the adventure of silver blaze

Original gouache and Watercolor drawing for Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of Silver Blaze”.
Grisaille with highlighting in white and pale ochre.
18 x 26 cm.
Published in the Strand Magazine, December 1892.

Art by Sidney Paget.(1860-1908).

Silver Blaze

Well, I am finally out of the Adventures and onto Memoirs.  I think I made a comment in one of my posts of how a lot of Sherlock Holmes stories do not focus on the character of Sherlock too much.  Instead, they focus on the characters that are involved in the mystery more.  The themes and the meat of the story come from them, and not from Holmes and Watson.  This is the first one that is different from that.  The characters surrounding the mystery are really not that fleshed out (though we will talk about them a bit).  Instead the main theme of the story, I believe, comes through the differences between Holmes and the inspector of this case, Inspector Gregory.

Holmes remarks this about this (while regaling the case to Watson on the train) about Inspector Gregory, “Inspector Gregory, to the case has been committed, is an extremely competent officer.  Were he but gifted with imagination he might rise to great heights of his profession.”  Here, before he will even meet the man, Doyle is already introducing the idea of imagination being a key ingredient to detective work and success.  While on the way to the stables, Holmes picks up a wax vesta from the mud.  Gregory is annoyed that he had missed it and asks how Holmes found it.  Holmes remarks, “It was invisible buried in the mud, I only saw it because I was looking for it.”  Holmes let his mind come to an idea, and looked to prove it.  Gregory on the other hand, only looked into what he say.  He collected data instead of looking for data to try to prove the most possible idea in his mind.  When Holmes and Watson go looking for the horse, they see the horse’s hoof prints leading to a rival stable.  At the discovery, Holmes remarks, “See the value of imagination.  It is the one quality that Gregory lacks.  We imagined what might have happened, acted upon the supposition, and found ourselves justified.”  While on the hunt (in pursuit), Holmes’s mind still turns back to Gregory.  This shows two things 1) some sort of fondness/respect toward the man and his work, and 2) a bit of a strong belief in Holmes about the importance of the imagination.

Doyle brings up the difference between Holmes’s vivid imagination and Gregory’s lack of imagination a total of three times in the story.  I do not think that this was a great accident.  People begin to notice patterns when the start to to develop threes.  No, Doyle wants reader’s attention to know the difference.  It is as if Doyle is saying that it is not for a keen mind to be observation based or facts orientated.  If that was so, then Inspector Gregory would be in Holmes’s league, but as we see as the story unfolds, it is not the acute attention to the evidence, but rather the ability to use an imagination to look for evidence beyond the already existing evidence.  A keen mind, according to Doyle, must have the ability to discern truth from the facts before him and have an imagination to see beyond the present facts to glimpse truth.

Originally posted by tearose77

I talked about in my post on The Beryl Coronet about how it was Mary Holder’s obsession with the excitement of romantic love that drove her to turn on her family.  It is a similar concept here, except with the genders reverse.  John Straker’s mistress of very expensive taste that drove him to turn on and hurt his employer and the whole life he had worked hard to have.  Instead of being content with his home life (which granted we do not know many details there), or instead of standing up to the woman who was running his bank account dry (we assume that we loved her or at least was getting some pleasure from her), he decided to take out the horse that he had been training for years and nick its tendon so the horse would become lame.  All of this to pay off his mistress’s expensive tastes.  While doing this to pay for her, John Straker gave up his life for the horse, sensing that it was in danger, was spooked off and gave a death blow to Straker with its hoof.  

Both Silver Blaze and The Beryl Coronet have “villains” that turned to that life because of an unhealthy obsession with another.  They had put their “love” for another over all other people and creatures, and without much thought to the impacts of their decisions.  In both cases, Doyle does not reward these two characters.  It is implied that Mary Holder will eventually suffer because a man like Sir George Burnwell cannot be trusted, and their relationship will break down.  The things she idolizes.  With John Straker, it is his idol’s greed that brought him to destroy that he worked hard to train.  It was his “love” that drove him to the place where the beast he sought to destroy would in its effort to escape, kill him.  Doyle seems to be confronting a certain idolization of romantic love that may have existed in the people he saw around him.  He is putting forward that his idolization is not healthy and entraps people to become blind to everything else.

I really enjoyed this story. And you know is very exciting?  I watched the Elementary episode that corresponded to this story right after I read this.  Is that not cool?  XD  I loved the simple and yet twist ending.  It is refreshing read and a great story to get into.  :)