Doctors, detectives, and the professional ideal: the trial of Thomas Neill Cream and the mastery of Sherlock Holmes.
The 1892 trial of serial killer Dr. Thomas Neill Cream put both Cream and the professionals involved in the case on trial. The judge simultaneously presided over Cream's conviction and the exoneration of the professionals. Controlling the terms of professionalism and repairing the damage to the professional image that this scandalous case caused became a critical subtext to the trial. The Cream murder trial and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes both grapple with questions of professional conduct, status, and worth becoming influential (if unrecognized) voices in the ongoing discourse surrounding Victorian male professionalism. The remarkable popularity of the Sherlock Holmes series is closely tied to the Holmesian performance of a professional ideal. Each tale incapsulates both a model of expertise and an implicit critique of men not fulfilling this model, thus contributing to the growing cultural power of the nineteenth-century professional male.
When a doctor goes wrong he is the first of criminals. He has verve and he has knowledge. Palmer and Pritchard were among the heads of their profession. This man strikes even deeper, but I think, Watson, that we shall be able to strike deeper still. But we shall have horrors enough before the night is over; for goodness' sake let us have a quiet pipe and turn our minds for a few hours to something more cheerful. "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," (Doyle 1986, 364) (1)
On Monday, October 17, 1892, Dr. Thomas Neill Cream was indicted for the murders of Ellen Donworth, Matilda Clover, Alice Marsh, and Emma Shrivell; for the attempted murder of Louisa Harris; and for sending blackmail letters to Joseph Harper and William Henry Broadbent. Dr. Cream pleaded "not guilty."
The Cream trial provides a remarkably complete record of a Victorian serial killer and blackmailer. What is more remarkable, however, is the nexus joining this deviant Victorian with his society at large. The Cream trial remains important not as a picture of a singular maniac--"a doctor gone wrong"--but for traces of the anxieties felt by others that his crimes made visible. Specifically, Cream's murders of women working as prostitutes confused the moral distinction between respectable professionals (like doctors) and the disreputable work of prostitution. Furthermore, not only did Cream's actions turn the prostitute into a victim and the doctor into a criminal, they also pointed to an analogous relationship between prostitutes' earnings and professionals' earnings in general. In "George Eliot and Daniel Deronda: The Prostitute and the Jewish Question," Catherine Gallagher (1986) explores the long-standing parallels between authorship and prostitution. Professional work is a logical extension of that comparison because it, like prostitution and authorship, also generates income without a distinctive product. The Cream trial made all too visible this resemblance between the professional mode of production and prostitution.
In addition, the Cream trial effaced distinctions between the delinquent and the professional. Through a combination of apathy and incompetence, the police failed to respond to Cream's killing of Lambeth prostitutes. They did, however, vigorously follow up on his attempts to blackmail wealthy men. When pursuing Cream-the-blackmailer, the police performed the function that D.A. Miller sees as typical of the police in nineteenth-century fiction.(2) That is, the police and the criminal (often looking strikingly similar) busy themselves chasing each other and "thereby seem to leave us alone." As such, the police both "consolidate the field of delinquency as distinct from the realm of middle-class civil society" and do so without making a nuisance of themselves (Miller 1984, 174). Two things happened to break down that consolidation in the Cream case: The police did not chase Cream-the-murderer, and the prostitutes did. Consequently, the resemblance between Cream's professional work, the prostitutes' work, and professional labor in general became visible, and the prostitutes escaped the category of "delinquent" by becoming the police. That is, rather than the police chasing the criminals, the "criminals" (prostitutes) pursued Cream, thus collapsing all distinctions between criminal and police practices, the delinquent and the legitimate. (3) The first part of this piece reads the Cream trial, paying special attention to the Judge's dual task of presiding over Cream's conviction and the larger task of reimposing the distinctions that this case erased or confounded.
The second part of this piece examines detective fiction through the same lens. I read the remarkable popularity of the Sherlock Holmes series as intricately tied to the Holmesian performance of professionalism. The mystery or crime under investigation repeatedly brings Holmes to the brink of discovering that his work mirrors the crime and disruption against which he defines himself. Holmes solves the mystery and this problem of resemblance through the display of specifically professional characteristics: superior training, discretion, status, and disinterested service. In each of the Holmes tales I analyze, the collapse of distinctions between the professional and the "other" threatens and is defeated. In addition, the particular form of detective fiction, in which the text "hides" information and keeps the reader in suspense until the superior skill of the detective can provide answers, reproduces the disparity of knowledge between professionals and the laity. The popularity of the Holmes series proceeds from both the anxiety caused by the impending collapse of distinctions and the lack of textual information, as well as from the pleasure of Holmes' masterful solution to both problems.
In the passage quoted from "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" as an epigraph, Sherlock Holmes reflects on masterful physician-criminals, mentioning the infamous Drs. Palmer and Pritchard. He could also have included Dr. Cream's name as a murderer with an especially long career. The 1892 indictment was not Cream's first indictment for murder, nor even his second. At age forty-two, Thomas Neill Cream was facing his third murder charge. He was experienced both at murder and at blackmail, but his actions escaped scrutiny, and he continually eluded the justice system. How many people he actually poisoned or attempted to poison is difficult to tally for multiple reasons. By employing poison (primarily strychnine) under the guise of "medicine," his violence could be misattributed or misinterpreted unless an autopsy was performed. He also moved frequently, living in Canada, the United States, and England, and although he literally left a trail of dead women in his wake, his victims' sudden and excruciating deaths repeatedly failed to trigger official investigation. Investigations lagged or were non-existent because Cream primarily targeted women seeking abortions and women working as prostitutes--women regularly vilified by society. He counted on the silence and shame associated with abortion and was protected by public indifference to the fate of prostitutes. Cloaked by this double screen of secrecy and apathy, Cream's criminal career lasted over a decade.
Trust Not Thy Physician: The Lambeth Poisoning Mystery
Cream earned a medical degree from M'Gill College in Montreal, and it was in Canada that he began his criminal career. Later, in the United States, he continued to practice medicine and murder. Starting with arson and insurance fraud, he moved to murder and blackmail. (4) During this period, Flora Eliza Brooks, Kate Hutchinson Gardener, Mary Anne Faulkner, and Ellen Stacks all died after consulting Dr. Cream, about procuring abortions. (5) In local papers, suspicion was strong against the Doctor, but while he was repeatedly indicted, the evidence was somehow never enough to convict him of these deaths. (6)
Not until Cream poisoned Daniel Stott, age 61 and Cream's only known male victim, was enough evidence gathered to finally convict him. One suspects that a male, middle-class, "respectable" victim (as opposed to a woman seeking an abortion) may also have tipped the scales in this case, an early indication that the gender and class of Cream's victims would be crucial in determining the response of law enforcement agencies. Cream was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet. (7) On July 31, 1891, Governor Fifer released Cream, finding him "a fit and proper subject for executive clemency" (Fifer qtd. in McLaren 1993, 43). (8) On October 5, 1891, Cream arrived in London. There he somewhat altered altered his modus operandi. Instead of preying on women seeking abortions, he turned his attentions to prostitutes, perhaps influenced by Jack the Ripper's terrorism of London just three years earlier. (9)
His first victim, Ellen Donworth, died returning home on the night of October 13, only a week after Cream's arrival in London. She fell down in the street and was carried screaming in agony to her room. In a moment of respite from the pain, she told her landlady, "A tall gentleman with cross eyes, a silk hat, and bushy whiskers gave me a drink twice out of a bottle with white stuff in it" (Shore 1923, 9). A postmortem revealed that Donworth died of strychnine poisoning. (10) Six days later, Mr. George Percival Wyatt, the deputy coroner for East Surrey, received a letter claiming that the author had evidence that would lead to the conviction of Donworth's killer if the government were willing to pay [pounds sterling]300,000 for it. The letter (proven at the trial to be in Cream's handwriting) was signed "A. O'Brian, Detective." No investigation followed and the inquest closed with the verdict of death by poisoning by person unknown (10). At the same time, Cream sent a letter to W. D. Smith, claiming to have proof that Smith killed Donworth, and signed it "H. Bayne, barrister." While Donworth's murder went uninvestigated, this attempt at blackmailing a wealthy man prompted police protection for Mr. Smith's home.
This established a familiar pattern: a Lambeth woman who worked as a prostitute was poisoned, one or more blackmail attempts followed, and Scotland Yard responded only to the latter by assigning police protection. Matilda Clover died one week after Ellen Donworth, and despite her having told a servant and her landlady that she had been poisoned by the man she had been seeing, no autopsy was performed. An unqualified medical assistant, Mr. Choppin, examined Clover and declared she was suffering from excessive alcohol consumption. Dr. Graham signed a death certificate on this assistant's word without ever having seen the patient. Shortly following Clover's death, Countess Russell received a letter claiming that her husband, Lord Russell, murdered Matilda Clover. (11) Cream, a prolific letter writer, also sent a blackmail threat to Dr. William Henry Broadbent, an eminent physician. In the by-now-familiar routine, Clover was buried in a pauper's grave, and police protection was assigned to Dr. Broadbent's home.
On the morning of April 12, Emma Shrivell and Alice Marsh, both living at No. 118 Stamford Street, died, bathed in sweat and convulsing violently. Before dying, they told their landlady, Charlotte Vogel, that they had taken pills given to them by a doctor they had been entertaining that night (Charlotte Vogel, deponent, in CRIM 1/38/1). This time the police launched a nationwide investigation--of canned salmon. Although a May 5 inquest showed that Shrivell and Marsh died from strychnine, the police nonetheless were convinced that they had died from eating tainted salmon, an open can of salmon having been found in their rooms. They continued, even after the inquest, to search for further evidence of ptomaine poisoning in canned fish (McLaren 1993, 129). Although the Times reported, "Detective Jones stated that he had made every inquiry in the neighborhood, but had been unable to ascertain whence the tin of salmon was purchased," they also reported the findings of the inquest: "There was no sign of any disease, and the symptoms were not consistent with tinned or putrefied meat poisoning ... the cause of death was strychnine poisoning" (14 April 1892). Other papers, less thorough, followed the lead of the police and reported only that Shrivell and Marsh had died from eating tinned salmon (Pall Mall Gazette, 13 April 1892).
Cream might never have been caught had he refrained from openly declaring that he knew who murdered the women. The barrage of blackmail letters he sent, and the flurry of rumors he started that linked all the names of his victims together, eventually forced the police to investigate. Not only did Cream claim to know who had murdered Donworth, Shrivell, and Marsh, but he also claimed to know who had murdered Lou (Louisa) Harvey (an entirely new name in this case) and Clover (whose death had been attributed officially to alcohol consumption).
