The ‘Gloria Scott’ – Hounds Summary

Ralph Edwards – Fri, 6 Jan 1995

  • With whom did Holmes mix, and why, if not the men of his year?
  • Was chapel attendance compulsory?
  • Does “It was a prosaic way of forming a friendship” illustrate Holmes’s bizarre sense of humor?
  • Why didn’t Holmes use crutches after a day or two?
  • Was it customary for a walking stick to be inscribed with the date?
  • Do callouses persist after twenty years?
  • Did Holmes have flat, thick ears?
  • Would a dinner end with finger glasses, port and scattered nutshells on the tablecloth?
  • Were convicts tattooed with their initials?
  • If detection was Holmes’s merest hobby, what was his course of study?
  • Why was the tattoo in the bend of the elbow, and not re-tattooed?
  • How could Hudson have traced Trevor?
  • Is “the dad” a dialect expression in Norfolk?
  • Why did Hudson leave?
  • Did Hudson’s criminality exceed old Trevor’s?
  • Why was young Trevor in the chamber of death so long?
  • Was the time for suppression past while Beddoes lived?
  • When did old Trevor place the note in the Japanese cabinet?
  • What would be a debt of honor?
  • Why did Prendergast not prefer using his funds to get free in Australia?
  • Does old Trevor seem the sort to be in a banking house at age 22?
  • Would a doctor and a chaplain be normal for a crew of that size?
  • How could a 6’6″ man in those days escape identification?
  • Could Hudson know what occurred in the afterhold?
  • What time elapsed between Hudson’s departure and Beddoes’ message?
  • Why was Holmes given the papers?
  • Could Holmes have deciphered Beddoes’ message (with three E’s, four O’s and five L’s) if it had been written in Dancing Men code?

Chris Redmond – Fri, 29 Mar 1996

It appears that Doyle’s readers are supposed to think of Australia the way later generations thought of the American wild west. Is this tale The Boscombe Valley Mystery all over again, or is the ciphered message sufficiently different from the mysterious cry of “Cooee”?

Sonia Fetherston – Thu, 19 Jun 1997

The Gloria Scott is one of my favorite tales. Sort of a Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. So much tantalizing — but regrettably incomplete — information about the young Sherlock. And the revolt on board the transport ship is exciting! Some notes as I read this story again:

  • The implication is that Sherlock Holmes was a real outdoorsman in his youth. It is implied (but not explicit) that he enjoyed the hunting and fishing at Donnithorpe. “There was excellent wild-duck shooting in the fens, remarkably good fishing,” he tells Watson. This squares with the Deerstalker image, yet in most of the canon we see him as a confirmed “city person” and one who spends most of his time indoors. It’s difficult for me to reconcile these opposing views.
  • Boxing was a sport Holmes enjoyed at college, though he doesn’t say he actually participated in the ring. If he was a student boxer, did he do it enough that his own ears showed signs of “the peculiar flattening and thickening” that marked Trevor Sr.’s? Exactly how much boxing leaves the ears in that condition?
  • After Holmes “read” Trevor Sr., the old man was understandably jumpy around his son’s young friend. “He’ll never be sure again of what you know and what you don’t know,” Victor told Holmes. Holmes must have had that creepy effect on lots of people — not the “Gosh, that’s amazing!” admiration of a Watson, but characters who were genuinely unsettled by his superior powers. Wasn’t this unintentional? Did he ever set out to unnerve anybody?
  • I like the way Victor calls his father “the dad” several times. It reminds me of ACD’s “the ma’am.” He seems to have such a warm relationship with his father, exactly the opposite of how I picture SH’s relationship with his own father. Or… it even remotely possible that Sherlock Holmes was warm and loving with his own dad? Is it possible that Mycroft felt close to Père Holmes?
  • Though the crew of the Gloria Scott was rather unsavory, and some of them helped out in the mutiny, why didn’t the surviving three sailors speak up and tell the Hotspurcaptain what really happened? The fact that they had been put off the ship ought to have been enough to save them from the gallows.
  • I recently finished reading Captain Bly’s own account of the Bounty mutiny and his experience of being put adrift in a boat by Fletcher Christian. Bly’s purpose in writing was to justify his own actions prior to that mutiny. However one feels about that incident, the fact remains that Prendergast was comparatively generous with the men he put in the little boat. Their situation was most survivable — close enough to land, adequate food and water, etc. Fletcher Christian intended for the men he set adrift to die (and it was a miracle they didn’t), but I don’t get the same sense about Prendergast and the life boat.

