Elementary, dear watson
Lucknow patted itself on the back for having ?gifted? them Holme's faithful chronicler, Dr Watson.india Updated: May 23, 2006 03:09 IST
On his 147th birth anniversary on Monday, crime-fiction buffs across the world remembered Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for his creation of the inimitable Sherlock Holmes. And Lucknow patted itself on the back for having “gifted” them the master detective's faithful chronicler, Dr Watson.
The affable physician, whose annals of the quirky detective has remained popular for over a century, would have never have taken up his pen had not a real-life Lucknow doctor suggested the idea of a sidekick-cum-biographer to the duo's maker, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle-- or say some biographers.
Doyle's close friend Dr Mohammed Ebrahim Sufi of Lucknow was going through a draft of the debut Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet (1887), when it struck him that the brilliant investigator needed a foil. His suggestion of an additional character as Holmes' colleague and personal assistant found instant favour and Dr Watson came to life. And, that's how the Lucknow connection found place in the Doyle-Holmes scheme of things.
Lucknow, mostly because of its historical significance in British India, recurs several times in Conan Doyle's works and the connection goes beyond the Dr Sufi-Lucknow-Watson link.
In Sign of Four (1890), the city's name props up as the pipe-smoking Holmes discusses a case. In the chapter titled, ‘The Strange Story of Jonathan Small’, the city of the nawabs and the famous Mutiny finds mention twice.
In Doyle's propaganda book on The Great Boer War, Lucknow gets more than a passing mention in Chapter VII. In ‘The Battle of Magersfontein’ he writes about the action of Lord Methuen's force. "With the history of the first relief of Lucknow in his memory, he (Lord Methuen) was on his guard against a repetition of such an experience." It goes to show how deep a scar the Mutiny of 1857 had left on the British mind.
That the scar of the Mutiny always remained is once again evident in Conan Doyle's fictionalised autobiography Stark Munro Letters (1895). In this semi-autobiographical novel, the Mutiny in Awadh finds mention. Stark Munro writes to his friend Hebert Swansborough, "In the morning, I went round to Mrs La Force and gave her a bulletin. Her brother had recovered his serenity now that the patient had left. He had the Victoria Cross it seems, and was one of the desperate little garrison who held Lucknow in that hell-whirl of a mutiny."