McMurdo’s Camp


A Scandal in Bohemia

First published in: The Strand Magazine, July 1891

Time frame of story (known/surmised): “it was on the twentieth of March, 1888” Note: It is not unusual for there to be internal contradictions in Holmes chronology. The 3-20-88 date given by Watson does not agree with his marital status in other stories.

H&W living arrangements: Holmes alone at 221B. Watson’s marriage had drifted H&W away from each other.

Opening scene: Watson on a call, passed 221B on his return, and stopped in to see SH. Holmes had received a note and was expecting a client. Client arrived, and gave a false name, but Holmes saw through it and knew the client was really the King.

Client: Wilhelm Gottsreich Sigismond von Ormstein, Grand Duke of Cassel Felstein, and hereditary King of Bohemia, who was six feet six inches in height, with the chest and limbs of a Hercules and had an air of barbaric opulence.

Crime or concern: Some 5 years previously the King was mad – insane, and committed an indiscretion with the opera singer and well known adventuress, Irene Adler. Letters and a photograph of this showing the two of them were retained by Adler. She threatened to send photo to King’s new fiancée, Clotilde Lothman von Saxe-Meningen, second daughter of the King of Scandinavia, whose family had strict principles. The photo would ruin the King.

Villain: Irene Adler, or maybe Holmes himself who takes the case and agrees to recover the photo.

Motive: To avoid a ruinous scandal in Bohemia.

Logic used to solve: Holmes stages an odd scene designed to create panic and trick Irene Adler into showing where the photo and letters are hidden.

Policemen: none mentioned

Holmes’ fees: SH: “Then, as to money?” King: “You have carte blanche.”

King also gives Holmes £1000 in gold and notes up front for expenses.

Transport: Client shows up for appointment in the Royal Brougham, pulled by a pair of beauties, worth a hundred and fifty guineas apiece.

From Adler’s residence, the groom took a cab, Irene took a neat little landau, and Holmes took a cab to the church.

Food: Some cold beef, and

Drink: a glass of beer were Holmes lunch/dinner in the late afternoon.

Vices: SH taking cocaine on and off.

Holmes sent up a great blue triumphant cloud from his cigarette.

Other cases mentioned: Holmes’ summons to Odessa in the case of the Trepoff murder, his cleaning up of the singular tragedy of the Atkinson brothers at Tricomalee, and a delicate mission he had accomplished for the reigning family of Holland. STUD. The Darlington substitution scandal, and also the Arnsworth Castle business.

Notable Quotables: “You see, but you do not observe.” – SH

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. “ – SH

Women are naturally secretive, and they like to do their own secreting.” – SH

She stood at the top with her superb figure outlined against the lights of the hall. – Watson, describing Adler.

it seemed safer to wait. A little over-precipitance may ruin all.” – SH

Other interestings: The woman who brings Holmes’ supper and is referred to by Watson as “our landlady” is named Mrs. Turner. This is puzzling because ordinarily it is Mrs. Hudson, and with Watson not residing there, she is not “our landlady”, but Holmes’.

When all is said and done: Holmes’ plan does not work. Irene sees thru it at the last minute and retains the photo. But she had lost interest in the King and married someone else. Promised to keep the photo and not give it to King’s fiancée.


  1. Oh come now! You must mention about her being “The Woman” to Holmes.

    Comment by Elsir — June 14, 2009 @ 11:20 pm

    • Yes, probably so. Left it out from curiosity to see if anyone cared. But mostly, because we think the “The Woman” business is sort of overdone. Among Sherlockians it takes on more significance than we believe it did to Holmes himself. There is even a highly prestigious society (ASH) named for her.

      We do not know if Holmes ever referred to her outside of the story SCAN, except for one time, in FIVE. In that story Holmes refers to her as “a woman”.

      It would be interesting to look at more closely. Do you (or any readers) know of other references by Holmes to Irene Adler ouside of SCAN?

      Comment by Matilda — June 15, 2009 @ 12:48 pm

      • I must disagree about Adler being insignificant. I always felt this story provided tremendous insight into one aspect of Holmes’ character. Can you imagine Holmes married? With children? Can you imagine him as a provider? Of course not! But he could admire an ideal, and Adler was his ideal. He kept her photograph and referred to both Adler and her photograph (reverentially as “the woman”) on occasion, as is noted by Watson in the very last sentence of SCAN. We know Holmes kept relics of his cases, but I doubt Adler’s photograph would be likely to turn up in the butter dish. I think, in more ways than one, he considered her the one that “got away.”

        Comment by MEW — September 15, 2011 @ 10:48 am

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