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Data! Data! Data! – Charles Augustus Milverton

Data! Data! Data! – Charles Augustus Milverton

“‘Data! Data! Data!‘ he cried impatiently. ‘I can’t make bricks without clay.’”

– The Adventures of The Copper Beeches (COPP)

Charles Augustus Milverton. – Illustration by Sidney Paget in The Strand Magazine April 1904

This column is composed of material (Data!) developed for a short course called Appreciating Sherlock Holmes that I teach twice a year in the Community Education Life Enrichment Program for a local community college.  It is composed of “points of information” that are common to many / most / all of the 60 Canonical stories.

The information here has been researched by me or borrowed / stolen from many efforts of other Sherlockians.

HERE GOES This month’s story The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton…

“Charles Augustus Milverton was “the worst man in London,” a trader in scandal and blackmail. Holmes considered him a poisonous reptile and threw Milverton’s calling card with disgust. In this brilliantly told story Holmes and Watson do a little housebreaking n their own account, and Watson is almost grabbed by the police. His wounded heel is better than in the old days, for he achieves a two-mile run across Hampstead Heath.”

DUMMIES SHORT SUMMARY (From Sherlock Holmes for Dummies by Steven Doyle & David Crowder)
“In an effort to save the reputation of an innocent woman, Sherlock resorts to housebreaking as he battles the king of the blackmailers. Prepare yourself for the shocking climax!”

• This was the 34th of the 60 stories in published sequence
• It was first published in the U.S. in Collier’s Weekly on March 26, 1904
• It was published in The Strand Magazine in April, 1904. It is part of The Return of Sherlock Holmes collection published by George Newnes, Ltd., London, 1905 and by McClure Phillip & Co., New York, 1905
• The British Illustrator was Sidney Paget
• The U.S. Illustrator was Frederick Dorr Steele

According to C. E. Lauderback, 1960 – – found on SHERLOCKIAN.NET website and at 6,775 words CHAS has the 11th most words (#1 is VEIL – 4,499, #56 if NAVL – 12,701)

THE BEST OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (How do Sherlockians rate this story?)
1927 – Arthur Conan Doyle did not have it on his list of 12 favorites
1959 – Baker Street Irregulars did not on their list of 10 favorites
1999 – The Baker Street Irregulars voted it 19th of the 56 short stories
1999 – The Sherlock Holmes Society of London voted it 14th of the 56 short stories

CLASSIFYING THE CASE (From the Wandering Gipsies of Grimpen Mire of Decatur, Alabama)
This case is one of blackmail in the 60 stories.

Doyle was often very vague about stating WHEN the tale took place and included few contemporary references to help. Whether this was done intentionally or unthinkingly, the dating of events in the Canon is a very popular pastime pursued by several of our “scholars” researching and justifying their results to no end. We will again default to William Baring-Gould’s dating of Thursday, January 5 to Saturday, January 14, 1899. Chronologically speaking: per W. B-G. this story is 46th of the 60 in time. This makes Holmes 45 and Watson 47.

It is always interesting to see what else in happening at the same time as the stories.
• Boer War (1899 – 1902). Boers invade Natal; British defeated at Magersfontein, Stormberg, Colenso. Siege of Ladysmith.
• Anglo-Egyptian condominium over Sudan established.
• Further famine in India.
• First public motor bus (Kensington to Victoria).
• General Federation of Trade Unions formed.
• First Royal Navy turbine ships, destroyers Cobra and Viper built.
• SS Oceanic, White Star Line, launched. First large luxury liner of line culminating with RMS Titanic in 1912.
• Establishment of Board of Education
• Boxer Rebellion begins, culminating in the May 1900 siege of foreign legations.
• Permanent Court of Arbitration set up at the Hague.
• Nicholas II ends independence of Finland.
• Russian persecution of Armenians in Caucasus.
• Organization of Board of Labor in France.
• Russian universities closed due to student disorders.
• Ernest W. Hornung writes The Amateur Cracksman, Adventures of Raffles.
• Tolstoi writes Resurrection.
• Coleridge-Taylor writes The Death of Minnehaha.
• Gauguin paints Two Tahitian Women.
• Sir William Elgar composes the Enigma Variations.
• Jean Sibelius composes Finlandia.
• Toulouse-Lautrec draws At the Circus, a series of 39 drawings, mainly in crayon.
• Zeppelin invents his airship.
• Wireless telegraphy from England to France.

Our duo are comfortably ensconced at 221b.

A rather dull cast excepting our villain.
• LADY EVA BLACKWELL, the most beautiful debutant of the season, soon to be married to …
• EARL OF DOVERCOURT, a fiercely proud man with a quick temper.
• CHARLES AGUSTUS MILVERTON, “King of the blackmailers … the worst man in London.”
• MISS MILES, Milverton broke up her marriage to …
• ESCOTT, Holmes assumed name under which he became engaged to …
• AGATHA, Milverton’s maid.
• COUNTESS D’ALBERT, the “anonymous noblewoman” pretends to have letters compromising her.
• ANONYMOUS NOBLEWOMAN, she murdered Milverton because he had destroyed her husband’s reputation which led to his death.

