Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Sherlock Holmes" - William Gillette's lost 1916 Silent Film.

In 1916, at the age of 60, William Gillette starred as Sherlock Holmes in the film of his 1899 stage play. The film is lost but stills survive. This post archives some of those stills. (see 2014 update note below).

Working from a scenario written by H.S. Sheldon, the film was shot at Iverson Ranch, 1 Iverson Lane, Chatsworth, Los Angeles, by Essanay Film Manufacturing Company and was directed by Arthur Berthelet, assisted by William Postance (aged 42) who also appeared in the film as Sidney Prince .

Marjorie Kay as Alice Faukner.

Ernest Maupain (aged 47) as Moriarty.
At the age of 41, the stage actor, Edward Fielding played Dr. Watson - his first film in a distinguished screen career.

Edward Fielding in 1942 Pride of the Yankees.

Fielding had appeared in the October-November 1915 Empire Theatre production of the play directed by William Postance. Also in both play and film was Stewart Robbins (as Benjamin Forman) who had made his Broadway debut in the same play in 1910. 

Hugh Thompson in 1921. Photo Univ. Washington Libraries.

The part of Sir Edward Leighton was taken by Hugh Thompson (aged 29), a silent film actor whose screen career ended in 1926.

For the Baron von Stalberg, the producers turned to Ludwig Kreiss, the popular actor and theatre manager of the Milwaukee German ensemble. After 5 years in Berlin, Kreiss moved to Milwaukee in 1890 and celebrated his Silver Jubilee as an actor/manager at the Pabst Theatre on May 21, 1915. Read more HERE in The Milwaukee Sentinel for May 20, 1915.

The Italian born Mario Majeroni (aged 46) played James Larrabee, having the previous year appeared with John Barrymore in The Dictator. He was also known by Charles Frohman, producer of Gillette's Holmes on stage, having acted on Broadway in three Frohman plays in 1907-9. 

Fellow Italian, Fred Malatesta (aged 27) played 'Lightfoot' Mctague. This versatile perfomer would act in films until 1941, and was cast for comedy by Hal Roach. Here he is in the 1926 Get 'Em Young, which starred Stan Laurel.

Fred Malatesta in 1926.

Grace Reals was 50 by the time she played Madge Larrabee. A stage actress and light opera singer, she had started with the Bostonians Opera Company and appeared in nine films before her death in 1925.
Grace Reals (Billy Rose Theatre Collection).
Stage actress, Leona Ball, (Therese) had acted with Arthur Berthelet in 1912 on Broadway. Here she is in 1907.
Leona Ball 1907, Univ. Washington Libraries.
18 year old Burford Hampden (Billy) had already acted with Gillette in Diplomacy (1914) at the Empire Theatre. He and Gillette also appeared in Postance's 1915 revival of Sherlock Holmes at the same Broadway theatre AND 1929's New Amsterdam production, again directed by Postance. Born in London, Hampden died in Florida in 1986. He began his career at His Majesty's Theatre, London in 1909-11 in The Critic & three other plays before appearing on Broadway in 1911.
Burford Hampden.
It's a small world - Hampden became a leading light in NBC's ground-breaking Great Plays on radio in the 1930's: Dennis Hoey, Rathbone's Inspector Lestrade performed alongside him!


                                                                                                                                                                                        UPDATE: 1 October, 2014. It was announced today that a copy of the film has been discovered in the archives of Cinematheque Francais. San Francisco Silent Film Festival & Cinematheque will restore the film with a premier in Europe in January 2015, followed by a May, 2015 US premier.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         © 2013 & 2014 Ray Wilcockson All Rights Reserved.   

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Doyle Bust Business (Part One).

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by Peter Close.

In his own time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was one of the most well-known, instantly recognizable Britons in the World, positively Beckhamite in influence and fame.

Sherlock Holmes contributed significantly  to Doyle's international celebrity status, an effect compounded by a readiness to believe in him as a real person and the equally erroneous identification of character with creator.

