The Gloria Scott is a pretty unique Holmes story. In fact, it has many 'shouldn't miss' points in its favour.
1 It's a story narrated by Sherlock Holmes to Watson.
That means while Watson is still the one writing, Holmes narrates the incident to Watson in his own words because...
...Watson wasn't there when the story occurred!
Now we all now how Watson describes Holmes, but how does Holmes describe himself? The Gloria Scott tells you that.
Holmes narrating The Gloria Scott adventure to Watson. I love this Sidney Paget illustration!
2 And then, this is where it gets warmer...
The Gloria Scott is one of the best Holmes stories when it comes to uber cool deductions by Holmes. Now there's hardly a story where Sherlock Holmes doesn't deduce, but this one has deductions which will make you sigh and say, "Ops, that's clever!" all over again.
I did that. :-)
3 And to top it, this story has a unique, alluring quality to it.
That's because The Gloria Scott is the first case Holmes ever solves professionally.
Well not exactly professionally because he solves it for a friend but it is after this case that Holmes realizes that he can treat solving such cases as a profession. It is this case which makes Sherlock Holmes feel...
So, while I wouldn't say it's the best Holmes story out there, it's got its charms, nevertheless.
If you haven't given it a try yet, you absolutely can do so, now.
Well, here are my ratings for the story...
The beginning of the case is weird because there is no case to begin with!
Holmes is in college and comes down to his friend Victor Trevor's house to spend some happy moments. I mean, many of us have done that at one time or the other, right?
Now, imagine what you would say to your parents if you had a friend like Sherlock Holmes. You would obviously praise his mind blowing deduction abilities when you introduced him to your parents!
That's exactly what Victor Trevor does. When Victor's dad doesn't believe him, Holmes mentions a number of facts about him (the dad) in his matter of fact way and stuns Trevor Senior.
Sherlock Holmes' deductions don't just stun Victor's dad though. They also scare Trevor Senior. They scare him so much that he faints because Holmes talks of a certain painful past that Mr Trevor thought he had buried forever....
And that's how the mystery begins.
Why does Trevor's dad become so scared after Holmes' deductions as to faint?
And why does he turn pale, when he receives a new visitor a few days later?
And: why does he become so weak as to die when he receives a simple note about livestock?
It's up to Holmes to find out, of course. And clear the air about his good friend's dad's mind-blowing past!
This, for me is one of the best parts of the story.
Victor's dad thinks Holmes is a kido who's really just having fun when he says he can deduce stuff. He challenges Holmes to deduce something about him.
And Holmes stumps him! He deduces that Victor's father...
All these deductions from just observing someone for a few days? Ahem.
Holmes surprised me for the nth time.
But he apparently surprises Trevor Senior even more, because the old man actually faints in the story. That's not out of awe but out of the fear of something about his past...
There's this letter that Victor's dad receives in the story which apparently reveals something so stunning that Victor's dad gets a stroke and dies in the next few days.
And yet, the letter is quite mundane. I mean, here it is:
Now, what do you make of that? When I read the note, I didn't make much of it either.
But then, Holmes shows his cool knack of observing things as he deduces that every third word of the letter makes sense.
The letter then makes sense. It becomes:
I love the moment when Holmes deduces this in a matter of minutes. It seems so easy once you have the answer and yet, it does require a Holmes to deduce it so fast.
I like the way the story ends with a startling letter from Victor Trevor's father to his son.
This is the letter that discloses the father's mind-blowing past and clears the mystery.
The drama that Conan Doyle creates as he talks of a certain voyage that Trevor Senior undertook, is what makes the end of the letter magical for me.
In the letter, Victor Trevor's father wrote that he was arrested for using his company's money to pay his own debts in 1855. They then sent him as a convict to Australia aboard a ship.
The ship was...the Gloria Scott -the ship that gives the story its name.
Senior Trevor and the other prison inmates however, weren't really the kind to quietly accept their fate and say, 'this is it.' Along with a dude called Jack Prendergast on the ship, they shot the captain and a good number of crew members and captured the ship on its way to Australia!
As if this wasn't dramatic enough, Trevor Senior and some of the prisoners escaped from the ship over differences with this Jack guy who wanted to kill all the ship's crew members.
And while Trevor Senior and some others were rowing their boat, there was a sudden explosion on the ship and all the other prisoners who were with Jack Prendergast and the crew got killed!
I know this sounds straight out of a Hollywood or Bollywood movie but that's what apparently happened with Monsieur Trevor Senior. And to add just the right amount of spice to this already spicy story, there was one crew member from the ship who didn't die and who knew this whole secret.
It is this guy - Hudson - who keeps blackmailing Victor's dad and sends him into a tizzy...
It is this guy who leads Victor's dad to his death.
Now, I've described the whole thing at lightening speed, but the way Conan Doyle does it - slowly - letting each element of the dramatic scene sink in...is really cool.
Which is why, the end of the letter is - a magic moment from the story for me. :-)
When our dear Holmes tells Watson about The Gloria Scott incident, he calls his friend Victor Trevor's father, 'Justice of the Peace.' Now what on earth does that title mean? Was he some kind of peace messenger?
Well, historically, Justices of the Peace was a phrase to refer to judges or magistrates of inferior rank. These judges were not legally qualified and could deliver judgments in cases which were not very severe.
And yes - just in case you're wondering, there are Justices of the Peace in many countries including the United Kingdom, even today.
So Victor Trevor's dad, Trevor Senior was basically like a lower ranked magistrate.
The Gloria Scott is definitely the most important object in the story.
I mean, come on - it is the ship where all the trouble occurred.
I was pretty intrigued and so I snooped around a bit about how the Gloria Scott might have looked.
So, after some research, I've sort of got a picture of a typical 19th century trading ship for you. Here it is!
Thanks to Connecticut State Library for the picture this picture is based on!
This is how ships looked like in the 19th century. These types of ships with those typical masts were called clippers.
We can't be sure this is exactly how our ship looked, but more or less...yeah.
By the way, here's a fun comparison between the Gloria Scott's weight and that of the largest ships that existed in some years. It is quite clear that our Gloria Scott wasn't that large a ship...
Take a peek at this fascinating picture that shows where the Gloria Scott started from, where it was going and where all the action happened....
That place near Africa was where the ship exploded. As you can see - the ship was going from Falmouth in England to Sidney in Australia.
So well, there we go!
Isn't it fun to delve deep into Holmesian stories and take a peek at not just Holmes' deductions but also Holmes' Victorian world?
I find it to be quite interesting.
Don't forget to tell me about your magic moments and your thoughts about The Adventure of the Gloria Scott in the comments below!