Thursday, May 23, 2019

A trail of Arthur-crumbs.

Among the golden nuggets found during tonight's discussion of "Priory School" at Peoria's North Branch Library was one that was very new to me, and worth a blog post. I don't remember how Mary O'Reilly phrased it exactly, but the gist was this:

Why would Conan Doyle give a character in a story his own name?

The Duke's son, ten-year-old Lord Saltire who attends the Priory School, is named Arthur. As in "Arthur" Conan Doyle.

Those of us who dabble in fiction didn't think that giving a character in our story our own first name was something one would naturally gravitate toward. And yet Conan Doyle does it more than once. Actually, a lot more than once.

His first Sherlock Holmes novel, the first person who gets arrested . . . Arthur.

His second Sherlock Holmes novel, the missing father of the client . . . Arthur.

His first book of Sherlock Holmes short stories, the wrongly accused son . . . Arthur.

His second book of Sherlock Holmes short stories, the alias of a thief . . . Arthur.

His third book of Sherlock Holmes short stories, the kidnapped son . . . Arthur.

Still, in that third book of short stories, the up-and-coming forger . . . Arthur. Dammit!

Thought I had a pattern going, of one Arthur per book.

But fourth novel of Sherlock Holmes, guy who needs a place to stay . . . Arthur.

The fourth book of Sherlock Holmes short stories, a murder victim . . . Arthur.

The fifth book of Sherlock Holmes short stories, the guy writing the preface . . . Arthur.

The Hound of the Baskervilles is the only Sherlock Holmes book without an Arthur, unless you count Casebook since it's Arthur is Arthur Conan Doyle's preface. But let's take this odd pattern a step further. Authors don't seem to use their own first name for one character, much less eight. And what word does "Arthur" look very, very close to?  "Author."

So if John H. Watson was actually using Arthur Conan Doyle as a literary agent and changing a few of the names along the way, what would it tell us that two of the books were without an "Arthur?"  Maybe a tip-off that Watson wasn't the "Arthur" of those books?  We've heard tales of how Doyle based Hound on a moor ghost story he heard from Fletcher Robinson. And we know Casebook has a tale completely lifted from a Doyle play. So the pattern seems to fit, doesn't it?

John H. Watson, leaving us a trail of bread-crumbs as he acknowledged his literary agent in every single book he was responsible for. And then when the practice stops, so apparently, had he.

Walp, it's a theory anyway!

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