While he lived, the writer was the more prominent; his death brought Holmes to the fore: a shift manifested tellingly in the world of sculpture. Statues and busts of the detective are much more in evidence today than are effigies of Conan Doyle. 

This post and the next form an initial attempt to record the provenance and location of all extant busts of the writer executed in his lifetime. It is an on-going project and I should be grateful to receive any relevant additional information. 

The head and shoulders sculpture illustrated above is one of the best examples I know of modern busts of Conan Doyle. This endearingly Watsonian image is 15" tall, near life-size, and done in cold-cast bronze over resin. It's an edition limited to 1000, by the British artist, Peter Close. Ars Praestigium Galleries are currently offering it HERE on Ebay. 

           Bookends to a Knight's Tale.

Two significant sculptures frame four decades in the public eye in the life of this latter-day knight: the Thornycroft bust of 1892 and the Davidson of 1930. Both have survived, though neither as I write is on display.

The Thornycroft Bust.

Arthur Conan Doyle by William Hamo Thornecroft. 1892.

A Scandal in Bohemia was published in The Strand's July, 1891 issue. By 1892, aged 33, Doyle was famous. Hamo Thornycroft, nine years older, already uncle to a six year old, Siegfried Sassoon, was already a leading proponent of what the critic Edmund Gosse would term The New Sculpture two years later.
Thornycroft Studio  1884.

 A member of the Royal Academy, Thornycroft was responsible in the years following 1884 for some of Britain's best-known statues: Cromwell outside Westminster Palace, Alfred the Great in Winchester & General Gordon for Trafalgar Square. 

General Gordon by Thorncroft, 1888.
This statue, minus its plinth, is now re-sited on the Victoria Embankment, London.

Of the commission and early history of the Thornycroft bust of Doyle I know nothing. It is my hope vastly more knowledgeable Sherlockians will be able to shed some light.
What I can do is to describe the work and identify its location in 2010 when it passed through Philip Weiss USA Auctions.

The auction catalogue records:

Sir William Hamo Thornycroft Marble Bust Sir William Hamo Thornycroft (British 1850-1925) Marble Bust of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sir William Hamo Thornycroft was the initiator of the "New Sculptors". He had visited Italy in 1871 and admired the work of Michaelangelo. Returning to react against the still formality of neo-classism, and the sentimentality of the romantic style. His life-size bronze Teucar of a naked archer (1881) changed the course of British sculptor. This work created by Thornycroft in 1892, was at the time that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle became highly successful in the creation of Sherlock Holmes. This is a great work by Thornycroft. It is signed and dated at the bottom side of the bust. There are some minor issues with the bust, small chip on collar. The marble is a bit soiled and there are some other minor chips along the way. Other wise in very good condition for its age. Measures: 25" X 20" X 16".
The post-sale report says:
An 1892 marble bust of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir William Hamo Thornycraft, the initiator of the “New Sculptors,” went for $4,520. It is signed and dated at the bottom of the bust.
Who bought it is unidentified; nor am I aware of the bust being on public display.
Much more detail may be given about the 1930 bust by Joe Davidson and this is the sole topic of Part Two to follow.
Meanwhile, this is perhaps the best place to note one further possible candidate as a contemporary bust sculpture of Sir. Arthur Conan Doyle.

This is a photograph taken in the Lucens Sherlock Holmes Museum. Switzerland. The centrepiece of Conan Doyle's own magnificent table is a bust of the author.

I should appreciate any further information as to the age, artist, material and provenance of this sculpture which may reasonably be a third executed in Conan Doyle's lifetime.

I leave the reader in no doubt as to my motive in writing these two posts - any author who begins and ends his career sculpted by the foremost artists of his time in my book stands (literally and metaphorically) head and shoulders above most of his contemporaries. He and buildings like Undershaw associated with him deserve all the respect due to a Great Briton.

NB: Please click HERE for further information and images concerning Hamo Thornycroft.
AND please click HERE to go straight to Part Two.



Friday, January 18, 2013

How Many Steps to Baker Street? - A "Mastermind" Special.

[To the reader: enjoyment of what follows may be enriched if you 'hear' the voices of Jeremy Brett & David Burke whilst reading.]

