Sherlock Holmes: The Missing Muses

 

"It seemed most clear to me that the entire Holmes clan was afflicted with the most terrible mental delusions."

 

It had long been a source of intrigue to me that my friend, Mr Sherlock Holmes, rarely mentioned his family, so it was with considerable interest  I listened when he began to discuss his sister.

It was after tea one summer evening, and our conversation had meandered from current theatrical trends to the findings of certain Viennese doctors, coming round at last to familial traits and hereditary attitudes. It had always been my opinion that my friend’s extraordinary facility for observation and deduction was the product of his dedication to the training of his mind.

“To an extent you are undoubtedly correct, my dear Watson,” he replied. “But I am not the only one of my father’s progeny to possess such gifts.” Noting my confusion, he continued, “I am talking here of my sister, Eglantine.”

The notion of Mr Sherlock Holmes having a female sibling astounded me, but as was often the case, my friend pre-empted my questions.

“I am several years her senior, and had not seen her for many years until some months ago. She was always a wayward child and was sent to an educational seminary in Switzerland where she remained until she was rusticated following an unspeakable indiscretion with a fellow pupil. But I digress- you may recall, Watson, that particularly damp week in April when you accompanied your wife to Llandudno to visit her maiden aunt?”

I remembered it well, for perhaps the wrong reasons, and nodded.

“It so happened that one evening I was enjoying the company of my briar, when Mrs Hudson knocked to announce the presence of a young person most anxious to see me. The door opened and a youth entered, the sight of whom proved most shocking, for it was as if I were observing myself in my prime. The youth was trembling, and gasped, ‘You have to help me, brother!’

“The appellation of ‘brother’ confirmed my deductions; I had already noted the youth’s diminutive hands and feet, and lack of even the faintest hint of a beard. Remember, I am a master of disguise, and thus despite the cropped hair and morning jacket, I was not fooled: it was my sister.
‘Eglantine, what brings you here?’

‘I am being pursued by those who seek to do away with me,’ she replied, and began to recount her story. It seems, Watson, that my younger sister had incurred the wrath of a great number of important people.”

That a slip of a girl could do this puzzled me. Mr Sherlock Holmes once again appeared to read my thoughts, for he continued, “You my have noticed, Watson, that in the literature that we have come to know and study, there is a huge imbalance between the number of male and female characters?”

I was intrigued by this comment, as the matter was one to which I had never given previous consideration. I was aware that those few novels I favoured tended to be tales of war and courage and exploration, and to this end I had always assumed that a similar body of work must exist for women.

I indicated to my friend to carry on.

“Well, my sister, it appears, took it upon herself to discover the fate of the missing female characters.”

“Missing?” I countered. “How can these characters be classed as ‘missing’? Surely it is more accurate to assume that they never existed?”

“Exactly,” my friend replied, “and here the question begs to be asked; why? Eglantine, it appears, systematically reviewed every canonical tome in London’s scholarly libraries, disguising herself as a young man in order to peruse their rarer collections. Her initial theory had been that over the centuries an underground organisation had systematically re-written the entire works of English literature to ensure that those female characters that remained would perpetuate the belief that women were either docile, lascivious or raving mad. However, her covert excavations of the original manuscripts suggested this theory was unsound, leading her to explore the matter deeper.”

My confusion here must have been obvious to my friend, who regarded me with condescension. “My dear Watson, what the clever girl proposed was to undertake an exploration of the most extraordinary nature: a voyage into the unmapped territories of the Great Collective Unconsciousness, using the mind-altering Mexican peyote plant as her vehicle!”

 

I had always been aware of Mr Sherlock Holmes’s use of certain pharmaceuticals as an aid to his mental processes, but the thought of a woman doing so troubled me greatly, and I made bold as to tell him so.

 

“Nonsense, Watson!” he exclaimed. “It was an incredible idea, and one I only wish I had thought of myself. Her plan was to travel through the dimension where the writer’s muse might reside, and determine the whereabouts of the lost muses, the muses who would have inspired countless poets and novelists to create sympathetic female characters who might have numbered intellect, courage, innovation and independence amongst their virtues. Once there, she planned to reinstate these muses to their rightful position of literary inspiration!”

There have been but a few incidents during my acquaintance with Holmes when I have doubted his sanity, and this was one of them; indeed, if familial traits were the subject of discussion, it seemed most clear to me that the entire Holmes clan was afflicted with the most terrible mental delusions. However, it would not have been pertinent for me to voice such thoughts, and I bade my friend finish his story. “So what then?” I demanded of him.

“Well, it seems she was indiscreet about her intentions. She had formed an unnaturally close attachment to a young woman whose father is a professor of Words at one of our most prominent universities, and in her bid to convince her father of the value of her friendship with Eglantine, the girl told him about the plan. Needless to say, he was outraged, for had the scheme been successful, uture generations of women might have been inspired by literature to shake off their domestic shackles and marital servitude, leading to the collapse of civilised society as we know it.

“I stepped out for a few minutes to purchase some port, as Mrs Hudson was out, and my sister’s nerves were in need of calming. When I returned, the front door was ajar, and there were signs of a scuffle in my rooms. Of my sister there was no trace, save for a small brown paper parcel. On examination, the package contained a handful of small, spineless cacti, which I correctly surmised to be Lophophora williamsii: peyote buttons.”

It came as no surprise to me whatsoever that Holmes expressed no concern over his sister’s whereabouts; he could be almost inhuman at times. Once or twice I ventured to draw our conversation round to the subject of Eglantine, but my friend became quite distant at the mention of her name, muttering, “Such a clever girl; such a shame…”

 

 

Copyright © 2010 Emma Lloyd. All rights reserved.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson originally created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

 

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1 Comment

  1. Oooh. I am not a Sherlock Holmes fan but this is written so very well, it drew me in despite myself. Clever idea, elegantly executed. I’d love to read the rest of Eglantine’s story!

    Reply

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