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Monday, April 29, 2013

Dr. Watson, Dog-Killer

Not Carlo but close enough -- the Hound of the Baskervilles
Last Friday's meeting of The Tankerville Club, the Cincinnati scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars, featured a stimulating discussion of "The Adventure of the Copper Beaches." Topics ranged from whether Violet Hunter was trying to seduce Sherlock Holmes to how a dress can be both blue and beige.

But I'm fascinated by the mastiff Carlo, one of two dogs in the Canon by that name. Or, more precisely, I'm interested in how Dr. Watson dispatched the brute. As I've noted in my talk, "Sherlock Holmes Gone to the Dogs," Canonical canines tend to have a short life span. Consider what happens to this Carlo. Was it his fault that he was fed only once a day "and not too much then, so that he is always keen as mustard"? No, it was not. But that didn't save his doggish life.

When Holmes and Watson confront Rucastle, the villain turns and clatters down the stairs as fast as he can. "He's gone for the dog!" cries Violet Hunter. And what is Watson's immediate response before considering any other possible course of action? "I have my revolver."

Rucastle manages to to set the dog free, bu the beast turns on his master in an ironic turn reminiscent of Dr. Grimesby Roylott's demise in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band." Here is how it's described:

There was the huge famished brute, its black muzzle buried in Rucastle’s throat, while he writhed and screamed upon the ground. Running up, I blew its brains out, and it fell over with its keen white teeth still meeting in the great creases of his neck.

Delicately put, Dr. Watson!

As many commentators have noted, whatever his other shortcomings may have been, Watson was certainly a better shot than Holmes. It took Holmes five bullets to put down the Hound of the Baskervilles.

Which is your favorite dog in the Canon?

1 comment:

  1. I always feel sorry for Carlo. As you say, it wasn't his fault he was turned savage. I like Toby in SIGN as well, because he's described as so fluffy and ugly.