The Creeping Man – Hounds Summary

Ralph Edwards – Fri, 22 Jul 1994

  • Starting with a desire for publicity, is this the Holmes we have known for so long?
  • What obstacles could not be avoided by changing the scene and the characters?
  • Wouldn’t permission depend on a review of the manuscript?
  • Are the standards of discretion and reticence the same today?
  • What less-excusable habits would fit Holmes?
  • Why didn’t Holmes use Watson as a whetstone immediately?
  • Was telephone the medium of communication within 24 hours?
  • Can the Copper Beeches reference fit Watson’s account?
  • Is it reasonable that Bennett would know of Holmes, but not of Watson?
  • Why, as in earlier days, didn’t Holmes have Bennett “go over the ground…in clear order?”
  • Is there significance in the use of the word “European” instead of “international”?
  • What options did Alice have after becoming engaged?
  • Why didn’t Bennett mention the packets?
  • Was the Continental tour only to Prague and points en route?
  • Why was Presbury’s laboratory at home and not at the university?
  • Were dear affectionate Roy and most other house dogs primarily kept as watchdogs?
  • What Canonical references suggest that Holmes, unlike Watson was mathematically inclined?
  • Except with exercise or modern drugs, how could Presbury have become stronger?
  • Was Bennett named Trevor, Jack, or J. Trevor?
  • Should Holmes have had a better excuse than just a second person?
  • Had Holmes given up on the use of disguises?
  • Were water pipes outside a house normal construction?
  • Was Macphail’s silence beforehand in keeping with class distinction?
  • Wouldn’t a physiologist have known that aging was irreversible?
  • Was sexuality rather than longevity the basic consideration in this case?
  • Are the dates mentioned in this case consistent?

Chris Redmond – Fri, 29 Sep 1995

The Creeping Man has sometimes been cited, even published, as an example of Arthur Conan Doyle’s science fiction. Is it really more satisfying to an enthusiast of early SF or to a follower of Sherlock Holmes and the early detective story — or is it equally unsatisfactory to both?

Sonia Fetherston – Fri, 3 Apr 1998

An old fellow makes a monkey of himself when he goes ape over a young woman? Must be time for us to begin reading The Adventure of the Creeping Man. My questions and comments:

  • Watson sure is depressed. How come? Is there a specific point in the story where he manages to snap out of it?
  • “There are times when he has no recollection of what he does.” Did Presbury have any inkling of the serum’s side effects?
  • What do you think was Presbury’s objective — to be young or merely to possess a young woman?
  • Let’s talk knuckles. Why does Holmes put so much stock in them?
  • Prague c. 1903 is a very believable place to find someone conducting futuristic sci-fi experiments. This ancient city leaped into the 20th century with an amazing degree of gusto. Beginning in 1899, big chunks of the medieval part of town were razed to make way for boxy new buildings. Waves of newcomers, most of them Czech nationals, poured into the city, boosting the metro-area population to more than half-a-million, and making Prague the third largest city in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (only Vienna and Budapest were larger). Lots of new jobs were created, many of which were dependent on technology. Telephones were commonplace. The first automobiles were appearing all over Prague. Manufacturing was mechanized at breakneck speed. The new power station, fired up in 1900, was working well. Electric trams shuttled people on more than a hundred miles of tracks throughout the city. The new pneumatic postal system, while expensive to use at half-a-crown a pop, was increasingly in demand. By 1908, several cinemas would open around town. The universities enjoyed reputations for progressive, creative thinking. Change is exciting, and Prague was a most exciting place to be! Small wonder Lowenstein, a man whose experiments seem so modern, could be found there.

Steve Clarkson – Fri, 4 Jun 1999

It seemed to be a trivial matter: Mr. Trevor Bennett was concerned about the strange behavior of his employer, an eminent physiologist and professor at one of England’s leading universities. In specific, the professor’s faithful dog, a wolfhound named “Roy”, had begun attacking his owner for no apparent reason. Further, the professor had suddenly become enamored of a fellow academic’s daughter, a girl less than half his age. Bennett decided to contact Sherlock Holmes about the matter.

In a few minutes, the Mâitre de Chasse will release the Hounds in pursuit of a bizarre biochemical experiment that triggered very serious behavioral problems in a respected man of learning, threatened to bring disgrace, and ruin to his reputation and his standing in the academic community. The scent runs from the idyllic campus of Camford University to the back streets of Prague, involving a renegade scientist, a locked wooden box, and a mysterious intermediary known only as “Dorak.” The Mâitre hopes that the Pack will not be distracted by the scent of black-faced langurs.

It’s not widely known, but Professor Presbury nearly had a namesake in 3GAR, in which the original text had Prescott the counterfeiter named “Presbury.” That is the case in the first UK and US appearances of 3GAR. At some later time, probably proximate to the publication of the “Casebook of Sherlock Holmes,” someone changed “Presbury” to “Prescott” in 3GAR, and so it has remained ever since.

Holmes tells Watson, “I had hoped to have a longer chat with you before [Trevor Bennett] came.” Yet in the preceding 35 minutes or so, Watson uttered a grand total of twenty-five words (twenty-six if you count “far-fetched” as two words). The first thirty minutes of the “chat” was conducted in complete silence, and in the remaining interval, Holmes spoke 349 words (350 if “twenty-four” is counted as two words). That’s fourteen words by Holmes for every one spoken by Watson. Now, as Watson says, “…I was a whetstone for [Holmes’s] mind.” But which of Watson’s paltry twenty-five words served to generate the “flame-like intuitions and impressions” of Holmes?

This story has sometimes been classified as an example of Doyle’s science fiction, but I think it also has undertones of “Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Doesn’t the image of Professor Presbury clambering about on the ivy on his house suggest the murderous orangutan in Poe’s classic tale? And given the Professor’s irascibility and irrationality, both enhanced by the langur serum, was Miss Edith Presbury in any real danger when her father peered in at her second-floor window?

What Canonical evidence is there to prove or disprove Holmes’ assessment of dogs as a reflection of family life? Was this just anthropomorphism by Holmes? Speaking of Roy the wolfhound, if we assume that he was straining against his chain and collar, trying to get at his tormentor, how could the collar “slip?” And isn’t it a bit odd that Roy had a collar that was the wrong size? One would think that the coachman, who had seen the Professor teasing the dog before, would have said something to someone.

Holmes describes the “firm” of Holmes & Watson as “a combination of the Busy Bee and Excelsior”. The capitalization of “Busy Bee” and “Excelsior” makes me think that these may have been common brand names at the time this story was written (1923). Can someone shed some light on this, please?

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