It's funny how the smallest crack can sometimes bring down the largest edifice. Something that seemed so solid once, suddenly fractures and falls apart, just due to that first small crack. Maybe the crack didn't even cause the destruction, maybe it was just the one sign of great internal pressures that were destined to break things up in any case. But the crack comes first.
This week, I saw, for the first time, a very real crack in one of Watson's statements about getting married. "It was a few weeks before my own marriage . . ." he writes in the beginning of "The Noble Bachelor," and then the good doctor goes on to write about his current state: living in Baker Street, nursing his war wound, staying indoors, and reading newspapers for a while until he's decides to just, in his own words, "lay listless."
The man is a few week's from taking responsibility for a household, taking a woman from her paying job to be a Victorian housewife, and he doesn't have a job yet? He's not making plans for moving out on his own? He's basically just being that bum from The Sign of Four who was worried a blonde with a treasure wouldn't want to date a "half-pay surgeon."
Which then takes one back to Watson's "wooing" of Mary Morstan, which the door to 221B Baker Street eventually reminds him of in "A Scandal in Bohemia," for some reason we never learn.
Watson's period of dating Mary Morstan before proposing marriage is less than two days. The Sign of Four is a mystery novel, not a love story, so we never focus on this ridiculously non-existent courtship, but strip away that mystery and look only at the dating part and . . . .
Well, Watson just gets this immediate crush on a woman he's just met, and she gets put into a position where she doesn't want to hurt the feelings of a guy who just did her a big favor. And maybe she agrees to something she really doesn't want.
Watson's best friend refuses to congratulate Watson on his hasty decision to marry. And, as we saw in "Noble Bachelor," Watson really wasn't making much of an effort to get ready for the marriage.
So did he really get married a few weeks after that day in October 1887? Or did someone leave out a word from the phrase "a few weeks before my own planned marriage?"
When one then considers that the line occurs in the telling of a tale of a woman who escaped a bad match on her wedding day, the thought that Mary Morstan didn't marry John Watson when he implies she did really gains strength. And these days I know we have a lot of partisans who will happily take up the fight that John Watson was struggling with his love of a someone else at the time he got the wild idea to marry Mary out of the blue.
Getting Watson off the couch and into a chapel may have not been the slam dunk many Sherlockians have always taken it to be. And seeing that problem just starts with one . . . little . . . crack.