Finally, on April 30, Inspector Harvey applied for and received an order from the Home Office authorizing the exhumation of Matilda Clover's body. Not surprisingly, her partly decomposed body still clearly pointed to strychnine as the cause of death (Thomas Stevenson, M.D., deponent, in CRIM 1/38/1). (12) Cream was arrested June 1 for attempting to blackmail Dr. Harper, who lived in the same lodging house with Cream, and on July 18 he was formally charged with the death of Matilda Clover. His trial would end one year to the day after her death.
The Trial: Power and Poison
Cream's trial took place October 17-21, 1892 and commanded full press coverage. The courtroom was crammed with spectators waiting to catch a glimpse of the infamous Lambeth murderer or to hear the arguments of two of the most celebrated barristers of the period, Sir Charles Russell and Gerald Georghegan. (13) Attorney General Sir Charles Russell decided to try Cream for Matilda Clover's murder first because the most damning evidence concerned her death.
The prosecution presented three areas of evidence. First, coroners and doctors testified that strychnine caused the deaths of Clover, Donworth, Marsh, and Shrivell. Next, Cream's friends and acquaintances of Cream testified to his obsession with the Lambeth poisonings and his habit of discussing prostitution, abortion, and pornography with them (St. James Cazette, 24 October 1892). Strange as it may seem, these witnesses included Cream's two closest friends, John Haynes and Patrick Maclntyre, who were both connected with law enforcement. Haynes was a special agent for the British government, and Maclntyre was affiliated with Scotland Yard. (14) Because Cream was anything but shy in discussing the murders, and was fascinated with police work in general, he soon became intimate with Haynes and MacIntyre. (15) They, in turn, offered detailed testimony that the court found particularly convincing, coming as it did from one of their own. Cream's fiancee, Laura Sabbatini, deposed that at Cream's dictation she had penned several blackmail letters. Sabbatini and a handwriting expert identified the other letters as being in Cream's hand (Shore 1923, 118). (16) Establishing the cause of death and establishing Cream as a blackmailer were relatively easy, but the difficult task of connecting him irrevocably with the four murdered women lay ahead.
Because the police had failed to investigate Clover's and Donworth's deaths when they occurred, and because they had spent valuable time chasing apparitions of contaminated salmon following Marsh's and Shrivell's decease, they had little evidence to present about the deaths of these women. Women like the deceased, however, watched sedulously. They kept a sharp eye on each other, the police, and male customers. The bulk of crucial evidence came from watchful Lambeth prostitutes who presented themselves to the police and volunteered what they knew and what they had seen. Three women in particular sealed Cream's fate: Eliza Masters, Elizabeth May, and Lou (Louisa) Harvey. (17)
Eliza Masters was a streetwalker who met Neill Cream the evening after his arrival in London. They had drinks together and then went to her room. Later that evening they joined Elizabeth May, who boarded with Masters, at Gatti's Music Hall. The party split up with Cream promising to write to make another appointment. He kept his promise,to write to make another appointment. He kept his promise, and on October 17, 1891, as Masters and May sat looking out their window waiting for Cream to fulfill that date, they saw him following another prostitute, whom they knew slightly. The woman was Matilda Clover. Shown her photo in court, Masters declared:
This is a photograph of the woman I saw that day; I have no doubt about it. I noticed the prisoner following her, and I saw her turn around and smile at him. He had on a silk hat and dark clothes. I put on my hat and asked May to do the same, and we followed to the corner to see where he went. (Masters qtd. in Shore 1923)
He went to Clover's rooms. Three days later, she was found dead. Eliza Masters and Elizabeth May identified Cream as the man they saw go into Clover's rooms with her.
By far the most conclusive evidence offered at the trial came from Lou Harvey. Having read about the case in the papers and seeing her own name mentioned, she wrote to the Bow Street police magistrate and offered to testify against Cream. Cream had mentioned Harvey's name in conjunction with the other murdered women in several of his blackmail notes. In addition to declaring that he knew who had poisoned Clover (when no one else knew she had been poisoned), Cream also claimed to know who had killed Lou Harvey. She, however, was not dead.
Alive and well, Lou Harvey told the court how she met Cream and went to a hotel with him. The next morning he told her that he had some special pills that would improve her complexion and that he wanted to meet her again. Suspicious, Lou Harvey told her lover, Charles Harvey, about the pills and the planned meeting. Charles arranged to follow Lou to her rendezvous with Cream. Lou described what happened next to a breathless court:
He took two pills out of his waistcoat pocket. They were wrapped up in a piece of tissue paper;they were long and rather narrower at one end than at the other ... They were light colored, as near as I could tell; it was rather dark; they were a light colour. He gave them to me and said I was to takethem; he said I was to put them in my mouth then and there, one by one, and not bite them. He put them into my right hand. I pretended to swallow them, but I passed them into my left hand. The prisoner asked me to show him my right hand; I showed it to him; it was empty; then he asked me to show him my left hand in which I had the pills; I threw the pills away behind me and showed him my hand. (Harvey qtd. in Shore 1923, 121-123)
Charles watched the whole transaction and corroborated her story. Provided with this kind of eyewitness testimony, it took less than ten minutes for the jury to return a guilty verdict. Cream was sentenced to hang for the murder of Matilda Clover.
The appearance of the black flag over the walls of Old Bailey following his execution on November 15 was met with loud public cheers. This swift decision and ultimate punishment seems to be a fairly straightforward example of the justice system at work. The course of the trial, however, took a noticeable detour on route to Cream's conviction. The eyewitness testimony of Eliza Masters, Elizabeth May, and Louisa Harvey, while resulting in Cream's conviction, also caused discomfort and disorientation. Their gaze--watching each other, the police, and male solicitors--reversed the direction of the disciplinary and commodifying gaze associated with prostitution. Rather than the police turning a disciplinary eye upon the prostitutes, and/or male customers fixing a commodifying stare upon them, Masters, May, and Harvey did the watching. The symbolic function of watching and bracketing the delinquent (and thereby keeping the middle and upper classes uncontaminated) that D.A. Miller sees as a defining role of the police, breaks down entirely in this scenario and even moves in reverse (Miller 1984, 173-76). As a result, the court turned its scrutinizing gaze from the prostitutes to not only the doctor-male-customer-prisoner, but also to the lax police, detectives, and other professionals.
The Professions under Scrutiny
The trial transcripts of the Cream case provide scholars with rich details about the material conditions of the lives of Lambeth prostitutes: how much they were paid, what a typical job entailed, and what kinds of social and safety networks they developed. But the most explosive moment of the trial for the 1892 audience focused not on "the oldest profession" but on one of the newest professions, that of police detective. During the examination of John Bennett Tunbridge, an inspector in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Scotland Yard, Attorney General Russell questioned him about the blackmail letter sent to Dr. Broadbent and then forwarded to Scotland Yard. When asked by Sir Charles Russell what Scotland Yard did about the letter, Tunbridge replied that they watched Broadbent's house. The Attorney General continued:
Russell: Was any inquiry made at 27 Lambeth Road [Matilda Clover's residence]? Tunbridge: No. Russell: Was any communication made to the officer in charge of the Lambeth Division? Tunbridge: No. Russell: Was any inquiry made about the girl Clover either at Lambeth Road or about Lambeth Road? Tunbridge: No, no inquiry was made. At this point, Justice Hawkins interrupted: Do I understand that not with standing that this letter was received by the authorities at Scotland Yard on 1st December no inquiry was made about the girl Clover? Tunbridge: None whatever. Judge Hawkins: Nor at 27 Lambeth Road? Tunbridge: No. Judge Hawkins: Nor as to the cause of her death? Tunbridge: No inquiries whatever were made except what I have said. Judge Hawkins: Can you account for that? Tunbridge: I may say that I myself had nothing to do with it. The letter was looked upon as a letter from an insane person ... Judge Hawkins (interrupting): Surely, surely, that does not account for it. Here is a real person who actually lived at 27 Lambeth Road, and it is said that this person was poisoned by strychnine. This information comes to Scotland Yard, within a quarter of an hour's walk of the place. How comes it that no one took the trouble to make an inquiry at Lambeth Road? Tunbridge: Well, it was not done, my lord. Judge Hawkins: My surprise remains.
The examination continued, but the judge, unable to repress further comment, interrupted a third time:
Judge Hawkins: But my surprise remains. I cannot see why it should have been thought of more importance to watch Dr. Broadbent's house than to make this inquiry? ... Suppose the man had been caught, would any inquiry of this kind have been made? Tunbridge: I presume so, my lord. Judge Hawkins: I should presume not, from what happened. (qtd. In Shore 1923, 111)
This sharp rebuke from the bench came on the heels of other damning evidence of professional incompetence and possible corruption surrounding the Cream investigation.
Not only was the defendant a doctor who had abused his position of trust to kill rather than heal, but also the very professionals sworn to protect the public from violence were this serial murderer's closest friends. Suspicion about Maclntyre's endorsement, and even possible involvement, in Cream's blackmail schemes ran high in the popular press. Moreover, another physician signed Clover's death certificate without ever having seen the deceased, (18) and a chemist sold Cream a scheduled poison, justifying the sale by saying Cream could write in Latin (Pall Mall Gazette, 18 October 1892). Scotland Yard had endured intense criticism for having failed to capture Jack the Ripper a few years earlier, and now a second rash of serial murders showed the department to be apathetic. In light of all the evidence pointing to the existence of a serial murderer at large, the CID's insistence on food poisoning in the deaths of Marsh and Shrivell seems like a deliberate denial of reality and an inability on the part of the police to cope with failure and loss of control. When asked pointedly by Cream's defense attorney whose fault it was that Clover's death remained uninvestigated, John Bennett Tunbridge answered, "The fault, if fault there be, rests with Scotland Yard" (Shore 1923, 115).
How, then, did a trial that revealed the corruption and incompetence of doctors, chemists, detectives, and the police end with the conclusion that everyone involved (with the noticeable exception of the star witnesses, the prostitutes) deserved praise for a job well done? That startling discrepancy highlights the reconstruction job performed during the remainder of the trial. This careful rebuilding aimed to reimpose distinctions between professional work and criminal or debased forms of work.
In Central Criminal Court Saturday, October 22, Justice Hawkins did an abrupt about-face and recanted his previous day's criticism of Scotland Yard. Not only did the judge retract his negative comments, but he also poured praise on the heads of the chief actors. In fact, the whole court joined in to express their unalloyed satisfaction and sing the praises of the police and the detectives.
