The Three Locks Annotations

The Three Locks Book CoverThe Three Locks

For more information on the book, please see here.

(It is recommended that you read along with or after the book but don’t read ahead, as there are SPOILERS if you do)


Annotations for the remaining chapters are coming soon.



Punkahs in a dining roomLong before air conditioning, and even electric fans, the men and women of Holmes’s time suffered mightily during a heat wave. In the tropics, elaborate fanning systems were employed, such as these large hanging contraptions called punkahs. This picture shows a British couple at dinner in India in 1880. Punkahs, of course, were operated by servants. But not at 221B Baker Street, of course.



A hand fan was in common use.   Ladies’ versions, highly decorative of course, are well known and there is a lovely Pinterest collection on view of Victorian ladies’ fans  here by Amy Jones: 

But Watson would have made do with something a bit more plain, like one of these, still available today.

Hand Fan



Lily of the Valley soap

Watson mentions his mother preferred a distinctive soap scented with Lily of the Valley.  It is well known that scents trigger powerful emotional memories.   This photo is of a current, Italian brand, but harks back to Victorian times.  Scents popular during most of the nineteenth century were typically single-note florals - violet, rose, etc.  Lily of the Valley is a light, fresh scent, much beloved in England and elsewhere.  Watson’s mother’s preferred soap might very well have looked and smelled like this one.



We have no photo extant of the box Watson received in this tale, but it might have looked a little like this...with the addition of braided bands of silver and an extremely complex lock.

Silver Box


CHAPTER TWO - “Thwarted”


Men’s summer suits were made of linen, hats of straw, and here is a photo of actor  Jeremy Brett as Holmes, conferring on the Granada set while in full Victorian summer wear and an even clearer CU.   One might well imagine such a suit on Holmes in this very tale..  Oh, the ironing that someone — perhaps Mrs. Hudson — had to do!

Jeremy Brett as HolmesJeremy Brett as Holmes



Birding Glasses

One can suppose that if the neighbours opposite 221 Baker Street were really interested in observing the rather bohemian occupants of 221B, they might have employed binoculars such as this replica set, somewhat larger and more powerful than opera glasses.  Birdwatching was, of course, a popular hobby, then as now.  Neighbour watching?  Well...



In The Adventure of the Dying Detective, a trick lock brings danger into Baker Street, and Holmes warns Watson off touching the box sent by the villain, as such a lock could conceal a spring loaded dart or similar, tipped with poison.

In this chapter, Holmes refers to another such lock.

Spring loaded poisonous locks are now a trope among role playing games - Pathfinder, Dungeons and Dragons and they have been featured in many stories over the years.

In real life, the poisons used on such a dart, needle, or blade extending form a lock would be drawn from a large arsenal of historic sources - used to poison a foil (as in Hamlet), a sword, a dart  or arrows. Curare is the most well known and most arrow or dart poisons are plant based, but there’s at least one from larvae of beetles of the genus Diamphidia.and another from a frog which were used.

And yes, they really did exist.

One, shown to me by lock expert the National Museum of Locks in Rugby was designed to get you to peer into little hole, and then a small blade would come out to pierce your eye.  Yipes.

Holmes was very right to warn Watson off fiddling with the mysterious box.



Gamesters in Bath

One might more likely expect the still youthful  (35) Watson and his card playing cronies to holiday at the more fashionable and cooler  seaside resorts such as Brighton or Bristol rather than Bath, a more staid and traditional spa getaway.   But he must have gone for the games..   This 18th century illustration of “gamesters” around the table in Bath hints at the activities behind closed doors.

Bath was, until Victoria’s reign, a centre for gambling.  However Victorian regulations stifled public gaming,  and by the time of this story, in  1887, the only legal gambling was done in private gentlemen’s clubs, such as The Bath and County Club in Queen Square, which is where Watson most likely stayed during the visit described in this story.

Further reading about these clubs is in The Bath Magazine, here:

The Bath and County Club in Queen Square

CHAPTER THREE - “You Left Me Hanging”


Chubb's Lock

Are there any locks that are truly “unpickable”?  Many have claimed to be the inventors of such a thing, but were since proven wrong.

Chubb was considered the unassailable lock, until it wasn’t.

Despite this article, however, lock experts tell me there are indeed unpickable locks, ones which would break before opening, or are simply not guessable by any means because too many random movements in a certain sequence and with the exact right amount of pressure, torque, or delicacy… well, you get it.