"So, Watson," said he, suddenly, "You do not propose to play billiards with Thurston tonight?"

I gave a start of astonishment. I had barely entered his rooms after dropping by on my way home through the swirling January snow to toast myself awhile before his invariably blazing fire.

"How on earth do you know that?" I asked.

He wheeled round upon his stool with a steaming test-tube in his hand and a gleam of amusement in his deep-set eyes.

"Now, Watson, confess yourself utterly taken aback," said he.

"I am."

"Moreover, not only do I know what you do NOT propose to do, I venture to suggest I have deduced precisely how you have chosen to pass a pleasant hour or two between arriving home and surrendering to the arms of Morpheus!"

"Oh, come now, Holmes! You can't possibly know. Why, all I have done is climb your seventeen stairs and sit in this very comfortable chair! See, I remember! Seventeen, for what it's worth!" I scoffed, without malice, intrigued, as he knew I would be.

"Ha! Watson! Watson! Will you never learn?" retorted Holmes with an affectation of infinite pity and the profoundest boredom. "I wish me to explain what is the simplest of chains of deduction! Listen and learn, my boy!

"I made, you will recall, two distinct deductions. The first may be summarily dealt with by reference to the date. Today is Sunday. Every fortnight you play billiards with Thurston at your club. An imminent collision of the Earth with a rogue asteroid would not prevent you from keeping this appointment. You are a creature of habit, as punctilious as the trusty Bradshaw. On billiards night, you invariably head straight for the club after your rounds, presenting your good self at Baker Street only afterwards for a late supper.

"It is two weeks since your last club night. You should even now be chalking your cue but you are not. This is self-evidently not your club nor am I Thurston: ergo you have rejected the world of the billiard hall for something of greater moment."

"Well, all right, Holmes. Anyone could work that out if he knew my diary as well as you. However, I cannot see for the life of me how you can possibly know what changed a mind that was all set not an hour ago to keep that very appointment of which you speak!"

Relighting his long cherry-wood pipe with a coal from the fire, Holmes smiled, gathered his dressing gown about him and settled into his favourite fireside chair.

When he eventually spoke it was in that curiously abstracted voice and manner I have often had occasion to note when he is totally absorbed in the delineation of a logical chain of deduction.

"The sequence of observations leading to the only possible conclusion I shall presently reveal began with your arrival by cab.

"Even from these upper rooms I could clearly discern in the frosted night air your hasty 'valete' to the cabby. I know you to be a generous man but your instruction to 'keep the change!' was I think motivated rather by a desire to move from cab to door as quickly as possible in this inclement weather. Indeed the door banged shut but a moment later."

"Yes...yes, go on."

"You did not linger in the hall exchanging pleasantries with Mrs. Hudson, for I heard your familiar tread upon the stair. And yet...something happened to occasion a delay, for you took rather longer than normal to climb the flight. Now! Rotund as your frame may have become, you yet retain a doctor's fitness. Something other than  a breathlessness made you pause half-way on your journey to these rooms."

"Guilty as charged!" I laughed. "But you couldn't see what!"

"Correct, friend Watson! Not then. But as soon as you entered the room, I saw everything

"My attention was caught first as you doffed your great coat. The evidence is now melted before the fire, but I noted at once the singular distribution of snow. That you sat upon the left side of the cab was both your custom and an elementary deduction from the hoar upon that sleeve. However, full half the back was similarly bedecked with snow, suggesting you had twisted in the cab to shield some item from the weather. 

"When a man walks into my room and deposits an empty cardboard package into my waste basket, I must assume he has recently opened it and extracted the contents."

Involuntarily, my eyes strayed from Holmes to the basket by the door. 

"Furthermore," he went on, now well in his stride, " when I observe the tell-tale familiar logo of '' at this moment protruding from my bin, I must assume the content to have been a book, CD or DVD ordered and purchased from that illustrious emporium. Now, the size of the package excludes an example of their excellent musical discs. A book or pamphlet? Book it is without doubt. Just look at the remnant package's construction, designed to provide postal protection to a hard back of an inch or so in thickness."

