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Kat

What was the Stranger's Room in the Diogenes Club in the original works?

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It was a room where speaking was allowed, that much I understood, but it's the name that puzzles me. The club was for members and women weren't allowed in unless they were maybe courtesans, but I'm not even sure about that.  I'm not a historian. The idea that gentlemen don't speak to each other and just read ignoring each other's presence " have no wish for the company of their fellows" to quote from The Greek Interpreter,  is beyond my comprehension.

In the Victorian era clubs were places where fortunes were lost due to gambling, fights with fists erupted over financial losses, especially as a gentleman claimed another was cheating.Card games were played, alcohol was drunk and tobacco was smoked. It could get quite noisy as far as I understood from 19th c novels or from reading about that historical period. The interiors were richly decorated and I think that by the end of the Victorian era suck clubs weren't necessarily for the aristocracy. Middle class men had their own clubs. Conan Doyle belonged to one. It's main purpose was to discuss exploring. This club was a "poor relation" of the Royal Geographical Society and its members had to have a record of some travelling I read somewhere.

Apparently the club was modelled on a real place called The Athenaeum. I understand the Greek reference to Diogenes. What are your ideas about this?

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The London Clubs were certainly men only and began mainly as venues for gambling which was illegal on the ‘outside.’ Initially there were only a few like Boodle’s, Brooks’s and White’s all of which still survive today. White’s is the oldest as it was founded in 1693. All very exclusive of course with waiting lists to become members. The Athenaeum still exists and is has been suggested as Doyle’s model for the Diogenes but he never said if this was true or not.

I can’t be certain why it’s called The Stranger’s Room but I’ve always assumed it was because members of the club became members because they didn’t want to speak to each other but someone might visit the club to speak to one of them. These non- members were classed as ‘strangers’ and so they needed a room to speak to members. 

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On 4/13/2021 at 1:15 PM, Kat said:

The idea that gentlemen don't speak to each other and just read ignoring each other's presence " have no wish for the company of their fellows" to quote from The Greek Interpreter,  is beyond my comprehension.

That statement applied only to the one club.  I'm guessing its members were mostly antisocial introverts, who nevertheless wanted to belong to a club -- either as a place to hide out (as it were) or because of the amenities it offered or simply because a gentleman was expected to belong to a club.

 

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I suppose what separated a gentleman from a worker was the fact that he belonged to a club, you're right. The word "gentleman" changed in the Victorian era. Compare that to Mr. Gardiner being called a tradesman by Charlotte Bingley, though he lived in a fairly large house, two stories at least and presumably had one cleaner. In Conan Doyle's time a gentleman was a man who had manners, but probably wouldn't engage in a duel as these were made illegal in Jane Austen's time, or maybe I'm mistaken.

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1 hour ago, Kat said:

I suppose what separated a gentleman from a worker was the fact that he belonged to a club, you're right. The word "gentleman" changed in the Victorian era. Compare that to Mr. Gardiner being called a tradesman by Charlotte Bingley, though he lived in a fairly large house, two stories at least and presumably had one cleaner. In Conan Doyle's time a gentleman was a man who had manners....

Well, a man wouldn't have been allowed to join one of those clubs unless the existing members thought he was a gentleman, whatever that may have meant to them, but there may have also been men who were generally thought of as gentlemen who had chosen not to seek membership.    As you say, a gentleman would need to have manners -- probably also a certain amount of formal education and a certain amount of money and/or prestige.

Goodness knows I'm not even English, let alone a Victorian, but I have the impression that a gentleman also had to qualify according to a sort of caste system.  For example, I suspect that a man who was working for his money, even if he were fairly well off, might not be considered a gentleman if his line of work was considered undignified or distasteful -- say, he owned a large company that collected trash or cleaned outhouses.  Even a man of leisure might not qualify if his family's ,money had come from such an enterprise.  But that's just my impression from novels, television, etc.

 

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A Gentleman today just means a person of good manners but back then it was a man of ‘good birth.’ Even the wealthy businessmen would have been looked down on by the aristocracy. To them having to earn a living 9n whatever way just meant’ lower birth.’ The Clubs were originally for those of aristocratic blood and even after The Reform Act of 1832, which gave more men the vote, the newly rich still weren’t welcomed so they starting forming their own clubs. 

