Entries A through C, of the Encyclopedia. Entries with ‘(Granada)’ next to them denote something mentioned or seen in an episode of the highly-successful Granada Sherlock Holmes television series, starring the late Jeremy Brett.
“…As for the Admiralty, buzzing like an overturned beehive!…” – Mycroft Holmes to his brother, Sherlock, “The Bruce-Partington Plans”.
The Admiralty was the organisation which was in charge of the British Royal Navy. Founded in the 16th century, it handled all the naval warfare considerations of the United Kingdom until its dissolution in 1964, when its duties were transferred to the Admiralty Board, which is part of the Ministry of Defence.
“…Daily Telegraph agony column by the print and paper…” – Sherlock Holmes, “The Bruce-Partington Plans”.
An ‘agony column’ is a column in a newspaper where miscellanious advertisments, usually related to finding friends, relatives or strangers, are placed. For example, an advertisment asking for the address of Miss Mary Morstan (to take an example from The Sign of Four), would have been placed in the agony column of a high-circulation newspaper (The Times, in that case), in the hopes that the person with whom contact is desired, would read the advert, and respond.
“…our man on the beat saw a light there about two in the morning…” – Insp. Tobias Gregson, “A Study in Scarlet”.
A ‘man on the beat’, a ‘cop on his beat’ or a ‘policeman’s beat’, is a specific area at a specific time that a policeman (usually police-constables) patrol the public streets. A policeman would cover a block or two, and walk continually around the block for a pre-determined length of time, usually an hour. At the end of his shift, he would report back to the local police-station, and another policeman would be sent out to replace him.
“…the usual symptom is a broken bell-wire!…” – Sherlock Holmes, “A Case of Identity”.
A Victorian-era servants’ bell.
The bell-wire was the cable attached to old-fashioned brass servants’ bells, which connected the bell in one part of a building, to the bell-pull located in a room in another part of a building. Pulling on the bell-pull pulled on the wire, which rotated the curved bell-axle which the bell was fixed to, in the recieving room. Bell-pulls, bell-wires and servants’ bells of this kind came into being during the Georgian era. Before the invention of such bells, it was necessary to have a servant always outside a given room where the master and his friends or family were entertaining or working. The servants’ bell allowed the servants to carry out their work and allowed the master and his family to continue their socialising without one interfereing with the other until sent for by the ring of a bell.
“…the boat-train makes one stop between London and Dover…” – Mycroft Holmes, “The Greek Interpreter” (Granada).
Boat-trains were fast, steam-powered express-trains which provided services between major English cities, and major English shipping-ports, such as between London and the various harbours along the south coast of England, such as Portsmouth, Dover or Southampton.
“…It is a German-speaking country, in Bohemia!…” – Sherlock Holmes, “A Scandal in Bohemia”.
Bohemia was a region in Eastern Europe, south of Poland, which for several centuries up until the end of WWI, was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Its capital was the city of Prague, which is now the capital of the Czech Republic.
“…Gentlemen, let me introduce you to the famous black pearl of the Borgias!…” – Sherlock Holmes, “The Six Napoleons”.
The Borgia family was a famous Italian noble family which rose to power during the Rennaisance. They are generally believed to be the first crime family and were famous for their power, wealth, ruthlessness and the influence that they held over the Catholic Church.
“…A trusty comrade is always of use, and a chronicler even more! I am lost without my Boswell…” – Sherlock Holmes, “The Man with the Twisted Lip”.
James Boswell, 9th Laird of Auchinleck. Boswell was an 18th century Scottish author and lawyer who wrote biographies of his contemporaries and who had also famously and meticulously recorded his encounters with famous people in his various diaries. As such, ‘Boswell’ had entered the English language as a person who is a constant chronicler, recorder and companion to another person. He is most famously remembered today for writing a detailed biography of his colleague, Dr. Samuel Johnson.
“There is a train at half-past nine,” said I, glancing over my Bradshaw. – Dr. Watson, to Sherlock Holmes, “The Copper Beeches”.
