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Friday, August 19, 2011
Watson Was a WHAT?
Ever since reading Kieran McMullen's blog post about a female Dr. Watson, I've been thinking of Rex Stout's scandalous essay "Watson Was a Woman." I haven't written about it until now only because I wanted to first retrieve a certain letter from my safety deposit box.
Stout delivered his astonishing revelation orally at meeting of the Baker Street Irregulars on the night of January 31, 1941. Ellery Queen, in the book In the Queen's Parlor, called it an H-Bomb -- H for Holmes, of course.
The talk appeared in book form in several places, including the Edgar W. Smith-edited Profile by Gaslight, where it is followed by Dr. Julian Wolff's rebuttal, "That Was No Lady." I hope you can find a copy of the book and read both; I am simply not up to the task of summarizing their very entertaining verbal gymnastics.
Long an admirer of Stout's Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin mysteries, I wrote the author a letter when I was 14 years old asking him which story he considered his best and positing the outrageous theory that Archie was the true author of "Watson Was a Woman."
Displaying the graciousness which always characterized him, Stout took the trouble to write a young boy the letter above, which I keep in my safety deposit box 45 years later.
The postage on the letter was five cents, but to me the contents have always been priceless.