Ralph Edwards - Wed, 29 Jun 1994
It is well known that The Mazarin Stone was written first
as a play ("The Crown Diamond") before being turned into a short story.
What advantages does an author have in creating a Holmes for the stage
that are missing in the creation of a Holmes for the page?
What the law gained, the stage lost. In the case of this weekend's stagey story, most readers agree that's a good thing. Of course that tale is The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone. My questions and comments:
When Dr. Watson came calling on Mr. Sherlock Holmes, he found the
great detective calmly contemplating his own impending murder. Holmes told
the horrified Doctor that he knew the identity of the person who had stolen
a diamond worth a hundred thousand pounds. But in order to prove his case
he had to catch the thief, a dangerous man, with the stone in his possession.
To this end, he had arranged for a potentially deadly confrontation with
the malefactor, right there in 221B Baker Street.
In a few minutes the Mâitre de Chasse will summon the Hounds to witness this confrontation and to solve a few trifling questions about it. While the case is a comparatively simple one, the Mâitre feels reassured that the presence of the Pack will make certain that justice is done.
It's quite easy to tell that
MAZA was written initially in play form ("The Crown
Diamond"). In the first place, the use of a third-party narrator is a
giveaway. The dialogue is very contrived in places, and the characters are
more shallow than those we are accustomed to seeing in the Canon. I'm sure
many of you noticed the "somethings borrowed" from earlier adventures: the
air-gun and wax dummy from FINA; the "fish" analogy from
HOUN; the "card game" dialogue from ILLU; the caricatured, crabby nobleman from MISS. The action is paced for entrances and exits, and events
and dialogue do not flow as smoothly as in other stories. Cue lines and stage
directions are obvious ("Come over to the window if you want to see the beauty
properly.") There's even a deus ex machina in the form of a gramophone,
the playing of which could hardly pass for a live performance except to the
most tone-deaf of audiences. Top all of this off with an atypical, pawky, and
very untimely sense of humour on Holmes's part, and you have the makings of a
travesty. Small wonder that the play had a mercifully brief run on the stage,
and that the only published edition of it was a limited run of fifty-nine
Brad Keefauver - Thu, 23 Aug 2001
The character of Billy, the young but wise page, seems to have evolved from the "boy in buttons" mentioned in IDEN. My impression is that Billy is a synthesis of the street-wise Wiggins of SIGN and the faithful Cartwright of HOUN. I would welcome other opinions as to Billy's origins, however.
When Count Negretto Sylvius sends in his calling-card, Holmes looks at it and remarks to Watson, "The man himself. I had hardly expected this." Oh, really? Why, then, did he go to the trouble of having a wax effigy of himself made, and of adding a second door from the room adjoining the sitting-room so that he could enter and exit behind the curtains in front of the window without attracting attention? "Hardly expected this?" I don't think so.
Was there really enough evidence to convict Sylvius of the theft of the Mazarin Stone? Consider: A cab took Sylvius to Whitehall, where the Stone was on display. What of it? People took cabs to Whitehall every day. A commissionaire saw the Count near the case containing the Stone. Pooh. The Stone was on display (not in the Tower, mind you) so that people could see it. A cab took Sylvius away from Whitehall. Big deal. "Ikey has peached, and the game is up." This may well have been a bluff on Holmes's part, but even if it wasn't, it would be Ikey Sanders's word against that of a nobleman, a Count. IMHO, the best case that could be made against Count Negretto Sylvius would be receiving stolen goods, a lesser charge than the actual theft. Even that could only be proved by his actual possession of the Stone, which Holmes could have recovered elsewhere and planted on the Count (just as he did with Lord Cantlemere), with the objective of "ridding the world of a pest". The confrontational scenario described in the written account could have been fictitious; after all, only Holmes, Sylvius, and Merton were actually present in the rooms during that interval.
Rosemary Michaud - Thu, 29 Jun 2000
Return to Introducing the 60 Stories
Brad Keefauver - Thu, 23 Aug 2001