The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

VII. The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

by  A. Conan Doyle


    I call upon my fellow Hounds on the second morning after Christmas with the intention of wishing them the compliments of the season as well as looking at the relationship among the characters in the drawings of Sidney Paget and the text of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle."

    Paget concentrates on the relationship between Holmes and Watson.  In the opening scene, Holmes is as relaxed as Paget has ever pictured him.  With his pipe rack at easy reach, he reclines on his settee dressed casually in a morning coat.   Even the clutter of the current investigation, a hat on the chair along with a forceps and lens, seems to be casually discarded as is evident by his remarks to the formally dressed Watson that the investigation is "trivial" and he is "glad to have a friend."  Paget has perfectly captured this friendship  while setting the stage for a less than trivial adventure.

    The minor characters in the story allow Paget to display some originality often lost in the stock character of Holmes and the usual flat characters Doyle surrounds him.  The remark by Homes that Henry Baker must be a man of intelligence  because " a man with so large a brain must have something in it," reveals a phrenological weakness in Holmes scientific method.  It also allows Paget the opportunity to draw a very large Henry Baker, who - even as he hangs his chin on his breast  - has as large a cranium as does Holmes and Watson.  Three mental giants pondering the significance of the goose tucked  under the arm of the man whose goose was cooked by the commissioner.    The receding hairlines accentuate this largess of globe and should give heart to all of us who are folliclely deprived.

The Commissioner Peterson is drawn slight in contrast, and stands hand outstretched with the air of a hotel bell hop waiting for a tip .  Watson lounges uncharacteristically at ease in the presence of a Holmes' visitor, as Holmes perches expectantly upon the settee.  The casualness of welcome  may not have been intended as an insult by Doyle who has Homes describe Peterson as a "very honest fellow" but Paget draws him the opposite of the mental giants in the aforementioned sketch.   The young assistant to the goose seller in Covent Gardens rivals Peterson in diminution of size and continues the use of size in classifying characters and establishing relationships.

     This diminution of size as connected to intelligence continues with the depiction of the villain, James Ryder who also has the weak knees of a sniveler caught with his arrogance down.  Holmes and Watson tower above this bent kneed, whimpering would be jewel thief when he first invokes their aid. Then Ryder bends his knees to the floor in the next piece as he begs for clemency.  Utterly disgusted with the weakness of the man and the banality of his actions, Holmes is pictured snapping his fingers imperiously above him.   An animated Watson has swung the brandy container - the universal cure for fainting - to his side and looks as if he is about to down the sniffer himself rather than waste it on such as this before him.

     In the last scene, the unfortunate Snyder is bent back over knees in dejection.  Holmes, after getting the details that he needs to satisfy his curiosity, can stand no more.  "Get out," said he.  Then he softens into the pre-fall(s) Holmes romantic.  "I suppose that I am committing a felony, but it is just possible that I am saving a soul."

  Holmes  does save a soul ; As well he returns the gem to the Countess of Morcar,  and buys a  goose and returns the hat to the expectant Henry Baker, and gives up a sovereign to the Breckenridge the Goose broker, and grants freedom to both James Ryder and John Horner while sparing the sister and fathers the shame of the disgrace of standing in the shade of the corrupted  family branch.

 A Christmas record of giving any Santa would be proud of.

  Paget clearly enjoys the spirit and the humor underlying this seasonal tale from the gift filled bag of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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