Robert M. Jarvis, The Maritime Origins of Sherlock Holmes, 49 J. Mar. L. & Com. 105 (2017). Here’s the beginning of yet another of Professor Jarvis’s delightful essays.
This year (2018) marks the 125th anniversary of the publication of Dr. (later Sir) Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Gloria Scott. Set during Sherlock Holmes’s brief time in college, it is one of only two entries in the Holmes canon that occurs before Holmes met Dr. John H. Watson and formed literature’s most famous crime-fighting partnership. It also is the story that speaks most directly to maritime lawyers, involving, as it does, a mutiny aboard one ship and a rescue by another.
The Gloria Scott is a blackmail tale that clocks in at 7,892 words. Its plot can be summarized as follows. In 1855, an uprising takes place aboard the barque GLORIA SCOTT, an English convict ship headed to Australia. The attack has been arranged and financed by a prisoner named Jack Prendergast, who has organized the convicts, bribed the crew, and smuggled guns onto the vessel.
In the midst of the takeover, several of the mutineers get cold feet. Prendergast, although angry, agrees to spare their lives and sets them adrift in a small boat. Moments later, the GLORIA SCOTT blows up when a misdirected bullet (or possibly a match) ignites a barrel of gunpowder. One seaman, named Hudson, survives the explosion and is rescued by the castoffs
The next day, the HOTSPUR, 10Link to the text of the note a brig bound for Australia, comes upon the boat. The men in it claim to be passengers from a vessel that sank off the coast of Africa and are accepted as such. Upon reaching Sydney, they find work as gold miners, grow rich, and later return to England using their assumed identities.