Friday, March 24, 2017

"J.H. is in Europe."

Since I wrote about John H. Watson appearing in only a handful of stories by that name, I remembered another curious detail. In A Study in Scarlet, the first of the few John H. stories, we find a telegram in one murder victim's pocket that reads "J.H. is in Europe."

Stranger still, the first two initials "J.H." figure in three other cases as well.

True, one is the Scowrer bodymaster of Chicago in 1875, J.H. Scott.

And one is the "J.H." monogram on Joseph Harrison's locket. Why does Joseph Harrison seem to carry a locket with his own initials on it? Hmm.

Lastly, of course, is a "drab-coloured notebook" with the initials "J.H.N." and the date "1883" on the very first page. Hmm again.

The year 1883 is of interest as it's the year of the first case Watson undertakes with Holmes outside of A Study in Scarlet, and we don't hear of another case mentioned specifically by year until 1887. A notebook that starts with the year 1883 immediately puts on in mind of Dr. Watson's own notes, which probably started at that time. (A Study in Scarlet's case being such a surprise to the doctor that he couldn't have been prepared to take notes.)

What makes the phrase "J.H. is in Europe" so interesting is that among Watson's literary agent's papers was found a certain account of John Watson and Jefferson Hope in San Francisco. One of them gets the girl and the other one dies, and the villains of the piece are the very ones who meet their end in A Study in Scarlet.

Having said that Watson wasn't taking notes at the time of A Study in Scarlet leads one to conjecture that he might have "improvised" certain facts in the case. And once on that trail, Pandora's Box opens up to a curious Sherlockian mind.

What if the "J.H." who was in Europe was not a live Jefferson Hope, but the spectre of a man who died in San Francisco haunting those who contributed to his demise? A spectre who was embodied by a living man whose very name took on the spirit of vengeance he carried with him? 

A man named "John Hope Watson," perhaps?

Reconciling the manuscript entitled "Angels of Darkness" with the published record A Study in Scarlet has always been a challenge for Watsonian scholars, even if John H. Watson was an innocent participant in all of the events documented. But if he was not so innocent, and his first case with Sherlock Holmes was one where the detective lured his prey to Baker Street, not by calling a cab, but by looking for a room-mate . . . well, things really get interesting.

This is all mad conspiracy theorizing off a few slender threads of coincidence, of course. Nothing to see here, right? We can all move along in our love of . . . that guy BBC Sherlock had murdering someone in the very first episode . . . did Moffat and Gatiss know something we don't and were hinting at a conspiracy much deeper than Johnlock?

Hmmm, again . . .

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