I was on the point of asking, sarcastically, the title and author of my book when Holmes intervened.

"And now! The most elegant passage of this diverting Sonata in Deduction!"

His face took on that expression of perfect bliss it evinced when my friend  played the violin.

"We must now momentarily retrace your steps," he said, gleefully. "Not only did the good doctor pause upon the stair, I heard him retreat and advance at least twice! You were counting the steps!"

I was entranced and Holmes knew it.

"As you dithered on the stair I sat here asking myself why on earth today of all days should remind you of that little object lesson in observation we both recall from all those years ago."

"The Adler case as I remember, yes!"

He continued as if I had never spoken.

"Something had triggered the memory. But what? You entered and I knew!

"You had stopped on the stair to remove a book from its packing: a book you had been so keen to peruse that you opened it and attempted to read in the cab; a book you had only just received through the post!"

"Hang on, now, Holmes! You can't possibly know it only arrived today!"

"Ah! But I do. You see, whatever book it was had prompted you to recount the Baker Street steps. Whatever book it was, you had not advanced very far in reading (the cardboard wrapping, the brief cab journey); whatever book it was is fully an inch thick and a book you do not wish me to know you are reading!"

I looked up, shame- faced, to find Sherlock Holmes standing over me.

"There is only one book that meets all these conditions, only one book which contains within its opening pages ('The Prelude' if memory serves) reference to the seventeen steps of 221b Baker Street! It is secreted in the doctor's bag you have not released from your grip since you arrived - that excellent little publication by Ms. Konnikova, the American, entitled, 'Mastermind - How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes'!"

"Brilliant, Holmes!"

"'Elementary, my dear Watson!' - to quote some of my less accurate celluloid portrayals."

As he spoke it occurred to me I might yet turn abject embarrassment into triumph. "Wait a minute! You don't have the monopoly on deductions. Permit me: - Sherlock Holmes knows his steps are mentioned in a certain book: therefore - Sherlock Holmes must have read that book!"

" I may have dipped into it," he countered, airily."it is not totally devoid of redeeming features." 

[The reader, and, especially, Ms. Konnikova, must at this point provide the delightful memory of Jeremy Brett momentarily laughing and winking at Dr. Watson, before resuming his wonted mask of inscrutability.]

"Oh, and it's risers, Watson. You count the risers not the treads. Don't worry, old friend, I won't tell anyone. I saw your mind ticking over on the stairs as to which you should count. Simple when you consider you rise to the level of Mr. Sherlock Holmes only when you raise that increasingly portly frame for the seventeenth time!" 

Helping You Up The Steps.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

7 Shades of Ray ( in the Tag-Series 7 Things About Me).

Fellow Sherlockian Luke Kuhns would be unaware this week that in choosing who to tag in this excellent voluntary series he had selected two bloggers who have just become acquainted through Facebook, having Christ's College, Cambridge and 221b Baker St in common! Hugh Ashton and myself. It's a small world and I believe ACD would have made full use of the social media that draws together like minds whose bodies reside miles apart.


7 Things About Me.

1. First Editions last February detailed my own introduction to Sherlock Holmes. Re-reading that I realise I forgot entirely to mention a History project "The London of Sherlock Holmes" completed as one term's work when I was 12. Before proceeding, I should like to make a (very) belated apology for rampant plagiarism to Michael Harrison and his Estate. "In The Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes" was my central - and well-loved - source. It is not egotism, Watson, when I note the elation which greeted my award of 100% AND a special note of congratulation from oue distantly formidable Headmaster. I felt then as I do now that the tribute was to Holmes and not to me.  My "magnum opus" began with "Behold the fruits.." and closed Oh so romantically! with Vincent Starrett's immortal poem.

Thanks be to the Fates I still have that project.