Steve Clarkson – Fri, 4 Sep 1998

Indirectly, this adventure helped point the way to Sherlock Holmes in his career as the greatest consulting detective of all time. And we owe it all to…dare I say it?…a bull terrier that bit Holmes on the ankle. Victor Trevor, the owner of the pugnacious pooch, being remorseful at the damage his pet had wrought, visited Holmes during his recuperation and the two became good friends. The friendship led to an invitation to Holmes to visit the Trevor homestead in The Broads and to meet Victor’s father, a Justice of the Peace.
Holmes told Watson that it was J.P. Trevor’s prophetic words that started him to thinking he could make the art of detection his life’s work. “‘I don’t know how you manage this, Mr. Holmes, but it seems to me that all the detectives of fact and fancy would be children in your hands. That’s your line of life, sir, and you may take the word of a man who has seen something of the world.'”

A few weeks after his visit, Holmes received an urgent telegram from his friend Victor requesting him to come once more to the Trevor homestead. Young Trevor met Holmes at the railway station, and on the way to the homestead told Holmes a tale of the evil brought to the household by a small, wizened sailor who had visited during Holmes’s earlier stay. The outcome of the sailor’s visit was that Trevor Sr. was left dying from an apoplectic stroke, apparently the consequence of a strange, seemingly meaningless message he had received from a friend whom the sailor had gone to visit. The message actually foretokened the revelation of a tale of a convict uprising, murder, and the destruction of a sailing vessel with all hands aboard.

In a few minutes the Mâitre de Chasse will set his trusty Hounds to deciphering the message and following the scents it provides to the ending of a bizarre tale that has many unexplained aspects to it.

When Holmes visited the Trevor homestead, he noted, among other things, “‘…a small but select library, taken over, as I understood, from a former tenant….'” A little further on, he mentions that the senior Trevor “…knew hardly any books.” Two questions: Why did Trevor take over the small but select library if he was not a bookish man; and why did the former tenant relinquish the library?

Holmes noticed that the elder Trevor had the initials “J.A.” tattooed in the bend of his elbow. Presumably, this was the inside of the elbow joint. But isn’t that a very peculiar — and painful — location to be tattooed? Why would Trevor Sr. choose that site for dermal adornment?

Victor Trevor describes the person who threw his father’s, and his, life into chaos as having “‘crinkled hands [which] were half-closed in a way that is characteristic of sailors.'” Are half-closed hands a trait of seafaring men, and if so, why are they wont to carry their hands like that?

In his posthumous narrative, Trevor Sr. relates that each of the 38 convicts, or perhaps 36 if we discount the ill one and the half-witted one, had two pistols, a pound of powder, and 20 slugs, all supplied by Wilson, the sham chaplain. Let’s see…72 pistols at perhaps a pound apiece, 36 pounds of gunpowder, and 720 slugs at about a half-ounce apiece: 72 + 36 + 22½ = 140½ pounds of armaments. How would a chaplain, of all people, manage to smuggle such a large and bulky cargo aboard a prison ship without exciting comment?

When the prison break began, two sentries were shot, as well as a corporal who injudiciously came running to see what the fuss was about. Then two sentries outside the stateroom (captain’s cabin?) were also gunned down. Then, and only then, was the captain shot by Wilson. Are we to believe that the captain heard nothing until the sentries by the door were killed? Why did Wilson wait so long to shoot him?

The ship’s complement included 18 soldiers, not counting officers. If we assume that the two sentries outside the cell area were soldiers, and that the two outside the stateroom door were also soldiers, this left 14 soldiers and all but one officer to fight. Yet Trevor says that only ten soldiers fired through the swinging skylight into the massed convicts reveling below. Where were the other four soldiers? And why didn’t the captain think to station some soldiers outside the stateroom door to counter a very probable outpouring of the surviving convicts?

Finally, when Trevor/Armitage, Hudson, Evans/Beddoes and the others who did not wish to participate in the slaughter of the surviving people aboard the Gloria Scott were allowed to leave in a small ship’s boat, they were told to say if asked that they were survivors from a ship which foundered in longitude 15° (presumably south), latitude 15° west. Was this a plausible location to tell the officers of the Hotspur, which was close enough to the location where the Gloria Scott sank that the “castaways” were picked up the very next day?

Discover more about The ‘Gloria Scott’  and read the canon.