After yesterday's blog about Thurston the 221B-wrecker, I was left pondering that off-screen character and what little we know about him.
First, I pondered his lack of first name.
Second, I pondered how close "Thurston" sounds to "Morstan." Sherlockians like to make much of the "Mor" prefix in the names of folk in Holmes and Watson's lives, but who else besides Thurston and Morstan have that "rst-n" sound? The Earl of Carston? He's not even a proper character.
Third, I started wondering if Thurston might have been a woman.
So I headed back to the Canon to check on Thurston and found that Holmes definitely calls him a "he," and there is that whole "hanging out at Watson's club" thing. Not too many co-ed clubs in clubland of Watson's time.
So Thurston was definitely a dude.
But having associated Thurston with Morstan, the reverse thought started creeping into my head.
Yes, Mary Morstan is definitely portrayed as a woman in The Sign of the Four, wherein Watson proposes to her. But in no other story does Watson's "wife" get referred to by name, no details of their wedding come up, no children are mentioned . . . the best domestic details we get are just Watson complaining about the maid, whom he does refer to by name ("Mary Jane"), or that she does needlework and has friends who come to her when they are troubled.
"Mary" is such a common name that we don't tend to remark that the maid and the wife had the same first name. But there it is.
So, just speculating for a moment, if Morstan and Thurston were one in the same and Thurston was a man . . . and a Watson who had set up housekeeping with another man needed a name for his "wife" as he wrote his second novel . . . well, there was that pesky Mary Jane.
The Morstan that Watson left Baker Street for being a man would explain a lot about the whole "he's married, now he's not married, now he's married again" thing that Sherlockian chronologists have alway dealt with. If Watson was not legally married, yet had someone he referred to as his "wife," then he could flicker back and forth between marital states as that stormy-seeming relationship proceeded. When Watson finally did leave Baker Street once and for all with Morstan/Thurston and Holmes calls it "the only selfish action" -- singular -- it makes more sense.
One had to wonder if, in 1941 when Rex Stout proposed to the Baker Street Irregulars that Watson seemed to have feminine characteristics, he had flat-out proposed that Watson was simply gay . . . well, it's impossible to wonder that, since the attitudes of the time would never have allowed it. Now that most of us are more accepting of such relationships, however, the Canon provides us with some all-new angles for fresh perspectives.
Such as a gender-swapped Harry Morstan, whose Canonical first name was borrowed from the maid. As Sherlock Holmes himself said . . .
"I never get your limits, Watson," said he. "There are unexplored possibilities about you."