My Swiss friend Vincent Delay sent me a brilliant letter in response to my May 16 blog post "Who, then, is Porlock?" in which he attempted to answer the question posed in the title. It's worth posting here in full.
I just read your news about “Porlock” on http://bakerstreetbeat.blogspot.com/ . I also had the pleasure to get The Adventure of the Murder on the Calais Coach and I began to read it.
Using the Master’s own methods in my Watsonian way, I reached the following conclusions regarding the identity of “Porlock”.
- The author’s Mother Language is not English nor French. He/she may be from the far south-east (e.g. Japan), as at least once an “r” is substituted for an “l”.
- The way the book is made (fine binding, dust-jacket) and the way it is very nicely parcelled (many wraps, additional gift) tend to confirm a far south-eastern provenance, as it is a custom there to wrap things nicely and to add small gifts.
- The author has an extensive knowledge of the Canon, but doesn’t peruse the “Writings about the “Writings”. From this and from the general feeling of it all (the overall generosity and spontaneousness), I gather we have here somebody who is quite young and has just discovered the Canon, without subscribing (yet) to one of the major Sherlockian publications nor collecting Sherlockian scholarship. The result is something very refreshing – I’m not averse to it.
- Though probably still quite young, for the aforementioned reasons, the author must be old enough to self-edit and send the books. Therefore he/she must be working already and get a salary to meet the expenses (the book is quite well made, by the way – more than some other more “mature” sherlockian publications…) – or, alternatively, he/she must be from an affluent background. I would say he/she is 18 to 25 years old – not over 30 anyway.
- The author has no knowledge of railway history (see the typical “Far West” engine on the cover : nothing to do with the Orient Express).
- The author has little knowledge of the English way of life at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century (e.g. that Watson should have met Princess Dragomiroff at a party…).
- - The author used a UK-based firm to (print and) send the copies : he/she may have contacts in the UK or even live there. In this case, it could be somebody used to speaking English, mostly with other foreigners, as a pure communication language, but not used to writing it : e.g. a student or somebody working for an international firm. But I doubt that he/she is in touch with English-speaking people, as there has clearly been no proof reading nor any editing of the text, which is purely spontaneous. The contacts mentioned in the foreword (e.g. the railway museum) can have been made through e-mail or Internet anyway.
- I suspect a feminine touch in the whole process (the occasional sentimentality in the writing, the delicate way everything has been made), in other words : “Porlock is a woman” - but I may err on this point.
Of course, it will come out in the end that “Porlock” is a retired physician, male, aged 90 and living in the Surrey countryside among his bloodhounds…