Ralph Edwards - Fri, 5 Aug 1994
The introduction to this tale identifies it as "one of the most terrible
human tragedies". Is it a tragedy in the classical sense, involving a fall
from greatness that evokes pity and terror, or is it merely a sad story?
And aren't most of Holmes's cases tragedies in the looser sense?
Hur-REE! Hur-REE! Hur-REE! Step right up to the Big Top for our next story, The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger. There's a clown, a strong man, and a wild animal, but watch out for the ringmaster's whip! My questions and comments for this tale:
Mrs. Merrilow, a landlady, was concerned about her mysterious boarder.
At night Mrs. Merrilow would hear her lodger, Eugenia Ronder, crying aloud
in her sleep -- terrible cries of "Murder!" and "Coward!". Mrs. Merrilow
counseled Mrs. Ronder that the clergy and the police were available to
remedy whatever was bothering her, but Mrs. Ronder opted to talk with Sherlock
Holmes instead. Watson mentions a case involving a politician, a lighthouse,
and a trained cormorant, but this case features a circus, a lion, and a
In a few minutes, the Mâitre de Chasse will loose the Hounds on the trail of a grotesque crime that Holmes had been unable to solve when it occurred. The trail is old and cold, and the murder weapon may lie at the bottom of a deep, green pool formed in an abandoned chalk pit. The Pack will not have an easy time unraveling the mixed scents in this hunt, for more than one villain is involved.
The full title of this story is The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger,
but it's not really an "adventure" in the sense of the word that is most
often used. It's an exercise in hindsight involving a crime that Holmes
was unable to solve when it occurred. In that respect, the plot resembles
SIXN, in which Holmes also was consulted but at the
time was unable to shed light on the missing Black Pearl of the Borgias.
VEIL is also another instance of Holmes "commuting
a felony" by shrugging off a woman's confession of complicity in cold-blooded
murder. The question boils down to this: Was Holmes justified, in this
case or any of the others, in concealing the true solution of a crime on
the basis of an ethical judgement that disregards the fact that the law
Brad Keefauver - Thu, 11 Oct 2001
VEIL is one of three stories in the Canon that have an undercurrent of adultery, the other two being CARD and RETI. In the latter cases, both the wife and her lover are slain by the aggrieved husband. The husbands in CARD and RETI, Jim Browner and Josiah Amberley, were apprehended within days and faced the penalties prescribed by law immediately. But in VEIL the husband -- a real rotter by all accounts -- was murdered and the wife and illicit lover lived on for a number of years. Eugenia Ronder was terribly disfigured but survived, and it might be said that Leonardo got off scot-free, although we don't know whether his conscience troubled him. Is there any significance in VEIL's deviation from the earlier "norm" set by CARD and RETI? Can all three of these stories, as well as ABBE (published in 1904), DEVI (1910), and HOUN (1902), be linked to Doyle's advocacy for liberalization of England's divorce laws?
Watson begins the narrative by tantalizing us with a reference to yet another unchronicled case, that of "the politician, the lighthouse, and the trained cormorant". In mentioning this case, Watson deplores attempts to obtain his or Holmes's records of it, and threatens to make the facts known to the public if any further attempts are made. "There is at least one reader who will understand", he writes. Implicit in that remark is a clue that more than one person was involved. But how could Watson be sure that the person to whom his threat was directed would actually read those words? Was that person an editor who would handle his manuscript -- or a literary agent, may we imagine?
Mrs. Ronder's landlady, Mrs. Merrilow (not "Merridew of abominable memory" (EMPT) is described as "buxom", and when she exits 221B her gait is described as "waddling". To me, this implies more than "buxom"; it indicates obesity. Is this stereotypical description actually a portrait of a typical landlady of the time? Did Mrs. Hudson look like this?
Holmes was consulted by young Edmunds, of the Berkshire Constabulary, at the time of the incident but was unable to shed any light on it, although he was troubled by some inconsistencies that were not considered at the time of the inquest. Young Edmunds, he told Watson, subsequently was sent to Allahabad. Allahabad is a city in southern Uttar Pradesh, in India. Apparently, Edmunds didn't decide to go to Allahabad -- he was "sent". Who might have sent him there, and why?
Rosemary Michaud - Thu, 17 Aug 2000
Return to Introducing the 60 Stories
Brad Keefauver - Thu, 11 Oct 2001