The following handwritten paper recently came to light in the Sherlock Holmes Collection. Some of the more obscure references can be tracked down by visiting the Collection, the address for which appears at the end of the paper.
It was in July ’13 that Sherlock Holmes and I left our old rooms near Baker Street for the last time. Impending redevelopment and building work would bring major improvements for habitués, but we had to move elsewhere. It was not without a tinge of sadness that I surveyed the 150 crates into which our books and artefacts were packed, relocked the 6 massive bookcases and checked the other furniture ready to be loaded on to the lorry. I was encouraged to see the coat of arms of a certain gracious lady adorning the door of that – a guarantee of quality. How very different from the case of the Grosvenor Square Furniture Van that my friend had investigated some years before.
The following day, a small army of very energetic young men brought everything into our new rooms on the third floor of Westminster Reference Library, just off the south side of Leicester Square. It was a blazing hot day. Baker Street was like an oven, and the glare of the sunlight was painful to the eye. Not the most comfortable day for such work. We had measured carefully and everything fitted into its appointed space. The young men were back the next day and unpacked everything, putting it all neatly into place.
There would be distinct advantages to our new location. The library housed major collections of books on costume and theatre – useful for Holmes’ research for his disguises and he would enjoy keeping up with the careers of those who had impersonated him on stage and screen. He would also no doubt find their extensive runs of newspapers and periodicals fascinating – he would be able to check every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century. There was also an extensive art collection, which together with the proximity to the National Gallery would satisfy that side of him that came from his grandmother, who was the sister of the French painter Vernet.
Holmes loved to lie in the very centre of London and here he would be surrounded by interesting locations. Charing Cross Station, from which we had departed on cases such as The Abbey Grange and where, despite his boxing prowess, Holmes lost his left canine tooth, was but a short step away across Trafalgar Square. As indeed were the luxury hotels of Northumberland Avenue, in one of which we had met Sir Henry Baskerville, newly arrived in England and facing a terrible family curse, and where my old friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle often stayed when in town.
Just a little further away, east along the Strand, were the offices of George Newnes’ Strand Magazine in which I chronicled so many of Holmes’ cases. Also along there lay Simpson’s-in-the-Strand, where Holmes and I often took something nutritious after a particularly taxing case. A short walk to the west lay Holmes’ brother Mycroft’s club, The Diogenes, and nearby the offices where he worked ostensibly as a Government clerk, but was himself from time to time the British Government.
Back to the south of Trafalgar Square (whose name always reminds me of Clark Russell’s fine sea stories), tucked off to one side of Northumberland Avenue, lay the Sherlock Holmes Public House, still home to many items and the splendid facsimile of our Baker Street sitting room from the great exhibition held in Holmes’ honour back in ’51.
Yes, we would settle in here very nicely. Now, must note the new address,
Sherlock Holmes Collection,
Westminster Reference Library,
35, St. Martin’s Street,
[Watson / Catherine]
Irregular Observations is an occasional series of musings from the Sherlock Holmes Collection in Westminster Libraries. The Collection started life in 1951 and is now one of the most comprehensive in the world. If you enjoy Sherlock Holmes and want to learn more, have a look at our website or get in touch.