Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Hope of visiting 221B.

Rob Nunn raised an interesting question tonight on Twitter about A Study in Scarlet. To save you a couple of clicks, I'll quote it here:

"The address of 221B was in Holmes’ advertisement about the missing wedding ring when Jefferson Hope dodged Holmes’ first trap. If Hope is smart enough to do that, surely he would be smart enough to recognize that same address popping up a second time in such a short span, especially with the intimate knowledge of streets and addresses that London cabbies have. So my question is, why did Hope agree to pick up someone at 221B?"

As Holmes's opponents go, Jefferson Hope was a great one. Sure, he's not as "pure Evil" as the more black-and-white might like, but that is part of what makes the best villains -- a firm conviction that they are doing the right thing.

"You may consider me to be a murderer; but I hold that I am just as much an officer of justice as you are," Hope tells Holmes, Watson, and Lestrade after his story is done. While this Hope is much more noble in some ways than the Jefferson Hope of BBC Sherlock's "A Study in Pink," they do share certain interesting qualities: They both know their time on Earth is soon to be over and neither one worries too much about walking into Baker Street. The two facts most likely go hand in hand.

The original Jefferson Hope was taken by surprise when Holmes slapped handcuffs on him and responded with a "roar of fury" and tried to escape by crashing through a window. (Quick trivia: How many people broke windows at 221B Baker Street? I can think of two, including Hope. More?) But once Jefferson Hope was quite kindly once the shock had passed. He had the instincts of a wild mountain man, but also the perceptions of a gentleman. In fact he seems almost like a proud grandfather when he talks about Holmes getting those handcuffs on him:

"I was standing in the yard when a ragged youngster asked if there was a cabby there called Jefferson Hope, and said that his can was wanted by a gentleman at 221B, Baker Street. I went round, suspecting no harm, and the next thing I knew, this young man here had the bracelets on my wrists, and as neatly shackled as ever I saw in my life."

Jefferson Hope is an older fellow, having successfully accomplished his life's mission of vengeance, and is just kind of letting things play out. And while he may recognize the address at 221B Baker Street, he has no reason to associate it with law enforcement. In fact, the coincidence of it being the same address he had the ring retrieved from probably just made him all the more curious as to what the resident of that flat was all about -- it actually added incentive for him to return, since he wasn't fearing capture too much anyway, being on the side of justice and with not much time to live. Otherwise he would always wonder . . . which almost takes us to a reverse of the "always wonder" that almost got Sherlock killed in the BBC Sherlock appearance of Hope.

Perhaps I have that latter adaptation too much on the brain of late, but the TV Jefferson Hope's tortured cry of "MORIARTY!" lines up interestingly with the Canon Jefferson Hope's reticence to give up the name of his accomplice who fooled Sherlock Holmes, getting the lost wedding ring back in the guise of old "Mrs. Sawyer." We know that Holmes supposedly only first met Moriarty in "The Final Problem," but Moriarty's appearance in The Valley of Fear already raises questions about some details of that earlier record. Could it be that a decade-younger Moriarty took a little more active hand in criminal adventures and owed a favor to a London cabbie on a mission of vengeance?

That's the thing about the Canon of Sherlock Holmes. You try to answer one question, and you just wind up with at least one more.


  1. I agree, Rob's points are very interesting, and I am happy and amazed that you found them on Twitter! We invite you and your readers to find more of Rob's insightful observations at artintheblood.net. I can't seem to log on to my WordPress account, but this is Le Chat Noir. Ciao from Roma!

  2. I can totally see our current Moriarty doing a little cross-dressing to help out canon Hope so as to be owed a favor. And now I'm mixing up my canons. Canon? Canoni?