“We Went at Once to the Lawyer”: Pastiche Found in a Legal Journal

As a non-lawyer, I don’t ordinarily find myself reading the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Journal. But in researching entails for a discussion of “The Priory School,” I ran across a fascinating study of the law in the Canonical cases in which inheritance furnishes the motive. The paper, written in the form of a pastiche, is titled, “The Game Is Afoot!: The Significance of Donative Transfers in the Sherlock Holmes Canon,” and was published in that legal journal in 2011.

Sidney Paget, “The Crooked Man,” 1893

The abstract:

This article presents a recently discovered and previously unpublished manuscript written by John H. Watson, M.D., and annotated by Professor Stephen Alton. Dr. Watson’s manuscript records an extended conversation that took place between the good doctor and his great friend, the renowned consulting detective Mr. Sherlock Holmes, regarding issues of donative transfers of property—issues involving inheritances, wills, and trusts—that have arisen in some of the great cases solved by Mr. Holmes. This felicitous discovery confirms something that Professor Alton has long known: these donative transfer issues permeate many of these adventures. Often, the action in the case occurs because of the desire of the wrong-doer to come into an inheritance, a bequest, or the present possession of an estate in land more quickly—perhaps by dispatching the intervening heir, beneficiary, or life tenant. Professor Alton has annotated this manuscript, providing extensive analysis of these issues and citations to relevant, contemporary authority in his footnotes.

Alton, S. (2011). The Game Is Afoot!:The Significance of Donative Transfers in the Sherlock Holmes Canon. Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Journal, 46(1), 125–171.

All Sherlockians will find it worthwhile to read Watson’s analysis and Alton’s annotations, especially those who want to better understand the legal issues confronted by the Master.

“The Lowest and Vilest Alleys”: A Mobile Game Influenced by “The Valley of Fear”

During the lockdown, your Gazetteer has played a lot of escape-the-room games on an iPad. These are basically what it says on the tin: The player is trapped somewhere and must solve puzzles and/or find objects in order to escape.

One day I downloaded a game called Alleys, which locks you inside a theme-park reconstruction of an English coal-mining town where, you soon learn, something mysterious and terrible once occurred. In addition to the usual tasks of the genre, you gradually discover pieces of the backstory as you play. It’s not a great game, but it is diverting and challenging without being too difficult, and the graphics are impressive. It was created by Shi-Chi Shen of Taiwan and is quite the accomplishment for a solo programmer.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that this English town was located in the Vermissa Valley, and the villains were called The Scowrers. Shen must be a devoted fan of the Master, because scattered throughout the game are Sherlockian references, and not just to The Valley of Fear. For example:

Hmm, those names sound familiar …. But who is Dan Raines?

There are some clues that were left by someone described as a Pinkerton detective, but when you find them, these are the notes that accompany them:

Do not be misled: This is not a Sherlock Holmes game, and the storyline will win no awards, but I had fun both solving the puzzles and keeping an eye out for Canonical references.

Yes, Mycroft, we truly do hear of Sherlock everywhere.

“Comfortable Chairs and the Latest Periodicals”: Issue 1 of Sherlock Holmes Magazine Now Available

Adrian Braddy has published the first issue of his new Sherlock Holmes Magazine, which covers the Master in all his incarnations.

It’s a 68-page, glossy, full-color periodical but not a commercial venture: It’s written by Holmes fans for Holmes fans. The contents of the first issue:

  • On set: Enola Holmes and The Irregulars
  • Elementary, my dear Alexa
  • A study in tartan
  • The Spanish Secret Files
  • When Holmes was banned
  • Watson! We have a problem
  • Defending Nigel Bruce
  • Bruising encounters
  • Moriarty reimagined
  • 10 years of BBC Sherlock
  • The story of A Study in Scarlet
  • The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
  • Live theatre in lockdown

Also included are some regular features, including a Holmesian crossword and comic strip.

Subscriptions are not yet available, but you can order the first issue, which costs £11.60 (a little over $15) for those outside the UK and Europe. If you’re interested, order soon, because supplies are limited.