2.  An incident the following year left me the man I have become. I pretty well drowned in the bluest, clearest Mediterranean waters you may imagine.
I had only recently learned to swim and was fine the short distances between our hired pedalos - until one accelerated away from me.Losing energy, gaining panic, I went under, way under three times. I remember clearly knowing and accepting I would not rise again. Folks, I return from the brink to tell you it is urban (marine?) legend that your whole (brief in my case) life passes before your eyes in this extremity. Nope. All I remember is being able to see the ocean floor and how beautiful it all was.

How did he escape? I hear you gasp - Or, more appropriately: "Ray, tell me how you came alive out of that dreadful chasm!"

Well, unlike Holmes, I was in it, but was saved by my best mate, Dave, who (elegant this!) went on to command submarines in a no-doubt illustrious career.

Since then, my friends. I have looked on every minute of every day as a God-given bonus - a response only deepened and broadened by the loss (the first in a life-long series) of my best childhood friend, Keith, who (having completed his training as a doctor and missionary) wrapped his Landrover and himself round the only tree for miles while night-driving across Africa to his first mission.

3. One of the joys of my life is amateur theatre. Along with school-teaching it has absorbed almost all my creative energy and any writing I have essayed. I ran school and local drama societies, directed and acted with several amateur companies in the West Midlands, Mid-Wales and (more modestly) here in Morecambe. I began and ended my teaching career directing 'The Bacchae' but have three special moments for you.

With Alan Parker's permission I directed the first amateur production anywhere of "Bugsy Malone" (from a script he approved). He wrote on his way to America ( on the Midnight Express to Fame) wishing us well...and better luck than he had with those splurge-guns!

I was on stage as The Emcee in Cabaret (my family in the audience) in The Rainbow Suite, at the Co-op in Central Birmingham , the night of the IRA bombings that destroyed two pubs just across the road. The police eventually stopped our production and ordered everyone out of the city. Yours truly fled through the night with his family still dressed and made up as The (white-faced) Emcee. Talk about surreal.

I would be about 40 when I played the Henry Fonda role in On Golden Pond (opposite, I may add, an excellent performance by my late wife, Kate). The play is (in part) about the impact of impending retirement. Norman plays the coda of the final scene alone - as he comes back on stage, looks around the summer cottage that will never feel the same again..and wordlessly leaves, closing the door softly behind him.

I remember thinking on the last night of the run as I stood (as Norman) alone for a long, pregnant beat that "the next time I do this will be for real". I have to tell you that next time comes on my 65th birthday this month.

4 -7 briefer but just as significant.

4. The sole reason I did not 'do drugs' at University is down to the first student I encountered once I had unpacked on arrival. An American (a 2nd year up early) was sitting in 3rd Court doing a passable impression of Bob Dylan (with acoustic guitar). He informed me of the drama enacted from the window above mine the previous day.A student had walked through it to his death having taken a 'bad batch' of LSD. I learned the meaning of that strange term that day...and to avoid drugs for life.

5. On full year's secondment from my Education authority I spent one halcyon year at The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham, gaining an MA in Shakespeare Studies that made it easier to accept the traditional, automatic MA Cantab.award.

Those few months under the late Professor Spencer, Dr,Stanley Wells & Tom Matheson cemented for all time my love and respect for Shakespeare's Art and gave me a grounding in bibliography for which I am deeply grateful.

6. My Yorkshire Dales Grandmother gave me the best advice I ever had. "Raymond", she would say, "When you choose your friends, always choose people who are better than you".
Those reading this are highly likely to qualify.

7. I have regrets and ambitions as I approach 65. I should not like to think I shall never act or direct again..When the inspiration comes I am ready. Almost everything I've ever written has been for teaching or theatrical use. I should like to publish some day. Perhaps this Markings Blog is a step to my next shade of Ray.

My remaining duty is to 'tag' 7 more Sherlockians and invite them to contribute to this series, emphasising that no one is under any obligation to do so. We are all Watsons here, not Moriartys.

Heidi Thiemann

Mattias Bostrom

Howard Ostrom

Maria Konnikova

John H Watson MD

Ever the rebel here Ray begs leave to break the rules and invite 2 lovely Bloggers who simply I find enriching to read as they remind me Sherlock Studies lead everywhere else.

