It’s Christmas Eve, 1881, on Baker Street. Night has fallen, bringing with it a gentle snowfall, muffling the sounds of carriages below.* As Mrs. Hudson is preoccupied with preparations for tomorrow’s lavish dinner, our flatmates have made do with a hastily prepared cold supper and are now sitting before the fire in their favorite chairs, nursing glasses of port while Holmes’s pipe scents the air with–not shag, thank heaven, but a nice cherry-scented tobacco, courtesy of Dr. Watson, who presented it to him in a prettily-wrapped gift box. Holmes deduced it was wrapped by the tobacconist’s shop girl because, while Watson can stitch up anything (including human flesh, as the detective has good reason to know), he is rather hopeless with paper and ribbon.
And now it’s Watson’s turn to open his gift. What, might we deduce, could it be?
At first, I thought that perhaps Holmes would splurge on his friend. After all, we do get subtle hints in the Canon that, “country squires” notwithstanding, the Holmes family is not hurting for funds. Either that or, despite the fact that A Study in Scarlet is 1881’s only recorded case, and Watson does not seem to be practicing medicine that year, Holmes is taking on plenty of bread-and-butter PI work that we know nothing about. So, given that we know Watson has an eye for clothing, and Holmes is very neat and dresses well, I imagined the latter might treat his friend to a session at the tailor’s for a new suit of clothes. Like this one:
Or perhaps he would buy Dr. Watson a subscription the The Lancet. The January 14, 1882 issue would feature articles on such fascinating topics as a “Lecture on Lithotrity at a Single Sitting with Additions, and an Analysis of 101 Cases”; “Abstracts of the Lettsomian Lectures on Diseases of the Testicles and Their Coverings”; “A New Form of Guide Catheter”; and, one Holmes might go for, “The ‘Strange Confession’ in Staffordshire.”
I realized, however, that Sherlock Holmes is nothing if not observant and, while he may choose to ignore social niceties when it suits his cause (and, even in the Canon, has said some rude things), he is fairly sensitive to the needs of others. So he would realize that an extravagant gift, such as a suit, when his flatmate is making do on a pension, might be embarrassing, and that a medical journal could serve as a reminder of dreams denied or at least deferred. What Watson really needed, he might have decided, watching his flatmate rubbing his shoulder/favoring his leg whilst staring out at a dreary December day, is escape.
Hence, his gift:
Oh, wait. Let’s look inside….
Holmes obviously bought all three volumes.
This leads us to today’s question—
What canonical evidence do we have that Watson would find this a good gift? And, for brownie points (but not actual brownies), what error accompanies this reference?
Unfortunately, I was unable to find the London, 1881 imprint of An Ocean Free-Lance, but given the dubious attractiveness of the cover, that’s probably not a bad thing. Instead, I offer the winner this lovely edition—
I have never read this–or any of Russell’s work–but going from the cover, Watson was in for some rousing adventures that might ease some of his winter gloom.
As always, to win the prize, be sure and submit your answer to today’s question to me via blog comment, or FB message. I will draw the winner tomorrow evening, to give everyone time to respond. And now, I have one more Christmas gift to finish, if the dogs and kids will let me! Happy Christmas, all!!
* I know. It’s London. It’s more likely to be rain, but work with me here, ok?
**If you wish to read A Ocean Free-Lance for, well,free, follow this link: