6th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 10


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

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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:

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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.


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–

tempus fugit

Tempus Fugit


But that’s what happens when you play the game. And I will figure out who Holmes’ dentist was. Eventually.


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.

Victorian reading (13)



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!


vintage congrats


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!


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6th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 9

He was an invalided veteran with a permanent injury and a tiny pension who had seen far too much. All he wanted was a cheaper flat, and a flatmate who could put up with him and wasn’t going to be too difficult to live with.

What he got were the most thrilling years of his life.



Which is why, on this, the 136th anniversary of the meeting of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in the laboratory of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, today’s prize is a year’s membership in:

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Screenshot of the Society’s blog header.

This includes a subscription to:

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Also a screenshot.


…which is an excellent publication to which you can (and should) contribute, and…

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And, again, a screenshot. This is because it’s cold and I don’t want to go downstair and set up photos.

Hey, it’s lovely and pins are cool.

To find out more about the Society, visit them at http://johnhwatsonsociety.com/about-the-society/ .  To win your chance in today’s drawing, tell me the source of this Canon quote:

“I don’t think you need to alarm yourself,” said I, “I have usually found that there was method in his madness.”

“Some folks might say there was madness in his method,” muttered the Inspector.

congrats fairy and stork

Day 8 Winner!!!!!!

Congratulations to David Potter, who knew that the quote came from “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb”!





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6th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 8


It is 11:30pm, December 31, 1880, and Sherlock Holmes is in his room in Montague Street, having been chased from the lab at Bart’s a few hours ago, much to his displeasure. He thought he’d get there today–that he’d finally be able to perfect his test for human blood, and he’d end the year as one of the great contributors to criminal science at the tender age of (still) twenty-six.  He’d patent it (Mycroft could help), and he’d be able to finally move from this cold, cramped bed-sit which had no room at all for a proper chemistry lab. It could barely contain his books; he was pretty sure that the floor under the tallest pile was beginning to sag.

He should have been a bit quieter; he’d stayed this late in the laboratory before with no one the wiser, but once the watchman had heard him singing the  final bit from Don Giovanni, the old man was apparently determined that he have no one to watch. Pity. Sherlock thought he’d been doing a good job of it. The lab had excellent acoustics, and he’d given the Commandatore’s part full voice.

He could play the violin, he supposed, but the boarders on either side of him were not particularly fond of music after 8 pm. Or ever, really.

He desperately needed a new flat.

He took up the first paper from his stack of dailies. To find a new flat, he needed more money, and to get more money, he needed new cases. He might as well see what was floating around out there….

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Just how fatal?  Probably not fatal enough, but he might as well put it in the brain-attic, just in case.

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Well, he might try this. He would stop by the address to see if he could get more information. But why did they always say their lost papers were “useless to anyone but the owner?” Of course they had value to others. A clever criminal could do a lot with a deed, while an honest person would try to return it straightaway. People could be so foolish.

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Perhaps he should make a practice of riding about on trains, looking for lost objects after every stop.

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This inquest report looked promising, at first. But, unfortunately, he agreed with the Coroner. The young woman had not been drugged, but her fall had fatally damaged an already diseased liver. No one would ever be able to convince her mother otherwise, however; she would hold the tale of her daughter’s “murder” close to her heart until she died herself.

He could hear Big Ben chime in the distance. It was now the first day of January, 1881. Later this morning, he would go back to Bart’s. The Sherlock Holmes Test for Blood would surely be perfected today.

He wondered what else would happen.


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Well, if you answer this, the last Giveaway question of 2017, I know what will happen….you’ll win this: 3 famous Sherlockian classics to usher in your most well-read 2018 ever!



Jack Tracy’s Sherlock Holmes Encyclopedia


The classic Holmes biography, by William S. Baring-Gould


D. Martin Dakin’s indispensable Commentary. No dust jacket, but otherwise in superb condition.



And the quote:

Sherlock Holmes was, as I expected, lounging about his sitting-room in his dressing-gown, reading the agony column of The Times and smoking his before-breakfast pipe, which was composed of all the plugs and dottles left from his smokes of the day before, all carefully dried and collected on the corner of the mantelpiece.

As always, to enter the drawing, send your answers to me via blog comment or FaceBook messenger. See you next year!

happy new year bobby


Day 7 Winner!!!

Congratulations to Resa Haile!!! Yesterday’s quote came from the odd, but sad, “Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter.”







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6th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 7

Today, December 30, marks the 152nd anniversary of the birth of one of Britain’s other famous writers, Rudyard Kipling. Interestingly, the man whom many consider one of the foremost depictors of Britain’s imperial impulses didn’t always live in the United Kingdom–or even in the Empire. In fact, in 1894, he was living in Vermont, where Arthur Conan Doyle and his brother, Inness, came to visit him over Thanksgiving. Arthur, hoping to imitate the success of writers like Dickens, was on his first American lecture tour. He wrote to his mother, Mary, on November 20th, 1894:

We have fired off our second Boston lecture, and we now start by the evening train for Rochester which we reach at 9 tomorrow morning. We sleep very well upon the trains. Then our route runs to Elmira, Schenectady, Glen Falls, Niagara and Buffalo & so to Rudyard Kipling in Vermont, where we spend two days.

According to one of Kipling’s biographers, the man was never very enthusiastic about sport. Conan Doyle, however, with his love of all things athletic and his missionary impulses, taught his host how to play golf, and they apparently had a great time chipping golf balls all over the yard on Thanksgiving Day.

It’s common to see Sir Arthur as a sort of “hail, fellow, well met” kind of person, glad-handing everyone, always gregarious, slapping friends on the back, that kind of thing. The more one reads about him, however, the more one realizes that he was much more thoughtful and complex than that–but he did, surely have a sense of fun. What else could explain this….


On the occasion of his graduation from medical school.




Definitely not a man who takes himself too seriously.


Or this…?

ACD as Prof Challenger

As “Professor Challenger.” Apparently he showed up on a friend’s doorstep like this, only to have the startled friend slam the door in his face!


Not to mention the time he surprised his young children on Christmas dressed up as a dinosaur, or showed magicians a premiere of The Lost World without telling them that the “dinosaurs” they were seeing were not, in fact, real.

Imagine seeing this in 1925….


With his love of competition, his readiness to have fun, and a mind sharp enough to have written the Sherlock Holmes stories, Arthur Conan Doyle would be the ideal companion for your next game night.

Unfortunately, however, he’s dead, so you’ll have to make do with family and/or friends.

If you win today’s prize, however, you can still pay homage to John Watson’s literary agent and his tremendous sense of fun and adventure every time you solve The Thames Murders (and other cases):




And so now we come to the quote: Where in the Canon can you find–

“My ramifications stretch out into many sections of society, but never, I am happy to say, into amateur sport, which is the best and soundest thing in England.”

Now, this doesn’t make sense on several levels. What about the boxing? The single-stick? The baritsu?  And if amateur sport is so wonderful, why is Holmes happy to have avoided it? One gets the sense that there might have been some “editorial adjustments” to the actual words. But there they are–and if you know where they are, send you answer in via blog comment or FB message!

congrats daffodils

Day 6 Winners!

Congratulations to Marie-Claire Grondin and Noreen Pazderski–I have 2 sets of books, and so drew two names. Enjoy these two fine books, perfect for cold winter days!



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6th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 6

Well, it’s the season of giving and, unfortunately, some of us got gifts we didn’t really want.


Notice–no one has circled ANYTHING.

No, not housework stuff–although those count, too. I’m talking about all of the unpleasant viruses that come home at those times of year when we’re all crowded together and in a sharing mood.


Unintended consequences of shopping at Gamage’s.


It’s instructive to note that Dr Watson is typically much more interested in the details of a woman’s dress than he is in discussing illnesses and injuries; aside from the mention of a summer cold (brought up by Holmes, incidentally), and the occasional missing thumb, we don’t hear much about illnesses in the Canon (of course, there are mentions of Holmes’ rest cures, but those are for illnesses of a different kind).* It seems to me that General Practitioners like Watson labored under continual stress–the stresses of getting established, the stresses of getting (actually) paid, and the stress of not always having the pharmaceutical tools they needed to truly help their patients. I just finished reading a truly frightening article in the 1887 British Medical Journal in which a physician discussed using guaiacum and aconite as a treatment for quinsy (aka, peritonsillar abscess)–often accompanied by “stimulants” such as ammonia and strychnine.



Looking through various London papers from 1887 (the year Baring-Gould says “The Blue Carbuncle” occurred), one sees other possible remedies for winter illnesses. These seem (on the face of it, anyway) less horrific and occasionally amusing….

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I wonder if the unhappy John Hector McFarlane tried these?

And, for those who just overindulged, there was this remedy, apparently made of ginger, aloe, and soap (I’m guessing that soap was the active ingredient)….

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Wait…what are these called again?

One can see why Watson relied so much on brandy.

Well, hopefully no one in your family is laid up by illness of any sort this winter, but if it should happen, what better remedy than to relax on the sofa with a good book? The BSI Press has been publishing good books for many years now, and today’s prize features two of these:





Every well-read Sherlockian should have these on their shelf. To enter the drawing, you just need to tell me where in the Canon you can find this quote (and I can’t resist making it a video version)….


Send your answers in via blog comment, or message me on the Well Read Sherlockian FB page, or my personal FB page if we know each other. Meanwhile, stay well!!!!!


*If you’re interested, you might want to check out Janet Oppenheim’s Shattered Nerves: Doctors, Patients, and Depression in Victorian England. It’s an amazing book–and Holmes is actually mentioned.

vintage congrats birds


Day 5 Winner!!!!!

Congratulations to Ruben, who knew that the Day 5 quote came from “The Mazarin Stone.” I know that this is not the most original, or popular stories in the Canon, and some even believe it’s not a true Watson tale, but it has some wonderful exchanges, and this is one of my all time favorites!


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6th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 5

So…my youngest has discovered the joys of stamp-collecting this year. I did this myself, when I was just a little younger. Because of the cost and mess involved (buying those orange bags of hundreds of stamps, soaking the stamps from envelopes, spreading them out on paper towels to dry, etc.), I typically did all of my collecting activities at my (very tolerant) grandmother’s house.



Grandma, circa 1981

I was much more interested in the pictures on the stamps–how pretty they were. To me, they were little paintings. My son is of the “American Pickers” generation; right now, he’s poring over a stamp guide, trying to figure out the (potential) value of his small collection. Let’s hope you find one of these, son. College is expensive.


Rarest. Stamp. Ever.


He doesn’t have any yet, but there are quite a few Sherlock Holmes stamps out there–enough to make a nice little collection all on their own. Here are some featuring The Hound of the Baskervilles….


This hound is seriously scary.

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This is gorgeous.

These were both taken from the excellent site, “The Philatelic Sherlock Holmes,” part of a larger look at detective fiction and philately, put together by T. Russell. You can learn more here: https://www.trussel.com/detfic/sholmes.htm

Scary, beautiful, mysterious, legendary, or just a poor, mistreated dog, The Hound will forever be one of Conan Doyle’s most famous and enduring creations. Which is why, even though he had nothing to do with it, Grosset and Dunlap/Harper decided to put the photo of the most famous Holmes of his time, William Gillette, on the cover of its 1903 version of HOUN. It’s beautifully fitting–the man who kept Sherlock Holmes alive by making him flesh, coupled with the novel which began his journey back from the dead. This version tends to be common and pretty affordable, so this is the third time (I think) that I’ve offered it as a Giveaway Prize. It’s also the in the best condition I’ve ever seen. The binding is tight, the colors bright, the corners sharp, and there don’t seem to be any markings. The photo of Gillette, pasted on the cover, is a little faded/scratched, and the front flyleaf is not torn, but is fairly creased. Other than that, it looks almost as it might have the day someone bought it. The sad part about that is that it means that the person who owned it probably never read it; the exciting part is that one of you gets to enjoy it!






To enter the drawing and possibly win this for your bookshelf, just tell me where in the Canon one can find the following quote…


“You won’t die in your bed, Holmes.”

“I have often had the same idea. Does it matter very much? After all, Count, your own exit is much more likely to be perpendicular rather than horizontal. But these anticipations of the future are morbid. Why not give ourselves up to the unrestrained enjoyment of the present?”

Once you have your answer, send it on to me via blog comment or FB message (either to the Well Read Sherlockian FB page, or my own personal one).


Day 4 Winner!

Congratulations to Ching-Ju Teng, who knew that yesterday’s quote came from the always fascinating (if strange) “A Case of Identity.”

congrats girl


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6th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 4

Writing is hard.

Writing blog entries is hard.

Writing this blog entry is especially hard.

I swear, last year, I wrote nearly all of my blog entries in the space of a few days, because I knew we’d be travelling. Seriously, I was ON FIRE!


It wasn’t that awesome, but close.


Not this year.

Writing is like that, sometimes. If you write, yourself, you’ve likely had the experience of having friends, family, or day-job coworkers say something that makes it very clear that they believe writing is something easy you just dash off in an hour or two–that it’s some kind of fun, relaxing hobby, like coin collecting, or knitting, or flying model planes. After all, reading is fun, so shouldn’t writing be as well?

knitting photo

Ok. Maybe knitting isn’t that fun.

But sometimes, the words just aren’t there, and when a few deign to make their appearance, they seem suspiciously like words you’ve written before. It’s at times like this that I sympathize with Conan Doyle’s fear that he was going to repeat himself, Holmes-wise.


This may have happened once or twice.

At such times, it’s often best to put yourself out of your misery, and move on to another task–if you can. And if you can’t well, do the best you can, and remember that, many times, the words which came easily and those which did not are indistinguishable in the end.

Hopefully, every article in today’s prize was an utter joy to write–but even if they were not, I am sure they will be a joy to read.

Sherlock Magazine was a British periodical which ran from 1991 to the 2000’s–for a total of 68 issues. From 1996-2006, it was edited by the talented writer and editor David Stuart Davies, BSI. The magazine began as a simple black-and-white gazette, and ended as a colorful glossy. These issues are from that time period.

















(I’m hoping the images stay aligned, but you know that’s a pipe dream!)


And today’s quote?

“The husband was a teetotaler, there was no other woman, and the conduct complained of was that he had drifted into the habit of winding up every meal by taking out his false teeth and hurling them at his wife, which, you will allow, is not an action likely to occur to the imagination of the average story-teller.”

To enter the drawing, of course, send your answer in via blog comment or FaceBook Messenger–either to the Well-Read Sherlockian FB page, or to me personally, if we’re FB friends.  And here’s hoping that any writing you’ve got to do is the flowing, magical kind!


Day 3 Winner!

Congratulations to Shalom Bresticker! As all of you brilliant people knew, Day 3’s quote was from The Valley of Fear.



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