A page from a ‘Bradshaw’ printed in 1850.
The Bradshaw (named after Mr. George Bradshaw, 1801-1853), more properly called Bradshaw’s Monthly Railway Guide, was a booklet of railway timetables, published monthly, from 1839 to 1961. Each booklet was characterised by having a yellow cover and lists of train timetables inside. The price was sixpence per issue.
“…I found…the tingling after-taste of brandy upon my lips…” – Dr. Watson, “The Empty House”.
Alcohol was frequently used in Victorian-era medicine and brandy, due to its distinctive taste and scent, was often used to help revive people who had fainted or who had passed out from exhaustion. Apart from Holmes using it on Watson when he faints in ‘Empty House’, Watson also administers the beverage to Dr. Huxtable in ‘The Priory School’.
“…A nice little brougham and a pair of beauties…” – Sherlock Holmes, “A Scandal in Bohemia”.
A brougham is a type of horse-drawn vehicle, which was invented for use by Henry Peter Brougham, 1st Baronet of Brougham and Vaux. It’s a four-wheeled closed carriage with seats, inside and out, for anywhere between four or six people, depending on the size of the carriage. It was pulled by either one or two horses, again, dependent on the size of the brougham in question. The brougham is the type of carriage used by the King of Bohemia when he comes to visit Holmes and Watson at the start of ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’.
“…’This,’ said he, taking a gray roll of paper from his bureau…” – Percy Phelps to Sherlock Holmes, “The Naval Treaty”.
A bureau is a style of desk or cabinet, which was very common in the 19th century. While bureaus could vary considerably in size, they were typically compact writing-desks, consisting of a hinged lid which closed at a roughly 45-degee angle. When opened, the hinged lid opened downwards to a horizontal position where it could be used as a writing-surface. The cavity inside the desk was filled with pidgeonholes and drawers, useful for organising stationery and letters. The cabinet underneath the writing-surface (consisting of either larger drawers or a cupboard), was used to store books and larger objects that wouldn’t fit in the cubicles at the top. This style of desk is also called a ‘slant-top’ desk, on account of the angled top half of the desk.
“…was the photograph a Cabinet?” – Sherlock Holmes to King Wilhelm, “A Scandal in Bohemia”.
Holmes is referring to cabinet-cards, which were a style of photograph which were mounted on cards measuring 4.25×6.5 inches.
“…My card, sir!…” – Charles Augustus Milverton to the Earl of Dovercourt, “The Master Blackmailer” (Granada).
A leftover from the Georgian and Regency eras of English history, the calling card was something that a lady or gentleman never left home without. In accordance with the manners, behaviour and social customs of the 18th and early 19th centuries, you never…ever…just paid someone a visit. Especially if you were part of the social elite. Proper ettiquette dictated that you gave the footman, maid or butler, your card, which would then be delivered into the hands of the person or persons that you desired to call upon. If they would recieve you, you would be invited inside. If not, you were told that the person you wished to see was either not at home, or wasn’t recieving visitors that day.
The calling card in that capacity, no-longer exists and is no-longer a part of the ettiquette of paying someone a visit. However, business-cards, to a certain extent, have replaced the role of the calling card and are still used today to present oneself or to advertise one’s services.
More detailed information on calling cards can be found here.
A set of antique cataract knives.
“…I presume, as I see blood-stains upon it, that it is the one which was found in the dead man’s grasp. Watson, this knife is surely in your line?”
“It is what we call a cataract knife…” – Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson, “The Adventure of Silver Blaze”.
A cataracts knife is an instrument used in the removal of cataracts from a person’s eyes. They were thin, angular and very, very sharp; delicate instruments meant for delicate work.
Although Holmes never ever smoked from one of these, the calabash pipe has long been associated with the famous detective and has appeared in several movies centered on the detective.
