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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

In Praise of Irregular Friendships

“If a man has a hobby he follows it up, whatever his other pursuits may be,” said the odious Baron Gruner in “The Adventure of the Illustrious Client.”

Even in these divisive times, a shared interest can bring people together despite differences of age, race, sex, religion (or lack thereof), politics, employment, economic circumstances, etc.

That was much on display earlier this month as 100 Sherlockians descended on Bloomington, IN for the amazing Building an Archive conference put on by the Baker Street Irregulars.

And the new book “Aboriginals”The Earliest Baker Street Irregulars 1934-1940, by Harrison Hunt and Linda Hunt, establishes in black and white that the followers of the Master have always been a varied lot. Dedicated “to all those who have gone before,” the book is a series of mini-biographies of the first generation of Baker Street Irregulars.

The authors wisely divide the volume into four sections: the stalwarts who were the heart and soul of Christopher Morley’s BSI (23 of them), those who attended one or more of the early dinners but had no other involvement (34), the “irregular Irregulars” who had some connection (7), and those who solved Frank Morley’s famous Sherlockian crossword puzzle and didn’t fit into the other categories (26). At the end is a profile of Christ Cella, whose New York speakeasy was home to those first BSI dinners.

Some of those profiled in the book will be familiar to most Sherlockians – Morley, Starrett, Bell, Gillette, Briggs, Davis, Keddie, Officer, Smith, Steele, and many more. Then there are those whose names are perhaps well known, but not associated with Sherlock Holmes – Stephen Vincent Benét, Don Marquis, Gene Tunney, and R. Buckminster Fuller, for example.

Other names are well known, but only in select circles. Unique among these, perhaps, is William Moulton Marston. He invented the lie detector with the help of one of his wives. He also had a second wife bigamously, with the permission of his first wife. They all lived together, along with the two children of each wife. In his spare time (!) he created the comic book character Wonder Woman. He died at the age of 54 in 1947. His widows lived together for the rest of their lives.

Half of the crossword puzzle contest winners were women and thus never invited to the all-male BSI dinners of their era. Two of them were honored with the BSI’s Queen Victoria Medal in 1990. However, the indefatigable research of the Hunts established that four additional women who qualified were alive at the time but went unnoticed.  

This is a great reference book, but it’s also enjoyable to read straight through as I did. We Sherlockians surely walk on the shoulders of “all who have gone before.”


  1. Nice look at Harrison and Linda’s captivating book on the early BSI characters. Thanks, Dan.