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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Creepy Adventure - and a Good One

The Creeping Man
Members of the Tankerville Club, Cincinnati’s Baker Street Irregulars scion society, will discuss “The Adventure of the Creeping Man” at our next meeting on Friday. It’s a fine example of my conviction that the later Sherlock Holmes stories are often on par with the earlier ones, conventional wisdom to the contrary.


Right off the bat, the opening paragraphs include one of the most passages lines in the Canon. Holmes summons Watson, then living on his own, with the laconic and typically inconsiderate note: “Come at once if convenient – if inconvenient come all the same. – S. H.”


Watson goes on to offer a wonderful paragraph about the Holmes-Watson alliance, beginning with: “The relations between us in those latter days were peculiar. He was a man of habits, narrow and concentrated habits, and I had become one of them. As an institution I was like the violin, the shag tobacco, the old black pipe, the index books, and others perhaps less excusable.”


And yet, in his usual undemonstrative way, Holmes later indicates in a bit of dialogue that he views the good doctor as a full partner in their adventures:


“We can but try.”

“Excellent, Watson! Compound of the Busy Bee and Excelsior. We can but try – the motto of the firm.”


The storyline is wonderfully Gothic, with echoes of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But it also has some humor.


Holmes is intrigued by behavior of Professor Presbury’s Russian wolf-hound, Roy, who has tried to bite his master. Asked by Holmes what he thinks of the case, Watson lays out a theory which ends with, “His letters and the box may be connected with some other private transaction – a loan, perhaps, or some share certificates, which are in the box.” Not content with simply disagreeing, Holmes sarcastically responds, “And the wolf-hound no doubt disapproved of the financial bargain. No, no, Watson, there is more in it than this.”


Good old Holmes – the other fixed point in a changing age!  



  1. If I have to name one short story as my favorite, then this is the one I name. It has many of the classic adventure elements, plus the complex relationship of the pair's latter years. Watson gets the last word, but buries it in the middle of the story ('Speaking as a medical man,' said I, 'it appears to be a case for an alienist.'), giving Holmes the final philosophical musing, "He sat musing for a little with the phial in his hand, looking at the clear liquid within. 'When I have written to this man and told him that I hold him criminally responsible for the poisons which he circulates, we will have no more trouble. But it may recur. Others may find a better way. There is danger there - a very real danger to humanity. Consider, Watson, that the material, the sensual, the worldly would all prolong their worthless lives. The spiritual would not avoid the call to something higher. It would be the survival of the least fit. What sort of cesspool may not our poor world become?' Suddenly the dreamer disappeared, and Holmes, the man of action, sprang from his chair." The melancholy of the man. Did he become burnt out? Is that why he retired so young? Plenty of room for speculation.