The Largest Mourning Warehouse in Europe

“Then, in the winter of 1867-68, the boy’s health worsened. He was growing fast, and thin … He was taken to London to see an eminent specialist.” Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, Sir William S. Baring-Gould, Holmes’ biographer.

Advertisement London Illustrated News:

FAMILY MOURNING,made up and trimmed in the most correct and approved Taste, may be obtained at the most reasonable Prices, at Peter Robinson’s. Goods are sent free of charge, for selection, to all parts of England (with dressmaker, if desired) upon receipt of letter, order or telegram; and Patterns are sent with Book of Ilustrations, to all parts of the world.The Court and General Mourning Warehouse,256-262, Regent Street, London; The Largest Mourning Warehouse in Europe.


Perhaps if 13 year old Sherlock had not survived, the Holmes family, living in Yorkshire, would have turned to Peter Robinson’s Court and General Mourning Warehouse. Note that “goods” may be sent along with a dressmaker, if desired, to any part of England. Talk about convenience. Then again, given that every member of the family and some of the extended family would be wearing mourning for some time to come, there was a lot of work, payment and often room and board, for the dressmaker.

Holmes’ parents and brothers, Sherrinford and Mycroft, would have dressed in mourning for six months to a year. Aunts and uncles, 3 to 6 months. Cousins and aunts related by marriage, 6 weeks to 3 months. Such mourning practice was not something confined to the upperclass, but a mainstay of middle class respectability.

Neither was it confined to the English. It’s famously true that Queen Victoria, whose husband, Prince Albert, died when she was 41 in 1861, wore mourning until 1901 when she herself died. It’s also true that Mary Todd Lincoln, made a widow by President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, wore mourning for seventeen years until her death in 1882.

1″ X 1/2″ Victorian mourning brooch, centered on a minute woven design of loved one’s hair.

Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable by Susanne M. Dutton

The game is not afoot. The Better-Every-Day world of 1895 is gone, even hard to recall as WWI ends. From his rural home, Holmes no longer provokes Scotland Yard’s envy or his landlady’s impatience, but neither is he content with the study of bees. August 1920 finds him filling out entry papers at a nearly defunct psychiatric clinic on the Normandy coast. England’s new Dangerous Drugs Act declares his cocaine use illegal and he aims to quit entirely. Confronted by a question as to his “treatment goal,” Holmes hesitates, aware that his real goal far exceeds the capacity of any clinic. His scribbled response, “no more solutions, but one true resolution,” seems more a vow than a goal to his psychiatrist, Pierre Joubert. The doctor is right. Like a tiny explosion unaccountably shifting a far-reaching landscape, the simple words churn desperate action and interlocking mystery into the lives of Holmes’ friends and enemies both. 

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Holmes’ World’s Suspicions of a Dystopian 21st Century (c. 1905)

The words are the actual 1905/06 captions. I’ve copied words into the blog to make them more legible.
July 25, 1905 Punch

“I’ve noticed, Miss, when you ‘as a motor car, you catches ‘a train,’ not ‘the train.'”

from Punch’s Almanack 1906

“The Triumph of Rush,” as Punch Almanack 1906 saw it: a future in which the police can arrest you for failing to go at least 150 miles per hour, bedeviled, according to original cartoon, by the gremlins of “Dust, Smell, Jarred Nerves and Insanity.” (Those high speed trains are a pretty good forecast, aren’t they?)

Q: “Is Mr. Forbes in?” A: “No, Sir.”

Q: “Is he on the telephone?” (Have a phone?)

A: “I don’t know where he is, Sir.”

Punch Almanack 1906

This one speaks for itself. I was aghast to see the constable using a Segway-like pair of motorized wheels, however. Those did not come to market until 2001, ninety-five years after this cartoon.

Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable

by Susanne M.Dutton, soon from Propertius Press*

The game is not afoot. The Better-Every-Day world of 1895 is gone, even hard to recall as WWI ends. Holmes fills out entry papers at a rundown psychiatric clinic on the Normandy coast. Now that the law declares his cocaine use illegal, he aims to quit entirely. Confronted by a question as to his “treatment goal,” he hesitates, aware that his real goal far exceeds the capacity of any clinic. Holmes’ scribbled response, never before encountered by his long-experienced doctor, soon churns interlocking mystery and desperate action into the lives of enemies and friends both.


Holmes’ Humo(u)r: Comics, Art, News & Ads

Quirky and just weird late Victorian humor from real magazines and newspapers landing in 221B’s mailbox.

Photo by Alvaro Prieto

In The Strand 1891 the Royal Mail dares to share the creative ways some customers address their postcards. Meanwhile, Holmes meets Moriarty in The Final Problem.

The Ladies’ Home Journal 1898 reveals how American writer Mark Twain and U.S. President Grant are too shy to talk, as Holmes sets about solving The Dancing Men code.

The Journal reports that the two Americans shook hands and fell into a long silence, as Twain tried to think what he could say. Finally, he said, “Mr. President, I feel a bit embarrassed. Do you?” The President could not help smiling, but the writer gave his place in line to others.

Ten years later, when statesman and humorist met again, Grant said, before Twain had a chance to utter a word: “Mr. Clemens, I don’t feel at all embarrassed. Do you?”

The Illustrated London News 1890 claims that Poe’s famous raven poem, “Nevermore” turns well adjusted puppies to sentimental mush and tears, as Holmes questions another dog’s behavior in in Silver Blaze.

Holmes is caught up in a case involving an unhappy marriage, an odd burglary, and possible murder at The Abby Grange as Punch Magazine August 1905 prepares to publish this cartoon at a time when cameras were obviously as omnipresent and preoccupying as cell phones are today.

Punch, August 23, 1905



Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable


As World War I ends, British law declares Holmes’ cocaine use illegal and, hoping to end his habit, he fills out entry papers at a psychiatric clinic on the Normandy coast. Confronted by a question asking for his “treatment goals,” he hesitates, suddenly aware that his real goals far exceed the capacity of this or any clinic. The inscrutable words he scribbles, never before encountered by his doctor, churn interlocking mystery and desperate action into the lives of friends and enemies both.