Shoscombe Old Place – Hounds Summary


Ralph Edwards Fri, 12 Aug 1994

  • Was it a coat or a cap?
  • Do all farmers get glue on their hair or their clothes?
  • Was Watson in need of Gamblers Anonymous?
  • Was “Handy Guide…” an actual publication?
  • Didn’t Holmes know of Watson’s summer places?
  • Why does Watson consider a horsewhipping case to be in Holmes’ province?
  • What gave Watson a knowledge of dog shows?
  • Is “only horses and boys” overly restrictive?
  • Were two lengths in a furlong enough to reduce the odds to 40-1?
  • Did Lady Beatrice have love affairs?
  • What was in the glass or bottle?
  • Why did Sir Robert and Mr. Norlett part at the crypt?
  • Wouldn’t a full bottle impair one’s running ability?
  • Did shuffling confirm “cold self-possession”?
  • Was the choice of pipes of any significance?
  • What does the quote “trout in the mill-stream” suggest?
  • Did Holmes and Watson bet on the Derby?
  • If not caught, would Holmes have notified the police?
  • Why did Holmes conjecture murder and not natural death?
  • Is horsewhipping a man characteristic of honorable stock?
  • Why did the spaniel return to Holmes?
  • How had the coffin been fastened?
  • Why did Sir Robert return to the crypt that final evening?
  • Does a vertical corpse hold its shape for a week?
  • Did Holmes serve the interest of his client, Mr. Mason?
  • Did Holmes condone deceit as to which horse was run?
  • Why did the creditors hold their hand?
  • In LADY, Holmes was in a hurry, so he used screwdrivers to open a coffin; why, here, with plenty of time, did he use a jemmy?
  • What did Mason really want of Holmes?

Chris Redmond – Fri, 3 Nov 1995

A number of late Canonical tales seem to be dark reflections of earlier ones. Could this tale possibly have been written by an author who had not previously — some 35 years, half a lifetime, previously — written Silver Blaze?

Sonia Fetherston – Fri, 24 Apr 1998

Smoke curls from Sherlock Holmes’ oldest and foulest pipe…as well as from a furnace that hasn’t been lit for some time! We move on to one of the canon’s more macabre tales, The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place. My questions and comments:

  • Besides picture frame makers, what are some other jobs that involve the use of glue?
  • It’s Applause-o-Meter time! Who’s the greater hero of this story: the dog or the horse?
  • Do you believe that Sir Robert did or didn’t “wrong” the dead?
  • Good, bad, or ugly? Just what sort of light does this story cast on gambling and gamblers?
  • Holmes and Watson tantalize us with the unchronicled “St. Pancras Case,” a likely reference to a murder in the London railway station of that name. Pancras was a Turkish lad martyred by the Romans. He was a patron saint of children, oath-takers, and treaty-makers, and he can be invoked by those seeking relief from cramps (I don’t make this up). St. Pancras is the only saint singled out by name in SHOS, but many of the activities and occupations mentioned in the story actually have saints to call their own. Servants are the province of Sts. Zita, Notburga, and Adelem. Publicans and innkeepers look to Sts. Armand, Gentian, Julian the Hospitaler, and Martha for intercession. Dogs have St. Hubert of Liege, while horses have Sts. Hippolytus and Martin of Tours. Actors look to Sts. Vitus and Genesius. Jockeys have St. Eloy. Anglers pray for lots of help from St. Zeno. Police rely on the intercession of Sts. Michael, Sebastian, and Christopher. The recently dead, like Lady Beatrice Falder, can count on St. Gertrude of Nivelles. And so on. Getting back to St. Pancras, though, it’s noteworthy that one of the very first Christian churches dedicated in England bore his name, and from the 7th century onward St. Pancras was the focus of a huge cult following there. Ultimately, a number of churches and chapels were called after him (including the one which once stood on the site now occupied by the London station). The ancient nave and crypt in Shoscombe Park might even have been one such “St. Pancras’ Chapel.” Though I’m not much good at Sherlockian chronologies, I know that St. Pancras Day falls on May 12— a perfectly acceptable candidate for that “bright May evening” prior to Derby day, when Holmes and Watson left London with their rods and reels. If so, we can say that the events at Shoscombe represent the second of two St. Pancras Cases in the canon.

Steve Clarkson – Fri, 25 Jun 1990

John Mason, the head trainer for Sir Robert Norberton’s stable of racehorses, was a hard-bitten man with “a firm, austere expression which is only seen upon those who have to control horses or boys.” One would surmise correctly that it would take a good deal to perturb Mr. Mason. And yet, the recent goings-on at Shoscombe Old Place had upset him to the point where he decided to call in Sherlock Holmes.

In a few minutes, the Mâitre de Chasse will sound the hunting horn and begin the chase of a mysterious quarry. The scent will lead to a “haunted” crypt beneath a ruined chapel, a central furnace in which human bones had been incinerated, a corpse in a winding-cloth straight out of Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”, and a stakes race upon which ownership of Shoscombe Old Place depends.

Watson said of the enigmatic Sir Robert Norberton that he should have been “a buck of the Regency.” Politically, the Regency was the period from 1811 to 1820. These were the times when, due to illness, George III was considered incapable of fulfilling his role as monarch. In 1811, the Regency Act was passed and George III’s eldest son, George, Prince of Wales, became Prince Regent and ruled in the King’s place. The era of the Regency was notable for many things– among them, the tendency of the landed gentry to live their lives to the fullest. The spirit of Squire Western (Fielding, “Tom Jones”) lived on in those times. But under the tranquil veneer of the countryside lay a penchant for sudden and ferocious violence. It is in that context that the reader is expected to view Sir Robert.

I am bemused by Holmes’s deductions as he peered through the low-power microscope. How would a scientist visually identify glue, even microscopically, as compared to other brown, globular matter? In the same vein, how could the observer identify “hairs” as being from a tweed coat as opposed to cashmere, astrachan, or, in the case of a cap, the wearer’s head? Wouldn’t other, more definitive tests be required for positive identification — or did such tests exist at the time?

If Sir Robert Norberton exercised and trained the Shoscombe Prince’s half-brother for the benefit of the touts, when and where did he exercise and train the Shoscombe Prince without the touts’ knowledge? Can two horses be so alike in appearance and gait as to be indistinguishable one from the other? And wouldn’t the oddsmakers be even a little suspicious when Sir Robert was wagering everything he could raise on a horse that was rated at 100-to-1? As Holmes remarked under similar circumstances in SILV, “Hum! Somebody knows something, that is clear.”

Holmes and Watson left their spoon-bait for jack at the inn, and Watson writes, “That absolved us from fishing for the day.” Yet later that same day, without returning to the inn, Holmes and Watson managed to catch enough trout for supper that evening. What did they use for bait, and if they had lures of some kind, why did Watson feel “absolved” from having to fish? Could it be that he was no admirer of Izaak Walton?

There was another hint of adultery in this story; it would appear that Doyle had a fascination for the subject. Or was he aware of the power of titillation upon the minds of potential readers? In any case, did Sir Robert really carry on an affair with Carrie Evans Norlett, as was widely bruited about? Why would her husband connive with Sir Robert to carry on the pretense that Lady Beatrice was still alive if he was being cuckolded by Sir Robert?