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Kat

What's your opinion on the apparent gambling of dr. Watson?

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In the  stories the narrator claims that Watson bets on horses, but not large amounts " in the bank large amounts.." to digress a little this is from the musical Oliver! Then there's that chequebook Holmes keeps locked, but why is never explained. I'm using "narrator" rather loosely. The doctor has an army pension and is wounded in the shoulder. Stamford introduces him to Holmes. At first Watson is worried about the cost of the rooms but is curious about the un-Victorian guy Stamford is keen to introuduce him to. You have to admit that Holmes is really not your typical Victorian gentleman! I always thought the doctor stayed away from hazard. Gambling was common in the Victorian era among all classes, but dr. Watson seems to be an ordinary man, an average Victorian physician.

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Since gambling was common place during Victorian era UK, I think it's not uncommon for the good doctor to do do a little gambling.

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5 hours ago, Kat said:

n the  stories the narrator claims that Watson bets on horses, but not large amounts " in the bank large amounts.." to digress a little this is from the musical Oliver! Then there's that chequebook Holmes keeps locked, but why is never explained.

I can't tell you which story it's in or quote the exact passage, but it's my impression that it was stated Holmes keeps Watson's checkbook locked up in his desk so that Watson can't bet too much money on the horses.

Hopefully one of our Holmes fanatics will set us straight!

 

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It does seem quite peculiar that a man like Watson would bet on anything from horses to boxing fight results. I don't think gambling suits him as he seems wise and knows how much money he has to live on.

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5 hours ago, Kat said:

It does seem quite peculiar that a man like Watson would bet on anything from horses to boxing fight results. I don't think gambling suits him as he seems wise and knows how much money he has to live on.


I agree, but perhaps gambling was simply the dear man's one and only vice?  At least he seems to have found a way to control it, by giving Holmes his checkbook for safekeeping.

But wait a minute -- I finally searched the internet for references, and found that the whole gambling-addiction idea is based on this one sentence spoken by Holmes in "The Dancing Men":

Your cheque-book is locked in my drawer, and you have not asked for the key.

That's the whole thing!  But an avid fan of the original stories (William S. Baring-Gould) came up with the explanation that Watson had a gambling addiction, and Holmes was helping him to control it.  But there are surely other, simpler, explanations for Holmes keeping Watson's checkbook locked up -- to keep it safe from theft, perhaps.

 

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What about the Silver Blaze? Isn't betting on horses mentioned there by either Holmes or Watson? I can't remember now. However, I do remeber reading about horses and betting in the context of Watson somewhere. Ideas rarely come out of thin air. Some fans have dismissed Baring-Gould as hardly credible, but it's nice to read other people's opinions. Christopher Redmond is a better analyst in my opinion or Leslie Klinger, but they're not perfect, naturally. They just seem more modern in their approach post 1970 that is. Theft is serious, I always knew appealing to others pays off, metaphorically to be clear.

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4 hours ago, Kat said:

What about the Silver Blaze? Isn't betting on horses mentioned there by either Holmes or Watson?


Betting is mentioned several times, but only in the context of how the odds are running and/or other people's bets.  (Of course, if Watson HAD dropped a bundle and then lost, he'd scarcely have reported that, now would he?)

By the way, if you want an easy way to search just about any of Conan Doyle's Holmes stories, you can do an internet search on the name of the story plus the word "text" -- like this:

"Silver Blaze" text

This will generally bring up at least one site that has the complete text of the story.  Then all you have to do is use your browser's search function to look for whatever words you're wanting to find.

 

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On 6/19/2021 at 11:43 PM, Carol the Dabbler said:


I agree, but perhaps gambling was simply the dear man's one and only vice?  At least he seems to have found a way to control it, by giving Holmes his checkbook for safekeeping.

But wait a minute -- I finally searched the internet for references, and found that the whole gambling-addiction idea is based on this one sentence spoken by Holmes in "The Dancing Men":

Your cheque-book is locked in my drawer, and you have not asked for the key.

That's the whole thing!  But an avid fan of the original stories (William S. Baring-Gould) came up with the explanation that Watson had a gambling addiction, and Holmes was helping him to control it.  But there are surely other, simpler, explanations for Holmes keeping Watson's checkbook locked up -- to keep it safe from theft, perhaps.

