At tonight's gathering of the Hansoms of John Clayton, Peoria's own little Sherlockian society, the topic centered upon "A Case of Identity," one of the most criticized stories of the whole Sherlockian Canon. Well, maybe the story isn't exactly what gets criticized so much as the client, to whom the whole mystery is a mystery to begin with. And that's where a curious new perspective came up.
"How stupid can she be?" has been the battle-cry for discussions of "A Case of Identity" for as long as I can remember. Miss Mary Sutherland, who makes her living at a typewriter, can't seem to tell one man from another simply because he disguises himself, primarily with a pair of glasses.
Sound like any other fictional character of note that we know?
Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane made her living at a typewriter keyboard, and was courted by a fellow in glasses who was really someone else in her life . . . Superman. Superman, of course, was not Lois's step-father (that we know of). Lois also had the benefit of just being one of the many citizens of Metropolis who were fooled by that simple disguise. She was just the one who should have had the best vantage point to see through it.
And it was Superman fooling Lois. The same thing happens to you and the guy without his disguise is James Windibank, the travelling claret import buyer . . . well, you don't quite get the same credit as Lois Lane.
But what if Miss Mary Sutherland had seen her fiance get into that four-wheeler that arrived at her wedding chapel empty and later discovered he had "Up, up, and away!"-ed out of the cab and off to stop some disaster on the other side of London? What if Mr. Hosmer Angel had turned out to be the Victorian Clark Kent? Would we still consider her such a dim bulb?
It's all in who's fooling you with that silly glasses disguise, I guess. Now that I see Mary Sutherland as the Victorian Lois Lane, I might have a little more respect for her the next time I read that tale.
If only she got to whack her step-dad with a little kryptonite . . . .