A note from the editor:

Please be aware, before you take the plunge and purchase a copy, that this is NOT a commercial venture from a big publishing house. Hopefully Sherlock Holmes Magazine would not look out of place on any newsstand or in any bookstore, but it is important to realise that it is not a professional publication. It is a VERY small operation. There is no team of staff, no customer services department, no subscriptions office—just me, with some assistance from my wife. I am a former magazine journalist but this is my unpaid hobby, not my full-time job. Please be patient as we’ll struggle to match the level of service you would receive from a well-resourced publishing house. For instance, all work on the magazine is carried out outside of working hours. We will, however, do our very best.

Adrian Braddy

Your Gazetteer has not seen the magazine yet but is delighted to be able to support this ambitious project. If you’d like to get a copy or find out more, visit the magazine’s website. You can also email Adrian at editor@sherlockholmesmag.co.uk

“You Will Excuse This Mask”: Show Your Love for Holmes and Watson with Sherlockian Face Masks

Even if you have to cover your nose and mouth, you can still express yourself. Sherlockian publisher Belanger Books has introduced a line of masks featuring images from their book covers, two of which are shown above. They sell for $12.49 apiece, or $10 if you buy 4 or more. Check them out on RedBubble.

Note: These are not N95 masks, nor are they necessarily suitable for close contact, such as caring for a patient with Covid-19, but they’ll work for a trip to the grocery store or the park, with continued social distancing.

No commission or commercial connection here; just wanted to make people aware. Sources of fun are limited right now.

“A Charming Youth”: A May Day Tribute to Lord Saltire

On this day in 1901, the ten-year-old Arthur, Lord Saltire, only (legitimate) child of the Duke of Holdernesse, arrived at the Priory School for the beginning of summer term. Less than a fortnight later, he disappeared, and Dr. Thorneycroft Huxtable, M.A., Ph.D., etc., came to consult the great Sherlock Holmes, as Dr. Watson recounted in Collier’s and The Strand almost three years later. The Literary Agent, writing in 1927, ranked it as his tenth favorite of Holmes’s recorded cases.

Cover illustration for “The Adventure of the Priory School” by Frederic Dorr Steele

Despite his fortunate birth, young Lord Saltire was not a happy child. His parents were separated, with his mother having moved to France. When the Duke grew tired of his son’s moping around Holdernesse Hall, he sent him off to the Priory.

Fortunately, despite his pomposity, the headmaster was a good friend to the boy; as The Hounds of the Internet pointed out in their introduction to the story, “Unlike all the other people surrounding poor little Lord Saltire, Dr. Huxtable kept the child’s well-being foremost in his mind throughout the crisis.” The Duke, though concerned for his son, put most of his effort into keeping the secret of his illegitimate son—James Wilder, who had arranged the kidnapping in an attempt to force his father to break the entail on his estate—and protecting him from prosecution for the murder committed by one of his accomplices.

We know little about Lord Saltire himself. There is no physical description of him in Watson’s account of the case, and he functions more as a MacGuffin than as a character. Though sad when he arrived at the school, Dr. Huxtable felt that in the two weeks he was there, Arthur had become “quite at home with us, and was apparently absolutely happy” (PRIO). He seems to have been a sweet, lonely boy who missed his mother and was desperate for affection from his father. He was easily fooled by the criminals, but no one should expect a ten-year-old not to be naïve, even if he is the heir to a dukedom.

The Duke referred to his heir as “my dear Arthur,” but Holmes was right to reprimand him strongly for placing him at risk by leaving him at the Fighting Cock Inn in order to protect Wilder: “To humour your guilty elder son you have exposed your innocent younger son to imminent and unnecessary danger. It was a most unjustifiable action.”

Holmes’s displeasure with the Duke’s attitude toward Lord Saltire also caused him to do something that was rather uncharacteristic for him, demanding the princely—or at least ducal—sum of £12,000, equivalent to nearly $2 million in 2020 currency. The Master’s parting shot of “I am a poor man,” while putting the check in his pocket, was clearly intended to insult; if it were true, it might be because of the many, many cases in which the great consulting detective refused any fee. Dr. Watson, unfortunately, did not tell us on what Holmes spent such an enormous amount of money.

Let us raise a glass of whatever beverage we have available in quarantine to Arthur, Lord Saltire, the future seventh Duke of Holdernesse. I hope that his parents did indeed reunite, that his home life became happier, and that he found some joy in the remainder of his life.