Mr. Justice Hawkins: Before 1 commence the business of the day, I am very desirous indeed of removing any unfavorable impression that may have been entertained by anybody with reference to the incident about the letter to Dr. Broadbent. I mean the letter which it was said was sent to Scotland Yard, and that no inquiries were made about it. I have received the most satisfactory explanation, of not only what was not done, but of what was done, and 1 must say that I think it removes the slightest possible ground of complaint against the authorities of Scotland Yard. And with regard to the impression that I am afraid that was conveyed also in the language which I used, that I expressed some complaint and criticized the action of the police generally concerned in the case, I can only say that so far from wishing to cast anything like a censure on them, I think that the conduct of the police from the commencement to the end of the case is admirable. It was only the one little incident with reference to Dr. Broadbent's letter which made me think that more might have been done, but I am satisfied now that all was done that I should myself have desired to be done in the matter. (qtd. in Shore 1923, 169)
The deluge of "I's" and "myself's" in the judge's praise ("I am satisfied now that all was done that I should myself have desired to be done in the matter") suggests how heavy-handed his opinion could be, implying that if the judge himself felt satisfied, then everyone else should have been too. In fact, the chorus of assenting and obsequious voices shows that this indeed is what happened:
The Attorney-General: I have no doubt that your lordship's public statement to that effect will be received with satisfaction, and so far as it rests, or it is proper for me to say anything, I certainly would like to take the opportunity of endorsing what your lordship has said as to the most creditable conduct of Inspector Tunbridge, who is connected with Scotland Yard, and that of Inspectors Harvey and M'Intyre, and of Constables Comley and Everfield. Justice Hawkins: And Sergeant Ward also. The Attorney-General: Yes, and Ward also. The Clerk of Court: My lord, the Grand Jury wished to commend Inspector Tunbridge and all the officers concerned in the case. (qtd. in Shore 1923, 169)
Once more before the trial ended, the judge made a show of complimenting the police, recanting any blame, and throwing in praise for the prosecution and defense lawyers as well. (19)
Although congratulations were offered to all the professionals involved in the case, no words of thanks fell to Lou Harvey, Eliza Masters, or Elizabeth May. Justice Hawkins's only comment was, "So far as he could see, these women gave their evidence in an honest manner" (qtd. in Shore 1923). Such an anomalous conclusion to this trial draws attention to itself. The enormous distance Justice Hawkins had to travel--from scathing condemnation to exaggerated commendation of the professional handling of the case--throws into relief the gap between the evidence given in the trial and the official spin the judge put on the final comments about professionals and the Lambeth murders. Cream is made to sound fiendishly clever in this summation, despite the mile-wide trail of clues he left. The police are commended for their proficiency and valiant efforts, despite the glaring oversights they made. And the women in the case (landladies, maids, and streetwalkers) are at best not liars, and at worst, impediments and deserving victims.
Male professionals were caught in the glare of the spotlight during the Cream trial. The villain, a doctor, posed as both a detective and a lawyer in his blackmail notes. Through the corruption or errors of two other medical professionals (the doctor who certified Clover's death and the chemist who sold Cream poison), his crimes were made easier to commit and get away with. The real detectives, at first so inept and clownish as to deserve rebuke, ultimately won the role and laurels of heroes. The judge and the Attorney General attempted to make the light as flattering as possible by distributing praise and blame and reorienting a trial that had confused the roles of "immoral" women and "respectable" men.
Intense, explicit misogyny directed at the victims and witnesses features prominently in the actions and words of Cream, the other medical professionals, the detectives, and the court officials. Cream did not simply kill women, but inflicted particularly long and agonizing deaths by strychnine. The other professionals' low estimation of women aided Cream's killing spree. Choppin, the untrained medical assistant, assumed Matilda Clover was drunk and not meriting the attention of a doctor, thus obscuring the real cause of her death. The police, likewise, judged her death and the deaths of the other Lambeth women to be unworthy of investigation.
The language used to refer to the victims and witnesses also attests to this kind of misogyny. During the trial, Russell and Georghegan (the lawyers for both the prosecution and the defense) refer to the victims and the witnesses as "belonging to that class of persons known as 'unfortunates.'" Clover is spoken of as "given to excess drinking, like so many of her class," and Masters and May are called "loose women" and "immoral" (Shore 1923, 45, 48, and 147). Even the postmortem report on Clover expresses this kind of misogyny. Dr. Thomas Stevenson, who performed the exam, reported that the condition of her fallopian tubes indicated she was a "loose woman" (U.K. Public Records Office, CRIM 1/38/1).
Justice Hawkins worked hard to disentangle the criminals (Cream and prostitutes) from the professional police. (20) His maneuvers point not only to his ingrained misogyny, but also to his effort to establish faith in the police and bolster the status of male professionals in general. The two, as I will show, are related.
The misogyny directed at the victims and the witnesses cannot be attributed to any single cause, but the themes of male professional status and competency that recur during the trial point in one interesting direction. Rather than attempt any comprehensive analysis of the misogyny visible in the Cream trial, I would like to focus on one aspect of this complex web of loathing. The strand I want to trace is the challenge prostitution poses to emerging ideals of male professionalism. (21)
The term "male professional" is perhaps redundant when speaking of the nineteenth century. Part of what makes a line of work a profession is its exclusivity (established by licensing, education, charters, and clubs), and Victorian women as a sex were excluded wholesale from the professions. Even for Victorian men, what counted as a profession and who counted as a professional covered a very narrow and shifting territory. (22) Narrower still, and just beginning to waver, were the margins of what could be considered "respectable professions." In fact, according to W.J. Reader, there were only four acknowledged respectable professions: state service (which includes commissioned officers, high ranking East India officials, and members of Parliament), the church, the law, and medicine (1966, 8-10). These four were part of "the professional tradition claiming a right to social position rather than responsibility to perform any particular function" (Elliott 1972, 56). Statesmen and clergymen did not play a prominent role in the Neill Cream trial, but the medical and legal professionals had much riding on their very public performances in this sensational case.
At stake was their authoritative image, their status as the leading and most prestigious professions, and their claim to public trust and admiration. By 1892 other occupational groups were already laying claim to the status of professional. In his study, The Sociology of the Professions, Philip Elliott outlines the tremendous growth in the use and range of the term "profession." These newer professions, which Elliott terms "occupational professions" (as opposed to the old "status professions"), based their importance on specialization of knowledge and task (1972, 14). Engineers, bankers, dentists, and accountants formed associations, administered exams, conferred licenses, and pushed for governmental charters to prevent outsiders from infringing on their fields or undercutting fees. (23) In other words, they acquired all the trappings of a professional field. (24) Yet in the Cream trial, the perceived threat to the medical and legal professions did not come from these groups clamoring for recognition. The perils medical and legal professionals faced instead were charges of incompetency and corruption, and the implications that a too-close association with the disreputable "profession" of prostitution cast over their practices.
The judge's abrupt reversal of opinion regarding the conduct of the professionals involved defused the first threat. He was perfectly satisfied with their skill and integrity. His tone of condemnation and his devaluation of the contribution made by the Lambeth prostitutes squarely confronted the second threat by reimposing a more comfortable distance between the reputable and the disreputable professions. The misogyny apparent during the trial was not incidental but part of this strategic distancing from "loose women" and the feminine in general. Dr. Cream had blurred that distinction, and more threatening yet, his criminal actions not only gave the calling of physician a black eye, but also effectually reversed the direction of the moral distinction between prostitute and professional. By failing to watch Cream and his Lambeth victims, the police left their surveillance role open and failed to safely insulate the middle classes from the transgressive. At the Cream trial, the Lambeth streetwalkers showed amazing courage and intelligence, deserving (if not actually receiving) praise and admiration. The members of the medical profession and the Scotland Yard officials, by contrast, deserved rebuke and public scorn. That scorn was deflected by the judge's abundant last minute encomium and re-focused on the activity of prostitution. This move effectively grouped Cream and the prostitutes together under the "guilty" heading, separating them from the "innocent" and respectable professionals. Even the popular press participated in disentangling Cream from the respectable professionals, either dropping the title "Dr." when referring to him or putting it in quotation marks. (25) Medical and legal professionals closed ranks at the Cream trial, singing one another's praises in a self-conscious attempt to cordon off the pernicious atmosphere of prostitution from the dignified arena of professionals.
The challenge prostitution posed to an emerging ideal of professional work did not end with the closing of ranks against the Lambeth women. As the nature of the professional evolved from enjoying a social rank to providing services, the figurative equation between selling sex and selling other services deeply troubled the concept of professional earnings. The Cream trial made these parallels visible. Professional earnings were unlike either aristocratic income or earnings from more common labor. On one hand, income from rents of landed property "broke the direct connection between work and income" (Reader 1966, 3). Manual labor, artisanal work, and trade, on the other hand, directly connected work and income but produced visible material results distinct from the laborer. Professional earnings neither stood aloof from work nor proceeded from a distinctive product. Instead, professionals sold their knowledge, ideas, and advice--all lodged within the professional body and mind itself. What is a doctor or lawyer selling if not access to himself?
Barristers and physicians went to great lengths to disguise or ignore this unpleasant reality. For example, professional etiquette forbade them to sue for fees due to them. "The root of the matter appears to lie in the feeling that it was not fitting for one gentleman to pay another for services rendered, particularly if the money passed directly" (Reader 1966, 37). Payment for services rendered seemed to cause no end of embarrassment to delicate men unwilling to openly set a fee, so much so that W.J. Reader suggests clients often shortchanged their lawyers or doctors or treated their payment more as an honorarium than as an earned sum. They could get by with this because respectable professionals needed to maintain an aura of objectivity, a sense of disengagement from economic struggle. In fact, according to Magalis Sarfatti Larson, a disregard for material incentives was considered an integral mark of a professional (1977, x). (26) An overeager interest in making money would seem to suggest a susceptibility to bribery--that is, the lure of profit would seem to threaten to outweigh ethical responsibility. During the nineteenth century, Catherine Gallagher notes "a growing hostility towards groups that seem to represent a realm of exchange divorced from production," citing costermongers, traders, and usurers as examples (1986, 43). I would add professionals to that suspected list. When facing the vulnerability of placing health, privacy, property, or safety in the hands of a professional, the client had to feel secure that profit would not sway that professional to abuse his power. In the Cream case, the solicitude shown for the safety of wealthy gentlemen outweighed the concern over the murders of women from the lowest socio economic group, justifying public fears over the power of money to sway supposedly disinterested practices.
The Neill Cream trial reveals an open and concerted effort on the part of the law courts to construct a more positive public image of the male professional. For the "ancient" or "liberal" professions, this construction project dates back to the beginning of the nineteenth century. As historians and sociologists show, battles to control professional societies, define educational requirements, limit applicants, and establish intradisciplinary codes of ethical conduct were being waged as early as the 1820s. (27) Until the end of the century, however, these battles were more properly skirmishes involving a tiny fraction of the population--only around .3% (or three persons in every thousand) belonged to an acknowledged profession in 1841 (Reader 1966, Appendix I, 207-11). But by the end of the century England had become, in Harold Perkin's terms, a professional society.
