Entries P-R

Pea Souper

“…a dense, yellow fog settled down upon London…” – Dr. Watson, “The Bruce-Partington Plans”.

Victorian-era London was famous for its incredibly thick fogs. Natural, low-hanging clouds create fog. When it is mixed with smoke and ash from the thousands of chimneys all over town, it gains a yellow-brown smoggy appearance which is both poisonous as well as unsightly. London smog could get so bad that it would be impossible to see across the street.


“…Son of Sir Augustus Moran, C.B., once British Minister to Persia…” – Sherlock Holmes, to Dr. Watson, “The Empty House”.

Persia was the name of the country (until 1935) known to today as Iran.


“…He disclosed a golden pince-nez…” – Dr. Watson, “The Golden Pince-Nez”.

Pince-Nez [Pronounced ‘Pas-nay’] are an early style of spectacles, which are armless and which are held on the user’s face purely by the bridge, which would clip around the wearer’s nose. Pince-Nez were usually worn with a connecting chain around the user’s neck or attached to one’s clothing, to prevent the pince-nez from being lost or from breaking if dropped.

Pocket watch

“…In the latter, it may be remembered, Sherlock Holmes was able, by winding up the dead man’s watch, to prove that it had been wound up two hours ago, and that therefore, the deceased had gone to bed within that time…” – Dr. Watson, “The Five Orange Pips.”

In the Victorian era, if a gentleman wore any watch at all, it was always a pocket watch. Wristwatches were considered effeminate and ladylike. A real man wore a big, chunky blob of gold on a chain. However, a pocket watch was a lot more than just a timepiece in Holmes’s day. A finely made watch with a solid gold case was expensive and owning such a watch was as much a status-symbol as it was an instrument for the measurement of time. Usually, a pocket watch was the most expensive piece of jewellery that a man owned. Wealthy men wore pocket watches made by Tissot, Patek-Philippe, Breuget or any of the other fine, European watchmakers.

Typically, a pocket watch had to be wound once every 24 hours for it to maintain proper time and function. A standard pocket watch mainspring (the coiled up strip of steel that powered the watch) could generally provide enough energy to run the watch for at least day and a half, typically between 28 to 36 hours. Some pocket watches had mainsprings which could, once wound, power their respective watches for as long as a week, but these were rare. A watch was generally wound up each morning, either first thing, or while the wearer ate breakfast. Alternatively, the watch would be wound each evening, before bedtime.


“…Sherlock Holmes followed me with several boxes and portmanteaux…” – Dr. Watson – “A Study in Scarlet”.

Luggage these days is divided into cabin-baggage, backpacks, suitcases, duffel-bags and trolley-bags. Luggage of the 19th and early 20th centuries was no-less varied. Suitcases, steamer-trunks, hat-boxes, gladstone bags and so-on. But what is a portmaneau? [plural: Portmanteaux]

A portmanteau is a large case used for holding clothes, shoes and other items and which opens on one end into two halves so that suit-coats and trousers can hang vertically inside the case. These large and unwieldly pieces of luggage are rarely used or made today, due to changes in mens’ fashion.


4 thoughts on “Entries P-R

  1. William says:

    I’m still rather in the dark about what exactly a “pip” is. (As in, “The Five Orange Pips”)


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