Public domain, Wikipedia:  Diagram of Chubb Detector Lock. "K" and "F" comprise the detector mechanism. K is the catch on the back lever and F is the end of the horizontal detector spring.

CHAPTER FOUR - “New Skills”


Ruhmkorff coil This is what was sitting on Holmes’s chemistry table. The Ruhmkorff coil is an early transformer which uses a low voltage direct current to produce high voltage pulses.  This technology was in development just then and eventually led to neon lights and Xrays .  The glass tubing is a Geissler tube, the precursor to the neon bulb. Different gases would make different coloured glowing lights.

If it looks familiar, it is because a giant sized one is a trope in every Frankenstein re-animation moment - the steampunkish versions of this device providing the “spark of life”.

More about them here: and in this cool video:



The late Victorian era is sometimes called the Golden Era of Magic.  A fabulous collection of posters of the era can be seen here;

Here’s a broadside, for an illusionist of 1877, a bit before this tale.  The famous “De La Mano” (Of the Hand) actually disappeared from the earth.   The photo is of a famous “Ghost Show” c.1908.

 De La ManoGhost Show

CHAPTER FIVE - “Madame Borelli”


ReticuleMany Victorian ladies carried a “reticule”, often beaded, sometime fringed smallish purse with a drawstring opening or sometimes a metal clasp.  Here is a chart of many such bags.They ranged in size from very tiny, perhaps for a handkerchief, to quite large.    Madame Borelli’s had to be large enough to carry her gruesome evidence for Holmes’s inspection.

Image source:


Goethe is a favourite of Sherlock Holmes, he quotes him on more than one occasion, and the bust might have looked very  much like this one, which is an antique, showing the philosopher/playwright as a young man.

As Sherlockian Ted Friedman specifies in his article “Literary Skills of Sherlock Holmes”  Sherlock Holmes ... twice quotes Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in The Sign of Four. Referring to Goethe's first part of Faust ("We are accustomed to seeing man despise what he does not understand"), Holmes says, "Goethe is always pithy." Later in the same story, Holmes quotes Goethe, "Nature alas, made only one being of you although there was material for a good man and a rogue.”

GoetheNote:  A bust of Goethe is visible on the set of BBC’S Sherlock.

And finally, the author, Bonnie MacBird’s shares a few of her favourite Goethe quotes.

"A person hears only what they understand.”

"Behavior is the mirror in which everyone shows their image.”

"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”



In the passion for “Orientalism”, these table were all the rage in Victorian sitting rooms in the last two decades of the 19th century.  Here’s a very fine example offered by FirstDibs at an exorbitant price.    You’ll see them in nearly every Holmes representation on film.  There would very naturally have been one at 221B.

Moroccan Table



While Beretta is one of the oldest gunmaking firms in the world, Madame Borelli’s pistol in this scene could not have been one. The first semi-automatic pistol by this company was thirty years later, in 1915, similar to the one pictured below.


It is remarkable that Watson, a cool-headed former soldier and crack shot himself. would make this mistake. Either he penned this much later and it was failure of memory… or  perhaps he left out the name, and  some overzealous editor or later chronicler filled in wrongly.

Madame Borelli would have been much more likely to have taken aim with a Derringer,  of convenient size and perhaps an elegant design, such as the one below from 1866, some years before our story.




Woman tennis playerWhen Mrs. Hudson enters the sitting room with Watson’s racket, one wonders why she had it.  Perhaps she had it restrung for him.   Of course women did indeed play tennis at the time, although not dressed as we might today.

People wore a variation on street clothes to play tennis.  Here’s a picture of the wining match at Wimbledon four years before our tale..

And here is the negative of what is clearly a model , apparently taken in 1886 as well.


CHAPTER SEVEN - “The Deacon”


Capella Romani, Roman HatPerhaps an odd choice for the young Deacon from Cambridge,  but this hat, nicknamed after the planet Saturn which it resembles, is also known as Capella Romani or “Roman Hat”.  It’s essentially unofficial, with no specific meaning and only a practical choice, mostly out of favour now, and even during this story,  A deacon would only be allowed a plain black one.

It would keep the sun off, though!



