The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a casebook of twelve short mysteries by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930).
It contains A Scandal in Bohemia, The Red-Headed League, A Case of Identity, The Boscombe Valley Mystery, The Five Orange Pips, The Man with the Twisted Lips, The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, The Adventure of the Speckled Band, The Adventures of the Engineer’s Thumb, The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor, The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet and The Adventure of the Copper Beeches.
I have picked A Scandal in Bohemia, because it is the beginning of the interesting relationship between Holmes and Irene Adler.
‘To Sherlock Holmes she is always THE woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler’
He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen, but as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position. He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer.
I wonder if Doyle also believed that giving way to ones true feelings and allowing them to be seen and perceived by others, was equal to admitting weakness. Perhaps even lowering oneself to the level of a woman, who during that era were still treated like overgrown children. To be seen and only heard when it suited.
Doyle was in an emotional relationship with Jean Elizabeth Leckie for almost the entire length of his first marriage. He married her a year after the death of his first wife. He found Leckie to be intellectually stimulating and I also wonder if she was his real life Irene Adler.
Watson and Holmes had drifted apart since Watson’s marriage. Watson is busy enjoying the strict margins of societal rules, whilst Holmes loathes ‘every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul’, no big surprise there then.
buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature. He had risen out of his drug-created dreams and was hot upon the scent of some new problem. Watson ‘You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear‘
Sherlock passes Watson a note, which notifies him of the imminent arrival of a mystery guest, who intends to come masked. The stranger references Sherlock’s ability to handle confidential matters and secrets pertinent to national security.
You may address me as the Count Von Kramm, a Bohemian nobleman. every precaution has to be taken to quench what might grow to be an immense scandal and seriously compromise one of the reigning families of Europe.
At this point Sherlock has tired of the pretence and confronts his visitor with his true identity, the hereditary King of Bohemia. He demands to know the reason for his visit.
I made the acquaintance of the well-known adventuress, Irene Adler.Your Majesty, as I understand, became entangled with this young person, wrote her some compromising letters, and is now desirous of getting those letters back.
‘She threatens to send them the photograph. And she will do it. I know that she will do it. You do not know her, but she has a soul of steel. She has the face of the most beautiful of women, and the mind of the most resolute of men.’
Sherlock sets out, in one of his many disguises of course, to discover more about this alleged temptress. Everyone spoke of her beauty and grace, but they also spoke of a handsome, dark, male visitor, who visited her almost daily.
Sherlock follows the couple and two things happen, firstly he sees Irene for the first time and secondly he catches their attention.
I only caught a glimpse of her at the moment, but she was a lovely woman, with a face that a man might die for, before I knew where I was I found myself mumbling responses which were whispered in my ear, and vouching for things of which I knew nothing, and generally assisting in the secure tying up of Irene Adler, spinster, to Godfrey Norton, bachelor
Sherlock is highly amused by the fact he was just roped in to being a witness for Adler’s wedding. He asks Watson so play along with his next scheme, getting inside her house and distracting Irene to locate the blackmail items.
It was not merely that Holmes changed his costume. His expression, his manner, his very soul seemed to vary with every fresh part that he assumed. The stage lost a fine actor, even as science lost an acute reasoner, when he became a specialist in crime.
Their task is retrieving the letters and the photographs. Knowing of course that previous attempts to find the blackmail items have been unsuccessful. The two of them are quite the couple when it comes to scheming.
It must be where she can lay her hands upon it. It must be in her own house.””But it has twice been burgled.””Pshaw! They did not know how to look.””But how will you look?””I will not look.””What then?””I will get her to show me.””But she will refuse.””She will not be able to.”
With the help of associates the two men create a scuffle, a fake crime and physical fight. Irene falls for the ruse and soon Sherlock is sat inside her living room playing the hurt victim.
I know that I never felt more heartily ashamed of myself in my life than when I saw the beautiful creature against whom I was conspiring, or the grace and kindliness with which she waited upon the injured man
Watson is outside waiting for the command to through a smoke bomb into the house to create a panic and diversion. Sherlock hopes that this will entice Irene to reach for the hiding place.
I saw him raise his hand and at the signal I tossed my rocket into the room with a cry of “Fire!”
Sherlock is quite enamoured with his brilliant plan, which worked like a charm. The two of them plan to go back the next day to confront Irene and get the photograph. As they are walking along Baker Street revelling in their combined aptitude and brilliance a young man greets them.
“Good-night, Mister Sherlock Holmes.”There were several people on the pavement at the time, but the greeting appeared to come from a slim youth in an ulster who had hurried by.”I’ve heard that voice before,” said Holmes.
It isn’t until the next day that Sherlock understands he has been had at his own game of musical moustaches and multiple personalities.
Not for one moment does Sherlock even consider the possibility that perhaps someone has turned the tables on him, outdone him at his own game of cat and mouse and bested the master detective.
The rather smug disguise artist plans to retrieve the photograph from its hiding place in Adler’s home, but is shocked to find he is not only expected, but also that his prize has flown the coup. Irene has been kind enough to leave a letter of explanation.
‘MY DEAR SHERLOCK HOLMES,—You really did it very well. You took me in completely. Until after the alarm of fire, I had not a suspicion. But then, when I found how I had betrayed myself, I began to think. As to the photograph, your client may rest in peace. I love and am loved by a better man than he. The King may do what he will without hindrance from one whom he has cruelly wronged.
How eloquent, how cheeky and how very unexpected for Sherlock Holmes. A woman has been able to get the best of him, but not in the same way as his Nemesis. How confusing, perplexing and what a completely new experience for Holmes.
how the best plans of Mr. Sherlock Holmes were beaten by a woman’s wit. He used to make merry over the cleverness of women, but I have not heard him do it of late. And when he speaks of Irene Adler, or when he refers to her photograph, it is always under the honourable title of the woman.
This is the beginning of a long, intricate and mesmerizing relationship between Adler and Homes. It isn’t the last we see of the femme fatale in Doyle’s stories.
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