The calabash pipe gets its name from the material which the pipe-bowl is made of; the gourd of the Calabash plant. The gourd is cut, smoothed, cleaned and is given an insert of porcelian into which tobacco would be placed. A stem is then added and the pipe is created. The pipe’s association with Holmes came about due to actors portraying Holmes, wanting to be able to smoke and use their hands at the same time (for example, holding a magnifying glass). The calabash’s low center of gravity means that it may be held in the smoker’s mouth and does not require hands for support, leaving them free to do other things.
“…The wind cried and sobbed like a child in the chimney…” – Dr. Watson, “The Five Orange Pips”.
This is most likely an allusion to the occupation of child chimney-sweep, a dangerous and filthy job done by children during the Victorian era. Boys as young as five were shoved up chimneys with little brushes, to sweep down the ash and soot which blocked chimneys after years of use. In some cases, children literally got stuck inside chimneys, unable to get out, and they died there, of suffocation. Authorities recognised the dangers of sending children up chimneys pretty early on, because it was made illegal in 1840, but because nobody bothered to obey the law, it had to be strengthened in 1864. While sending kids up chimneys had probably died out by the time of the Holmesian canon in the 1890s, it had left a permanent cultural mark on the Victorian era.
Chinese coins, of the kind that Mr. Wilson wears on his watch-chain.
“…And in addition, when I see a Chinese coin, hanging from your watch-chain…” – Sherlock Holmes, “The Red-Headed League”
Here, Holmes is referring to the Chinese coins of yesteryear, the round ones with the square holes in the middle. In the Granada series, you’ll see one on Mr. Wilson’s watch-chain.
A modern, silver-coloured cigarette-case.
“…I found [the gleam] had come from the silver cigarette case which he used to carry…” – Dr. Watson, “The Final Problem”.
These days, most people use cardboard cigarette-boxes to keep their smokes in. During Holmes’s time, a gentleman would keep his cigarettes (either pre-bought, or self-rolled) in a neat cigarette-case, usually made of gold or silver. Watson (Edward Hardwicke) holds a cigarette-case in his hand when he offers a smoke to Dr. Mortimer in the Granada series production of “The Hound of the Baskervilles”.
“…It was consumption of the most virulent kind…” – Dr. Armstrong, “The Missing Three-Quarter”.
“…An English lady had arrived who was in the last stage of consumption…” – Dr. Watson, “The Final Problem”.
‘Consumption’ is the Victorian-era name for the disease known to modern medicine as ‘Tuberculosis’. It was called ‘consumption’ (in several languages, not just English), because the disease appeared to eat away at the victim from the inside out.
“…She left this morning with her husband by the 5:15 train from Charing-cross for the Continent…” – Irene Norton’s maid, “A Scandal in Bohemia.”
‘The Continent’ refers to the continent of Europe, a term still sometimes used today.
“…Yes, the coolies used to do some squealing towards the end!…” – Culverton Smith to Sherlock Holmes, “The Dying Detective”.
A ‘coolie’ was a derrogatory slang-name for field-labourers who were native to the British colonies of India, Malaya and Singapore.
The Covent Garden Market
“…Well I got the two dozen from a salesman in Covent Garden…” – Windigate, landlord of the Alpha Public House, “The Blue Carbuncle”.
Covent Garden is a district in London and in the Victorian-era, it contained a major market-square, with farmers and other salesmen selling everything from fruit, vegetables, geese, fish, meat, poultry, cheese and flowers. A farmer’s market has existed in Covent Garden since the mid-17th century after the Great Fire of London destroyed several other market-squares. The Covent Garden Market was well-known since the 1660s as a place for street-performers or ‘Buskers’ and performers may still be found in Covent Garden today.
The original farmer’s market no-longer exists in Covent Garden. Increasing traffic congestion in the second half of the 20th century made a farmer’s market impractical in the Garden and it was moved to the district of Nine Elms in the 1970s where the New Covent Garden Market exists to this day, selling fruits, vegetables and other farmer’s produce.