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Data! Data! Data! – Thor Bridge

Data! Data! Data! – Thor Bridge

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

– The Adventures of The Copper Beeches (COPP)

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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 Problem of Thor Bridge

CHRISTOPHER MORLEY SAID . . .

Though late in the long series, this case ranks with the best. The introduction, though brief, is packed with valuable illusions, tells us of Dr. Watson’s dispatch box in Cox’s bank vault (crammed with the records of untold stories), and mentions the solitary plane tree in the back yard of Baker Street. In America we would call it a sycamore or buttonwood. Holmes shows himself a match for the world-famous American senator, J. Neil Gibson, who looked like a debased Abraham Lincoln; and Watson again met and admired a magnificent governess.

DUMMIES SHORT SUMMARY (From Sherlock Holmes for Dummies by Steven Doyle & David Crowder)

Holmes makes a fine recovery in one of the best stories in the canon. It’s another locked-room mystery, except this time the room is a bridge over a pond. There’s a body with a bullet in the brain, but is it murder? Or suicide? If so, where’s the weapon?

PUBLISHING HISTORY

· This was the 50th of the 60 stories published

· It was first published in both The Strand Magazine and Hearst’s International, February & March 1922

· It is part of The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes collection by John Murray, London and George D. Doran, New York in 1927

· The British Illustrator was A. Gilbert

HOW MANY WORDS?

According to C. E. Lauderback, 1960 – – found on SHERLOCKIAN.NET website of Chris Redmond

at 9,666 words THOR has the 44th most words (#1 is VEIL – 4,499, #56 if NAVL – 12,701)

THE BEST OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (How do Sherlockians rate this story?)

1999 – Baker Street Irregulars voted it 14th of the 56 short stores

1999 – The Sherlock Holmes Society of London voted it 18th of the 56 short stories

CLASSIFYING THE CASE (From the Wandering Gipsies of Grimpen Mire of Decatur, Alabama)

This case is one of 2 where Holmes saves a person from a false murder charge. THE OTHER WAS NORW.

CHRONOLOGICALLY SPEAKING

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, October 4 to Friday, October 5, 1900 making it the 48th of the 60 stories in time. This means that Holmes is 46 and Watson is 48

WHAT ELSE HAPPENED IN YEAR 1900?

It is always interesting to see what else in happening at the same time as the stories.

· Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act; establishes federalism.

· Roberts replaces Buller in South Africa; relief of Ladysmith, Mafeking, Kimberly; Boer leader Kronje surrenders at Paardeberg; Transvaal and Orange Free State annexed by Britain.

· Royal Niger Company’s territories are taken over by the British government.

· Central London Railway (Central Line) opens; London’s tubes electrified.

· Labour Representation Committee, beginning of the Labour Party.

· School made obligatory until age 14 in England.

· Davis Cup presented for men’s international lawn tennis.

· Boxer Rebellion ended by military relief of besieged foreign legations.

· Franco-Italian Treaty concerning North African colonies.

· Tirpitz induces German Reichstag to pass Navy Act, to double the navy by 1920.

· Assassination of King Humberto of Italy, accessions of Victor Emmanuel III.

· Socialist Revolutionary Party formed in Russia, advocates terrorism.

· Russia occupies Manchuria, massacres 45,000 Chinese.

· Working day in France is limited to 10 hours.

· Conrad publishes Lord Jim.

· Theodore Dreiser publishes Sister Carrie.

· Shaw debuts Three Plays for Puritans: The Devil’s Disciple, Caesar and Cleopatra, Captain Brassbound’s Conversion.

· Puccini debuts La Tosca.

· Max Planck proposed Quantum theory.

· J.E. Brandenburger invents cellophane.

· First Zeppelin is built.

· Escalator, invented in the U.S.A., exhibited in Paris Exhibition.

· F.E. Dorn discovers radon, a heavy gas.

· Benjamin Holt invents the caterpillar tractor.

· Sigmund Freud publishes Traumdeutung, the interpretation of dreams.

HOLMES AND WATSON – PERSONAL INFO

Our guys are sharing bachelor quarters at 221B. They had a new cook, and Billy the page-boy.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

· NEIL GIBSON, ex American Senator from a Western state and an extremely wealthy gold magnate.

· MARIA GIBSON nee PINTO, the murder victim and wife of Neil. “A creature of the tropics, a Brazilian by birth.”

· GRACE DUNBAR, governess to the Gibson children.

· SGT. COVENTRY, local policeman who investigated the murder.

· MARLOW BATES, secretary to Gibson.

· MR. FERGUSON, assistant to Bates.

· MR. JOYCE CUMMINGS, barrister representing Miss Dunbar.

“QUOTABLE SHERLOCK”

A lot of memorable quotes.

· Holmes to Gibson – – “My professional charges are upon a fixed scale. I do not vary them, save when I remit them altogether.”