With more people and more power concentrated under the banner of "professional," controlling use of that term and molding a recognizable professional ideal became crucial. As Jane Tompkins reminds us, "When discourse is responsible for reality and not merely a reflection of it, then whose discourse prevails makes all the difference" (1980, xxv). In the Cream trial, Justice Hawkins and the Attorney General used their positions of power to put forth their versions of the professional men involved in the case. Since the trial received wide press coverage and generated a huge popular following, the impression of competence and integrity that the judge and the Attorney General tried to promote reached a potentially wide audience.
The Cream case, then, represents more than the trial of one man for murder and blackmail. The official narrative generated around Cream also participated in the emerging discourse of late nineteenth-century professionalism. Using the term "discourse" as defined by Derek Longhurst to refer to "all the processes of signification, to the production and framing of meaning around social experience and their circulation throughout a range of institutional power structures," we can see how Justice Hawkins' jarring reassessment serves as a weathervane, indicating the direction in which one institution was trying to propel this process (1989, 4). The vehemence and exaggeration of Hawkins' comments attest to the high stakes involved in regulating and producing a perception of the model professional.
Ofcourse, the law courts had plenty of competition in their attempt to mold the terms of professionalism. Professional societies, newspapers, magazines, paintings, fashion, and religion, among countless other forces, all had something to say on the subject of professional work and behavior. But perhaps the voice heard most clearly, and the image to last the longest, came from fiction. Sherlock Holmes, the world's first consulting detective, certainly ranks among the most famous and culturally significant professional figures of the late nineteenth century.
Detecting the Professional
Scotland Yard detectives did not rank among the well-respected or ancient professionals. If we use the census as a guide, they did not fall into the category of "professional" at all. Before Sherlock Holmes could rise to a place of preeminence, detectives had a long and bitter struggle to achieve respectability. The birth of the police force in Britain as the Bow Street Runners is well documented. The Metropolitan Police Act of 1829 created what would later become the celebrated Scotland Yard, but the British public long resisted organized law enforcement. Ian Ousby theorizes that this was due to a feeling that a state-controlled police force was reminiscent of the standing armies of Stuart and Cromwellian times (1976, 8). Even after its inception, detection (which literally means "taking the roof off") was closely associated with the devil (2). (28) On first consideration, such an inauspicious start, the small number of detectives, and their relatively low social standing would seem to preclude their wielding any great influence over the image of the professional in the popular imagination. I would argue, however, that due to the spectacular success of detective fiction in general and the Sherlock Holmes series in particular, the figure of the detective produced a disproportionate impact on the late nineteenth-century conceptualization of the professional man. Moreover, in a genre so obviously and centrally concerned with how one does a job, the difficult issues surrounding professionalism receive special attention in the pages of detective stories.
Within the realm of detective fiction, Sherlock Holmes occupies a place of honor. (29) How Doyle came to write these archetypal detective stories provides a fascinating link between the medical, literary, and detective professions. Trained as a physician. Doyle found his own professional life floundering. While Dr. Doyle anxiously awaited patients in his empty office, he passed the hours writing, creating a far more professionally successful character in Sherlock Holmes. That a physician would turn his attention to detective fiction is not as odd as it may first seem. In Doctors' Stories: The Narrative Structure of Medical Knowledge, Kathryn Hunter notes the parallel development of medical discourse and the detective genre. "The medical case, the central narrative account of the study and diagnosis of disease in an individual patient, developed along with that most modern of Western literary forms, the detective story" (1991, 21). Hunter points out that both medical diagnoses and crime investigations begin with the end results (the illness or the crime) and reason backwards to the cause. Moreover, she asserts that both medical narratives and detective fiction seek "to identify the nature of apparently random evil in the world in order to eliminate it. The semiotics of detection are precisely those of medicine" (169). Leaving his failed medical practice behind, Doyle borrowed the deductive methods and penchant for dramatic revelation from his former medical school professor, Dr. Bell, to create Sherlock Holmes. In doing so, Doyle moved effortlessly from medical diagnosis and discourse to detective fiction. Crediting Holmes with the dramatic professional success that eluded him in his medical practice, the transformation from physician to author of detective fiction was complete.
Doyle came up with the right hero, the right formula, at the right time, and published in the right place. In the 1890s a series of short stories with a continuing cast of characters fit the bill as perfect reading entertainment for train commuters and evening readers. Unlike the triple-decker novels of earlier decades, a Holmes story could be read from start to finish in one sitting. There was no chance to lose interest because of a missed installment, and yet the appearance of a new story had a ready-made audience waiting for it. (30) George Newnes, editor of 'The. Strand Magazine: An Illustrated Monthly paid Doyle handsomely. (31) It was in The Strand that Doyle found a steady audience and an optimal medium.
The Strand published its first number in January 1891. Its first issue positioned the publication as a mix of light, informative articles, short stories, illustrations, and gossipy news of contemporary celebrities. The feature articles regularly reported on occupations. (32) Such reporting was symptomatic of public interest in new occupations, and The Strand's sale at railway stations suggests that it aimed to capitalize both on the interest in work and on the flow of commuting professionals. In other words, Conan Doyle did not create the consummate professional in a vacuum; the interest was already there, and the Holmes stories simply crystallized a number of anxieties and fantasies about being a professional. In the pages of The Strand, Doyle found a ready audience, and Holmes found devoted fans.
Early critics, practitioners, and recent scholarship alike assume a predominantly male readership for detective fiction. Stephen Knight claims that the audience of The Strand (and thereby Sherlock Holmes) "was predominantly male" based on the fact that it was sold in large numbers at railway stops (1980, 374). Whether or not the audience was in fact primarily male--which would be difficult if not impossible to prove--is less important than the cultural assumption and approval of a male audience (unlike sensation fiction, for instance, which was gendered as female reading). For the male professional who read Doyle's stories, Holmes performed a professional fantasy of complete competence, public service, independence, and spectacular occupational excitement. Each tale encapsulated both a model of expertise and an implicit critique of men not fulfilling this model. In this manner, Holmes simultaneously enacted and produced the 1890s professional man. Working with the poststructuralist claim that experience is at least in part textually determined, then these most popular, most-read texts carried enormous potential for cultural construction. An analysis of The Adventures of Sherlock' Holmes (33) demonstrates how detective fiction in general and Sherlock Holmes in particular participated in the discourse of male professionalism.
"The Man With the Twisted Lip" and the Problems of Inconspicuous Production and Occupational Integrity (34)
The opening of "The Man with the Twisted Lip" deviates from the standard introductory scene of a Holmes story. Instead of finding Holmes and Watson in Baker Street with a newly-arrived client or witnessing Holmes already summarizing the essentials of the case to a trailing Watson, this tale opens with the line, "Is a Whitney, brother of the late Elias Whitney, D.D., Principal of the Theological College of St. George's, was much addicted to opium" (Doyle 1986, 306). Much of this sentence seems superfluous to the narrative at hand. What do Isa and Elias Whitney have to do with the mysterious disappearance of Neville St. Clair? In fact, the entire opening scene seems extraneous. Dr. Watson's rescue of Isa Whitney from an opium-induced stupor proves to be a rather long way around to his meeting up with Sherlock Holmes who, disguised as an old opium eater, is at work on the case of the missing Mr. Neville St. Clair. We will return to this scene, however, to find it pivotal to the question of where and how one makes money, a central concern of professionals and of "The Man with the Twisted Lip."
Neville St. Clair was in the city taking care of business when his wife, who happened to be doing some shopping, looked up from the sidewalk and saw her husband apparently grabbed from behind. With his hands thrown in the air and issuing a shriek, he disappeared from the window. His concerned wife rushed into the building and tried to mount the stairs to the room where she had seen her husband. This building, however, was no office building. Rather, it was a seedy opium den (none other than the one in which Watson on his mission of charity met Holmes). The "rascally lascar" (Doyle 1986, 311) who operated the den barred Mrs. St. Clair's passage, and by the time she returned with the police there was no sign of her husband. "There was no sign of him there. In fact, in the whole of that floor there was no one to be found save a crippled wretch of hideous aspect [Hugh Boone], who, it seems, made his home there" (313). Ominous signs that Mr. St. Clair had been there remained: a box of blocks he had promised his son, remnants of his clothing, and drops of blood scattered on the floor and windowsill. Holmes summarizes the problem as follows: "The questions which have to be solved--what Neville St. Clair was doing in the opium den, what happened to him when there, where is he now, and what Hugh Boone had to do with his disappearance" (317).
Hugh Boone, "the crippled wretch of hideous aspect," proves to be the key to all these questions, as well as the title character. Boone is described as:
Familiar to every man who goes much to the City. He is a professional beggar, though in order to avoid the police regulations he pretends to a small trade in wax vestas ... His appearance, you see, is so remarkable that no one can pass him without observing him. A shock of orange hair, a pale face disfigured by a horrible scar, which, by its contraction, has turned up the outer edge of his upper lip. (Doyle 1986, 314-15)
In addition to his remarkable physical traits, Boone is also a wit with a sharp repartee. Holmes attributes "the surpris[ing] harvest which he had reaped in a short time" (315) to the combination of his appearance and intelligence.
St. Clair, by contrast, is a gentleman "who appeared to have plenty of money" (Doyle 1986, 312). In fact, he lived in a large suburban villa complete with tasteful grounds, a wife, and two children. We are also told, "He had no occupation, but was interested in several companies and went into town as a rule in the morning, returning by the 5:14 from Cannon Street every night" (321). The puzzle in this case stems from the diffiulty in recognizing that Hugh Boone is Neville St. Clair. Beggar and gentleman are one and the same--a change of clothes, a little makeup, and a relocation from suburban home to an east side wharf accomplish the transformation. The real mystery, then, was not how St. Clair disappeared but rather how he made his money. Jennifer Ruth's new book-length study, Novel Professions, examines this issue in depth. Ruth "studies the way the Victorians conceived professional identity by drawing and then worrying distinctions between ability and effort, intelligence and merit, and being and doing" (2006, 3). St Clair's double existence makes crossing such lines of distinctions visible.
St. Clair made his money disguised as Hugh Boone, a professional beggar. What does it mean to be a "professional" beggar? According to the text, it means knowing how to work around police regulations, having a regular spot, and successfully manipulating the beggar trade--creating sympathy by appearing pathetically shocking or grabbing attention with witty repartee, and then sitting there as "a piteous spectacle" collecting "a rain of charity" (Doyle 1986, 315). The problem with this line of work seems to be its inconspicuous production. What does a beggar make, do, or sell to earn this money? Although Boone's wit helps him earn money and "he pretends to a small trade in wax vestas," he does not create an obvious product or rent a property, nor does he provide a definable service (314, italics mine). In reality, he earns his money by just sitting there. His labor does not appear laborious enough, and visual access to his body is not only encouraged but explicitly generates his income. (35) In fact, most of the labor visible or implied in "The Man with the Twisted Lip" appears suspiciously like what Hugh Boone does in the city.