There is no such scandalous Catholic church in Cambridge, and whatever place Watson refers to in this story is either fictionalised completely, as one might hope, given the scandals attached, or drawn from another place entirely.Watson is known for such subterfuge in order to protect the innocent.  At the time of this story, there was one Catholic Church in Cambridge, St. Andrews, which was later dismantled and moved elsewhere. The preeminent Catholic Church in the area (and clearly NOT the one in the story) is  OLEM Our Lady of the English Martyrs which was begun in 1885 and not consecrated until 1890.

Cambridge had opened its doors to Catholics in 1871 but the “Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith” felt it would be a “mortal sin” for Catholics to attend, because of the influences of liberalism and scepticism prevalent in the teaching at both Oxford and Cambridge.  The wealthier Catholics, wishing their sons (sadly it was still only male students) to obtain the intellectual and social benefits of an Oxbridge education objected loudly.  The ban was lifted in 1895 but only provided a Catholic chaplaincy was established.  The one in Cambridge was founded in 1896, well after the time of this story, and is called Fisher House.

There are now a number of Catholic churches in the Cambridge area, and Google Maps reveals the following in the present day.

Contemporary map of churches



This listed everyone in the Peerage and were published annually. Still are. Holmes was familiar with many in this class and recognised the name of Dillie’s suitor, Eden-Summers. Photograph is a DeBrett's from a close year 1884 and more recently, 2019.

In addition to listing the peerage, DeBretts also publishes guides to modern etiquette.  A sample is, this, from their online guide to “challenging foods”

“Apples ----At the dinner table, apples should be cut into quarters and the core removed from each piece. Then use fingers to eat the quarters. Elsewhere, just hold and crunch."

DeBrett's DeBrett's

CHAPTER EIGHT - “A Close Escape”


The oldest surviving music hall in London, this was used as a location for Watson’s bachelor party in the 2011 Sherlock Holmes film starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law.

Wilton's Music Hall

Wilton's Music Hall

The Hall went through many incarnations, but in 1886 at the time of this story, it was used for variety acts, although not necessarily of the first class.  Borelli’s ego may not have accurately reflected his station, although he claims he’ll soon be playing better places.  Shortly after this time, the theatre was shut down and became bought by the East End London Methodist Mission, feeding the destitute dockworkers in exchange for a few prayers for seventy years.  It then closed down and went into a steep decline.

Now it has been restored close to its original state and rents out as both a music hall for wonderful vintage-style entertainment and also as a wedding and party venue.

Wilton's Music Hall

Some pictures of the hall are here:



Water torture trickThe Great Bellini's immersion in a water tank as described in this book, if it exists as Watson describes it, would have predated the famous Houdini’s similar WATER TORTURE trick, as pictured here in around 1914.  Unlike Houdini, Bellini wanted his audiences to think there was a magical or supernatural element to his illusions.

Interesting, too, is this rare recording of Houdini practicing his introduction to this trick.  “There is nothing supernatural…”

CHAPTER NINE - “Misdirection”

Reverse prayer poseDouble jointed really means hyper mobility. The man in this picture takes the “ reverse prayer pose” a yoga staple, and not quite as exotic as Watson’s reaction may indicate when Borelli casually assumes the pose.  However it’s not possible for everyone.


CHAPTER ELEVEN - “The Floating Doll”


Victorian dollThe doll in question most likely had a bisque head and arms, hair attached to it, and a soft cloth body.  Here, from Simon & Halbig, a pre-eminient German doll company, is an 1899 doll which has a distinctive face, and one can well imagine such a doll commissioned to look like a specific little girl.



This is a lock on the River Cam which winds around Cambridge. A lock is a device for allowing boats to navigate waterways of varying levels.

It is located in the north end of Cambridge, dead centre of this map from 1888, and was built in 1836. The footbridge which is integral to the story existed in 1887.

Jesus Lock Map

And at that time, looked like this:

Jesus Lock Footbridge

The river is prone to flooding and here is a picture of from a flood of February 2001 where the water is flowing over the floodgates.

Jesus Lock Flooded 2001

The author standing at The Jesus Lock in Cambridge in 2019 while researching this book.

Bonnie MacBird at Jesus Lock Footbridge

More on the lock in a later chapter….

Jesus Lock FootbridgeJesus Lock Footbridge



Bradshaw'sThe definitive guide to railway schedules which included maps and useful travel information.   Most middle class people with need of the trains  would have had one.  Oddly, in 1968, a facsimile of the 1887 Bradshaw’s as Watson used here  was produced and is available on various auction sites. Here’s what  one would have looked like in Watson’s hand.