 

Re. Watson's gambling

Our good doctor is a temperate man . . Yes, there's the occasional drinking.  He and Holmes both smoke (Sherlock, more)  Despite Sherl's fondness for the pipe, cigarettes as a secondary smoke fix, and of course, the cocaine needle, his taste for alcohol seems pretty moderate and in bounds.  He appears to have zero interest in gambling but he would of course be good at it.  No doubt a whiz at counting cards and any other forms of strategy, how different the stories might have been had ACD opted to write the adventures of a gentleman card shark instead of a consulting detective.  Perhaps Arthur didn't make Sherlock more of a gambler because he himself abstained from it.  A Game of Shadows has a chess match between Moriarty and SH--something that never happened in the stories.  Conan Doyle's Sherlock never played chess and I can't remember him even mentioning it.  Since chess is the ultimate in logical deduction and strategic thinking, it is quite odd that the Great Detective does not play.  Doyle did not know how, so there you go.

Rather than suspecting the Doctor of cockfighting or playing the ponies (though he might make the odd wager on horses or dogs) I think the bulk of his gambling debts would have been accrued at the card tables of his gentleman's club.  Wagering and winning at games of chance would fuel his soldier's drive toward risk/reward.  I think he knew that he had a tendency to waste money on wagers . . not an addiction perhaps, yet, but an extravagance and the potential of losing more than he could afford, particularly if he was between medical practices.  So he took the preemptive step of having SH lock up his access to his funds, for his own good.

Watson is an exemplar of the Victorian ex-military gentleman and the club was the gentleman's retreat and opportunity to social network.  Watson retained his membership (I think he may have had more than one) but adventures with Sherl soon replaced the Doctor's need (or available time) for hanging out so much in  his clubs.

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Doyle was a horse rider himself. This is a photograph of him riding his horse Brigadier (named after his creation Brigadier Gerard)

As well as the mention of racing  in The Dancing Men (posted by Carol) and the obvious connection in Silver Blaze, horse racing also played a large part in the very last Holmes story that Doyle wrote Shoscombe Old Place.

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1 hour ago, HerlockSholmes said:

horse racing also played a large part in the very last Holmes story that Doyle wrote Shoscombe Old Place


Was there any mention of betting in that story?  Specifically, was there any hint that Watson was betting -- or wanting to do so?

  

1 hour ago, HerlockSholmes said:

the mention of racing  in The Dancing Men


Was there a mention of racing there?  If so, then Baring-Gould's conjectures about the mention of Watson's checkbook (also in that story) may have had more substance than I thought.

 

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I'm not sure if Baring-Gould is credible in his opinions. I trust Leslie Klinger, though s/he makes mistakes. However, they're not like the ones Baring-Gould makes.

Holmes: By the way, Watson, you know something of racing?

Watson: I ought to. I pay for it with about half my wound pension.

Holmes: Then I’ll make you my Handy Guide to the Turf.

This is  from Shoscombe Old place and I think there is a discussion about Watson's knowledge of racing in The Silver Blaze. I got the idea when I read the story 10 years ago that both Holmes and Watson know about betting. I wondered if Watson would be so foolish as to make debts from cards in a gentleman's club as he's quite moral and serious. Holmes wouldn't bet either as he knows you don't win at a casino.

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7 hours ago, Kat said:

I'm not sure if Baring-Gould is credible in his opinions. I trust Leslie Klinger, though s/he makes mistakes. However, they're not like the ones Baring-Gould makes.

I consider any opinions / comments / theories stated by Conan Doyle fans to be in roughly the same category as any other fan theories, fan fiction, etc. -- some of it is very good, while some is not.

As for Klinger's s/he status, I wasn't sure either, but here is a photo from his official website:

Leslie-S-Klinger-Sherlock-Holmes.jpg

7 hours ago, Kat said:

Holmes: By the way, Watson, you know something of racing?

Watson: I ought to. I pay for it with about half my wound pension.

Holmes: Then I’ll make you my Handy Guide to the Turf.

This is  from Shoscombe Old place

So it is!  I just looked it up, and it's right on the first page.  So clearly Watson is not averse to betting on the ponies, which lends credence to Baring-Gould's theory about his checkbook.  Thanks for that info!

 

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If you've read Christopher Redmond's book " In bed with Sherlock Holmes'' pay little attention to it because the author has said it's outdated. Be aware everyone. It's from 1982. He's written other books since then about the detective.

As for Klinger I was trying to be gender neutral to see other people's reaction. For sure he's a man, but we are witnessing a new time in the history of linguistics. This can't be ignored. I just wanted to see how certain remarks look in print in terms of English grammar.

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