Hugh Boone's begging signals an anxiety about inconspicuous production that is often involved in professional labor in general. The professional man was trapped in something of a Catch-22 in terms of putting in a day's work. On the one hand, a striving work ethic was the mark of middle-class morality. On the other hand, however, too much work, especially any kind of physical labor, disqualified one as a gentleman. Because the social status of a professional man hovered somewhere in between the clerks and shopkeepers of the middle class and the leisured land owners of the aristocracy, finding a balance between a degrading, grinding work pace and a morally suspicious laxity could prove to be somewhat precarious. (36) Doctors, lawyers, bankers, and investors all had to walk this line.
Hugh Boone's begging makes visible the cultural ambivalence about the man "who does something in the city." St. Clair, after all, claimed to be one of these men. He posed as "interested in several companies" (Doyle 1986, 312), purporting to make his living by capital investment. The close proximity of his actual place of work to the wharves further casts a shadow over income generated by trade, and especially by trade in the empire. The room where St. Clair became Hugh Boone by exchanging his suit for a beggar's apparel overlooks the water and the docks. The building's association with opium, its lascar attendant, its geographical location in the easternmost part of the city, and its resemblance to "the forecastle of an emigrant ship" firmly tie it to images of the empire. In an attempt to avoid the scandal that exposing his dual role as gentleman-beggar would cause, St. Clair hastily reassumes the character of Hugh Boone and thrusts his coat out the window as his wife and the police rush up the stairs. The following day, St. Clair's missing coat washes ashore at the same wharf where earnings from trade and the empire came ashore. The coat-pockets stuffed with pennies and halfpennies earned by begging further link the inconspicuous production of begging with earnings from trade.
More disturbing yet, before Holmes can sort out these different means of generating income and reestablish a line between a gentleman and a beggar, his own line of work becomes implicated. Hugh Boone's work bears a startling similarity to Holmes' methods and to the opium addicts from the opening scene. Watson describes Holmes' process for solving this case:
It was soon evident to me that he was now preparing for an all-night sitting. He took off his coat and waistcoat, put on a large blue dressing-gown, and then wandered about the room collecting pillows from his bed and cushions from the sofa and armchairs. With these he constructed a sort of Eastern divan, upon which he perched himself cross-legged, with an ounce of shag tobacco and a box of matches laid out in front of him. In the dim light of the lamp I saw him sitting there, an old briar pipe between his lips, his eyes fixed vacantly upon the corner of the ceiling, the blue smoke curling up from him, silent, motionless, with the light shining upon his strongest aquiline features. (Doyle 1986, 321)
In the morning, the only evidence that Holmes had "worked" all night is the thick haze of smoke in the room and the consumption of the heap of shag. His dressing-gown and pillowed perch associate this work with resting, and perhaps with that other form of undressed bed-work, prostitution. The "Eastern divan" he constructs, his crossed-legged position, the pipe and smoke, and his vacant and silent stare connect this scene with the opening scene in the opium den. The opium smokers are also described as sitting in "strange fantastic poses," staring silently, with pipes dangling from their lips (Doyle 1986, 308-10). Three original drawings by Sidney Paget visually connect the sitting opium smoker, the sitting beggar, and the sitting detective. (37)
The differentiation between smoking opium, begging, and other forms of inconspicuous labor (such as Holmes' own work) comes in the final scene of confrontation. Sherlock Holmes marches into Hugh Boone's jail cell with a wet sponge and endeavors to "make him a much more respectable figure." Washing off Boone's "coarse brown tint" reveals St. Clair, "a pale, sad-faced, refined-looking man" (Doyle 1986, 324). This is a replay of the recognition scene between Watson and Holmes in the opium den that opened the story, when Watson discovers the wrinkled opium eater to be Holmes in disguise. The difference, as we shall see, is that St. Clair is portrayed as having sold himself and sacrificed his pride for money. In short, he prostituted himself. St. Clair/Boone's confession affirms what this description already suggests: his ""crime" consisted of debasing his "refined" nature to the "coarse" office of making money. St. Clair/Boone laments:
Well you can imagine how hard it was to settle down to arduous work at [pounds sterling]2 a week when I knew that I could earn as much in a day by smearing my face with a little paint, laying my cap on the ground, and sitting still. It was a long fight between my pride and the money, but the dollars won at last. (Doyle 1986,326)
The "paint" and the display of his body on the street further connect this form of work with prostitution. By contrast. Holmes never allows pounds to take precedence over pride, and he is markedly private in his work habits. Holmes repeatedly declares that he will take only "singular" cases that offer an intellectual challenge, often refusing more lucrative, banal cases. In this way, he differentiates between the "sitting" that is begging and contemptible and the "sitting" that is intellectual work and refining. Here as in the Cream trial, the prostitute plays a pivotal symbolic role against which an ideal professionalism is constructed.
The ideal professional as portrayed in "The Man With the Twisted Lip" cannot be bought or sold or created with costuming and paint. Holmes' profession cannot be washed off; he is a detective through and through, and he is always on duty .(38) As Audrey Jaffe writes, "Holmes is a fantasy of professionalism as unalienated labor--of the highly specialized professional as a figure for whom slavishness cannot be an issue because his work so completely fulfills his nature" (1990, 79). Indelible marks of labor provide Holmes with many clues--silver nitrate stains on a doctor's fingers (Doyle 1986, 211), muscle development in the right hand of a ship builder, tattoos of sailors (232), the dint of pince nez on the nose, or the line the typewriter makes on the flesh of the wrist (260). (39) By contrast, St. Clair's work could be washed off; it made him dirty. It split his life--between the suburbs and the opium den, between a suit coat and a beggar's cap. In the struggle to define the nature of respectable work, the Holmes figure, projected as the "right" kind of professional, suggests such a split is the crime under investigation in this mystery. Holmes' complete identification with his profession proposes that work is considered, or should be considered, a defining characteristic of a "man." To achieve this kind of seamless professional subjectivity, Neville St. Clair must be disciplined to turn his back on begging. "There must be no more of Hugh Boone" (327) if St. Clair is to achieve this personal and professional ideal of wholeness and freedom from the economic laws of supply and demand. Few can hope to actually succeed in emulating the Holmesian hero, but St. Clair is admonished to make the effort.
St. Clair's wife never has to learn about Hugh Boone's work at the wharf, unlike Isa Whitney's wife, who knows all about her husband's trips to the opium den. From the first sentence, Isa Whitney haunts this story as a figure who failed to achieve the wholeness Holmes represents. The enormity of the gap between his home life and his drug addiction marks him as "an object of mingled horror and pity" (Doyle 1986, 307). Isa Whitney lacks integrity, both in the sense that he cannot be trusted and in the sense that he is not whole. Whitney, called a "slave" to opium (307), does not own himself, and he has prostituted his "better" self for the drug. Like St. Clair's first foray as a beggar, Is a Whitney began smoking opium as a lark; it was supposed to be a temporary arrangement. His opium addiction grew to the point where, unlike St. Clair, he could no longer shake it off. Holmes's unalienated labor provides the larger solution to the problem faced by St. Clair and is one mark of the ideal professional. Integrity, indicating both an honorable impenetrability to bribery and a completeness, marks the professional in all the Sherlock Holmes stories.
Secrets and Expertise: Knowing What You're Worth in Sherlock Holmes
My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don't know. ("The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle," Doyle 1986, 341)
Knowing what other people don't know is the quintessential mark of the professional. Professionals are consulted and paid to know things--to have expertise and special skills, and to keep confidences and shelter secrets. It is clear from the first Holmes "adventure" published in The Strand, "A Scandal in Bohemia," that Holmes' value lies in both his brilliance and his discretion.
Holmes's brilliance, evident in every adventure, shines all the more brightly against a dull background. Watson often provides such a contrast. Watson, the client, and the reader know less than Holmes, and the structure of the detective story highlights this gap in knowledge and then maintains it through narrative secrecy. Typical in these respects is the story entitled "The Red Headed League." In what has become a Holmes signature piece, Holmes "reads" his client, announcing his astonishing surmises in an offhand manner:
Beyond the obvious facts that he had at some time done manual labor, that he takes snuff, that he is a Freemason, that he has been in China, and that he had done a considerable amount of writing lately, I can deduce nothing else. (Doyle 1986,231-32)
Holmes' performance of his credentials amazes the client with his abilities and simultaneously impresses upon the client his need for Holmes' services. What seems "obvious" to Holmes impresses the client (and reader) with a sense of his own obtuseness and consequent inability to handle the case unaided. Right on cue, the client exclaims, "How, in the name of good-for-tune, did you know all that, Mr. Holmes?" expressing both admiration for Holmes and his own bafflement (Doyle 1986, 232).
Having sufficiently impressed his client, Holmes explains the myriad of details he processed to arrive at his deductions. Even his explanation, which clears up and supports his conclusions, impresses one as no ordinary degree of knowledge. Holmes "made a study of tattoo marks and ... even contributed to the literature on the subject." (Doyle 1986, 232). His study and publishing activities mark him as professionally interested in the subject. Ronald Thomas' study, Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science, sees the authority of literary detectives deriving from their expertise in new forensic procedures: "At stake is not just the identification of a dead victim or an unknown suspect, but the demonstration of the power invested in certain forensic devices embodied in the figure of the literary detective" (1999, 2). Yet after Holmes' demonstration Mr. Jebez Wilson, the client, overconfidently remarks, "I thought at first that you had done something clever, but I see that there was nothing in it, after all." Holmes recognizes that the initial effect of his powers wanes following this demystification. "I begin to think, Watson ... that I make a mistake in explaining. Omne ignotum pro magitifico, you know, and my poor little reputation, such as it is, will suffer shipwreck if I am so candid" (1986, 232).
Jebez Wilson, a former manual laborer and the current owner of a pawn shop, undoubtedly speaks no Latin, so the phrase "Omne ignotum pro magnified" simultaneously expresses and enacts its meaning. Knowledge of a specialized vocabulary (e.g., Latin, medical terminology, legal parlance) combined with the ignorance of the non-initiated, work together to produce the status a professional enjoys and create the sense of his worth. (40) After Mr. Wilson lays out the mystery for Holmes and Watson, the distance between Holmes-the-professional and laypersons such as Watson, Wilson, and the reader is reestablished. Watson bursts out with his typical "What on earth does this mean?" expressing succinctly his confusion and his reliance on Holmes to answer (Doyle 1986, 233). Holmes "chuckled and wriggled" but does not answer (233). In fact, having learned his lesson previously that demystification reduces his worth and costs him the respect of his audience, he keeps Watson in the dark, literally and figuratively, until the final page.
