|Holmes overpowers Von Bork|
I was unexpectedly asked to offer a toast to Von Bork, Sherlock Holmes’s antagonist in the chronologically last Sherlock Holmes story, at the Gaslight Gala a week ago today during the Baker Street Irregulars & Friends Weekend in New York. The wording follows. And at the end – answers to a quiz!
More than 50 years ago, when I was in the seventh grade, I first read, fell in love with, and memorized the final paragraph of “His Last Bow.” And so, it is a great joy and a singular honor for me to propose a toast tonight to a key character from that story – one for whom I retain a special fondness.
You no doubt recall that on the second of August, the most terrible August in the history of the world, two famous Germans stood talking in low, confidential tones beside the stone parapet of a garden walk on the English coast. The glowing ends of their cigars resembled some malignant fiend looking down in the darkness. It is to one of them that we raise our glasses now. He was Sherlock Holmes’s last known opponent . . . but was he truly a villain? Well, you shall judge for yourselves.
I refer, of course, to “a remarkable man . . . a man who could hardly be matched among all the devoted agents of the Kaiser” –
· A man who was a master spy, the most astute secret-service man in Europe;
· A man who, as a born sportsman, yachted against his hosts, hunted with them, played polo, matched them at every game, and took the prize at Olympia;
· A man who grudged Altamont nothing and paid him well;
· A man who was a kind master by his own lights, trying to protect his servant Martha by sending her to Germany along with his wife in August 1914;
· A man whose cousin Heinrich was the Imperial Envoy when Sherlock Holmes prevented a scandal in Bohemia;
· A man who owned a remarkable wine, an Imperial Tokay, from the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph’s special cellar at the Schoenbrunn Palace;
· A man who could have inspired a new village inn called The Dangling Prussian had he been so foolish as to shout for help while being kidnapped by Holmes and Watson;
· A man who was the herald of an East Wind coming, such a wind as never blew on England yet;
· And a man who – despite all of that – was never accorded a first name in the text!
Fellow Sherlockians, let us lift our glasses of Imperial Tokay – we wish! – and toast our favorite German spy, Herr Von Bork, by saying –
Here are the answers to Karen Wilson’s quiz on “Sherlockian Firsts and Lasts” at the Gaslight Gala.
1. C. August Dupin
2. Beeton’s Christmas Annual
3. “A Scandal in Bohemia”
4. “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place”
5. “‘The Gloria Scott’”
6. A Study in Scarlet
7. “How are you?”
8. “His Last Bow.”
9. D. H. Friston, Charles Altamont Doyle
11. William Gillette
12. The Hound of the Baskervilles
13. The Voice of Terror
14. The Last Sherlock Holmes Story
15. The Final Solution
16. Sherlock’s Last Case
18. The Benedict Cumberbatch
20. 1992 (although the decision to admit women to the BSI was made in 1991 and that is their investiture year)