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709341.  Fri May 14, 2010 12:29 pm Reply with quote

That was Mary Morstan. We first meet her in The Sign of Four, at the end of which she and Watson become engaged. By A Scandal in Bohemia they are married, and she appears in passing a couple of times thereafter before we learn in The Adventure of the Empty House that Watson has been bereaved.

For sure, the usual understanding is that she had died, but we are never actually told that. Some suggest that Mary had left Watson for another man; at the time of which we are speaking divorce was practically unthinkable, but estrangement and abandonment certainly were not.

Watson then loses little time in moving back in with Holmes. But the son which The Man with the Twisted Lip suggests the couple had is never mentioned again. Does this perhaps suggest that the couple were estranged and the son was living with his mother? If Mary had died, the son would surely have been living either with Watson or with female relatives of his whom he would visit from time to time.

We are never told in so many words of any previous or subsequent marriage of Watson's, but there are hints at both. Baring-Gould certainly believed there to have been a wife before Mary, and his work on Sherlock Holmes is considered practically canonical. (An American wife of Watson's called Constance does appear in a unpublished manuscript of Conan Doyle's, but this is not generally considered canonical.)

710027.  Mon May 17, 2010 6:10 am Reply with quote

So bereavement may be a Victorian euphemism for "left me for another man"? It's always possible I suppose. My reading was just a simple one. Of course if you're going that way with it all, she may be dead, but who signed the death certificate? Watson? Holmes did not automatically pursue murderers. I'm fairly sure there are a couple of instances where he let murderers "get away with it", usually because of extenuating circumstances.

Reading the Holmes stories, sometimes what is meant can escape me. It was quite a while before I understood the horror of a vitriol throwing, which is meantioned in The Blue Carbuncle I think. The Jeremy Brett Holmes TV adaptations jogged my memory of this. Throwing fuming sulphuric acid into someone's face!

710294.  Mon May 17, 2010 4:59 pm Reply with quote

I've not come across "bereavement" being used to refer to anything other than death elsewhere. But I can imagine that a man of Watson's station in life would have been reluctant to say straight out that his wife had dumped him, so the euphemism is at least possible.

And yes, Holmes did sometimes keep the identity of a murderer to himself. In The Adventure of the Devil's Foot for instance, the murderer is an international adventurer. Believing that he was more or less justified in committing the murder, Holmes tells him to go back to Africa and continue adventuring.

As for vitriol throwing, it's rather fallen out of fashion as a method of assault in the Western world, although a woman named Katie Piper was attacked in this manner in London only two years ago.

Sadly, it's become all too common in some parts of Asia in the last twenty years or so. The Taliban has been claimed to have used the method against girls who went to school, a thing of which it does not approve. Iran sentenced a man convicted of vitriol throwing to be himself blinded by the same means a couple of years ago, but so far as is known the sentence has not been carried out.

710322.  Mon May 17, 2010 6:11 pm Reply with quote

I've not come across "bereavement" being used to refer to anything other than death elsewhere.

I've got a vague recollection of "bereaved" being used to mean "abandoned" in the marital sense in some novel or other - but I can't remember where.

710325.  Mon May 17, 2010 6:16 pm Reply with quote

Strictly speaking, doesn't bereavement just mean loss of something of value? 'Bereft' is often used in that sense rather than just associated with death.

792709.  Wed Mar 02, 2011 11:53 pm Reply with quote

In regards to slash, I once wrote a thesis on it at Uni. I find it fascinating- and yes, do write some, myself. There are a myriad of reasons why mainly heterosexual women write it, ranging from the fact that male characters are often better written than female characters (as they are mainly written by men), to women wanting to explore relationships between men, to the fact that it's just damned hot to see two attractive men getting it on.
RPS... not to my taste but I have nothing against people who write it.
In terms of Sherlock Holmes, in terms of the novels and short stories, I see him as completely asexual. He doesn't seem to have any interest in women... or men, for that matter. Watson does come across as heterosexual.
As for QI I admit I do enjoy the occassional subtle or even not so subtle homo-eroticism. Just the other day I watched an episode (admittedly in series E) where Alan came last and Steven said "So we know who'll be adopting the position and awaiting my pleasure in the study". Ha ha I admit I was not the least bit averse to the visual image. ;)


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