Demystification does not pay if yielded too precipitously. Detective fiction, like a professional, needs to preserve the mystery, revealing bits strategically (41) In this sense, the detective genre mirrors, shares, and reproduces the concern with strategically secreting knowledge in order to produce and prolong its value. If the signification of each step and each clue is made immediately clear, the reader, like Jebez Wilson, feels as if what at first seemed very clever is really nothing at all. In "The Red Headed League," all the clues are laid out by mid-story, and Holmes already knows the solution. Offering the flimsiest of excuses, Holmes, like the text, refuses to explain. Watson asks, "What did you see?" Holmes evasively responds, "What I expected to see." Watson tries again,"Why did you beat the pavement?" Holmes dodges,"My dear doctor, this is a time for observation, not for talk" (Doyle 1986, 242). Offering no premature hints, Holmes heightens the tension by assuring Watson that the crime is serious and perhaps even dangerous. With a tantalizing "kindly put your army revolver in your pocket," Holmes departs (244).
Holmes' work, done in his smoky rooms at 221B Baker Street, in a darkened concert hall, and in the recesses of his mind, remains veiled from his companion and fans. In this he is typically professional. As Jethro Lieberman writes, "Professionals do not normally work before audiences; they shield their jobs from public gaze" (1970, 4). This veiling leaves Watson unable to see clearly. A musing Watson confides:
I trust that I am not more dense than my neighbors, but I was always oppressed with a sense of my own stupidity in my dealings with Sherlock Holmes. Here I had heard what he had heard, I had seen what he had seen, and yet from his words it was evident that he saw clearly not only what had happened but what was about to happen, while to me the whole business was still confused and grotesque ... I tried to puzzle it out, but gave up in despair. (Doyle 1986,244)
Watson is missing the expertise needed to put the pieces of the puzzle together and see patterns clearly, so he remains clueless. Holmes (and the detective format) aggravate this sense of incompetence by keeping all the Watsons blinded (often busy on red herrings), thus creating their own continuing demand.
The main pieces of this particular puzzle point conspicuously to the question of occupational worth. Mr. Jabez Wilson accepted an advertised position with the so-called "red-headed league," which offered "splendid pay and very little to do" (Doyle 1986,235). During his "office hours," an assistant watches his pawnshop. This assistant, Mr. Wilson admits, is seriously underpaid, accepting half wages, although "I know very well that he could do better himself and earn twice what I am able to give him" (233). The mystery can be solved by explaining why the compensation for these two positions does not correspond with their customary wages. The two are, of course, related. The assistant, Vincent Spaulding (alias for John Clay), thought up the mythical redheaded league. He was willing to overpay Wilson and accept underpayment himself to get Wilson out of the house, allowing him to dig a tunnel to the neighboring bank as part of his plan to steal 30,000 gold napoleons that rested in the basement vault.
In the culminating scene, Holmes, Watson, Mr. Merryweather (the bank director), and Mr. Jones of Scotland Yard wait in the bank's basement in pitch darkness to catch a thief. With the exception of Holmes, the party waits in figurative darkness as well. Only Holmes knows the entire plot, and he is less than communicative. In fact, his characteristic reluctance to enlighten his comrades nearly endangers the entire operation. Not knowing that John Clay has dug a tunnel under the bank, Mr. Merryweather thumps the flagstones with his cane, potentially warning the thief of their presence. Clay does not hear, makes his appearance, and is duly caught by Holmes, who blandly informs him, "You have no chance at all" (Doyle 1986, 248).
Clay, one feels, would stand a good chance against anyone less cool, less brilliant than Sherlock Holmes. Inspector Jones describes Clay as "at the head of his profession ... a remarkable man ... His grandfather was a royal duke, and he himself had been to Eton and Oxford. His brain is as cunning as his fingers" (Doyle 1986, 243). Yet Clay is not the man Holmes is--literally. Feminized as having "a white, almost womanly hand," "a clean-cut, boyish face," and as "lithe and small," Holmes, with his huge, phallic hunting crop, handily defeats him. Super-masculine, super-professional, Holmes philosophically accepts his applause. Watson gushes, "You are a benefactor of the race." Holmes "shrugged his shoulders ... [and] remarked, 'L'homme c'est rien--pouevre c'est tout" (251). This final remark, quoted from Flaubert, encapsulates the importance of knowledge (of French, of literature) and the total absorption of the man by the work--the man is nothing--the work is everything. The Holmes model of professionalism proposes that work not only provides the material necessities of life, but also the emotional needs. As a result, the Holmes stories show a marked absence of women and the domestic sphere. The great detective declares, "I should never marry myself, lest I bais my sphere (associated with women and relief from labor) becomes superfluous. (42) The abolishing of women by absorbing their function and the intense homosociality of Holmes' relationship with Watson mark this ideal of professionalism as linked with women's absence. As we saw in the Cream trial, cordoning off professional space entails a misogynistic purging of women.
When Mr. Merryweather broaches the subject of a reward for his work, Holmes remarks, "I have been at some small expense over this matter, which I shall expect the bank to refund, but beyond that I am amply repaid by having had an experience which is in many ways unique" (Doyle 1986, 249). In this manner, Holmes further marks out professional conduct. He also bridges the aristocratic ideal of amateur gratification and service and the middle-class model of expertise and working for a living. As Audrey Jaffe comments, "Despite his practicality ... Holmes maintains an attitude of gentlemanly disinterest" (1990, 111). His work is a source of pleasure and personal gratification, not a pressing economic necessity.
The aristocracy and the middle classes disagreed over both the kind of training a professional needed and the value attached to expertise. On the aristocratic side, a liberal education remained the choice. On the side of the middle classes, by contrast, practical skills and a high degree of specialization seemed desirable and economically necessary. The Holmes model concurs with the middle-class respect for expertise and practical study. Ronald Thomas observes that the literary detective's specific forensic knowledge "established the authority of a class of experts" (1999, 12). As we saw in "The Red-Headed League," Holmes had exact knowledge of the practical subjects that a consulting detective would use--tattoos, cigar ash, paper, mud, tire tracks, typewriters, footprints, and poisons. His education is remarkably practical and illiberal, and he uses his special knowledge to generate respect. (43) Yet, while accepting this utilitarian model of education and repeatedly advertising his credentials, he maintains an aristocratic loyalty to the ideals--if not the vocabulary--of service and amateurism. This is due primarily, as I will argue, to the perceived threat economic necessity posed to integrity and trustworthiness.
While Holmes's expertise and methods for keeping his own professional knowledge secret took center stage in "The Red-Headed League," "The Boscombe Valley Mystery" illustrates his value as a confidant and protector of others' secrets--the second kind of "knowing" that a professional does. The unequal power relationship between layperson and expert calls for a bond of absolute trust. In an aristocratic model that prefers amateurism, economic necessity was seen to endanger that trust by making the expert vulnerable to unethical temptations--bribery, blackmail, or betrayal. (44)
With such a premium on trust and integrity, blackmail figures as the unforgivable crime in Sherlock Holmes stories. (45) Blackmail uses special knowledge, gained through a privileged relationship, for economic profit. Although a murder has been committed, blackmail is framed as the "real" crime in "The Boscombe Valley Mystery." As in many of Doyle's mysteries, uncovering how one made or keeps money uncovers clues to the puzzle. In "The Boscombe Valley Mystery," someone murdered Mr. McCarthy by crushing his skull by the Boscombe pond on Mr. Turner's estate. Suspicion falls heavily on young Mr. McCarthy, as he was seen quarreling violently with his father just minutes before the murder. But Holmes uncovers the source of rich Mr. Turner's income, and with that knowledge he discovers that Mr. McCarthy had been blackmailing Turner for years. Turner and McCarthy seemed to be friends, settling near each other after having met in Australia. In reality, McCarthy knew that Turner was "Black Jack of Ballarat," part of the notorious gang of Australian highway robbers. Turner left Australia and bought an estate in England "determined to settle down to a quiet and respectable life" (Doyle 1986, 287). He found no peace, however, as McCarthy dogged him, demanding money, a farm, and finally demanding that Turner's daughter marry his son. At this final demand, Turner murdered McCarthy.
As Alexander Welsh has remarked, increased social mobility in the nineteenth century increased blackmail opportunities (1985, 72-75). Wishing to conceal the source of wealth (in trade, the colonies, the stock market), the newly rich were compelled to conceal information about their pasts. Like Turner, many were willing to pay a great deal to keep that past concealed. But more disturbing than the suggestion that the newly rich had acquired their money in a distant but disreputable fashion is the corollary that perhaps behind all the great English estates lies a shady past, however remote. Who is to say the titled nobility were not formerly known by titles as notorious as the Black Jack of Ballarat? Resolving "The Boscombe Valley Mystery" unleashed this larger specter, only to suggest that it could be safely re-imprisoned within the vault that is Sherlock Holmes' mind.
In terms of the specific threat to Turner's reputation, Holmes assured him that his confession "shall never be seen by mortal eye; and your secret, whether you be alive or dead, shall be safe with us" (Doyle 1986, 288-89). Turner's secret and his confession are, of course, twofold: he murdered McCarthy and he earned his fortune by highway robbery. The union between Turner, daughter and McCarthy's son (which takes place after young McCarthy's acquittal and Turner's convenient death) seems to expunge the first generation's crimes. Holmes' secrecy allows Turner's daughter and McCarthy's son to marry and live "happily together in ignorance of the black cloud which rests upon their past" (289). In other words, Holmes' silence neutralizes the more remote crime of highway robbery, allowing the second generation to enjoy their ancestors' ill-gotten gains in blissful ignorance of their origins. Yet the point has been made: the status landed families enjoy could stem from illegitimately gotten money, whereas the status Holmes enjoys stems from his hard-earned knowledge and endemic integrity. This fantasy of differentiation marks Holmes as more worthy.
Part of the reason Holmes can leave the Turner and McCarthy families undisturbed extends from his professional position as an independent gentleman. Not part of any official force, he is not compelled to report his investigative findings, but can, and does, judge each case privately (46) The powerfully attractive myth and deeply ingrained respect for the incorruptible, independent man comes alive in the Holmes figure. His superior mental powers and moral powers and moral fiber take on new grandeur when placed next to those of Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard. Lestrade, in fact, serves little purpose beyond providing a contrast for Holmes. Lestrade is a functionary, part of a bureaucracy, trading his autonomous prerogatives for membership in the detective force. He lacks imagination, rarely understands the significance of clues, and is powerless to differentiate between shades of guilt and innocence. Described as a "lean, ferret-like man, furtive and sly looking," Lestrade (whose name almost literally means "the trades") stands as a ruler against which Holmes' brilliance and integrity can be fully measured and appreciated. Holmes is not involved in "the trades;" he has a "metier" (Doyle 1986, 271).