Sally Shakti-Willow

Lynn Shepherd

You can trace the history of 7 Things About Me by clicking on Luke Kuhns



Thursday, January 3, 2013

How to Write like Doctor Watson - The Blue Carbuncle (3)

 "I beg that you will look upon it not as a battered billycock but as an intellectual problem." (Sherlock Holmes, BLUE.)

The impact of Sherlock Holmes on police methods and forensic science has been (deservedly) well documented.

Currently, the detective's observational and deductive powers are the subject or starting point for a growing and varied literature with the common purpose of teaching the general public how to think like Sherlock Holmes. Maria Konnikova's newly  published Mastermind is set to become a classic example.

Such 'self-help' books are firmly in a tradition of which Lord Baden-Powell was a trailblazer. 1908's First Edition of SCOUTING FOR BOYS refers to Sherlock Holmes , notably in Camp Fire Yarn 13 (Instances of Deduction - Sherlock Holmesism), where scouts are encouraged to read and act out the stories.

I'm sure the new generation of budding mentalists will be drawn to the Doyle originals too, inevitably encountering Dr. Watson.

With this in mind I want in this post to look at the good doctor's contribution to our appreciation of how and why Sherlock Holmes solves the case of The Blue Carbuncle.

1. The Reminiscing Narrator. 
Almost all the Canon takes the form of first person reminiscence by Dr. Watson, who, by definition, before putting pen to paper, knows as much as Conan Doyle - the whole story. 

The motivations to reminisce are, patently, love and respect for 'the best and wisest man I have ever known'; a mission to record the detective's unique skills...and an endearing gratitude and nostalgia for the adventure and purpose Holmes gave an ex-soldier leading 'a comfortless, meaningless existence' (STUD).

These motives explain the narrative approach in BLUE.

2. The Dramatic Narrative.
Boswell he may be, but Watson is no ordinary biographer. The genre is imaginative fiction not non-fictional memoir.
Glance at the TIMELINE I collated in my first post on BLUE which reconstructs the events of 5 days in chronological order. The simplest 3rd person narrator (knowing the whole story) would begin on the 22nd December and relate the events in order culminating on the night of the 27th. I leave the reader to consider in detail what would be lost had Watson chosen this path - crucially, Holmes would surrender to mere narrative his centrality in the tale as told.

Watson's focus, always, is on the Great Detective which is why three advantageous things happen to this narrative:

a) The events occurring on the 27th provide the active present for this reminiscence. Thus, the reader learns only what Watson recalls learning on the day he dropped in on Holmes during his rounds. In his enthusiasm to take us as near as possible to his friend, Watson dramatises that day, achieving the kind of vicarious experience of Holmes in action that theatre offers. 

b) Past events (back to the 22nd) are revealed in the order Watson and Holmes became aware of them, immediately allowing the narrator to showcase Holmes's observation and reasoning powers - showing not merely telling us about them. The reader may then (via Watson) see matters through the eyes of the detective. 

c) The (considerable) impact and ironies of the unexpected, the coincidental and the fortuitous upon the train of events  (and Holmes's exercise of his skills) are palpably dramatised too, along with the dawning seriousness of what began as apparently trivial. In a nutshell: the narrative approach exposes Holmes to all the vagaries and pressures real-life situations bring to bear on our endeavours. I remind the reader here of the difference between knowing how to change gear in a car and  doing it when you have yet to develop road sense, of reading a compass for the first time in a howling blizzard!

3. An Intellectual Problem.
As Blue begins we encounter a disguised artistry that Doyle (as invisible as Holmes on your trail) attributes to the pen of Watson. Suppressing the full facts in his possession in 1892 (the year of reminiscence) Watson creates  an iconic image of Holmes absorbed in a purely academic study.

Jeremy Brett as Granada's Holmes enjoying his Christmas Present.

Seemingly, the detective has all the time in the world to study Mr. Henry Baker's hat. He's distinctly odd and frankly comical. The whole of Christmas has been spent examining a hat for no practical reason.

Watson knows his readers, and they know their Holmes. A lost hat and Christmas goose are manna from Heaven for him.