CHAPTER TWELVE - “The Wyndhams”


BroughamThe brougham, (rhymes with “room” or “roam") was a horse-drawn carriage with four wheels, inspired by Lord Brougham who originated it in 1838-9.   It had an enclosed carriage and a window in the front so giving the passengers more light and a partial view..  It would be an expensive item to be owned by a family.   It usually seated only two, although larger ones, as picture, may have had two fold away seats in the front corners.  Presumably the Wyndhams had this type for Professor and Mrs. Wyndham and their two daughters.



Head of HeraclesWe think of Greek and Roman statues as being pristine, white marble. But in actuality they were painted, including the eyeballs.  But weather wore the paint away, and when buried, often the paint deteriorated and was brushed off during the cleaning.  But enough bits have been left on for archeologists to realise - and deconstruct with modern science -- that… no, they were very definitely painted.   Perhaps like this, which is pretty cheesy to our modern eyes.

Painted statue

Queen NefertitiTheories that Greek and Roman statues were “classically all white” and Egyptian statues( like Queen Nefertiti, here) were painted - a difference supposed to indicate the different culture --is simply wrong.  It’s just that the paint survived more easily in the dry climates of desert countries.   See Queen Nefertiti.

An utterly fascinating article on the history of the painted statue theories and research, including an animated reconstruction of the layers of paint on the "Treu Head” in the British Museum is here.  It is likely that just as varying degrees of talent went into the carving, so it did with the painting as well.  Some modern recreations of the painted statues are so garish and simplistic they give the impression of vulgarity to our modern eyes.  But the Treu electronic recreation from careful scientific studies reveals layers and layers of paint, with many subtle variations.

Apparently Michelangelo was disturbed by the blank eyes  of Greek and Roman statues, and begin carving irises and  pupils into the eyes. Here is his head of David.


Later the French genius Houdon carried this idea farther indicating even the colour of the eyes by the depth of the carving of the iris (shallower for light eyes). A detailed description of Houdon’s technique is in this terrific article in the Washington Post.

These are not Houdon’s but the ideas are presented clearly in this picture.

Eye Depth Study



When Holmes peruses Dillie’s dressing table he notes that personal grooming items are missing.  Pomade was used regularly by both sexes to keep stray hair neatly in place. Victorian ladies used it to tame and shape small curls around the face.  Many people made their own (or presumably had servants to do so.) Some were lard based, others vaseline based, but some used beeswax.   Most were scented delicately with rosewater, citrus, or lavender.

Here is a recipe for “Pomade Victoria” from The New Cyclopaedia of Domestic Economy, and Practical Housekeeper as quoted here:

  • 1/4 pound honey
  • 1/2 oz beeswax
  • 1/4 drachm almond oil
  • 1/4 drachm lavender oil
  • 1/4 drachm thyme oil

Simmer honey and beeswax together for some minutes, then strain, add the oils, and stir the mixture till cold. Or… you could just buy something like this, now.  Pomade fell out of favour in Edwardian times, and has gone in and out of fashion over the decades.



This was a place of terror for young women of Cambridge.  It was a kind of holding place, a jail, really but run by the University but outside the purvue of the Cambridge police force.  Its stated purpose was to remove ladies of the night from the streets, who endangered innocent young men with disease, debauchery, and…. well, sex!  It was manned by “proctors” who reported to xxx, and young women rounded up were sometimes beaten, examined for venereal disease and incarcerated without recourse to legal representation.  They simply disappeared off the streets and hoped to be released unharmed… if their families or employers found them!  Upper class women had nothing to fear, generally, but maids, shopkeepers assistants, seamstresses — young honest working girls were swept into this horror on a regular basis.  It was eventually outlawed but in full swing at the time of this tale.



Victorian short hairIn Victorian times, it was thought that hair sapped strength and many people who were ill had their hair shorn as it was supposed to aid in recovery. That is why Watson says that Atalanta’s pallor “and her short hair suggested she might be suffering or recovering from some illness." This “cure” is also featured in THE COPPER BEECHES, when young Miss Violet Hunter is asked to cut her hair quite short as she was unknowingly being hired to impersonate a daughter who had been kept as a prisoner after an illness. But it is also thought that some girls just rocked the look for the freedom and charm, perhaps like this attractive girl, and perhaps like Miss Atalanta Wyndham, although we do not discover this for sure.



