A Scandal in Bohemia – Hounds Summary

Ralph Edwards – Fri, 16 Sep 1994

  • How does Holmes refer to the woman in later adventures?
  • Are “dubious and questionable memory” and “adventuress” justified?
  • At this time what might have been Holmes’ “old books”?
  • Was Watson riding or walking in Baker Street on March 20th?
  • Would brilliant lighting of 1888 produce desired silhouette?
  • Having only a few facts, why was Holmes pacing the floor?
  • How did Holmes expect Watson to support himself and Mary if not in practice?
  • Is German handwriting distinctive?
  • Was the brougham rented?
  • Does a King of such size remain incognito in such dress?
  • Did the King’s subjects wonder where he was three days before his wedding?
  • Does a Prima Donna usually retire by age 30?
  • Why didn’t the King send his agents to Holmes earlier?
  • Was Irene Adler within her legal or moral rights to threaten the King?
  • How recent was the promise to use the photograph?
  • Did Holmes really have matters of importance to look into?
  • What were English window-fasteners and weighing scales like in 1888?
  • Was a two-hour ride a general custom in 1888?
  • Wasn’t Irene, in disguise, a second male visitor?
  • Would it be practical to “run for it” if 20 minutes away by cab?
  • Wasn’t Holmes’ arrival likely to alert John’s curiosity?
  • Why was Holmes (an unknown groom) used as a witness instead of John?
  • Did scissors grinders still go around at 7 p.m.?
  • Why is Irene “the lady” to Watson and “the woman” or “young person” to Holmes?
  • Where would a watch have been worn to be a target for robbing?
  • Did Watson often walk with, as he says, “my friend’s arm in mine”?
  • What reaction did Holmes expect of Irene after her initial scare?
  • How did Holmes know Irene’s usual rising hour?
  • Was it practical for Norton to leave, never to return?
  • Who warned Irene Adler about Sherlock Holmes?

Chris Redmond – Fri, 15 Dec 1995

Like The Illustrious Client, this tale deals essentially not with the aftermath of a crime or other incident, but with attempts to prevent something — in this case the “scandal” to which the title refers. If such cases were a significant part of Holmes’ work, is “detective” really the right word to describe him?

Sonia Fetherston – Fri, 14 Mar 1997

As we start in on the short stories, I’m proposing a continuing thread: Change the variable. If we could change just one variable in a story, would that story still work? Or would the outcome change? How? And does changing one variable inevitably lead to changes in other variables? Just a few of the variables in a detective story:

  • the client
  • the motive
  • the weapon
  • the victim
  • the perpetrator

SCAN gives us an excellent window on how changing a variable might affect the storyline and outcome when Holmes seizes on the damning evidential variable. Quizzing the king, he actually asks about possible variables, then either dismisses or suggests excuses for them — legal papers or certificates (none, but presumably could be forged), compromising letters in the king’s handwriting (forged), private note paper (stolen), the king’s personal seal (imitated), a photograph of the king (bought). The piece of evidence that propels the story to the conclusion is that photo of the king with Irene.

So I offer a variable from SCAN for the group to discuss this week. It’s the hiding place. The story tells us where Irene hid the photo — but would the story change if she’d chosen another hiding place for it? How important is the hiding place she selected? What alternative hiding places might she consider, and do they change the story’s outcome? How?

Steve Clarkson – Fri, 29 May 1998

During the next week, we will raise our stirrup-cups in homage to a story which features the only woman ever to “beat” Sherlock Holmes at his own game. But the cast of characters contains another interesting individual: Wilhelm Gottsreich Sigismond von Ormstein, Grand Duke of Cassel-Felstein, and hereditary King of Bohemia. This is a classic matchup of the Beauty and the Beast, and we all know whom Holmes favored, for all his vaunted misogyny.

A Scandal in Bohemia features money, power, royal intrigue, and a cast of…well, if not thousands, dozens. In a few minutes, the Questions and Comments will be posted. Let the Hunt begin!

“To The Woman!” So she is toasted at Sherlockian gatherings everywhere and with good cause. Irene Norton, née Adler: beautiful; talented; clever; determined; courageous; “with a figure a man might die for;” who first fooled and then foiled the great Sherlock Holmes, who even then was gaining an international reputation as the person to see about delicate interpersonal and international problems.

This time it is no common criminal being pursued by Holmes. This is a person to whom Watson alluded as being “of dubious and questionable memory.” That remark alone has stirred up more hornets’ nests and window-breaking Furies in Sherlockian circles than the good Doctor could have envisioned. “Dubious?” “Questionable?” “Memory?” Egad! But then, perhaps it is only that Sherlockians themselves are rogues and scoundrels themselves, who relish association with someone like Irene Adler Norton.

Wilhelm Gottsreich Sigismond von Ormstein, hereditary King of Bohemia, assured Holmes that the photograph he desired to obtain was “as safe is if it were in the fire.” But should the King have felt safe? Was Irene’s assurance — the word of an “adventuress” — “inviolate?” Might it not have better for Irene to have left the incriminating photograph for Holmes to recover, thereby removing all reason for the King to continue his pursuit?

In her note, Irene told Holmes, “But, you know, I have been trained as an actress myself.” Given that training, which was certainly adequate to permit Irene to dress herself in male attire and walk the streets incognito, why did she not see through Holmes’ disguise when he first presented to her attention, or at least when she had the opportunity to look more closely at him once he had been brought inside Briony Lodge? As anyone knows who has worn a costume, the darned thing is certain to come “unglued” at the most inopportune times. The melée outside her house certainly had the potential to disarrange Holmes’ disguise, to the undoing of his scheme.

The Masonic order is mentioned in NORW, REDH, RETI, STUD, and VALL. Is this the same order that Holmes mentions in his allusion to “freemasonry among horsey men?” Would ostlers and their ilk be similarly secretive about their shared trade or other matters?

SCAN is mentioned in one fashion or another in four other Adventures: BLUE, COPP, IDEN, and LAST. Only two other Adventures are mentioned more frequently in other stories: SIGN (6) and STUD (9). Thus, SCAN is one of the three Adventures most often referred to by either Holmes or Watson. What element(s) of SCAN so captured the pair’s attention? Surely, it was something more than The Woman, who is mentioned only in three of the four named above. Was it the manner of solving the case or the monetary reward for that solution, or perhaps something else?

Discover more about A Scandal in Bohemia and read the canon.