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In Sherlock Diogenes Club was exclusively for Diplomats Politicians and British Government. Mycroft explains this to John. They don't talk to prevent giving away state secrets by accident.

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6 hours ago, J.P. said:

In Sherlock Diogenes Club was exclusively for Diplomats Politicians and British Government.

There were a lot of such men in there, for sure.  But did he actually say the club was limited to them?

 

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That's all we know:

Quote

MYCROFT: Tradition, John. Our traditions define us.
JOHN: So total silence is traditional, is it? You can’t even say, “Pass the sugar.”
MYCROFT: Three-quarters of the diplomatic service and half the government front bench all sharing one tea trolley. It’s for the best, believe me.
(He smiles round at John but then his face becomes more grim as he walks towards a pair of armchairs in the middle of the room.)
MYCROFT: They don’t want a repeat of 1972. But we can talk in here.
(

 

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I don't think the series BBC Sherlock should be confused with the stories. That's important. Carol's question about the club being limited to diplomats is of interest. In the Greek Interpreter it's not stated what sort of men went there. Neither does the story about the Bruce Partington Plans give clues. All that we know is that the club was for men who didn't like having conversation with others and that talking was only allowed in the Stranger's Room, though why it's written in capital letters I have no idea.

This brings me to the next topic I want to start about Mycroft in the stories first and then in the series. I wanted to keep the Diogenes separate from the "spy" issue and the functioning of the club. Thanks for J.P who explained what 1972 means, I had no idea what could it possibly mean.

Here's a bit about clubs and female members. Apparently in the 19th c courtesans didn't go to such places, even by invitation. I thought it a convenient place for men to dine with grandes horizontales ( a French term used also in English for the most expensive ladies only the upper echelons of aristocracy could afford) before going to hotel rooms or the woman's house, away from the eyes of female relatives. If the clubs were places for men there must be a deeper reason for this.

Still only the Queen is allowed at White's. Will The Queen Consort, Catherine be allowed as well? She won't be a monarch. https://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/apr/30/time-gentlemen-when-will-last-all-male-clubs-admit-women

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/27/to-drain-the-swamp-of-men-only-clubs-there-must-be-a-public-register

https://time.com/5706134/the-wing-london-members-clubs-history/

I want to thank Herlock Sholmes for information about existing clubs and what goes on there. Honestly, I'm surprised at how recent the online texts are. I didn't know how much of the Victorian era is with us and that there are streets in London that seem to cater to a male clientelle selling all sorts of items.

Carol has some interesting points about who was considered a gentleman in the Victorian era. I never thought about a rubbish collecting business! However, my point was to emphasise that Mr. Gardiner, Elizabeth Bennet's uncle would belong to a club in the Victorian era and would be considered a gentleman in the same way as Mr. Thornton from Mrs. Gaskell's novel would. I doubt Conan Doyle would be admitted to the same club an earl frequented. There was system, maybe someone knows more.

 

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7 hours ago, Kat said:

I don't think the series BBC Sherlock should be confused with the stories. That's important.

We generally try to be clear if we're talking about Sherlock in a Holmes thread or vice-versa, but it can sometimes be confusing, so please don't hesitate to ask for clarification if a post is unclear!

7 hours ago, Kat said:

talking was only allowed in the Stranger's Room, though why it's written in capital letters I have no idea.

I assume that was the official name of the room.  For example, in my college dorm we had a Red Lounge and a Green Lounge.

7 hours ago, Kat said:

Still only the Queen is allowed at White's.

Odd that they'd allow even her!  Maybe it has to do with olden days when the Monarch could demand pretty much whatever they wanted?

7 hours ago, Kat said:

I doubt Conan Doyle would be admitted to the same club an earl frequented. There was system, maybe someone knows more.

This is just a guess, but I'm imagining that applicants were (presumably still are) voted on by the current members -- so that the "system" was more of an understanding that if the applicant wasn't pretty similar to the current members, he would be voted down.  That sort of system seems to be fairly common with elitist organizations.