When we think of sonnets (if we do!) it is typically the Shakespearean form which comes to mind.  This type is formally defined as fourteen lines of Iambic pentameter, three quatrains (four line stanzas) and one couplet (two line stanza) with the rhyme scheme
And the final couplet summarising or adding new information to what has gone before.

In those more literate times students learned different forms of poetry and were often required to write examples; it would not be unusual for Holmes and Watson not only to completely familiar with the form but to have had to cough up a few themselves in their student days.  Arthur Conan Doyle himself dabbled in sonnets.

Fry The Ode Less TravelledWriting to form is a remarkably freeing rather than a constraining task for the creative writer and the book THE ODE LESS TRAVELED by polymath (and great Sherlockian) Stephen Fry - which is a hilarious course in writing poetry -  is highly recommended as a literary playtime for aspiring writers.



The same passion for the middle ages that fuelled Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary efforts and indeed the whole Gothic Revival in art, architecture and decor, ignited a passion for archery, one of the few sports in which women were welcomed quite early.  Royalty’s passion for archery since the late actual middle ages gave even more cachet.  Some think Anne Boleyn’s practice of archery helped her gain the unfortunate attention of Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth I herself was an archer.

At the time of this tale, women were members of archery clubs and the pictures below illustrate two archery contests of the time. Here is a women’s archery even held in Regent’s Park, very near Baker Street. As with tennis of the times, people wore a variation of their regular street clothes to participate in this sport. The black and white is of the Toxophilite Society at Regent’s Park (very near 221B Baker Street).  The area has since been converted into tennis courts.

Ladies Meeting of the Toxophilite Society, Regents Park Amazons of the Bow: A Sketch at an Archery Meeting

A fascinating article on the subject of women and archery is here:

...from which came the following quote:  "Crucially, it was also a sport where women could wear the extensive fashions of the day. Archery for women rapidly became an acceptable area to display marriageability.”

A later guide to country pursuits coyly remarked that 'few exercises display an elegant form to more advantage’.

As advanced as we are now on the subject of women’s agency and suitability for almost all sports, the quote above still pertains to the portrayal of the bombshell “lady archer” in today’s modern cinema, below in Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman archer


Holmes noticing the scars on Atalanta’s forearm indicate that she did not wear an arm guard,  such can be seen in this illustration.
Archery arm guardThese are generally  recommended, so that upon release, the string does not snap back and cause… this rather extreme example, most likely of a careless beginner.

Archery rash

One can avoid such scarring, with care.  A ridiculously detailed video on  arm guards is here:

Atalanta’s marks were presumably faint scarring, from when she was first starting out, as we will learn she’s an expert now.  Holmes, an archer himself, would certainly have understood what he was seeing.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN - “Bloom Where You Are Planted”

The Woodmen of Arden

credit Julian Calder photography

The Woodmen of Arden is a private  honorary society of all male longbow archers, founded in 1785. They practice “clout shooting” - long distance, 100  yards,  as a circular target of 31 inches with a black centre, laid out on the ground, a tradition which comes from the ancient use of archery in battle. Each August they have an annual festival, The Wardmote, and all wear their signature green tailcoats, white trousers, green tie, and a cream weskit.  Shooting these bows, by the way, require great strength. Membership is always 80, by invitation only, and the famous Sherlockian actor Jeremy Brett was a member. He once said he target practiced from his penthouse terrace in Clapham Common to a target he set up across the street at the base of a tree in The Common, but only at dawn, before anyone was about.


Link to The Woodmen:


Gentlemen’s tennis attire

The men’s tennis shoes sported by Dillie in this chapter would have looked like one of these and would have been noticeably different from typical women’s shoes.

Playing tennis during this time was mostly done in cotton clothes which closely resembled regular summer streetwear.

A Rally by Sir John Lavery 1885
A Rally, Sir John Lavery, 1885

Judging from the women’s tennis costume of the time, one can well imagine Dillie preferring male dress for sport.

