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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Deep Dive into Holmes & Wimsey

My recent blog post on Sherlockian references in Dorothy L. Sayers’s Strong Poison elicited an amazing communication from my friend Sandy Dreier Kozinn. She sent me an incredible 16 Word documents analyzing the Holmes-Wimsey connections book by book. She plumbed the depths more deeply than I ever could have.


With her permission, I offer now as an example of this fine work her perceptive analysis of Whose Body?, the first Wimsey adventure. She occasionally refers to Lord Peter as LP. The page numbers refer to an omnibus edition, Triple Wimsey, from Harper & Row. (The volume also includes Murder Must Advertise and Strong Poison.)  


Subtitle – “The Singular Adventure of the Man with the Golden Pince Nez” is a clear reference to “The Adventure of the Golden Pince Nez” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes.


General:  Bunter sounds a lot like Brunton, the butler in “The Musgrave Ritual.”


Ch. I, p. 13 – “enter Sherlock Holmes, disguised as a walking gentleman”


Ch. II, pp. 24 & 25 –  the references to coffee and brandy are reminiscent of the two favorite beverages in the Canon. 

            p. 33 – “unless he [Levy] was a most consummate actor” –  which Holmes, of course, was, as is stated variously in the Canon.

            p. 38 – “Did you realize the importance of that?”  LP asks Parker.  The whole conversation, including LP's put-down of Parker, reads like a bit out of the Canon with Holmes chiding Watson for his lack of deduction from observation.


Ch. III, p. 49 –  LP tells Sugg it would take a whole rose-garden to cure him of being an ass.  Why roses, not particularly known for their medicinal properties?  As an homage to Holmes' famous “consider the rose” speech in “The Naval Treaty,” of course.


Ch. IV, p. 61 – “my name is Watson,” Peter informs us upon realizing he's overlooked a clue.

            p. 66 –  Bunter, to get information, disparages Peter with “up again to call him early to go off Sherlocking at the other end of the country.  And the mud he gets on his clothes and his boots!”   Holmes, of course, can tell where mud comes from by simply looking.


Ch. V, p. 90 – “Good parchment paper written with a fine nib by an elderly business man of old-fashioned habits.”   Holmes is always making deductions from letters; the paper is especially relevant in “A Scandal in Bohemia,” whereas the handwriting deduction stems from “Reigate Squires.”

            p. 91 –  the response to Peter's ad is reminiscent of the many cases in which Holmes, too, knows how to use ads to gain information.

            p. 92 & 93 –  Holmes also knows how to make deductions from mud on boots, LP here does it with typical Sherlockian thoroughness.

            p. 96 – “What a dull Agony Column!”   This was Holmes’s daily reading, too.

p. 106 – “the aged spider sitting invisible in the centre of the vibrating web” – “He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson... He has a brain of the first order.  He sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them.”  – “The Final Problem”  


Ch. VI, p. 124 –  Gladys Horrocks goes out to the Plumbers’ and Glaziers’ Ball; was this a reference to the gasfitter's ball attended by Miss Mary Sutherland, whose father was a plumber in the Tottenham Court Road, in “A Case of Identity?”


Ch. VII, p. 151 – “...it's only in Sherlock Holmes and stories like that, that people think things out logically.”


Ch. VIII, p. 164 –  Peter’s brain “felt like a hive of bees....”  and, p. 166, Freke writes “Conscience in man may, in fact, be compared to the string of a hive-bee...”   When WHOS was written, of course, Holmes was busy tending his bees in Sussex, as DLS knew.


Ch. IX, p. 186 –  LP is glad he's puzzled Parker because it makes him “feel like Sherlock Holmes.”   Later on, on the same page, Peter remarks that he is “Ready to tackle Professor Moriarty or Leon Kestrel or any of ’em.”


Ch. X –  LP's deductions while querying Piggoty and the way he uses details to build up his inferences are reminiscent of Holmes.


Ch. XI, p. 211 –  LP’s “mind had been warped in its young growth by “Raffles” and “Sherlock Holmes...”


Ch. XII, p. 228 – “when a great brain turns to crime...”  is very like “When a doctor does go wrong he is the first of criminals. He has nerve and he has knowledge” from “Speckled Band” in phrasing and meaning.


Ch. XIII, p. 251 – “mixed with an almost unknown poison.”   Holmes, too, dabbled in poisons.



  1. Dorothy L. Sayers was clearly a great admirer of Sherlock Holmes; but the reason why roses should cure someone of being an ass has nothing to do with "The Naval Treaty" and a great deal to do with "The Golden Ass" of Lucius Apuleius.

  2. There are several good pastiches out there with Holmes and Lord Peter encountering each other. It turns out that Holmes is Peter's godfather. (I'm in the middle of rereading the Lord Peter books right now - I'm up to "Strong Poison" - and there are a lot of Sherlockian references scattered throughout.)