyone, and when you must go out, wear a mask!

“I May Need Some of These Dates Which You Have Noted”: Next Meeting Moved to June 20

Our virtual meeting to discuss “The Priory School,” originally scheduled for June 13, has been moved to June 20 so as not to conflict with SOS At Home. Please see our Events page or Facebook for further details.

Like Maudie, “I will be there you may be sure” (“The Lion’s Mane”).

“A Gentle Little White Mouse”: The Reader as Dr. Watson

As part of our discussion of “The Final Problem” and “The Empty House” at our May meeting, member Christine Ellis shared this insightful analysis of how the reader shares Watson’s point of view in these stories and other Canonical cases we’ve discussed recently. Enjoy!

Watson Has a Mouse in His Pocket: Dr. Watson, Our Alter Ego
by Christine Ellis

Watson personifies the reader’s ability to sit in 221B and participate in the delicious conversations around the fire or at the chemistry table. With a revolver in pocket, we climb into the hansom and are off on another adventure. In the moment, Watson is us, and we are Watson—or at least, an invisible mouse carried in his pocket, seeing and hearing what he sees and hears.

In “The Red-Headed League,” we all know that Jabez Wilson’s job is a scam, but why? In “The Twisted Lip,” we are merely called out in the middle of the night by Kate Whitney to bring her husband Isa back from the opium den on Upper Swandam Lane. This part of the adventure is easy-peasy, of course. It is when we meet Holmes in the opium den that the evening takes a turn, and we dash away in a tall dog-cart, rushing back to Neville St. Clair’s house. Where, mostly in the dark, we sleep, while Holmes smokes his pipe until twenty past four. He awakens us, and off we go to Scotland Yard.  Holmes announces that we “are now standing in the presence of one of the most absolute fools in Europe.”  Oh, really? The mouse, like Watson, still has no idea what’s going on, but the adventure is thrilling, and, of course, all is soon made clear.

Now, on to our adventures for this meeting, “The Final Problem” and “The Empty House.” These stories together create a wonderful synopsis of the mouse in Watson’s pocket. We are in our own lodgings, not at 221B Baker Street. It is late at night when Holmes comes knocking.

“The Final Problem” has a series of events we must obey to the letter. Dispatch luggage by a trusted messenger unaddressed to Victoria; send for a hansom, taking neither the first or second; drive to the Strand end of the Lower Arcade; hand the address to the cabman; have fare ready; dash through the Arcade, timing our arrival for quarter past nine. We will find a small brougham waiting, with a coachman in a heavy black cloak with a red collar, and reach Victoria in time for the Continental Express. Enter the second first-class carriage from the front for our rendezvous. Wow, how much more mysterious can this be? We learn much about  the Napoleon of Crime, Professor Moriarty. We go from Canterbury to Newhaven, over to Dieppe, then into Switzerland via Luxembourg and Basle.

On the way, Holmes gets a telegram from the London police and declares that Moriarty intends to devote his whole energies to revenging himself upon Holmes, and that Watson (and we) really should return to England.  Well, we refuse to do that. So it’s on to the Valley of the Rhone, Leuk, Gemmi Pass, Interlaken, then Meiringen. Holmes confesses again and again that if society was freed from Professor Moriarty, he would cheerfully bring his own career to a conclusion. We get to the Englischer Hof and settle in, making plans to hike over to Rosenlaui. By now we should be very concerned for our safety. Rocks are falling out of the sky. Holmes talks of life’s ending. Still, we head out on this lonely hike. Is anyone else feeling just a little bit edgy? Or even more?

When the boy comes running up the hill with a note for Watson, he—though not we—believes the excuse and runs back down the hill.  Stupid, stupid fool! I challenge you to come up with an incident in the canon when Watson was any more the fool than he was that day!

Now, three years later, “The Empty House.” Watson turns over the facts of the Honourable Robert Adair’s murder in a locked room, coming to no conclusions. We are in our lodgings, late at night, when there is a knock at the door.  This time, it’s an old book-collector whom we met earlier in the day. And, well, come to find out it’s none other than Mr. Sherlock Holmes.  After we recover from our first and only faint: “Now, my dear fellow, if I may ask for your co-operation, a hard and dangerous might’s work is in front of us.”  Aw, this is normal again. The mouse will accompany the pair on one more adventure.