 A 1890 Tennis suit in cotton
A 1890 Tennis suit in cotton


More women’s tennis fashions here:

CHAPTER SIXTEEN - “An Uneasy Alliance”

Newnham and Girton

Holmes queries Dillie on why she would not consider Newnham or Girton.  Both were colleges for women at Cambridge that started at roughly the same time, a bit before this story, and were quite different from each other.  At the time women were not allowed at the Universities, although they were allowed to audit classes, providing the professor permitted.  In 1863 some girls sat for exams at Cambridge,  but no female matriculated from Cambridge until…. wait for it…. degrees were finally awarded in 1948!!!!!!

A fabulous website detailing the rise of women in Cambridge is here:

Girton was started by Emily Davies, and was to be a residential college aiming toward the same status as the universities, and bestowing university degrees.  They were immediately denounced in the press “The one thing men do not ike is the man-woman, and they will never believe the College or University woman is not that type."

Newnham started as a house for five students in 1871 and encouraged the women to study “traditional female subjects” such as English, Literature, and History, and very much NOT to compete with men.

A wonderful play BLUE STOCKINGS by Jessica Swale takes place at Girton in 1896, a little after the time of this this story, and “bluestockings”was a negative term for intellectual female.  Ever threatening, and alas, sometimes even now, though deeply hidden.


CHAPTER SEVENTEEN - “Smell the Roses”


English gardens are famous for roses and the David Austin company  has revived and cultivated many antique varieties, a few of which can be seen here. and might very well have been included in the garden of “Our Lady of the Roses” tended to by Father Lamb.

Roses Roses


Pachelbel’s Canon

Ridiculously common now, and often used in weddings, Pachelbel’s canon (canon meaning having a melody which is repeated and overlapped, a “round”) was less known at the time.  The priest was no doubt singing the top line and Holmes could have come in with the lovely counterpoint that that is usually played by the cello or could have improvised a lovely string line as the harmonic progression repeats and repeats.  There is a joke among musicians that cellists hate the piece because they have a single phrase, repeated and repeated.  But most listeners don’t notice, and the piece is calming, pleasing and happy all at once.  A lovely recording is here:

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN - “Buttons Unbuttoned”

Flamboyant Silk Pyjamas

Holmes NightshirtMen’s pyjamas were introduced in Britain in the seventeenth century, originated in India where they were worn by both sexes, but initially called “mogul’s breeches”. They did not gain wide use until the 1870’s and  even through Holmes’s time men primarily wore nightshirts. Illustration shows Holmes wearing this rather than pyjamas. They were a fashionable, slightly “hip” choice at this time, and flamboyant ones in silk would have had a certain risqué quality to them and have been surprising to find in the Deacon’s wardrobe. Pictured is Holmes in his nightshirt.

Here is typical sleepwear of the time.


And here is what a “flamboyant" pair of men’s silk pyjamas of the time might have looked like:

Flamboyant Pyjamas


Ink bottle

Below is a lavender ink bottle of the period with the letter “D” imprinted below. Possibly for the maker “Diamine” ink which has been making top quality inks since 1864. They are in existence today and the author signed her books with them. Also pictured in Diamines “Flower Set” of colours.

Ink Bottle Diamine: Flower Set

CHAPTER NINETEEN - “Those Men! Those Women!”


Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock” was a comic poem, original intended to poke fun at the upper classes.
Full text is here:

And here’s the part that was inscribed on the doll

Say what strange motive, Goddess! could compel
A well-bred Lord t' assault a gentle Belle?
O say what stranger cause, yet unexplor'd,
Could make a gentle Belle reject a Lord?
In tasks so bold, can little men engage,
And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty Rage?

Arabella FermorIn this poem, “rape” does not have the modern meaning, but the antiquated one “to grab, to carry off” and refers to an angry lover who cuts off a lock of his beloved’s hair and makes away with it.

It’s Pope’s satirical work, making fun of all the sturm und drang of young love among the idle rich of London of the time (1714). Apparently two families known by Pope had been friends until the son of one of them, young Lord Peter,  in a fit of pique upon being rebuffed, cut off a single lock of hair of Miss Arabella Fermor at a party ---, about which Miss Fermor threw an enormous fit, thus estranging the two families. Pope wrote this comic poem to poke fun at this "much ado" over a trivial matter. In this context, though, the writer of the quote on the doll in our story  may… or may not… have meant something more serious.

Pope took a long time to finish his poem, and  by the time he did, poor Lord Peter was dead of smallpox and Miss Fermor had married another Here’s a picture of the lady who inspired the poem, Arabella Fermor, who does have rather nice hair.



