Thursday, May 16, 2019

The secret origin of Basil of Baker Street

Ever wonder how a mouse named Basil came to live at 221B Baker Street with Sherlock Holmes and John Watson?

I was thinking about another Basil of that period, who was also given that name at a time when it was very popular, a fellow named Basil Rathbone. Rathbone was born and named "Philip St. John Basil Rathbone" on June 13, 1892. Which made me wonder: Was Basil, The Great Mouse Detective, also born around that time?

I think he was.


Well, from May of 1891 to April of 1894, 221B Baker Street did not have anyone living there. Sure, Mrs. Hudson was being paid to keep it left alone, which meant she probably didn't go in there a whole lot -- I mean, how often do you bother to even dust an empty apartment? And what is an empty apartment perfect for?

Breeding mice.

Sure, Mrs. Hudson would eventually bring in some cats and traps and maybe an exterminator to get rid of the growing colony of rodents, but consider the side effects of that gambit. Any mouse that makes it through all that alive and remains at 221B must certainly be the cleverest mouse of the bunch. Sure, he may have had a less-intelligent best friend who survived simply by sticking close to the rodent genius, but when all other mice had either fled or been killed, the mouse that was standing tall when Sherlock Holmes returned in April of 1894, especially a mouse whose brain evolved far enough to read Holmes's notes in the empty apartment . . . well, that would be some mouse.

Sadly, the lifespan of even the cleverest of mice is so short that we can probably assume Basil never made it to Sussex Downs. (Bees might be a problem for a creature his size, one would expect.) But at least he seems to be riding on new highs of popularity, thanks to a generation who imprinted upon his movie, and has now made it into The Great Sherlock Holmes Debate, where his is a mouse among men, the only Sherlock not named "Sherlock" in the competition.

I may have my only little issue with allowing a Basil in a Sherlock competition, there already being a Sherlock Holmes in Basil's universe, but you have to give that product of Baker Street Darwinism his due, I suppose. He's done pretty well for himself.

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