· Holmes to Watson – – “I do not think that I am in need of booming.”

· Holmes to Gibson – – “It may surprise you to know that I prefer to work anonymously, and that it is the problem itself which attracts me.”

· Holmes to Gibson – – “Some of you rich men have to be taught that all the world cannot be bribed into condoning your offences.”

· Holmes to Watson – – “When once your point of view is changed, the very thing which was so damning becomes a clue to the truth.”

· Holmes to Watson – – “All cards are at present against us.”

· Holmes to Watson – – “One drawback of an active mind is that one can always conceive alternate explanations which would make our scent a false one.”

· Holmes to Watson – – “We must look for consistency. When there is a want of it we must suspect deception.”

· Holmes to Watson – – “We can but try.”

· Holmes to Watson – – “Well, Watson, we have helped a remarkable woman, and also a formidable man. Should they in the future join their forces, as seems not unlikely, the financial world may find that Mr. Neil Gibson has learned something in that schoolroom of sorrow where our earthly lessons are taught.”

HOLMES’ FEE

Possibly lucrative, but we can’t tell. Client told Holmes: “Money is nothing to me in this case. You can burn it if it’s any use in lighting you to the truth. This woman is innocent and this woman has to be cleared, and it’s up to you to do it. Name your figure! Strangely, Holmes replied, “My professional

charges are upon a fixed scale, (and) I do not vary them, save when I remit them altogether.” — In some other cases, especially PRIO, Holmes was perfectly willing to extract a high fee from a rich man of whom he did not approve. In THOR, Holmes exhibited a high degree of disdain for a rich man who exhibited poor behavior, but Watson did not record any fee negotiations, other than Holmes’ dismissal of the subject. – – – – – – (I know I copied this from some unremembered source many years ago. If it is your words, my apology.)

SHERLOCK ON THE BIG SCREEN & THE LITTLE SCREEN

One would think this story would play well in the movies or on TV, but just theses 3.

1923 The Mystery of Thor Bridge (silent) with Eille Norwood as Holmes and Hubert Willis as Watson. The National Film and Television Archive at the BFI has viewing copies of this film, but it has not been released

1968 Thor Bridge as an episode of the 29 episode Sherlock Holmes TV Series , (29 episodes) but has been lost. It starred Peter Cushing as Holmes and Nigel Stock as Watson.

1991 The Problem of Thor Bridge on BBC/Granada TV with Jeremy Britt as Holmes and Edward Hardwicke as Watson.

SHERLOCK HOLMES IN DISGUISE

The Master of disguise used the deception of being disguised 14 times in 11 of the 60 stories. BUT NOT IN THIS ONE

UNRECORDED CASES (That involved Holmes)

Watson would tease / torture his readers with “I know something you don’t.” Oh my, how Sherlockians love this category. I have in excess of over 150 examples in my collection.

· Mr. Jason Phillimore who came out of his house one morning, returned for his umbrella and was never seen again.

· The cutter Alicia which turned into a small patch of mist and was never seen again.

· Isadora Persano, noted duelist and journalist who was found one dark day, stark raving mad, staring into a match box which contained a worm of a type unknown to science.

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.

HOLMES’S PUBLISHED & PROJECTED WORKS

Sherlockians love this topic and are regularly searching for these items. Holmes mentions published or projected works in 11 of the stories but none were mentioned.

IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE?

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 we have just one mention . . .

· Unnamed – the doctor who examined the body of Maria Gibson

NEWSPAPERS (Real and Fictional)

Though included in only 20 tales some of our more obsessed Sherlockians love this one.

No mention of the press by name in this tale.

ANNOTATED SHERLOCK

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.”. Our story has but two to be considered in this category.

· “the solitary plane tree” – Americans call the tree a sycamore

· “booming” – 19th century American term – to advertise

WEAPONS (from A Compendium of Canonical Weaponry by Dettman and Bedford)

So many things can be considered “weapons” that only 2 or 3 tales fail to have at least one. Since this column is running long, here is a list of “weapons” with minor explanation.

· Service Revolver – Dr. Watson’s and is mentioned in 13 cases. With the help of which Holmes undertook a most informative experiment.

· Sinister Array of Firearms – In the home of J. Neil Gibson, which he had collected throughout a long and adventurous life.

· Brace of Pistols – From Gibson’s collection, which were taken by his wife, one of which she hid in the wardrobe of Grace Dunbar; the other she used to kill herself in a most ingenious manner, so that Miss Dunbar would be accused of murdering her.

· Loaded Revolver – Which Gibson kept in a drawer by his bed.

· Remarkable Worm – Which was apparently used to drive Isadora Persano stark Staring mad when Watson mentions the “untold” tale.

Frank Mentzel, aka Merridew of Abominable Memory, has just returned from attending A Scintillation of Scions XII and is looking forward to catching up on reading some of the books he has ordered of late..

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