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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Toast to a First-Rate Villain

Holmes and Watson confront Charles Augustus Milverton    
One of the great traditions of Sherlock Holmes gatherings is to toast characters from the stories. I was honored to toast the title character in “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton” at the Gaslight Gala on Jan. 13 as part of the Baker Street Irregulars & Friends Weekend in New York. Here is my toast, with the hissing supplied by the audience.

“My collection of M’s is a fine one,” Sherlock Holmes told Dr. Watson in “The Adventure of the Empty House.” He went on to say: “Moriarty himself is enough to make any letter illustrious, and here is Morgan the poisoner, and Merridew of abominable memory, and Mathews, who knocked out my left canine in the waiting-room at Charing Cross, and, finally, here is our friend of to-night.” That “friend” was the infamous Colonel Sebastian Moran, the second most dangerous man in London.
But what of the worst man in London? Holmes unjustly neglected that first-rate villain, who was also an M. We, however, shall give him his due. I refer, of course, to Charles August Milverton, the “king of all the blackmailers” [HISS!]
·        A man who gave Sherlock Holmes “a creeping, shrinking sensation” akin to that he felt when looking at the “slithery, gliding, venomous” serpents in the Zoo with their “deadly eyes and wicked, flattened faces;” [HISS!]
·        A man with “a smiling face and a heart of marble,” like a Mr. Pickwick gone wrong; [HISS!]
·        A man who methodically and at his leisure tortured the soul and wrung the nerves of his victims “in order to add to his already swollen money bags;” [HISS!]
·        A man who was “a genius in his own way” and as cunning at the Evil One,” [HISS!]
·        A man who wore astrakhan outerwear, a sartorial affectation shared by Thaddeus Sholto and the ignoble King of Bohemia; [HISS!]
·        A man whose maid, Agnes, is the only woman actually known by Canonical account to have engaged in long walks and intimate talks with Mr. Sherlock Holmes; [HISS!]  
·        And, finally, a man who suffered five bullets (“Take that, you hound – and that! – and that! – and that! – and that!”) before the sixth one caused him to utter the stupendously unsurprising cry, “You’ve done me;” [YAY!] 
          Fellow Sherlockians, let us lift our glasses to toast The Worst Man in London, Charles Augustus Milverton!  

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