The ensuing exchange is leisurely as Watson and the reader are treated to a masterclass in observation and deduction. The goose has not been neglected - exemplified by the economic precision of the label 'tied to the bird's left leg'. But  a living man's hat reasonably offers more interest than a dead goose. Not even Holmes would think to check its crop.

Just as the apparently trivial hat holds centre stage so is revealed a) the deduced history of its owner and b) how the lost items reached Baker Street.

The former prepares Sherlock Holmes's response to Baker himself at a more serious juncture; the latter illustrates the value of reputation and a network of contacts. Peterson thinks to bring the hat and goose on Christmas morning 'knowing that even the smallest problems are of interest to me.

What we have here is the equivalent of the Boy Scout motto Be Prepared. Holmes is like an athlete or footballer constantly in training, maximizing form for the big event. No wonder he is often straining at the leash for the game to be afoot! Watson is to proceed to illustrate the necessity and benefits of such committed preparation in detective work.

Before the Commissionaire's entry with the stolen jewel we have witnessed in splendid isolation the 'peculiar introspective fashion' in which Holmes daily 'dockets' apparent trivia and a useful knowledge of hat styles!

If the hat is a metaphor for deductive reasoning, the goose stands for assumption.

4. A Practical Case.

In a moment it dawns on Holmes, Watson, Peterson and the reader that the Countess of Morcar's Blue Carbuncle has sat disguised by a goose on the detective's sideboard for two whole days, an irony not regretted by Holmes who was grateful for the hat and accepts the reality of reasonable assumption occasionally limiting even the best trained observer. (His one comment - that Mrs. Hudson be asked to examine the crop of their woodcock supper -  is all wry amusement). 

This has not been a waste of energy. Nor has Holmes's regular practice of reading the latest criminal news and agony columns.Trivia and training  suddenly assume importance.

A disservice is done I think to Doyle's art by those who assert that Holmes is always one step ( at least) ahead of Watson and the reader. It does not take a Sherlock to appreciate the case is to find the robber and the method is to follow the goose trail. How and when to do so is an expert's province.
Truth be told most of us would hand the jewel in at the nearest police station and claim the reward. Such, however, is the respect for Holmes, so infectious is his curiosity that Peterson, Watson (and therefore the reader) wish to see 'the solution of so tangled a business'.

5. The Application of Advanced Skills.    
Before even finding the Times report on the Hotel Cosmopolitan robbery in his pile of recent newspapers, Holmes details the salient facts, including the reward offered. His first step (to place an ad in that night's papers) is determined by the earlier estimation of Henry Baker's character, circumstances and likely innocence. Action this day is his watchword. Holmes is acutely aware of (a) the 'singular chance' not shared by the police and (b) the serious import of the situation -

'we have so homely a thing as a goose at one end of this chain, we have at the other a man who will certainly get seven years’ penal servitude unless we can establish his innocence.'
 Peterson is used efficiently both to place the ad (in evening editions reeled off effortlessly by Holmes) and (foresight here) to purchase a replacement goose for Mr. Baker.

[ I pause here while Watson resumes his rounds to note the Puckish role coincidence has begun to play in the chain of events: Baker happened to be given this particular goose at the Alpha Inn; he happened to be set upon at 4am; uniformed Peterson happened to be in Tottenham Court Rd to rescue him.]

Henry Baker forensically quizzed and reunited with hat and a goose, the pace hots up, time is of the essence, all thought of supper delayed this frosty night. Two contrasting, economically drawn vignettes follow illustrating how to interrogate a witness. The landlord is easy, requiring only the off-hand remark ( about Covent Garden salesmen): 'Indeed? i know some of them. Which was it?'.

The exasperated, truculent Breckinridge is more of a challenge. Holmes reaches into his quiver and produces the weapon appropriate to one observed carrying a pink 'un. Rising to the bait of a bet, the market stallholder is soon eating out of Mr. Cocksure's hand, actually showing him his account books. Boy scouts, note!

