Monday, March 10, 2014

John Watson, M.D., the 1.0 version

When The Baker Street Irregulars Manuscript Series published Angels of Darkness in 2001, almost nobody in the Sherlockian world considered it a part of the Sherlockian Canon . . . and why should they have? It didn't have Sherlock Holmes in it.

But what of the Watsonian Canon? John Watson, M.D., San Francisco practitioner, certainly appears in its pages. It was written by Arthur Conan Doyle. It was the little secret from Doyle's closet that John Dickson Carr mentioned in the same work he wrote of those debated black mourning bands at the time of Holmes's death. Before John H. Watson of Baker Street, there was definitely a John Watson of San Francisco.

The same John Watson?

It is so, so easy, just to say "no," and let it go at that. A lot of folks are into easy these days. Unless it's spelled out in black and white, able to be footnoted and indexed, it's not worth considering. But that wasn't the spirit that brought Sherlock Holmes to life, that has had Sherlockians of old looking for the house in which he lived, that explained how a war wound could be in two places at once, or brought Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler together to produce at least one literarily viable offspring.

Once I finally read Angels of Darkness, though, I had to consider the evidence of that John Watson whenever I've counted John Watson's wives. Even with the recent wedding reception in Sherlock "The Sign of Three," the Angels of Darkness, despite all its odd racisms, is the one place we get an actual Watson wedding on record, as Watson's lady love is asked to swear, "That he is yours, and you are his until death do you part."

Reconciling Angels of Darkness and "The Country of the Saints" (part two of A Study in Scarlet) is no little feat, but as the original title of Angels of Darkness, crossed out by Conan Doyle himself, was indeed A Study in Scarlet. So if facts were altered, one would tend to believe it was in the second draft. It makes for a very interesting study of the Conan Doyle/John Watson relationship as well.

The best studies of Sherlock Holmes or Dr. Watson have been those willing to make that initial stretch to connect the little evidence we have of them to our historical records, and the opportunities offered by the pre-Canon apocrypha has its charm as well. And what is that charm's name?

Lucy Ferrier-Watson. The first, and most American, of Watson's wives. And like all of Watson's wives, she shared a certain secret . . . that I'm saving for June.

And June is the month for brides, after all.

1 comment:

  1. Brad, I'd like to send you a free review copy of my new novel "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle & Harry Houdini in The Adventure of the Spook House" in eBook or paperback form. How can I get it to you? Please reply to C. Michael Forsyth
    (I don't see contact info for you.)
    Info on book at