A Way We Have at the ’Varsity (Holmes Parody)

Today’s excerpts from “The Early Punch Parodies of Sherlock Holmes” also fall into the category of “this is what folks read back then, make of it what you will.”

223B-Punch-Cover-smallThe first Holmes Punch item was written in 1904 by R.C. Lehmann, who also did the Picklock Holes stories (see “The Umbrosa Burglary” and “The Bishop’s Crime“). It helps to know that Lehmann drew upon his experiences at Cambridge University and was an enthusiastic rower.

The second item represents the first time Punch recognized the Sherlock Holmes stories. Published in 1892, it is a review of the collected “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” and while it is a rave, the anonymous reviewer was less than enthralled with the illustrations by Sidney Paget.

More information about “The Early Punch Parodies of Sherlock Holmes” can be found at the Peschel Press site.

A Way We Have at the ’Varsity

R.C. Lehmann

ACD’s recently published story “The Adventure of the Three Students,” set at a university much like Oxford or Cambridge, brought this reaction from the Cambridge-educated Lehmann.

In the most recent Sherlock Holmes adventure the guilt of reading an Examination Paper before it was issued is brought home to an undergraduate by the fact that, returning from the University Athletic Ground, where he had been practising the jump, he left “his tan gloves” on a chair in his tutor’s room. The two following extracts are taken from stories shortly to be published by Sir Arth-r C-n-n D-yle:]


R.C. Lehmann Holmes punch parody

R.C. Lehmann

It was half-past six o’clock on the evening of June 1, and Henry Blessington was walking across Midsummer Common on his way back from the river Cam, where he had been engaged with some of his friends and colleagues in practising for the summer boat-races in the celebrated College six-oared boat. His face was flushed and an air of determination sat not ungracefully on his manly brow, for had he not been the means that very afternoon of putting a stop to the notorious crab-catching propensities of the Duke of Delamere, the brawny ruffian who, in spite of his drunken habits, wielded the bow-oar on behalf of his Alma Mater. This feat had rendered it certain that the St. Barnabas six-oar would go head of the river tomorrow. As he thought of the coming triumph Henry Blessington’s blood coursed feverishly through his veins, and he proceeded mechanically to feel in the pockets of his fashionable frock-coat for his pipe and tobacco-pouch. Heavens! they were not there! As he realised his loss, a reading man, coming in the opposite direction, collided with him and trod heavily on both his patent leather lace-up boots. Smothering an oath, Blessington raised his gold-headed cane and struck the clumsy intruder a heavy blow . . .


The High Street of Oxford was a scene of tumultuous excitement. From every side undergraduates, accompanied by their parents and other more remote relatives, were pouring in crowds to the Schools to hear the Chancellor announce the winner of the Classical Greats. Every class was represented. Here a scholar of Marcon’s Hall, tastefully arrayed in the conspicuous blazer of his College Croquet Club, with his mortarboard rakishly set on the side of his head, might be seen arm in arm with two sprigs of Britain’s nobility, clothed in the pink coat consecrated by an immemorial tradition to the followers of the Turl Hounds. Following these were to be observed two of the fastest and most brilliant members of Christ Church College walking cheek by jowl with their inseparable associates, the Captain and Vice-Captain of the St. Edmund’s Hall Boat Club. The top hats which graced the heads of the two latter undergraduates had been freshly ironed and their lavender kid gloves (the badge of their aquatic prowess) shone across the High Street with a lustre that contrasted strangely with the frayed trousers and short Norfolk jacket of the Senior Proctor, whose duty it was to fine every tenth member of the assemblage.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

“The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” received a positive review, with some odd reservations, from “the Baron de B.-W.,” the non de plume of “Our Booking-Office.” “Charles, his Friend,” referred to a character type in the theatre (who would appear in the program that way) whose sole purpose was to stand by and admire the hero. It would not be the last time that Watson’s role in the stories would be seen this way.

By this time, Holmes was already part of the cultural currency, his name a by-word as a solver of mysteries. In the “Essence of Parliament” column (Feb. 11, 1893), when a member of the House of Commons disappears, the writer mused that it is “evidently a case for Sherlock Holmes; must place it in his hands.”

sherlock holmes punch parodyThe title of Mr. Conan Doyle’s new book, “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” is incomplete without the addition of, “And the D.D., or Dummy Doctor,” who plays a part in the narratives analogous to that of “Charles, his Friend,” on the stage. The book is, in many respects, a thriller, reminding one somewhat of “The Diary of a Late Physician,” by Samuel Warren. This volume is handsomely got up — too handsomely — and profusely, too profusely, illustrated. For both romancer and reader, such stories are better unillustrated. A sensational picture attracts, and distracts. In this collection, the Baron can recommend “The Beryl Coronet,” “The Red-Headed League,” “The Copper Beeches,” and “The Speckled Band.” The best time for reading any one of these stories is the last thing at night, before turning in. “At such an hour, try ‘The Speckled Band,’ and see how you like it,” says the Bold Baron.