Ralph Edwards - Fri, 1 Jul 1994
This tale seems to be unique in presenting a child as the criminal.
Does it, together with the few other appearances of children in the Canon,
suggest that the author held a less than rosy view of childhood and in
fact subscribed to the doctrine of original sin?
In honor of our next story, I pledge to roll up my sleeve and donate
a pint of blood at my local Red Cross. I encourage fellow Hounds to consider
- shameless plug for a good cause! -- making a contribution at your own
local blood bank, too. Who knows? The life you save might be another Sherlockian's.
;-) Now let's enjoy The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire.
This weekend's questions and comments:
When faced with an inquiry about vampires, Sherlock Holmes turned
to his good old index for information on the subject, but found only what
he called "rubbish". "No ghosts need apply," he told Watson. But how was
he to deal with the situation of a man who claimed that he had caught his
South American wife sucking blood from their infant son?
In a few minutes the Mâitre de Chasse will present the Hounds with his observations and questions on a case which involves South American weapons in a Sussex household, sibling rivalry, and a paralyzed pet. He hopes that like Vlad Tepes -- known as "Dracul" to the many who feared him -- the Pack will go for the jugular in this case.
This story begins with Holmes going through one of his massive and
omnipresent scrapbooks. What is startling is his filing technique. "Vittoria",
"Vanderbilt" and "Vampires" filed under "V", yes. But "Voyage of the *Gloria
Scott*", "Victor Lynch", and "Venomous lizard, or gila"? This is not filing
alphabetically, it's a mnemonic system of some kind. And if the material
about vampires contained in volume "V" was "rubbish", why did he bother
to file it in the first place?
In any event, this is not the only adventure in which a child gives Holmes insight into the solution of a case. I refer, of course, to young Edward Rucastle in COPP, who reflected his father's dark side faithfully. There aren't many children mentioned in the Canon; only about two dozen are named (although many more appear ephemerally). It is predictable that Holmes would have developed the art of detection to recognize the importance and relevance of child psychology long before the official forces twigged to its significance.
How would lawyers become involved with the assessment of machinery, and what does the assessment of machinery have to do with tea brokering? And what does the importation of nitrates have to do with either machinery or tea? It sounds as though Ferguson did a little hopscotching in his choices of careers, doesn't it?
In his letter to Holmes, Ferguson writes of his Peruvian wife's "alien religion". What would that have been -- Catholic? Incan? And after Ferguson's revelation that his wife had assaulted her stepson Jacky on two occasions, Holmes says, "Well, that is not unknown among stepmothers. A posthumous jealousy, we will say." What a curious choice of words: "posthumous jealousy". What do you suppose Holmes meant by that?
Baby Ferguson had a "small, angry red pucker" on his throat. That is the hallmark of localized infection. Perhaps it was not dangerous, but surely it was uncomfortable for the infant. Discomfort in an infant is usually accompanied by crying and similar behavior, but this child apparently was content, waving his dimpled fists about. My question is, why did Holmes examine the injury instead of asking Watson, the physician on the scene, to have a look at it? Was he afraid that Watson, with his personal knowledge of wounds, might have recognized the injury as one not made by human teeth and suggested the cause before Holmes was prepared to reveal it?
A parting shot: How did Watson come into possession of the letter
that Holmes wrote to Morrison, Morrison and Dodd at the conclusion of his
Brad Keefauver - Thu, 6 Sep 2001
Rosemary Michaud - Thu, 13 Jul 2000
Return to Introducing the 60 Stories
Brad Keefauver - Thu, 6 Sep 2001