23 Jan 2015
This Conan Doyle parody, an excerpt from “The Early Punch Parodies of Sherlock Holmes,” refers to one of the two times Arthur Conan Doyle ran for Parliament.
The outbreak of the Boer War in October 1899 marked a new direction in ACD’s life. He tried to enlist, but being 40 and over-weight, he was rejected. He accepted an offer to oversee a hospital unit being formed in England and spent the first half of 1900 in South Africa helping to run it. Returning home determined to do more to support the war effort, he ran for Parliament with the Liberal Unionists, a faction that opposed the ruling Conservatives but supported the war. Rejecting an offer of a safe seat, he ran in his native Central Edinburgh, known for its radical politics. Voters turned out in droves to see him, many of them noisy hecklers who called him “Sherlock Holmes!” Although disappointed in losing by 569 votes out of the less than 5,500 cast, he was grateful to be out of politics. Campaigning, he said, was like “a mud bath — helpful but messy.”
“Penmen’s Politics” pretended to print the stump speeches of two literary politicians: ACD and Anthony Hope (1863-1933), the author of “The Prisoner of Zenda.” At the time, Hope was considering running for Parliament, but decided not to. Naturally, Punch chose to cast ACD’s speech as if he was the embodiment of Holmes.
The daily papers announce that Messrs. Conan Doyle and “Anthony Hope” will contest constituencies at the approaching election. They have failed, however, to report the speeches from which the following extracts are taken:. . . You will not fail to return me as your Member. (Cheers: and a voice, “Oh!”) The gentleman sitting third from the end in the fourteenth row says “Oh!” (“Shame!”‘) Shall I tell you why? Because he has been bribed by his sister-in-law to support my rival! (Sensation.) Yes, I saw him this afternoon smoking a new imitation-meerschaum pipe. Now, no man ever bought an imitation-meerschaum. Clearly, therefore, it was a present, and a present from a lady. That lady was not his wife, who disapproves of smoking. His only other feminine relative is his sister-in-law. And his sister-in-law is the wife of a member of my Opponent’s committee! (Uproar.) Yes, gentlemen, the case is complete. Bribed by a beggarly gift — from a glimpse I had of the pipe I learnt that it had been in stock for a long time, and had been reduced from 3s. 7d., its original price, to 2s. 5½ d. — bribed, I say, by this beggarly gift, the gentleman has the effrontery to come here and raise his voice against my candidature! (Cheers, and cries of “Throw him out!”) And now to say a few words of my opponent. I chanced to see him enter his committee room today. For perhaps fifteen seconds he stood in the full glare of my inductive glance. What did those fifteen seconds reveal? That he makes a false income-tax return, does not pay his tailor’s bill, eats bacon without mustard, collects postage stamps, only writes to his aged mother on the second Monday in each month, is an anti-vivisectionist, and is suffering from overindulgence in baked potatoes! (Sensation.) Yes, that was what I learnt in fifteen seconds. But soon I hope to study him for a full minute, and then, gentlemen, you shall know the result! (Laughter and cheers.) But in the light of what the most simple inductive process has demonstrated already, is such a man, I ask you confidently, worthy to represent a free, glorious, and enlightened constituency? (Prolonged cheers.)
“The Early Punch Parodies of Sherlock Holmes” has now been added to Google Play.