 

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10 hours ago, Kat said:

I don't think the series BBC Sherlock should be confused with the stories. That's important. Carol's question about the club being limited to diplomats is of interest. In the Greek Interpreter it's not stated what sort of men went there. Neither does the story about the Bruce Partington Plans give clues. All that we know is that the club was for men who didn't like having conversation with others and that talking was only allowed in the Stranger's Room, though why it's written in capital letters I have no idea.

This brings me to the next topic I want to start about Mycroft in the stories first and then in the series. I wanted to keep the Diogenes separate from the "spy" issue and the functioning of the club. Thanks for J.P who explained what 1972 means, I had no idea what could it possibly mean.

Here's a bit about clubs and female members. Apparently in the 19th c courtesans didn't go to such places, even by invitation. I thought it a convenient place for men to dine with grandes horizontales ( a French term used also in English for the most expensive ladies only the upper echelons of aristocracy could afford) before going to hotel rooms or the woman's house, away from the eyes of female relatives. If the clubs were places for men there must be a deeper reason for this.

Still only the Queen is allowed at White's. Will The Queen Consort, Catherine be allowed as well? She won't be a monarch. https://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/apr/30/time-gentlemen-when-will-last-all-male-clubs-admit-women

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/27/to-drain-the-swamp-of-men-only-clubs-there-must-be-a-public-register

https://time.com/5706134/the-wing-london-members-clubs-history/

I want to thank Herlock Sholmes for information about existing clubs and what goes on there. Honestly, I'm surprised at how recent the online texts are. I didn't know how much of the Victorian era is with us and that there are streets in London that seem to cater to a male clientelle selling all sorts of items.

Carol has some interesting points about who was considered a gentleman in the Victorian era. I never thought about a rubbish collecting business! However, my point was to emphasise that Mr. Gardiner, Elizabeth Bennet's uncle would belong to a club in the Victorian era and would be considered a gentleman in the same way as Mr. Thornton from Mrs. Gaskell's novel would. I doubt Conan Doyle would be admitted to the same club an earl frequented. There was system, maybe someone knows more.

 

No problem Kat👍

Ive been meaning to buy a book on the history of the clubs but I’ve been put off by the fact that the book that appears to be the best on the subject is really expensive.

It certainly seems strange to us in 2021 that these establishments are still ‘men only’ but, as we all know, traditions can take a long time to die out (if ever.) Ive never been in one of these clubs but I believe that some of them have guided tours. I’ve certainly stood outside of some of them when I’ve been in London especially when I’ve been on walking tours. White’s is a well known stopping point with it’s famous bow window where Beau Brummell used to sit and watch the passers by. Boodle’s is further along the same street.

The Queen isn’t allowed in The House Of Commons btw. That goes back nearly 400 years.

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Just heard a bit in the radio that the Watergate Scandal was started (or othewise connected) to someone talking too much privately. Sadly, it was only just a brief mention and I cannot find any sources for it so far.
Anybody heard about it?

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4 hours ago, J.P. said:

Just heard a bit in the radio that the Watergate Scandal was started (or othewise connected) to someone talking too much privately. Sadly, it was only just a brief mention and I cannot find any sources for it so far.
Anybody heard about it?

No, sorry I haven't.

But I assume they meant people found out about it because someone said something they "shouldn't" have.  In which case I'm pretty sure that was a good thing.

 

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On 4/18/2021 at 12:03 PM, J.P. said:

Just heard a bit in the radio that the Watergate Scandal was started (or othewise connected) to someone talking too much privately. Sadly, it was only just a brief mention and I cannot find any sources for it so far.
Anybody heard about it?

I wonder if that could be a reference to the person known as "Deep Throat" (who later turned out to be Mark Felt of the FBI.) He provided, it is said, some of the key information that helped the reporters expose the Watergate scandal. I'm sure the Nixon White House thought he "talked too much"! :smile: 

However, the reporters were already investigating the Watergate break-in when they contacted Mark Felt, so his information didn't "start" the scandal. It just led them to the Oval Office. Still, he would be the most famous "talked too much" person, methinks.

In any case, I don't think it would be an American event that 1972 refers to. Much more likely for it to be one of the other two events mentioned, imo.

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