The Adventure of Watson’s Wound

One might be inclined to speculate on the curious incident of Watson’s wound because it certainly did more than nothing! In the second paragraph of the very first story Watson writes the following: “I was removed from my brigade and attached to the Berkshires, with whom I served at the fatal battle of Maiwand. There I was struck on the shoulder by a Jezail bullet, which shattered the bone and grazed the subclavian artery.” Sherlock Holmes, when explaining his reasons for knowing that Watson had been in Afghanistan, says, in part, the following: “His left arm has been injured. He holds it in a stiff and unnatural manner.” It is indeed curious that, towards the end of the story, Watson is able to carry a dog up the stairs with his arm is such a state.

By the time of the next story, ‘The Sign of Four,’ the wound has migrated for Watson writes: “I . . . sat nursing my wounded leg. I had had a Jezail bullet through it some time before, and, though it did not prevent me from walking, it ached wearily at every change of the weather.” By the time of ‘The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor,’ the wound has become positively lost for Watson writes: “I had remained indoors all day, for the weather had taken a sudden turn to rain, with high autumnal winds, and the jezail bullet which I had brought back in one of my limbs as a relic of my Afghan campaign, throbbed with dull persistency.” Once more, in ‘The Cardboard Box’ Holmes says to Watson, “Your hand stole towards your old wound . . . .” The wound next disappears completely for it is never mentioned again in any of the stories.

Although Watson is wounded a second time in ‘The Adventure of the Three Garridebs,’ and the wound appears to be in the thigh — definitely.

Time Benders: The Man with the Twisted Lip

Most anyone who has spent some time in the study of the Sherlock Holmes stories knows of at least some of the problems associated with trying to put the cases in chronological order or even pinpoint the date of a single case. One such notable dilemma of the latter kind occurs in ‘The Man with the Twisted Lip.’

Early in the story Watson writes the following: “One night – it was in June, ’89.”

It appears to me that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had already heard some of the criticism of his accuracy as to certain trifling details in the stories, such as dates, for he seems to be tweaking his audience with this exchange in the opium den between Watson and his friend Isa Whitney:

___”My God! It’s Watson,” said he. He was in a pitiable state of reaction, with every nerve in a twitter. “I say, Watson, what o’clock is it?”

___”Nearly eleven.”

___”Of what day?”

___”Of Friday, June 19.”

___”Good heavens! I thought it was Wednesday. It is Wednesday. What d’you want to frighten a chap for?” He sank his face on to his arms, and began to sob in a high treble key.

___”I tell you that it is Friday, man. Your wife has been waiting this two days for you. You should be ashamed of yourself!”

___”So I am. But you’ve got mixed, Watson, for I have only been here a few hours, three pipes, four pipes – I forget how many. . . .”

As it turns out, 19 June 1889 actually is a Wednesday! Later, when Watson meets Holmes in that same opium den, Holmes presumes that Watson must think Holmes has been smoking opium, but, perhaps, it is Watson who has been much affected by the den’s atmosphere on this night!