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Monday, July 30, 2012

T. S. Eliot and Sherlock Holmes

Perhaps the greatest of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries is this: that when we talk of him we invariably fall into the fantasy of his existence."
-- T.S. Eliot, in a review of The Complete Sherlock Holmes Short Stories, 1929
Perhaps there's a reason for that, T.S.

Many commentators have noted T.S. Eliot's devotion to Sherlock Holmes. For example, the great poet's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats contains a verse about "Macavity: The Mystery Cat," who is identified in the last line as "the Napoleon of Crime."

In his verse play, Murder in the Cathedral, Eliot has a long passage obviously drawn from the Musgrave Ritual. And the use of the word "Grimpen" in the poem "Little Gidding" seems to come from the Great Grimpen Mire in The Hound of the Baskervilles.

But I may have discovered a new connection between Eliot and Holmes.

In "The Adventure of the Priory School," Holmes notes that his bank is Capital and Counties on Oxford Street. Leslie S. Klinger's New Annotated Sherlock Holmes points out that Capital and Counties, also ACD's bank, was acquired by Lloyds Bank in 1918.

Young T.S. Eliot worked at Lloyds from 1917 to 1925. Presuming that Holmes continued his relationship with Capital and Counties into his retirement years, and stayed with the successor bank, T.S. Eliot could have been his banker.

Someone else may have already made this connection, but I am not aware of it.


  1. Interesting - we're posting a link to this on our site at The TS Eliot Society UK - let's see what our members make of it!

  2. TS Eliot certainly recommended Conan Doyle's writing to eager young readers, amongst other 'leisure' authors including Lewis Carroll, CS Lewis, Rudyard Kipling and Edward Lear. Privately, and for his own amusement, TSE was an avid reader of the green and white covered Penguin crime series, and in particular the Inspector Alleyn stories of Dame Ngaio Marsh.

    Eliot's role at Lloyds was not what in modern parlance would be described as 'customer facing' but related more to foreign and commercial 'high finance'. It was certainly not as boring as he liked it to be thought to have been. His opinion was respected by the Directors of the Bank, but the role was probably 'soul destroying' mainly as a consequence of being entirely materialistic and unrelated to TSE's primary interest in the'inner' spiritual life.

  3. Also when we read the poem Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat one can find that the character of Skimbleshanks is drawn heavily from our good old detective. And Macavity who is the opposite of Skimbleshanks reminds me of Prof. Moriarity, the arch enemy of Sherlock.