Thursday, May 27, 2021

The untold tale that hides in plain sight

 "Eight of us, five convicts and three sailors, said we would not see it done."

James Armitage, Evans, Beddoes . . . those are the names we know of the original eight who escaped from the convict-ship Gloria Scott. Hudson, the burned survivor they picked up after, bedevilled them, but what of the other un-named five? We hear nothing of them. Or do we?

There's another little mystery of the bad ship Gloria Scott, which came up tonight during our discussion of "The Sussex Vampire" at Peoria Public Library's Sherlock Holmes Story Society, that of Sherlock Holmes's famous index.

"Make a long arm, Watson, and see what V has to say."

Holmes, of course, is not speaking of the hero of V for Vendetta, but his homemade encyclopedia. And in that "V" volume, he reads: "Voyage of the Gloria Scott. That was a bad business. . . . Victor Lynch, the forger. Venomous lizard or gila. . . .Vittoria, the circus belle. Vanderbilt and the Yeggman. Vipers. Vigor, the Hammersmith wonder. . . . Vampirism in Hungary. And again, Vampirism in Transylvania."

Everything in that volume seems to fit, with the exception of "Gloria Scott."

Wait . . . Sherlock Holmes read "Voyage of the Gloria Scott." And there's the "V." But such an ordinary noun, not a proper noun at all. Or is it?

It only took a few seconds of Google searching to encounter passenger lists from ships of the 1800s on with folks whose last name was "Voyage." A few of them, actually.

And we have five un-named survivors of the Gloria Scott, two or three of them criminals. Is it possible, one of them was named "Voyage?"

"That was a bad business," Holmes says, "I have some recollection that you made a record of it, Watson, though I was unable to congratulate you upon the result."

Is that just a disparaging remark on Watson's published case "The Gloria Scott?" Or something more, a mention of a story that Watson actually couldn't form into an account worthy of publication. The story of Holmes and Watson's encounter with an unrepentant criminal name Voyage, still active after escaping the prison ship that was supposed to make sure he stayed in Australia.

A yet untold tale hiding in plain sight.

Who was this man Voyage, and how bad was his business? Did Holmes specifically track him down, along with the other mystery men of the Gloria Scott? Or was it just a chance encounter between the career criminal and the greatest detective in England, which is not so much chance given those two professions?

I am definitely intrigued.

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