|Sherlock Holmes in "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane"|
Like anyone who deals with the Press, Sherlock Holmes knows that the only way to ensure complete accuracy is to write it himself. This he does early in his acquaintance with Dr. Watson, penning an article called “The Book of Life.” “From a drop of water,” he writes, “a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other.” Not knowing that his new roommate was the author, Dr. Watson’s reaction upon reading this is unambiguous: “What ineffable twaddle! I never read such rubbish in my life.”
Aside from his monographs, Holmes as writer is best known as the author of two of his own later adventures, “The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier” and “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane.” In addition to these stories, he is almost certainly the author of two long letters to the editor of daily newspapers in which he attempts to solve puzzling crimes from his armchair. These are recorded in two short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, published as part of his Round the Fire series in The Strand magazine in 1898 while Holmes was believed dead.
In “The Man with the Watches,” we read: “There was a letter in the Daily Gazette, over the signature of a well-known criminal investigator, which gave rise to considerable discussion at the time. He had formed a hypothesis which had at least ingenuity to recommend it . . .” The strict logical framework of that letter, written in 1892, leaves little doubt as to identity of the “well-known criminal investigator” in question.
And there can be no doubt at all as to the author of a letter to The Times of London on July 3, 1890, as reported in “The Lost Special.” The letter starts out with this tell-tale introduction: “It is one of the elementary principles of practical reasoning that when the impossible has been eliminated, the residuum, however improbable, must contain the truth.”
In addition to clearly having the same author, these two letters have one other thing in common: They both set forth theories that are flat-out wrong. I think, therefore, that the reason Arthur Conan Doyle recorded these cases rather than Dr. Watson is quite . . . elementary.