These differentiations--between a bureaucratic functionary in "trade" and an independent professional sovereign unto himself--form the basis of Holmes' effectiveness and Lestrade's bumbling incompetency. They also point to the class difference between Holmes and Lestrade, which forms the crux of Lestrade's comment in their next meeting: "I believe in hard work and not in sitting by the fire spinning fine theories" ("The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor," Doyle 1986, 401). Lestrade often does perform the exhausting footwork, but he is unable to understand what he finds. For instance, Lestrade discovers that McCarthy lived rent-free on Turner's property, but when Holmes asks, "Do you not deduce something from that?" it is obvious that he does not. Their division of labor, then, mirrors the division of labor within the middle class between the commercial trades and the professional class. Lestrade performs the material labor, while Holmes handles the mental labor. (47)
When Lestrade announces to Holmes that he told their client "there was nothing which you [Holmes] could do which I had not already done," the rest of the story shows just what else the professional could do. Holmes succeeds where Lestrade can only fail because he inspires trust and confidence; what Holmes can do that Lestrade cannot is keep secrets. Secrets held for years spill out and pour into Holmes' sympathetic ear, but are withheld from Lestrade. Mr. Turner tells Holmes everything--about his past, his crimes, the blackmail, and his murder of McCarthy. These confessions significantly aid Holmes in his solution. Holmes' appearance on the scene often signals such an opportunity for a safe release and re-containment of long held secrets. Functioning as secular priests, professionals specialize in private, often "sinful" matters. Like Holmes' vault-like silence over the source of wealth behind the Turner estates (and by implication behind estates generally), receiving and holding professional secrets greases the wheels of social interaction. Holmes' special knowledge of cigar ash and tattoos marks him as an expert, but his ability to keep secrets and inspire confidences marks him as an ideal professional and points to the greater source of his worth.
Concluding Remarks: The Power of an Ideal
The Neill Cream murder trial and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes grapple with questions of professional conduct, status, and worth. Furthermore, reaching a huge popular audience as they did, the Cream case and the Holmes mysteries became influential (if unrecognized) voices in the ongoing discourse surrounding professionalism. Selling thousands of newspapers and magazines, they delivered the latest entertainment along with arguments for a version of the professional ideal.
An ideal is just that, a fantasy--not real, a wish, a myth, a goal--and for that reason the better-than-real vision of professionals pushed in the Cream trial and performed in the Holmes stories carried very real, far-reaching consequences. Asking what kind of ideal this was, why it looked this way, and to whose advantage, will show how trials and fiction can serve as indicators of larger cultural movements.
Harold Perkin writes eloquently on the importance of ideals to political, economic, and ideological power. He explains that in addition to a similar level or source of income, a class image was necessary to successfully vie for social power:
What was also required [in addition to income] was a conscious image of the class in its relation to rival classes ... it had to have an ideal image of the representative member of one's own class as the linchpin of society, the only role-bearer who fully justified his place, the ideal citizen whom the rest should emulate, and of the ideal society as one in which this ideal citizen would be suitably honoured and rewarded. The class ideal thus sublimated the crude material self-interest of the competition for income, sanctified the role of class members by the contribution they made to society and its well-being, and so justified the class and its claim to special place and special treatment within the social frame work. It had a twofold function: first, to act as a catalyst in the formation and growth of a "seed" around which the class could crystallize and coagulate, ... second, to operate as an instrument of propaganda. (Perkin 1969, 219-220)
Rival to both the commercial middle classes and the landed gentry, although sharing many attributes and values with each, the professional class struggled for a place and for increased power. To a large extent, professionals were successful in both bids.
Doyle's fiction and the Cream trial were sites at which anxieties about labor and self-selling, knowledge and integrity, and status and worth surfaced and were assuaged, and as such as they played a role in shaping and disseminating the professional ideal. In the stories analyzed here, Holmes posited a challenge to both middle-class businessmen and the aristocracy. On the one hand, he was above petty profit motivation. He could not be bought and would not be a slave to economic gain or the vicissitudes of the market. On the other hand, any success he experienced was his own, based on individual achievement as opposed to inherited and suspect privilege. In The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, expertise rivals both capital and property as the chief determinant of worth. Holmes deftly combines a reverence for expert, specialized knowledge (a middle-class ideal) with an equal regard for chivalric service and pleasure in his work (aristocratic ideals). Even the seeming liability of identifying worth with access to his person or his ideas (which threatens to appear as a kind of prostitution) is turned on its head and asserted as noble integrity. Conversely, employment that is part-time or segregated from other aspects of life splits a man and is portrayed as dangerously similar to prostitution, lying, or faking. Perhaps most crucially, Doyle characterized Holmes as a man worthy of trust. He accomplished both of Perkin's objectives for an ideal in one figure: Holmes served as a model around which "the professional" could coagulate, and as a figure celebrating the merits of the professional man. The momentary subjection of readers to the Watson/client position of ignorant dependence intensified the pleasure of Holmes' repeated performance of the professional.
The professionals in the Cream trial struggled to live up to such high standards. Most of the trial delineates dishonest, irresponsible, incompetent, even criminal activity on the part of the professionals. The only occupational group to demonstrate courage and resourcefulness was the prostitutes--members of "the oldest profession." Cream's sadistic murder methods and total lack of remorse were particularly disturbing qualities in a physician. More subtly, the troubling parallels between how professional labor generates income (by providing services and allowing access to their knowledge) and how prostitutes generate income further threatened the public concept of the professional man. Recognizing that such bad press would reflect on the entire professional community, Justice Hawkins quickly recanted his criticism of how the case was handled and attempted to forge a more united front against Cream and the prostitutes. Demonstrating the merit of professional men and discrediting the women involved became pivotal issues in the Cream trial. In particular, three troublesome areas for professionals stand out when reading the transcripts of the Cream murder case: the need to differentiate professional service and income from negative images like those associated with prostitution; the need to claim competence and control over a specialized body of knowledge; and the need to assure the public of professional integrity and trustworthiness. Not incidentally, these are the identical issues addressed in the Holmes series.
Conan Doyle, who trained as a doctor and specialized as an oculist, was a professional himself who confronted these very issues. His character faces questions of income, knowledge, and trust with skill and authority, justifying his class and its privileges and staking a claim for even greater social leverage. Doyle was less certain of the value of his own work. Doyle made his rather slow-witted narrator a physician like himself; Dr. Watson and Dr. Doyle both lived in Holmes' shadow. Even in his wildly successful second career as an author, Doyle had doubts about his professionalism. He often commented on the lower value he placed on his most famous work, saying, "He [Holmes] takes my mind from higher things" (Doyle qtd. in Carr 1949, 66). Doyle came to view his detective fiction as unscholarly and beneath the work he wanted to do in the historical novel. After resolutely killing Holmes to free up time for his more "serious" writing, Doyle brought him back, persuaded in part by the lucrative offers of his publishers. If Holmes represents a professional unalienated from his work and unmoved by pecuniary interests, Doyle certainly did not. Holmes, the ultimate rational hero, differed significantly from his devout spiritualist creator, and in many respects took on a life of his own in the minds of his fans.
In their own way, Doyle's fiction and the Cream trial contributed to the contest for ideological supremacy. This was a long and wide-ranging struggle. The varying moments of challenge and consolidation pose the recurring question of how professionals are to differentiate themselves from other classes and workers and thereby justify the special privileges and powers they seek.
The precarious balancing of class and gender claims that surface during this struggle stems from the shared relation both have to biology. If authority and class status can be achieved through service, knowledge, and professional expertise, then professional success points to the artificial alignment of biology and privilege. Blue blood, inherited position, and biology are no longer the guarantors or masters of class destiny. However, the class advancement of professional men imperils the masculine identity of the professions by threatening to reveal the specious nature of biologically based gender assumptions and the divisions of rights according to sex. Having pulled up the biological anchor, women become the chink in their armor. We see professional men grabbing class status with one hand while staving off the feminine with the other. The most famous woman in the Sherlock Holmes corpus--Irene Adler--reproduces this anxiety using Holmes' own methods to outwit him.(48) The absorption of the feminine and the total replacement of the domestic by an all-encompassing professionalism attempt to cordon off women from the professional space, but cannot entirely solve the problem women present to the professional ideal. This became all the more important as professionals gained power.
The growing professionalization of government and the defection of professionals from the Liberal party were two indications of the success enjoyed by professionals. Having forged a distinct identity around the "seed" that represented the ideal, professional men discovered that their political and economic interests differed from those of the commercial middle class. Their increasing role in government bureaucracy and their abandonment of the Liberal party are part of the long and well documented demise of British Liberalism and the laissez-faire philosophy of governing. The rapid growth of the professional class in the late nineteenth century also influenced changes in education and the structure of knowledge, and encouraged an increasingly specialized work force. Finally, a professionalized management force helped increase the distance between the ownership and control of business, reshaping the quintessential middle-class realm of commerce and trade. The records of the Cream trial and the fiction of Doyle from this seminal period provide clues to the explosive nature of the issues surrounding professionalism and help us understand the shape and power of a new professional class.
(1) For a summary of the crimes of Palmer and Pritchard, see Altick (1970, especially 146-75).
(2) Miller (1984, 164-81). For an extended discussion of the police and narrative, see Miller (1988, especially chapter 1).
(3) I am indebted to Miller for this model. Although his reading of Balzac differs from the one I am offering of the Cream case (Balzac's text has no second set of criminals), the dynamic of containment or release is the same.
(4) For a full picture of Cream's criminal activities, see McLaren (1993) and the introduction to Shore (1923).
(5) There are varying degrees of suspicion attached to Cream in these cases. Flora Brooks died following a botched abortion and taking "medicine" Cream sent her. Kate Hutchinson was found dead in a privy behind Cream's office after she came for an abortion. She died of chloroform poisoning, her face excoriated by some kind of acid. In Chicago in 1880, Cream was arrested in connection with the death of Mary Anne Faulkner, who also had come to him for an abortion. In December of the next year, Ellen Stack died after taking "medicine" Cream had given her.
(6) In the death of Mary Anne Faulkner, the case actually went to trial. Despite damning testimony given by a young African American midwife, Hattie Mack, who sometimes served as Cream's nurse, it took an all male, all white jury only fifteen minutes to deliver a verdict of "not guilty" (McLaren 1993, 39-40).
(7) See Chicago Tribune for complete coverage of Cream's American crimes. See especially August 23-24, November 17 and 20, and December 4, 1880 and June 19, July 11, and September 22-23, 1881. For a summary of these articles, see Stattett (1945, 14-44).