Trinity College great court
TRINITY GREAT COURT Photograph by Ashlyn Gehrett

Founded by Henry VIII in 1546, and boasting 32 Nobel Prize winners, Trinity is where the aristocratic Freddie Eden-Summers attended and is one of the most picturesque colleges at Cambridge (see photos) as well as one of the most revered. Famous alumni include Francis Bacon, Issac Newton, Charles Babbage, James Clerk Maxwell, Lord Rayleigh,  Jawaharlal Nehru, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lord Byron, A.A.Milne, Bertrand Russell. Cambridge has always been a leading light in many fields and particularly in science.

At the time of this tale, students were encouraged to live on site and two courts - the New Court and Whewell’s Court were constructed during the nineteenth century to house students, who, it was feared, would face to much “temptation” if they lived in the town. Town and Gown… a source of conflict for centuries.



Were there wedding planners in Holmes’s day? Well, if Holmes says so, there must have been. Research bears this out. Weddings before the nineteenth century were often small, private family affairs but during the nineteenth century, weddings took on a grander scale,particularly among the upper classes, approaching the splashy events of modern times. Certainly the use of complicated floral arrangements are described. In “A History and Analysis of Weddings and Wedding Planning” by  Claire Finnell, Johnson and Wales University, she states:

"This was an era that marked significant change for wedding celebrations and ceremonies. In this era, there was a greater focus on decorations than ever before. At the beginning of the era, flowers were always used to decorate the churches and homes where the wedding would be celebrated. As the years went on these floral decorations gradually became more elaborate. Typically there was a carpet of flowers down the aisle that the bride was to walk on leading up to the altar. This was “because it was believed that this ensured a happy path to life for the bride” (Victorian Wedding Ceremony, 2018). Servants and even horses would be adorned in flowers to beautify the celebration as well. Roses were commonly used as they represent true love. This was also the era in which brides began to throw their wedding bouquets. In “Victorian ages, the bride originally tossed her bouquet to a friend as she left the festivities to keep that friend safe (by warding off evil spirits, of course) and to offer her luck” (The Knot, 2015)



St John's College New CourtA fictional college at Cambridge.  There is no record of a St. Cedd’s college at Cambridge and therefore Watson must have covered up the real college attended by Leo Vitale.  However… St. Cedd’s was a name used by Douglas Adams  in both Dr. Who and Dirk Gently, and perhaps there is an older tradition, unknown to us at present, that caused Dr. Watson to hide Leo’s really college by using this name. Adams supposedly based St. Cedd on his own college at Cambridge, St. John’s, pictured here. St. John’s and Trinity are traditionally rivals, since Henry VIII (founder of Trinity) had the St. John founder (Saint John Fisher) executed. It is said that the older courts in Trinity have no “J” staircases for this reason.

Below is a bridge connecting St. John’s to Trinity.

Bridge between John's and Trinity

CHAPTER TWENTY - “The Mind Reader”


There was indeed a locksmith by that name in Stanhope Street.  This ad from 1882.

Locksmith Boobbyer Ad



Gunn's Home Book of HealthThe book that indicates (along with other things) Colangelo’s hypochondria to Holmes was a staple household possession for families in America, perhaps less so for a single man in England, especially if bookmarked in a dozen places.

It is described in an earlier edition, thus: “Gunn's Domestic Medicine, or Poor Man's Friend, in the Hours of Affliction, Pain, and Sickness, This Book Points Out in Plain Language Free from Doctor's Terms, the Diseases of Men, Women, and Children, and the Latest and Most Approved Means Used in Their Cure, and Is Expressly Written for the Benefit of Families, in the Western and Southern States; It also Contains Descriptions of Medical Roots and Herbs of the Western and Southern Country, and How They Are to Be Used in the Cure of Diseases; Arranged on a New and Simple Plan, by which the Practice of Medicine Is Reduced to Principles of Common Sense”.

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE - “The Tables Turned”


While this trick is not particularly difficult, Colangelo was trying to get his sleight of hand working on the non dominant hand after his accident.  It’s now a staple for beginning amateur magicians and is considered your “cool uncle"’s trick.  Here’s how it’s done. Of course, Colangelo added a sharp smack to the side of the head for his own reasons….

How to pull a coin from someone's ear

Annotations for the remaining chapters coming soon.