10 Stories I Liked from ‘Sherlock Holmes Edwardian Parodies’ (part 1)

It’s time for a little book promo.

sherlock holmes edwardian parodiesThe next volume in the 223B Casebook series is out in trade paperback (with the ebook coming in about two weeks). “Sherlock Holmes Edwardian Parodies and Pastiches I: 1900-1904” contains 56 stories from the era, annotated with introductions and more than 200 footnotes.

It was a time when Conan Doyle went to South Africa to play a role in the Boer War. He also published The Hound of the Baskervilles and received the amazing offer from an American magazine to revive Holmes, starting with “The Adventure of the Empty House” in 1903. By the end of 1904, he had published “The Adventure of the Second Stain,” finishing the series that would appear as The Return of Sherlock Holmes.

This volume of SHP&PI contains stories by well-known authors — Mark Twain, Bret Harte, P.G. Wodehouse, Finley Peter Dunne — and authors familiar to Sherlockians, such as Bert Leston Taylor, James MacArthur, Charlton Andrews, and John Kendrick Bangs.

This is part of an ongoing series of books coming out this year and next (the full list is here), with the goal of bringing out all of the major stories that appeared during Conan Doyle’s life, plus a lot of the minor and newly discovered works.

Admittedly, SHP&PI is a grab-bag of material, and if you want to wait, a “best of” volume covering 1888 to 1930 will be published. But if you’re interested in history, Conan Doyle, and the parities and pastiches that came out during this time, I think you’ll find fascinating reading. And to show you what I mean, I’ll pull 10 stories from the 55 in chronological order and show you why.

(Because of the length of this post, I’m breaking it up into several parts. More to come!)

Today’s episode is called:

1. The Adventures of Padlock Bones by Sol Cohen

“The Adventures of Padlock Bones” marks an advance in Holmesian research. Over the past decade, searchable archives of newspapers and magazines are appearing online, making it easy to uncover material never seen before. This story, for example, was found in the pages of the Jewish Messenger courtesy of the Fulton Postcard site.

In a nation composed of immigrants, a common source of humor was to make fun of the problems we had in communicating with each other. While it can sometimes be used to denigrate ethnic groups, we forget that the cultures European immigrants came from were far more homogenous then in attitudes, beliefs and how they spoke.

In “The Adventures of Padlock Bones,” by Chicago reporter Sol Cohen, Bones is asked by German baker to find his vanished son, and the back-and-forth they engage in has the flavor of a vaudeville routine:

“When did this occur?” asked Bones.

“Dis vas no cur; dis vas a poy,” protested the baker.

“I mean, when did it happen?”

“It hippened apout five o’clock.”

“Five o’clock when?” impatiently demanded Bones.

“In three veeks it vill be purty near four veeks dot he is nod in sighd.”

“You mean that he is gone a week [weak]?” smiled Bones.

“Yah, he vent avay not so strong I coult whip him dough he vas only half my size,” valiantly retorted the man of bread.

This volume also contains another example of dialect humor with an appearance from Finley Peter Dunne’s Irish bartender Mr. Dooley.

2. Refused to be Foiled by Claude Eldridge Toles

I admit, there’s nothing much to the joke. It was the art that impressed me. It took up only one column, but even on the PDF you could see that this was the work of a skilled artist. The swirls of her skirt and the delicate expression on her face set this fellow apart from the scribblers.

claude eldridge toles cartoon sherlock holmes

But who was he? This cartoon was spotted in several newspapers, indicating that it had been part of a syndicated package. No credit was given in the text, so I was left to suss out the artist by his peculiar signature.

I’m glad I did. Claude Toles is one of those unheralded forgotten artists who can still be appreciated today. He died young of a kidney infection, but he was a hard worker who turned out thousands of pieces of art. This site was set up by a person who acquired Toles’ scrapbooks filled with great art.

This piece, for example, looks like it could have been drafted by Dr. Seuss.

Claude Eldridge Tales artwork 1

What really caught my eye was this street scene. It doesn’t look like artwork from the period, but more like something from the pen of Will Eisner.

Claude Eldridge Toles art street scene Will Eisner

He also knew how to set up a cool self-portrait, even if he did look like Eraserhead.

claude eldridge toles portrait

Coles was an artist with potential and imagination, and I’m grateful he left us this much.