Friday, December 2, 2022

"Watson -- the matches!"

 Looking into something else last week I got intrigued by a little interaction between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, where Holmes was asking his friend for a match. Like those instances where the detective had the doctor read things for him, it immediately makes the curious Sherlockian go, "Did Sherlock Holmes not carry matches? Was Watson his match-boy?"

The most energetic version of this happens in "The Red Circle," when Holmes gets permission from Mrs. Warren to smoke and Holmes immediately exclaims, "Watson -- the matches!" with all the energy of "The game is afoot!"

One would expect that the need for a smoke, be it cigarette, pipe, or cigar to mean match supplies were a fluid situation in Baker Street, but in "Norwood Builder," when Holmes wants to set a bale of straw on fire, he says, "I believe you have some matches in your pocket, Watson." It sounds a little like Watson is his walking utility belt there, but in "Speckled Band," Sherlock produces a box of matches and a candle in Helen Stoner's bedroom without asking Watson.

Sherlock Holmes does suddenly strike a match for dramatic effect on occasion without prefacing it by asking Watson. And as "Altamont" his years working alone in America seem to have gotten Holmes practiced at carrying his own matches.

Yet "Might I trouble you for a match?" he politely asks Watson in "Final Problem," when he's evading Moriarty's minions and stops at Watson's house. And he asks Watson to "just hold a match" in "Golden Pince-nez." And Watson is quick to light Gregson's lantern in the darkened room in the aforementioned "Red Circle."

After studying upon the issue for a bit, it seems that the Holmes/Watson relationship was the same with matches as it was for so many things: Watson, the steady and reliable man who thought to keep matches on his person, and Holmes the unpredictable, ever-changing spirit whose inner fires, like his match supplies, rose and fell.

Even the little things are interesting with these guys.

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