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Kat

What sort of experiences with women did dr. Watson have?

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In the Sign of Four the doctor and narrator says about his experiences with various women on 3 continents. As we can only guess what the continents are I'd like to focus on his relationships with women. It's hard to imagine he'd visit a house of ill repute for the middle class in London or Paris as a doctor. Sure, doctors visited such places, but I can't imagine this one there. I can't imagine him in a luxurious brothel either due to the pricing. He wouldn't want to risk catching something. Yes, knowledge of diseases was minimal then, but we're in the 1880's, so he knew something. There''s also that quote from Holmes about the "fair sex" being his ''department", which amazes me greatly. What experiences could the doctor have in mind? He can't have been the lover of an aristocratic lady or the wife of a factory owner in my view. Thanks for comments and help.

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I assume Holmes means that he himself has had hardly any first-hand experience with women (other than the occasional female client), and Watson has had SOME experience, so that makes him the expert!

Watson's experience was presumably of several types:  as an army doctor dealing with nurses, as a civilian doctor dealing with patients, as a Londoner dealing with shop assistants and waitresses, as a single man meeting women socially, and later on as a married man.  (This would cover both what Holmes was referring to and Watson's own comments.)  Watson seems to have been an honorable man (and a Victorian one at that), so I see no reason to assume that his "experience" was ever much more scandalous than that!

 

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Hmm..

Could it have something to do with curing 'hysteria'?

I remember asking about it.

Eh.. I'm not sure how to link it..

https://www.sherlockforum.com/forum/topic/2928-john-watson/?do=findComment&comment=132849

 

 

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https://thenorwoodbuilder.tumblr.com/post/43348143379/about-john-three-continents-watson-but-which

This article was posted 8 years ago, but makes a compelling argument for Dr. Watson's Three Continents of womankind being Europe (obviously . . England inclusive, but also the Continent, chiefly France, possibly Italy, too.), Africa and Asia (India & Afghanistan).  It was very likely that on Watson's long journey to join his regiment en route to the Battle of Maiwand, that he would have travelled through the Suez Canal to Bombay, or possibly long way 'round the horn of Africa to arrive at the same destination.

In that passage about his experience of women on 'many nations and three continents' not showing him any woman to compare with his beloved Mary, who he was meeting for the first time, he is engaging in a touch of male braggadocio, perhaps.  He's been struck by the thunderbolt--to be so instantly captivated by the sweet young governess who is Sherlock Holmes's latest client, but he slips that bit about being an homme du monde in at the top just to assure the readers that he, John H. Watson, M.D., is no naif--he's a world-travelled soldier, and he's known his share of womenkind--enough to know that his future bride here is something special.  He's not 'settling' for this woman who literally has presented herself on his doorstep-it's kismet!  The effect of that phrase is to make him sound quite rakish, but he could easily have been referring to benign interactions with shopkeepers, officers' wives, family friends and so on.

I can well imagine the peer pressure that JW would have faced, as a Victorian gentleman of the professions and an *Army* man, to indulge, with his mates, in visiting houses where ladies entertained for money.  Before he joined the Army, he was a university and medical student.  Opportunities certainly would have been there, and for someone of John's class, it would have been regarded as both a rite of passage and a gentleman's privilege.  For the Victorian gent of some means, visiting a madam's establishment was practically socially acceptable--for the men--or at least somewhat indulged by the police.  The thriving sex trade is one of the paradoxes of the rigidly prim (on the surface) Victorian age.  This is not to say that Dr. Watson indulged himself, but he may have been at least tempted to, or cajoled by friends to join them on their debauches.  I prefer to think of Dr. Watson's adventures with women of three continents in a more romantic vein . . though as a medical student and then an Army recruit, his social interactions with ladies would have been fairly restricted.  Our doctor is a Romantic soul and I can easily see him forming emotional attachments with local women he may have met socially at mixers for troops, or nurses.  He may have been stationed for a stay of months' duration somewhere enroute to Afghanistan, enough time to get to know a local lass or two quite well.

On account of this 'three continents' tease, it has been a popular convention among pastichers to give Watson a pre-Mary wife, possibly an American, circa the time of the Jefferson Hope case.  That timeline doesn't really work, unless the marriage was so brief the bride died practically at the beginning of the marriage.  From the time John moves into Baker Street and gets embroiled in the matter of the Study in Scarlet with his new flatmate to Miss Morstan presenting herself at their door, it's only about 18 months, and during that time, John is still recovering from his war wounds.  There was not time for him to assume a wife before shipping out to Afghanistan, either, and he arrives back in London very much a bachelor.  So personally I think that Mary was John's first wife, and then he later remarries, much later, in 1902, to the second Mrs. Watson.  She can't have been the great love of his life because she doesn't even rate a name; she's a companion for his last years and I guess she's OK with that; at any rate Conan Doyle does not find John's remarriage sufficiently interesting to elaborate upon.  Mary Morstan is and remained the One Woman for John.  He loved her deeply and truly.  But is it realistic to think that John came to his marital bed a virgin?  An Army veteran and university/medical man who was by then past 30 years of age?  That would indeed be notable if true.  I tend to think there were at least one or two girlfriends in John's life before Mary who foiled their chaperones and gave themselves to the exceedingly charming Dr. Watson.  But a womanizer?  No.  John enjoyed the company of women, but generally with clothes on.

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