(8) The $16,000 Cream had recently inherited seems to have contributed substantially to that decision. McLaren speculates that Fifer accepted a sizable bribe in exchange for Cream's release.
(9) Mary Kelley, the Ripper's last victim, was killed November 9, 1888, but new theories and possible "leads" still percolated in 1892. At Cream's inquest, the coroner read an anonymous letter to the jury claiming the murders had been committed by the author and signed "Jack the Ripper" (Times [London] 14 July 1892).
(10) Donworth had "1/4 grain of strychnine in the stomach." Thomas Herbert Kellock performed the postmortem at St. Thomas Hospital. See his deposition in the U.K. Public Records Office papers, T. Neill Cream, CRIM 1/38/1.
(11) The Russell divorce proceedings were in the headlines at the same time. In November 1891, Countess Russell filed for divorce based on "unnatural criminal offenses with a third party."
(12) The autopsy revealed strychnine in her stomach, liver, chest fluid, and brain. There were 6.39 grains in the stomach alone, and less than one grain of strychnine would kill an adult according to the deposition of Thomas Stevenson, M.D., lector on Jurisprudence at Guys Hospital and analyst for the Home Office, in CRIM 1/38/1.
(13) Crown counsel was Sir Charles Russell, Q.C., M.P., Attorney General in Gladstone's government, and later Lord Russell. Defense counsel was led by Gerald Georghegan, a charismatic Irishman who defended some of the biggest cases of the decade. He argued for "necessity" in the famous Mignonette cannibalism case of 1883, defended Israel Lipski in 1887, and served as counsel for Deeming (the Rainhill murderer) in 1892. See Pall Mall Gazette (19 October and 21 October 1892) for commentary on the courtroom audience. The term "Lambeth murderer" was popularized by the press, perhaps in an attempt to capitalize on the fame of the Whitechapel murders. The term also made clear the class component of these murders, Lambeth being a notoriously poor neighborhood.
(14) Haynes probably spied on American Irish activities in connection with the Fenian bombings in London. See Mclaren 1993, 110-112. Although he is referred to as both "detective" and "inspector," Maclntyre's exact relationship with Scotland Yard is unclear.
(15) Cream's intense program of blackmail and his uncanny selection of friends both point to a compulsive need for self-exposure. His attempts to incriminate other men, to pose as other professional men, and to associate with law officers suggest he wanted to insinuate some kind of connection or community with these men. I am indebted to Kim Piper for her suggestion that Cream wished to create a kind of forced coterie with these men.
(16) See the testimony of Walter de Grey Birch, employee of the Manuscripts Department of the British Museum and handwriting expert in Shore (1923, 118). Cream was a sloppy blackmailer, using paper with the watermark "Fairfield-Superfine Quality," an American brand seldom seen in London, for both his personal letters and his extortion attempts.
(17) Lou Harvey was an alias for Louisa Harris. Although not married, she occasionally used the name of the man she lived with, Charles Harvey. The frequency with which poor women changed their names makes an interesting side note to the testimony at Cream's trial. Additionally, in both the trial transcripts and the newspaper reports, the "unfortunate class" are called by their last names without the title "Miss" or "Mrs." and are referred to as "women." On the other hand, Cream's socially respectable fiancee, Laura Sabbatini, is always called "Miss" and referred to as a "lady." See, for instance, Times (17 October 1892).
(18) On the issue of death certificates, The Lancet, a medical journal reporting on the Cream trial, blames the legal system, calling this "a regrettable instance of the shortcomings of the legal requirements as to the certification of death in this country" (29 October 1892). This obvious ducking of responsibility and finger pointing illustrate how far-reaching the struggle over professional turf was in the trial.
(19) See the Penny Illustrated Paper (29 October 1892), for Hawkins's praise of the coroner, police, and court.
(20) Whether or not the police and detectives were considered "professionals" is a vexed question. Police class and pay were on level with those of the skilled laborers, but their uniform and responsibility brought them higher regard. Detectives' class standing, pay, and respect stood comparatively higher, definitely middle-class, but certainly not on level with a doctor or a lawyer. On the pay and class standing of the police, see Emsley (1996,210-11).
(21) For a more comprehensive discussion of Victorian attitudes toward prostitution, see Walkowitz (1980).
(22) The 1841 census, the first year to classify individuals according to how they earned a living, listed only three "professions" and eleven categories of "other educated persons" (Reader 1966, 147-48).
(23) For the founding dates of these and other professional organizations, see Perkin (1969, 120). The term "profession" is so imprecise that even these dates fail to establish exactly how and when an occupation becomes a profession. For the purposes of my work, I agree with Evert Hughes, who suggests that the term "profession" denotes a "symbolic label for a desired status" (qtd. in Elliott 1972, 3).
(24) For a visual and material history of professions, see Mobley (1981, especially 52-64). For a listing of business and trade directories, see Shaw and Tipper (1988).
(25) See, for example, the Penny Illustrated Paper.
(26) Larson cites a body of knowledge, training, service orientation, the privilege of self-regulation, and prestige as the trappings of a profession (1977, x).
(27) See for instance Dingwall and Lewis (1983), Lieberman (1970), and Perkin (1989).
(28) For an additional history of detection in England, see Symons (1985). For a history of very early crime fighting organizations, see Armitage (1932).
(29) This is not to say that Doyle was the first to write stories distinguishable as detective fiction, or that Holmes was an entirely new figure. For an excellent collection of early detective fiction, see Bleiler (1979). Bleiler's collection includes stories by Cutcliffe Hyne (whose Captain Cuttle was second in popularity only to Holmes), Arthur Morrison (creator of Martin Hewitt), C.L. Perkis (who wrote the premiere stories featuring a female detective, Loveday Brooke), and many others. See also Cox (1992). While Poe's Dupin obviously is an important precursor to Sherlock Holmes, Doyle patterned Holmes and his methods after his mentor from medical school, Dr. Bell. For a comparison of Dr. Bell and Sherlock Holmes, see Peterson (1984), Hodgson (1994), and Liebow (1982).
(30) Doyle, in fact, recognized and banked on this winning formula, writing in his autobiography, "Considering these various journals with their disconnected stories, it had struck me that a single character running through a series ... would bind that reader to that particular magazine" (Doyle 1923, 90).
(31) Conan Doyle became the highest paid writer of fiction in England, earning a reported $5,000-$8,000 per story. He appears to have been worth the price--a new Holmes story could boost Strand sales by as much as 100,000 copies.
(32) For example, in the first volume (issues 1-6) of The Strand, articles appeared on the fire department, a veterinary hospital, the Thames Police, the currency mint, the law courts, a photographer, and a suggested "new industry for ladies" running a gardening co-op. Most of these stories were written as tributes, stressing the dramatic and glamorous sides of each job and calling for public appreciation of the skill involved.
(33) Sherlock Holmes is himself a historically determined product. To make the connection between Holmes, the Cream trial, and 1890s professionalism, I will concentrate only on The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes--twelve stories appearing in The Strand between 1891 and 1892. Conan Doyle's character appeared for over 40 years in dozens of tales, several novels, and three stage productions. For figures on Holmes productions and related writing, see Hertzinger (1986).
(34) "The Man with the Twisted Lip" first appeared in The Strand 2.6 (1891).
(35) Audrey Jaffe makes a similar observation in her 1990 article (96-117). She reads Hugh Boone's begging as a kind of metaphor for the activities of writers such as Doyle and Mayhew and for a capitalist economy generally. While our arguments overlap significantly, I focus on the symmetry between Holmes' labor as a professional and Boon, labor as a beggar to argue that the text differentiates the two as part of the "solution."
(36) See Perkin (1969) on the increase of stratification in the "horizontal" social layers of the middle class.
(37) Jennifer Ruth reads a similar discomfort with labor in Charlotte Bronte's The Professor, arguing, "A tension runs through the novel between representing the professional in terms of his innate mental capital and representing him in terms of his productive labor" (Ruth 2006, 28-29).
(38) James Eli Adams terms this "deep subjectivity" in contrast to insubstantial or surface attributes (1995, 152).
(39) The most famous expression of the markings that a man's occupation leaves on his body is found in A Study in Scarlet: "By a man's finger-nails, by his coat-sleeve, by his boot, by his trouser knees, by the callosities of his forefinger and thumb, by his expression, by his shirt cuffs--by each of these things a man's calling is plainly revealed" (Doyle 1986, 15).
(40) This is what John Guillory terms linguistic and symbolic capital, the display of which entitles its owner to cultural and material rewards (1993, ix).
(41) In narratological terms, the gap between "story" and "discourse" is particularly highlighted, and that very gap is what produces mystery. On narrative and mystery. see Brooks (1984).
(42) Stephen Knight (1992) comments on the number of sexual threats and castration fears in the Holmes stories. Robert S. Paul (1991) remarks on Holmes' misogyny
(43) One of the most famous scenes in A Study in Scarlet features Watson summarizing, by dint of a list, Holmes' accomplishments and deficiencies in various scholastic subjects. At this time, Watson does not yet know that Holmes is a consulting detective and hopes by means of this list to be able to deduce Holmes's occupation (Doyle 1986, 12-13).
(44) The rationale behind resistance to a professional, standing army, for example, stems from this belief. According to arguments against a standing army, soldiers for hire could be seduced by money, but gentlemen of independence, who offered their fighting services when it pleased them, could not be corrupted or considered the hirelings of despotism. Holmes is not part of the standing army of crime fighters (the official police), but serves the public when and if a case interests him. In this way, his work remains both selective and pleasurable.
(45) See, for example, "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" and "The Adventure of the Second Stain."
(46) Holmes exercises his prerogative to let lawbreakers go on dozens of occasions. See, for example, "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" in which Holmes releases a jewelry thief by commenting, "After all, Watson, I am not retained by the police to supply their deficiencies. ... I suppose that I am commuting a felony, but it is just possible that I am saving a soul. This fellow will not go wrong again" (Doyle 1986, 346). In a later tale, "The Adventure of Abbey Grange," Holmes makes this explicit: "You must look at it this way: what I know is unofficial, what he knows is official. I have the right to private judgment, but he has none. He must disclose all, or he is a traitor to his service" (897).
(47) On the class status of police and detectives and their limited training, see Emsley (1996, 190-211).
(48) For a discussion of women in crime fiction, see chapter 4 of Hutchings (2001).
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Paula J. Reiter is an assistant professor of English at Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is the author of "Husbands, Wives, and Lawyers: Gender Roles and Professional Representation in Trollope and the Adelaide Bartlett Case" and "Popular Fiction and the Weldon Trial."
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|Author:||Reiter, Paula J.|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2008|
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