Consider, for example, the most significant woman in the lives of Holmes and Dr. Watson -- their long-time landlady, Mrs. Hudson:
- We don't know what she looks like.
- We don't know how old she is -- she could be younger than the two men, for all we know.
- We don't know her first name. (Vincent Starrett's widely accepted identification of her with the housekeeper Martha in "His Last Bow" is a sentimental favorite, but pure speculation.)
- We don't know who Mr. Hudson was or what happened to him.
Mrs. Hudson, the landlady of Sherlock Holmes, was a long-suffering woman. Not only was her first-floor flat invaded at all hours by throngs of singular and often undesirable characters but her remarkable lodger showed an eccentricity and irregularity in his life which must have sorely tried her patience. His incredible untidiness, his addiction to music at strange hours, his occasional revolver practice within doors, his weird and often malodorous scientific experiments, and the atmosphere of violence and danger which hung around him made him the very worst tenant in London. On the other hand, his payments were princely. I have no doubt that the house might have been purchased at the price which Holmes paid for his rooms during the years that I was with him.
In the story that follows, the resident of 221A Baker Street gets one of her few speaking roles. Of the 15 stories in which she appears (including one where Watson gets her name wrong), it's the one where gets the most ink. It has been left to pastiche writers to occasionally give her an even bigger role.
But Holmes does heap high praise on her -- by his standards -- in "The Naval Treaty." "Her cuisine is a little limited," he says, "but she has as good an idea of breakfast as a Scotchwoman."
What's your favorite Mrs. Hudson story?