Last night, thinking of my kids’ dental appointment, I had an idea for today’s post. It would be about Holmes having a dental appointment, with a few advertisements taken from London papers from that year. After all, I knew Watson had used it in a deduction.
I realized that the deduction I was remembering wasn’t from the Canon proper, but from a little story called “How Watson Learned the Trick,” which Conan Doyle wrote for The Queen’s Doll House in 1924. You can read it here: https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php/How_Watson_Learned_the_Trick . No matter, I told myself. It still works, and I can still find a “toothy” reference for the quote.
I headed over to my favorite site, The British Newspaper Archive, to search for some particularly interesting dentists’ ads. Like this
Yes, when I look for a dentist, I am most concerned with how that individual employs capital and labour. This has to be the world’s first example of directed advertising, as it was clearly meant for these two particular gentlemen:
It dawned on me that perhaps I could find crimes involving dentists–possibly even one involving our detective. And while I have no idea if Holmes had a hand in their capture, I did find these two dentists/fraudsters:
I had to suppose that it was just as hard to set up in practice as a dentist as it was for a physician. This assumption was backed up by a lengthy article in the Pall Mall Gazette for the 22nd of November, 1894. Apparently it was considered very poor form for dentists and physicians to advertise; therefore, when you see ads for such services in Victorian British papers, you’re seeing people who are not fully qualified with an “LDS,” a diploma for a Licentiate in Dental Surgery. According to the Pall Mall Gazette,
It cannot be too frequently reiterated that the man who advertises thereby stamps himself as unqualified. The properly qualified dental surgeon is under obligation exactly similar to those of the medical man not to advertise. (22 November 1894, p.2)
In “How Watson Learned the Trick,” Holmes gave his dentists’s name as “Barlow.” I realized that, as a scientific man, Holmes would likely insist on an LDS; I would not, therefore, be likely to find this dentist in the newspaper adverts. The Pall Mall Gazette mentioned a directory of dentists and, luckily, I was able to locate several volumes from various years online. Unluckily, while there were several dentists with the last (or middle) name “Barlow,” none of them were located in London.
I postulated that, perhaps, in order to avoid “stalkers,” and assuming that Watson would care about Holmes’ safety more than he would about steering business to his dentist, “Barlow” was not the man’s actual name. Maybe it was “Harlow,” or “Marlow,” or even “Carlo.” No dice.
I had only been able to find directories for about 5 years, and they were clustered together. I had not done a thorough search of the census records for 1871, 1881, 1891, or even 1901. Nor had I done a search of obituaries. Using all of the name variations, of course. I could also just look at likely locations and see if any of them led to “Barlow.” After all, Watson had to have a reason for picking that name.
ALL THE WHILE,
I was also cleaning a bathroom, doing several loads of laundry, answering kids’ questions, washing dishes, taking the dog out, making dinner, and then I realized–
But that’s what happens when you play the game. And I will figure out who Holmes’ dentist was. Eventually.
IN THE MEANTIME…
This night’s prize is a fun one–your very own 3-month book club, in which 3 recent Sherlock Holmes books are sent to you, one per month. Last year, there were three new books by prominent authors scheduled. This year, I am unaware of anything new, so I will send the winner a list of possible choices, and allow them to pick three.
To enter the drawing, just identify the Canon source of this quote…..
“My collection of M’s is a fine one,” said he. “Moriarty himself is enough to make any letter illustrious, and here is Morgan the poisoner, and Merridew of abominable memory, and Matthews, who knocked out my left canine in the waiting-room at Charing Cross, and, finally, here is our friend of to-night.”
Send me your answer via blog comment, or message me on the Well-read Sherlockian FaceBook page!
And remember to brush and floss twice a day!
Day 9 Winner!!!!!
Congratulations to Dr. Nishant Kumar, who knew that the Day 9 quote came the “The Adventure of the Reigate Squires (Puzzle)” and will shortly become the newest member of The John Watson Society!