Sherlock Holmes on the World Stage
A Guest Post
by Richard T. Ryan
author of Sherlock Holmes adventures
Throughout his long career, Sherlock Holmes was employed by several of the ruling houses of Europe. In “A Scandal in Bohemia,” he was retained by the King of Bohemia to retrieve a certain compromising photograph. In “The Noble Bachelor,” Holmes informs Lord St. Simon that his “last client of the sort” was the King of Scandinavia.
In “A Case of Identity,” Holmes shows Watson the snuff box he had received from the King of Bohemia as well as a ring that was a gift “from the reigning family of Holland.” And in “The Final Problem,” Watson tells us that he saw in the papers that Holmes had been engaged by the French government “upon a matter of supreme importance.” In that same story, Holmes himself tells us “the recent cases in which I have been of assistance to the royal family of Scandinavia, and to the French republic, have left me in such a position that I could continue to live in the quiet fashion which is most congenial to me…”
And we know that the Great Detective had been employed by the British government on several occasions, including “The Naval Treaty” and “The Bruce-Partington Plans,” which resulted in Holmes spending the day at Windsor and returning with “a remarkably fine emerald tie-pin.”
We also know from “The Three Garridebs” that Holmes could have been Sir Sherlock Holmes. As Watson tells us, “I remember the date very well, for it was in the same month that Holmes refused a knighthood for services which may perhaps some day be described. I only refer to the matter in passing for in my position of partner and confidante I am obliged to be particularly careful to avoid any indiscretion.”
And if kings, queens and noblemen weren’t enough, we are informed by Watson that Holmes was called upon by the pope on at least two different occasions.
If more proof were needed of Holmes’ stellar reputation, Watson describes him in “A Case of Identity” as “unofficial adviser and helper to everybody who is absolutely puzzled throughout three continents.” A remark that caused Baring-Gould to opine “the two continents, other than Europe … is an interesting subject for speculation.”
We learn of Holmes traveling to America in “His Last Bow,” which came much later, and Holmes sends Watson to Switzerland in “The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax,” and the two of them were also there in “The Final Problem.”
In “The Reigate Squire,” Holmes travelled to France while investigating the Netherland-Sumatra Company and Baron Maupertuis. While in “The Golden Pince-nez,” we are told that Holmes received the Legion of Honor and a personal letter of thanks from the French president for the tracking and arrest of Huret, the “Boulevard Assassin.”
So in effect, Holmes was quite well-known throughout Europe, and while we hear of the various cases that the Great Detective undertook on behalf of the continent’s movers and shakers, the fact is that just about the entire Canon is set in England.
Now, I am of the belief that when you can hire a Sherlock Holmes to solve your problems, you do it. Obviously, it’s a belief shared by any number of other writers, who have Holmes lending a hand to various governments around the world -- not to mention, traveling through time, to solve still more “pretty little problems.”
As a writer, what I am endeavoring to do, along with any number of others, is to give Holmes what I consider his just deserts.
As an author and a fan, I want Holmes working on the biggest, most important cases possible. To that end, I have him retained by the Pope in “The Vatican Cameos” and then employed by the British government in “The Stone of Destiny.” In both books, the fate of a nation rests on Holmes’ shoulders.
Now while I hold the short stories in the highest regard, I am simply trying to fill in the blanks as it were. I wanted to know more about the Vatican Cameos, and since Doyle is no long with us to write the story to which he alludes, it fall on others to lend a helping hand.
By the same token, I find the allusions to such cases as the Boulevard Assassin, the giant rat of Sumatra, the Abernetty family, the two Coptic patriarchs, the Paradol Chamber, the Trepoff murder in Odessa and the services Holmes performed for the Sultan of Turkey too tantalizing to resist.
I can remember on my first reading of the entire Canon looking forward to those tales, only to realize that they were never going to be told by Doyle.
Since that time, some of these have already been essayed.
There are probably no fewer than six different versions of the Giant Rat of Sumatra available as well as a version of the Paradol Chamber, Colonel Warburton’s Madness and many other untold tales.
There are also books that find Holmes joining forces with the luminaries of his time, among them Harry Houdini, H.G. Wells and in one novel, Holmes and Watson set sail for America aboard the Titanic.
At any rate, we can content ourselves with the Canon, or we can take the abundant hints that Doyle provides in his untold tales and other allusions and try to add the enjoyment of Sherlockians by devising new cases and new deductions and new plots.
A noted Sherlockian has remarked on more than one occasion that there are only “six plots among the short stories.”
So we are faced with a choice: We can either continue to reread the stories, knowing how they end, but looking for the myriad things we missed on our earlier readings. Or we can examine the seemingly endless stream of new pastiches, separating the wheat from the chaff as we do so.
However, since I don’t believe that the first two options are not mutually exclusive, we can do both.
Opting for the latter offers us the same opportunity as Tennyson’s Ulysses “to seek a newer world” in the company of old and trusted friends where it’s always 1895 – or thereabouts.
About Richard T Ryan:
A lifelong Sherlockian, Richard Ryan is the author of The Vatican Cameos and The Stone of Destint, both Sherlock Holmes Adventures.
He is also the author of The Official Sherlock Holmes Trivia Book as well as a book on Agatha Christie trivia.
A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, where he majored in medieval literature, he is a die-hard fan of the Fighting Irish.
He has been happily married for 40 years and is the proud father of two children