Playing the Game … make a spectacle of yourself at the NLC!
Written by Dr. Graham Lampard.
The “Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez” is a Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, written as one of the collection of Sherlock Holmes stories in the ‘The Return of Sherlock Holmes’. Set in 1894, the story sees Holmes and Watson travel to Kent to solve an, as usual, unsolvable murder. The dénouement centres around the fact the killer dropped a pair of Golden Pince-Nez. The story is a classic Holmesian tale centred at Yoxley Old Place, archetypal Conan-Doyle name there, with Holmes at his most astute. Okay, the use of ash from Egyptian cigarettes – prepared by “Ionides of Alexandria” and sent every “two weeks” and “1000 at a time” (!) – to trap the murderer, may not be politically correct for the health conscious today, but Holmes has his killer from the footmarks left in that ash.
What reminded me of the story is an item I recently bought at auction and now in the National Leather Collection: a Victorian chatelaine clip hung with spectacle case, ornate mask and pierced mounts on a leather case, with a pair of spectacles. Not only are the spectacles strong enough for the wearer to be that myopic murderer, they are Victorian, and golden – could they be the actual Pince-Nez from the story?
Well no, of course not. Sherlock Holmes was all a figment of Dr Conan-Doyle’s imagination, but it’s called ‘Playing the Game’. ‘The Game’ treats Holmes and Watson as real people and real ‘real’ people, sometimes eminent professors no less, use aspects of the canonical stories combined with the history of the era to construct biographies of the pair, develop other stories, and ‘identify’ objects. Which is why I can safely suggest they are the pair of Golden Pince-Nez from the eponymous story. I can even join (and have) the Sherlock Holmes Society of London and the John H Watson Society.
So, let’s “believe” Sherlock Holmes held the leather case, studied the myopic spectacles and scrutinised the chatelaine for clues – come and see them, fanaticise, take yourself back to 1894. There is a certain thrill: the chase is afoot!