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.

The Naming of John H. Watson, M.D.

Is it possible to discover Watson’s full name? Ormond Sacker is crossed out and replaced with John H. Watson, M.D. in the original notes for what eventually became part of the title of chapter one of ‘A Study in Scarlet’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle{1}, and the only other time the latter name appears in the stories is early in ‘The Problem of Thor Bridge.’ Perhaps, as Dorothy L. Sayers first speculated, the H stands for Hamish – Scottish for James – which would explain why Watson’s wife called him James in ‘The Man with the Twisted Lip.’ Could it be a coincidence that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle knew a man named Dr. James Watson{2}? These three occurrences are the only times the character is called something other than just Watson. No wonder no one seems to know his full name.

The reader finds out early in ‘The Sign of Four’ something about Watson’s family. Both his deceased older brother’s first initial and his deceased father’s first initial are H. Perhaps the following list of names, which appear in the stories, could provide some insight into the three Watson’s name(s) beginning with H:

Francis Hay Moulton in ‘The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor’
Henry Ward Beecher in ‘The Cardboard Box’ (whom Watson admired enough to have his portrait on the wall)
John Hector McFarlane ‘The Adventure of the Norwood Builder’
John Hopley Neligan in ‘The Adventure of Black Peter’
Arthur H. Staunton ‘The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter’
James H. Scott in ‘The Valley of Fear’

We may never know Watson’s full name, but it may be just as well because the speculation can continue unhindered. What is your opinion on the matter?

1. Conan Doyle Manuscripts: A Study in Scarlet, compiled by Randall Stock

2. Elementary, my dear brother: The case of the Masonic career of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is investigated by Yasha Beresiner

NEXT WEEK: Can Sherlock Holmes read minds?

Watson’s careless servant girl?

Sherlock Holmes was fond of making brilliant deductions, and his powers seemed almost magical until explained. In ‘A Scandal in Bohemia,’ how did Sherlock Holmes know Watson had a careless servant girl? He explained the careless part, but how did he know she was a she?

Here is the passage in question.

His manner was not effusive. It seldom was; but he was glad, I think, to see me. With hardly a word spoken, but with a kindly eye, he waved me to an arm-chair, threw across his case of cigars, and indicated a spirit case and a gasogene in the corner. Then he stood before the fire, and looked me over in his singular introspective fashion.

“Wedlock suits you,” he remarked. “I think, Watson, that you have put on seven and a half pounds since I saw you.”

“Seven,” I answered.

“Indeed, I should have thought a little more. Just a trifle more, I fancy, Watson. And in practice again, I observe. You did not tell me that you intended to go into harness.”

“Then, how do you know?”

“I see it, I deduce it. How do I know that you have been getting yourself very wet lately, and that you have a most clumsy and careless servant girl?”

“My dear Holmes,” said I, “this is too much. You would certainly have been burned had you lived a few centuries ago. It is true that I had a country walk on Thursday and came home in a dreadful mess; but, as I have changed my clothes, I can’t imagine how you deduce it. As to Mary Jane, she is incorrigible, and my wife has given her notice; but there again I fail to see how you work it out.”

He chuckled to himself and rubbed his long nervous hands together.

“It is simplicity itself,” said he; “my eyes tell me that on the inside of your left shoe, just where the firelight strikes it, the leather is scored by six almost parallel cuts. Obviously they have been caused by some one who has very carelessly scraped round the edges of the sole in order to remove crusted mud from it. Hence, you see, my double deduction that you had been out in vile weather, and that you had a particularly malignant boot-slitting specimen of the London slavey. As to your practice, if a gentleman walks into my rooms smelling of iodoform, with a black mark of nitrate of silver upon his right forefinger, and a bulge on the side of his top hat to show where he has secreted his stethoscope, I must be dull indeed if I do not pronounce him to be an active member of the medical profession.”

NEXT WEEK: Irené Adler, villain or victim?