Monday, September 12, 2016

The Web of Spiderlock

There is a trend in the words of Sherlock Holmes that might be worth notice: his webs.

Yes, Sherlock Holmes has webs. Like a spider-man. Figuratively? Probably. But attend.

Inspector Athelney Jones is the first person in the Canon of Holmes to spin, in The Sign of the Four:

"You see that I am weaving my web round Thaddeus. The net begins to close up on him."

Holmes eventually cuts Thaddeus free from Jones's web, but then it not above spinning one of his own, in "The Five Orange Pips:"

"I think that we may gain that by means of the law: but we have our web to weave, while theirs is already woven."

And later: "No; I shall be my own police. When I have spun the web they may take the flies, but not before."

Looking at the probable dates of the tales, Holmes was surely spinning his web before Jones. (Fi on thee, single-spouse chronologists!) And how does that web-spinning go?

Not well for Sherlock Holmes. Not well at all. His client dies and he must depend upon Mother Nature's whims to dispense justice. Almost as if Mother Nature was telling him to stick with compounding the spirit of the busy bee and stay out of spider territory.

For after "The Five Orange Pips," Sherlock Holmes does not play the spider again. But Moriarty . . . ah, Moriarty is always Holmes's spider. The Valley of Fear, "The Final Problem," and even a memorial moment in "The Norwood Builder."

After Sherlock's web was first brought to my attention by the Sherlockian sages of St. Louis this weekend, I had dreams of discovering a Sherlock whose chemical experiments led to him being bitten by a radium-affected spider, but following his webs . . . or just the appearance of that word . . . leads just where we always thought it did, to where that "poisonous motionless creature is lurking."

Holmes was told by Inspector MacDonald that "you have a wee bit of a bee in your bonnet over this Professor." Interestingly, before MacDonald's comment, I don't think we have any evidence of Holmes studying bees. And what happens when a bee goes after a spider?

The same thing Watson recorded happening at Reichenbach falls. Both die.

Maybe not the best strategy for dealing with spiders, but it gets the job done. Especially, if, like Sherlock Holmes, you're not really a bee . .  . but a wasp.

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