Monday, April 13, 2020

Remembering the Violets

Heather Holloway brought up an interesting problem on Facebook today, that of remembering the names and stories of all four ladies named "Violet" in the Canon Holmes.  Nobody remembers all four all of the time.

Violet Hunter is a favorite, probably the most remembered. Violet Smith has that forgetable last name. Violet DeMerville is memorable if you're into "Illustrious Client," but not everyone is a Casebook fan. And Violet Westbury? Dull role in a dull story that's only saved by a Mycroft appearance.

My first thought was to sing a song with all four in it, the way many of us learned our ABCs. My initial attempt ran, in my mind, to the tune of that restaurant birthday song, "Happy, happy birthday, on this your special day . . ." It went.

"Hunter got a haircut,
"Smith she rode a bike,
"DeMerv was caught by Gruner,
"Westbury's tale had brother Myke! Hey!"

Too many syllables in that last line, and Dayna Nuhn brought in Violet Stoner from Doyle's own adaptation of "Speckled Band" for the stage.

I always remember Violet Hunter due to all the theories that she was Sherlock Holmes's sister, after he mentioned thinking of her as such in "Copper Beeches." Holmes is a hunter, to be sure, so that one can be easy mental lock, if you're into Holmes having a nether a mastermind nor child-detective sister.

Violet Smith? That's a tough one. An earlier generation might picture cowardly Dr. Smith from the original Lost in Space fleeing an alien monster on a bicycle for a handy mnemonic. Picturing her pounding out the parts of her bicycle at a village smithy's anvil might work.

Violet DeMerville will always be Wonder Woman for me, with Baron Gruner looking a lot like Doctor Psycho, since Holmes called her a "wonder-woman in every way" and Gruner was a psycho, but that comic book reference might not work for everyone. She was the fire to Kitty Winter's ice, and maybe the thought of Adelbert Gruner's burning face might match her to "Illustrious Client" for you.

And Violet Westbury? The best way to remember her would seem to be that she had to bury her fiance, Arthur Cadogan West, in "Bruce-Partington Plans."  "West-bury" equals "Bury-West?" How could Doyle name characters in such a cheesy way, right?  He wouldn't do that, would he? Which suddenly turns me to a new theory.

Remember the thought that Violet Hunter was Sherlock Holmes's sister? What if Violet Holmes wound up meeting a young government clerk whilst visiting her eldest brother, fell in love, got engaged and than that young man was suddenly dead with his reputation in question? Wouldn't she pull in both of her brothers to deal with the matter? And wouldn't John Watson also want to disguise her name in a story he couldn't resist placing before the public? And disguising her name with "West-Bury" as he made sure the public knew Cadogan West's name as that of an innocent man?

Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?

So now you only have three Violets to remember. (We're not counting that renaming of poor Julia Stoner by Watson's agent.)  Life is good.

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