• Holmes to Watson – – “I’ve had to do with fifty murders in my career, but the worst of them never gave me the repulsion which I have for this fellow.”
• Holmes to Watson – – “Heaven help the man, and still more the woman, whose secret and reputation come into the power of Milverton. With a smiling face and a heart of marble he will squeeze and squeeze until he has drained them dry.”
• Holmes to Milverton – – “Dr. Watson is my friend and partner.”
• Holmes to Watson – – You must play your cards as best as you can when such a stake is on the table.”
• Watson to Holmes – – “I give you my word of honour — and I never broke it in my life — that I will take a cab straight to the police-station and give you away, unless you let me share this adventure with you.”
• Holmes to Watson – – “I don’t mind confessing to you that I have always had an idea that I would have made a highly efficient criminal. This is the chance of my lifetime in that direction.”
• Watson to the reader – – Watson, on the thrill of committing the burglary: “My first feeling of fear had passed away, and I thrilled now with a keener zest than I had ever enjoyed when we were the defenders of the law instead of its defiers. The high object of our mission, the consciousness that it was unselfish and chivalrous, the villainous character of our opponent, all added to the sporting interest of the adventure. Far from feeling guilty, I rejoiced and exulted in our dangers.”
• Milverton to unknown woman – – “You’ve done me.” – The last words Milverton ever spoke on this earth.
• Holmes to Lestrade – – “I think there are certain crimes which the law cannot touch, and which therefore, to some extent, justify private revenge.”

No fee is stated, but it was known that £2,000 would have been a drain upon Lady Eva’s resources, and that Milverton’s price was utterly beyond her power. Presumably, Holmes was more reasonable

Our story has a few more prodctions than expected. It must be due to the action of our “burgulars.”
• 1922 Charles Augustus Milverton, staring Eille Norwood. The National Film and Television Archive at the BFI has viewing copies of this film, but…..
• 1932 The Missing Rembrant (very loose adaptation) with Arthur Wontner as Holmes and Ian Flemming as Watson

Image result for milverton wilmer
• 1965 Charles Augustus Milverton, a TV episode with Douglas Wilmer as Holmes and Nigel Stock as Dr. John Watson
• 1980 The Master Blackmailer Russian TV series episode with Vasily Livanov as Holmes and Vitaly Solomon as Dr Watson
• 1991 The Master Blackmailer episode of the Granada/BBC series with Jeremy Brett as Holmes and Edward Hardwick as Watson

The Master of disguise used the deception of being disguised 14 times in 11 of the 60 stories and, in this story, Holmes portrays the plumber Escott and woos Milverton’s maid.

FAINTING IN THE CANON (courtesy of Sherlockian Karen Murdock)
Fainting is extremely common in the Canon, appearing, in some form, in 37 of the 60 tales. In 21 cases someone actually faints. In 22 cases someone almost faints. And in 5 cases someone pretends to faint. In this month’s story, but, in this tale, no one faints, almost faints, pretends to faint, or even mentions fainting.

Sherlockians love this topic and are regularly searching for these items. Holmes mentions published or projected works in 11 of the stories, but, in this tale, no one faints, almost faints, pretends to faint, or even mentions fainting.

Victorian London, in the Holmes’ time, had approximately 1 doctor for every 100 people. 31 of the 60 tales have a doctor in them. This, of course, does not count Holmes’ Boswell. This listing is by Leslie Klinger in the Winter, 2015 edition of the Baker Street Journal. In this story there was no doctor involved or mentioned.

NEWSPAPERS (Real and Fictional)
Though included in only 20 tales some of our more obsessed Sherlockians love this one. In this story, The Morning Post (The oldest London newspaper) was mentioned. It was strongly Conservative and heavily influenced fashions of the day.

The 60 Sherlock Holmes stories used English as spoken in England from the 1880’s until the 1910’s. Some words are foreign to us today and need a “contemporary translation.” This story needs almost no translation to 2019’s Americans except:
• “portière” – a heavy curtain hung over the doorway of a room

WEAPONS (from A Compendium of Canonical Weaponry by Dettman and Bedford)
… “a means by which one contends against another” … utilized in 57 of the 60 tales (all but CREE, 3STU, & YELL) There are several general categories to classify “weapons” that include: firearms, human agents, cutlery, animals, blunt instruments, extortion, toxin, blackmail, and miscellaneous. In our story, which is short, you will find all of the following:
• Large Revolver – Which Charles Augustus Milverton carried with him for protective purposes, the barrel of which he displayed to Holmes and Watson when they rather clumsily tried to divest him of his blackmailing notes.
• Pistol – Which a victim of Milverton’s blackmailing pursuits used to pump shell after shell into the blackguard’s carcass, after which she fittingly ground her heel into his face.
• Large Watchdog – Of Charles Augustus Milverton.
• Letters – Of prominent people, used by Charles Augustus Milverton in his blackmailing business.
• Indiscreet Letters – Of Lady Eva Blackwell, written to an impecunious country squire, which Milverton used to blackmail her.
• Letters – Of an unnamed noblewoman, which Milverton used in an attempt to blackmail her and which he handed over to her husband when she didn’t pay, thereby causing his death, at the same time sealing Milvelrton’s doom.
• Chair – In the sitting room of 221B, which Watson picked up, presumably to smash over the head of Charles Augustus Milverton.

Frank Mentzel, aka Merridew of Abominable Memory, has recently completed the Spring 2019 semester of his Appreciating Sherlock Holmes class, and is retiring from teaching the course. He is now starting to work in his garden now that the weather is warmer.

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