|S. Brent Morris|
S. Brent Morris, spouse of the scintillatingJacquelynn Bost Morris, ASH, BSI, is also a Sherlockian and a former Gasogene (leader) of the Watson’s Tin Box scion society in Ellicott City, MD. He will be a speaker at the Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Five symposium in Dayton, OH, in March. His other interests are many and interesting. For example, his Ph.D. dissertation explored the mathematics of card shuffling and cutting. I am overdue in introducing him to you.
When/how did you first become acquainted with Mr. Sherlock Holmes?
I read a couple of stories in high school, but they didn’t stick with me. I read most of Baring-Gould’s Annotated Sherlock Holmes in graduate school, and made notes about Holmes’s familiarity with Euclid. My full-blown introduction was when I met Jacquelynn and she introduced me to her scion society, Watson’s Tin Box.
You are a Ph.D. mathematician, a magician, and a cryptographer). How have any and all of those affected the you read Sherlock Holmes?
As a mathematician, I’ve pondered what was included in Moriarty’s treatise on the binomial theorem, and I’ve speculated that his work on the dynamics of an asteroid contained a subtle, fatal flaw that led to his life of crime. As for cryptography, we’ve seen Holmes’ skills in “The Adventure of the Dancing Men,” and can only dream about his monograph on 160 separate ciphers. Were his skills sufficiently honed to handle a periodic polyalphabetic cipher? But there is no mention of magic in the canon, which is a shame. The Magic Circle of London was formed in 1905 and Maskelyne and Cooke performed at Egyptian Hall on Piccadilly from 1873-1905. (It’s now a Richoux near Fortnam and Mason.) Surely Holmes must have been familiar with these contemporary London magic events, even if they are not mentioned in the canon.
What is your favorite canonical Sherlock Holmes story and why?
I think that would be “The Red-Headed League.” It’s a fun story with a satisfying conclusion, I’m amused by Jabez Wilson, and I love Holmes’ quote, “Omne ignotum pro magnifico.”
What is your favorite Sherlockian pilgrimage site in England or Scotland?
Simpson’s in the Strand! Not only can you pay homage to the canon, but you can enjoy a wonderful meal.
You are married to an ASH and a BSI. Do you talk about Sherlock Holmes over cocktails?
I defer to Jacquelynn in almost all things Sherlockian. She is indeed the master in our household. We enjoy cocktails and do occasionally discuss the canon, but rarely together.
Speaking of cocktails, what is your favorite?
Gin and tonic
What question have I not asked you that you would like to answer?
One of the great strengths of the canon is that provides a broad portrait of late Victorian life in which you can surely find something that aligns with your other interests.