(Page Three)

The production of Widowers’ Houses shortly followed the apparent demise of Sherlock Holmes. Watson’s transcriptions of Holmes’s cases, beginning with A Scandal in Bohemia, had been running in the Strand since early 1891 and would continue through The Final Problem in late 1893, after which there would be no more. Since he had already completed much of this writing, he set to work on a second play which he called The Philanderer.
Again, one of the major characters was a medical doctor. This one, Dr. Percy Paramore, was the discoverer of Paramore’s Disease, a rare but fatal affliction of the liver. He had given a patient only a year to live when it was discovered that there was no such thing as Paramore’s disease and that the patient was, in fact, in perfect health. Paramore’s dismay at being proved wrong was compounded by the fact that the inconsiderate patient actually seemed to rejoice over the doctor’s misfortune. Still, Watson saw to it that Paramore won the hand of the patient’s daughter before the final curtain.
            Dr. Paramore spent his days at an institution which Watson called the Ibsen Club, although there can be no doubt that he really had in mind the Diogenes Club. Placards reading “SILENCE” were posted everywhere, and members and visitors were expected to refrain from speaking without first obtaining explicit permission. Another echo from the Canon is the paraphrasing of a remark which Sherlock Holmes had made during the course of his investigation of the Douglas murder. The lines Watson had his character speak were “...a good, fat, healthy, bouncing lie” and “a thumping lie.” Holmes’s actual words, as later reported in The Valley of Fear were “...a great, big, thumping, obtrusive, uncompromising lie.”

Watson’s next dramatic endeavor was Mrs. Warren’s Profession. He used in the title role the name of the landlady who had presented The Red Circle matter for Holmes’s consideration and who was, therefore, inadvertently responsible for bringing Watson and Shaw together. The Mrs. Warren of the play ran a house of a different sort from that of the Mrs. Warren of The Red Circle. Watson patterned her after the Mrs. Forrester who had taken Mary Morstan under her wing when that unfortunate Scotch maiden found herself abandoned in a strange, large city and had no choice but to fall back on the one profession always available to girls in such an unfortunate position.

There are no doctors in Mrs. Warren’s Profession. Watson inserted himself in this plot as an architect named Mr. Praed, who is onstage through much of the play but contributes very little to the plot other than to propose running off to Italy with the heroine. His name was taken from Praed Street, which runs through the heart of Paddington. Watson was living and practicing medicine in that district at the time of the writing. The heroine just referred to was called Vivie Warren, a thinly disguised variation of the name Mary Watson. Watson did not wish to tarnish his wife’s reputation, so he changed her role in the Warren house to the daughter of the proprietress. As such, she was not active in her mother’s business—indeed he made her into a feminist and a mathematical wizard. Still, Mrs. Watson was sufficiently incensed at having her past exploited at all that she then and there marched right out of the doctor’s life. Whether or not she went back to work at Mrs. Forrester’s establishment, we can only speculate, but Watson was certainly living alone by the time Holmes returned to London.

The heavy load of detective cases which followed Holmes’s return left Watson with barely enough time to complete his next play, Arms and the Man, a commentary on some of the practices he had observed while in the military. It some time later was made into the musical The Chocolate Soldier. During the busy years of 1895 and 1896, there was no time for writing. Then in 1897, Holmes’s health failed, and the two of them traveled to Cornwall for a long rest. During this stay, Holmes solved the case known as The Devil’s Foot. Not to be outdone, Watson wrote The Devil’s Disciple, as well as two other Shavian dramas.

            It was then back to London and a reduced level of detective work. Over the next five years, Watson found the time to write three plays and to finish the account of The Hound of the Baskervilles which he had been inspired to begin during the long stay in Cornwall. His enthusiasm for the title carried over into his next dramatic effort, The Admirable Bashville.