Thursday, June 30, 2022

Sherlock Holmes The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle | Thoughts on Chapter 4

Sherlock Holmes The Hound of the Baskervilles* [HOUN] by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle | Thoughts on Chapter 4

(*First published in a serialized fashion by The Strand Magazine August 1901 - April 1902. SPOILERS AHEAD)

It's time to meet Sir Henry Baskerville, and no matter how many times we meet upon re-reading, I am surprised by his appearance. In my mind's eye, Sir Henry is a big Hoss-looking fair-complected fellow with ruddy cheeks. Instead, "a small, alert, dark-eyed man about thirty years of age, very sturdily built, with thick black eyebrows and a strong, pugnacious face." Gotcha... Houdini. Although most likely not because it wasn't until 1920 that ACD and he met over what would become opposing ends of the Spiritualism debate.

Any ol' how, Sir Henry is down one new boot and up one ominous anonymous note of warning. The note was sent to the Northumberland Hotel, a place he'd only be known to be staying at if being followed. Its contents were cut from the previous day's Times edition and pieced together. Cut out with a pair of nail-scissors and affixed into place via gum, not glue. Holmes knows his newspaper prints and spots the Times font, see. As alluded to, he also can differentiate gum from glue. I'm not set to focus on either of those things though.

But nail-scissors. Or bent nail scissors as they appeared in The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge [WIST] (1908). From that case "Short as the two snips are, you can distinctly see the same slight curve in each." But the Romans had bronze nail clippers by around the 3rd or 4th century and in the late 1800s patents filed on both sides of the pond seem quite the same as our modern technological conveniences. So why are so many folks seemingly running around London then with nail-scissors, or at least have them so much more at hand than other scissors?

First I should come clean that my mother actually owned a pair I'd occasionally allegedly steal when I was in a paper cutting jam such as, hypothetically, a grade-school collage art protect. I also recall seeing them at a store just recently while trying to find a pair of mustache scissors. That said, this Holmes trick seems a bit stale, not here in Hound, but by there later in Wisteria. Maybe not stale, but lazy. Lazy-stale. It's one of those things plugged in to demonstrate how fine-toothed the comb of H is while squeezing the last drops out of a thing.

Also, why the deuce does it matter here? We get it was a rush job via other clues.

Alas, it bothered me a decent tick but ahead we bravely forge to see H somewhat flub a chase and then employ a kid to dig through the trash of twenty-three hotels, looking for the remnants of a swiss-cheesed newspaper. A mission he admits most likely won't end in success. So an H focused on something unnecessary, followed by a botch, and then a wild goose chase which costs 33 shillings. There were 20 shillings in a pound. A pound today worth a bit over one USD. Why do I waste everyone's time with stuff like that?

This chapter is a bit of a spastic mess and it's no surprise then, the next chapter's title. The way they keep Henry in the dark for a bunch of it is odd and makes the surrounding dialog and scenario seem unnatural. The one saving grace of it all is one which exists in my headcanon alone, or at least not in the text, and that is Holmes linking in his mind how a boot would most likely be beneficial to a quite earthly and not otherworldly hound. I think he knew for sure at that point that he wasn't matching wits with Satan and, of course, that only man sends letters and wears fake beards.

It's just people hounding people and perhaps this is a whole chapter of H letting his guard down. Or at least that's maybe what this is partly 'aboot.' A bit of Canadian accent and footwear humor puts a ribbon on my thoughts here. Although maybe this wraps it up better--or worse--regarding the boot: "It seems a singularly useless thing to steal." said Sherlock Holmes. "I confess that I share Dr Mortimer's belief that it will not be long before the missing boot is found." I can't wait to read the fifth chapter, Three Broken Threads.

Thoughts on Chapter 3
Thoughts on Chapter 5
::: very :::

Online sources for this article: The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia (HOUN, WIST), Wikipedia (Nail clipper)