Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Yellow Face – a Sherlock Holmes short story

The Yellow Face – a Sherlock Holmes short story

Also known as The Adventure of the Yellow Face* by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a Sherlock Holmes short story from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes collection. According to The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, it was Holmes 17thcase.

It is also one of the few cases, wherein Holmes fails to correctly solve the mystery. Watson explains
…it is only natural that I should dwell rather upon his successes than upon his failures. And this is not so much for the sake of his reputation, for indeed it was when he was at his wit’s end that his energy and his versatility were most admirable, but because where he failed it happened so often that no one else succeeded, and the tale was left for ever without a conclusion. Now and again, however, it chanced that even when he erred the truth was still discovered.

It is a touching tale, revealing soft spots in both Watson – not entirely astonishing – and Holmes himself.

Additionally, it reveals a commendable sentiment in the author. When the mystery is solved, no thanks to Holmes’ power of deduction, central to the case is the interracial marriage of an Englishwoman – now widowed and remarried – and her long-kept secret of her mixed-race child. Doyle treats the situation with respect and tenderness. Nothing very laudable by today’s standards, but pretty progressive for late 19thCentury.

The case takes place in Norbury – which is only important in understanding the following quotation and lines of this story, when Holmes speaks to Watson before turning in:
“Watson” said he, “if it should ever strike you that I am getting a little over-confident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper ‘Norbury’ in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you.”

It’s different, as I have explained, from most of Holmes’ exploits. I enjoyed it very much.

*Many of Doyle’s short stories, that were originally published with titles such as The Yellow Face, had the titles changed to THE ADVENTURE OF the Yellow Face, when the stories were collected into volumes such as The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.


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