Friday, September 6, 2013

Hound, Chapter Three: The Wizard.

Before entering the third chapter of The Hound of the Baskervilles, let's hear a few reviews of the famous consulting detective from four other cases:

"I believe you are a wizard, Mr. Holmes!" -- Inspector Stanley Hopkins

"Mr. Holmes, you are a wizard, sorceror!" -- The Prime Minister of all of Great Britain

"Mr. Holmes, you are a wizard." -- Mr. James M. Dodd

"Holmes, you are a wizard." -- Dr. John H. Watson

If you were going to ask for the opinions from credible sources, could you do any better than a Scotland Yard detective, a head of state, a military man, and a doctor who had observed the subject closer than anyone? Could anything be more convincing?

Well, perhaps seeing something for yourself. Now let's step into chapter three of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Pay attention now, you won't want to miss this. Dr. Watson is shuddering over Mortimer's pronouncement that he saw the footprints of a gigantic hound. Sherlock Holmes leans forward -- watch closely now -- glitter shoots from his eyes.

And now, we're blind. Glitter shot from Holmes's eyes, and now every person ever to come into this chapter can't see a thing. We can hear the voices of James Mortimer and Sherlock Holmes, talking back and forth, but we can't see a thing. It's like listening to a radio show with the rapid fire patter of a joe Friday impersonator in a Jimmy John's commercial. Think I'm kidding? Describe a single person or thing in 221B Baker Street during their conversation. How is Holmes sitting? What is Mortimer doing with his hands? Name one object in the room you didn't see in the previous chapter. Can't, can you?

Glitter shot from Holmes's eyes, we're all blind to everything in the sitting rooms. Believe he's a wizard now?

The conversation continues for a page or so, we listen in, and finally, Sherlock Holmes slaps his hand against his knee. We can see again! Holmes, you are a wizard!

Okay, that was a bit of a print parlor trick, but at least now we see Holmes shrugging, Mortimer looking at his watch, a few little details along the way. It's a little disconcerting to see Holmes display his wizardly powers on mere tourists in his novel, but if there was ever a chapter for it, it's this one, as James Mortimer is revealed to be a sort of lesser Sherlock Holmes who has fallen from his true faith of science and logic, and is starting to allow the possibilities of the supernatural to creep in.

Is Holmes really a wizard? Of course not. Is that big demon dog on the moor a supernatural entity created by a deal with the devil that created a curse? Mortimer is starting to wonder, enough to bring Sherlock Holmes in, almost like a priest having doubts and going to a senior priest to restore his faith.
 At this point in touring the chapter, we usually follow Watson out to his club when he makes his exit. It's like hanging out at your friends' house on a work night, you can stay until about nine before heading home to 221B. Not as wild and woolly as visiting Hugo at Baskerville Hall, to be sure.

After the weird little wizardly bit, all the talk of diabolical forces, and demon hounds that came earlier, though, it's nice to finally get back to 221B and just let Sherlock Holmes show you what things look like on an ordnance map of Dartmoor. I've always liked this part, but I'm a map person, even in this age of data phone guidance. And Holmes has been smoking his clay pipe of meditation, rather than the cherrywood of disputation. He's curious about the goings-on in Dartmoor, but not fiesty about it -- obviously his faith in a logical explanation has not been nearly tested so much as Mortimer's.

Well, yet, anyway.

Settling in with a map is a good way to end a long, hard day at 221B Baker Street. And then get rested up for a busy morning in Chapter Four. We may even get to see what a live Baskerville looks like.


  1. I am enjoying your commentary on the canon immensely. I wish you would do this for all 60 stories of the scared writings. That would brighten my day immensely.

  2. Agreed. Brad's site is the only Sherlockian site I'm visiting these busy days. And well worth the effort. He entertains, he makes us think, he makes us laugh, and he challenges us.

    Jolly good show...

    And now back to the mountain top...

  3. Well I visit many Sherlockian sites, but this is the only site I check everyday. Your contribution to Sherlockiana is priceless. Just like Holmes, you can also rightly be called a wizard. I have read your thought provoking One...More ...Read. And I'm sure that this new kind of approach to all the stories will also be a gift to us readers.