The problem now for Holmes is a familiar one to him and his readers - which of two alternative courses of action to take. SCAND presented an identical dilemma outside Bryony Lodge and was resolved, as here, by coincidence (sheer luck). Just as Irene and her fiancee emerge to go to the church and a handy cab enters the street so Holmes can follow them, so the detective has no need to go to Mrs. Oakshott's tonight or in the morning - James Ryder has popped up for the umpteenth time to question Breckinridge.

Sherlock Holmes's gentle, courteous persuasion of Ryder back to 221b is a joy to behold. With him, we, surely, already know this is the man responsible for the robbery. Who else would be desperately mithering a stallholder on a freezing cold night about one stupid goose?

'It is always awkward doing business with an alias' is not only a moment of shared knowingness for the reader - it is also an illustration of how Holmes tests his man to determine how thick a skin he must penetrate. Having ascertained the (contemptible) measure of his man, the detective proceeds accordingly.

6. The Perfectionist & Professional Pride.
To agonise over the morality of releasing Ryder is to miss this short story's raison d'etre. The Twelfth Night setting and festive mood are sufficient preparation for seasonal forgiveness. Ryder's importance rather lies in his capacity to fill in the missing links in a fascinating chain and Holmes will never let him go without divulging all. Centrally, this is to fully satiate the detective's consuming curiosity and to bring elegance and order to chaotic tangle.

The Elizabethan Stage.

Watson's narrative preference for dialogue and first person sub-narration by characters animates dramas within drama, in much the way the Elizabethan stage used the inner stage.
Just as Henry Baker gave the reader a vivid film of his experience. Ryder is painfully, farcically capable of re-enacting every cuff from the hand of fate dealt out to him in spades since the robbery. Especially do we re-live with him the outrageous chain of coincidence that robs him of fortune and dignity.

Almost sick with fear at the thought of being apprehended with the jewel on his person, Ryder acts only to precipitate a chain of unforseeable events.
- his sister's geese have not yet been sold.
- she happens to come into the yard, making him drop the goose.
- there happen to be two identical geese of which he chose one out of two dozen.
- the geese happen to have been sold on...and on by the time he trudges back from Kilburn.
- Breckinridge happened to be the most unhelpful stallholder in the world. 

Holmes the detective is not merely curious. He needs this information to enrich his appreciation of how the exigencies and chance occurrences of everyday life can impact on the art of detection:
' Chance has put in our way a most singular and whimsical problem, and its solution is its own reward'.

7. Writing like Watson and Thinking like Holmes.
Conan Doyle is a very skilful wordsmith who does not confuse the varied genres in which he chose to write. Elsewhere, beyond the Canon and other fictional works, is an extensive body of books, pamphlets and speeches on a multiplicity of topics. Just one of his preoccupations is the training and equipping of young men in defence of the Empire. He can be as didactic and direct as Baden-Powell...or as indirect and illustrative as Dr. Watson.

My theme here is that we do not confuse these different kinds of literary expressions. Didacticism gives us information, advice, rules and facts. Imaginative fiction offers vivid vicarious experiences with the implicit (never stated) analogy that learning from literature has more in common with learning from life than heeding the lessons of textbooks.

Through 40 years the impact of Sherlock Holmes on Strand readers was a slow, osmotic absorption of positive,practical ways of thinking into ordinary lives. The unspoken lesson being I imagine that one came to look for the Sherlock in others and discover him in oneself.

It is my hope therefore that this study of The Blue Carbuncle may be seen as illustrative of an educational dimension to the Sherlock Holmes stories which works in a very different way from manuals of self help like Scouting For Boys. One may readily spot the protean Boy Scout in a Baker Street Irregular (you try surviving on the streets of Victorian London without Holmesian skills!) but it would be a shame to miss the first-hand, adventurous, vicarious insight afforded by accompanying one bare-foot along the Thames Docks looking for the launch Aurora.

LATE COMMENT received from Mr. Sherlock Holmes:

"Come, come, sir," said Holmes, laughing,"You are like my friend Dr. Watson, who has a bad habit of telling his stories wrong end foremost." (WIST).