Ralph Edwards - Fri, 22 Jul 1994
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?
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:
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 and 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.
Brad Keefauver - Thu, 27 Sep 2001
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 25 words (26 if you count "far-fetched" as two words). The first 30 minutes of the "chat" were 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 25 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's 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?
Rosemary Michaud - Thu, 3 Aug 2000
Return to Introducing the 60 Stories
Brad Keefauver - Thu, 27 Sep 2001