I Nearly Get Caught by Sherlock Holmes

First published 23 April 2656
by Dr. Wendell Howe
Temporal Anthropologist with the University of Cambridge
Specializing in the Victorian Age

My last project for the University of Edinburgh was a dream come true. I got to meet Sherlock Holmes! Yes I know Holmes was a fictional character. I got to meet Holmes creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as his inspiration—Dr. Joseph Bell.

Dr. Joseph Bell
I have recently returned from 1877 where I attended and recorded the lectures of Dr. Joseph Bell. He not only lectures at the medical school there at the University of Edinburgh but also worked as a medical doctor at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. He published several medical textbooks and was the personal physician of Queen Victoria when she visited Scotland.

In that year, one of his students, a certain young Arthur Conan Doyle, served as his clerk a.k.a. assistant and gofer. I asked the lad where the library was so I could record his voice and face at eighteen. Doyle will later admit that Bell was his major influence in creating Holmes.

Arthur Conan Doyle - a few years later
Bell also acted as a sort of consulting detective to the Edinburgh Police. On several occasions Bell was called in by the police to investigate a crime scene or victim of a case which had baffled them. While I was there a constable approached him after a lecture and I believe I caught the word “murder.” Bell is considered one of the pioneers of forensic science. (I understand he was even called to try to solve the case of Jack the Ripper.)

Besides resembling Holmes in build and facial features, Bell has one other trait of the consulting detective. Bell believes that observation is a physician’s greatest tool. Patients are brought into the lecture hall, willing to put up with the embarrassment of being publically displayed to get medical treatment they can’t afford. Bell will look them over and then to prove how important observation is, he will tell the class the patient’s occupation and recent activity (something Holmes loved to do.) I had to cut my visit short when I discovered just how good Dr. Bell was at this!

I have been trained to fade into the woodwork, to be unnoticed. Truth is I think I was just born boring. People will often run into me, apologizing that they didn’t see me. And so I attended Joseph Bell’s lectures every day, standing in the back row, ignored by others. The lecture hall had no seats in those days, just rails to lean on. I believe it was a clever ploy to keep students from falling asleep.

On my eighth day of this project at the end of class, Dr. Bell approached me. He said he had noticed me there all last week. That in itself surprised me. He said I seemed a bit old for a student. He could tell though by my dress and mannerisms that I was a scholar and appeared to travel a lot. He also noticed I seemed to be studying him. He wanted to know why.

I mumbled something about I was studying his teaching style, but I don’t think he bought it. Dear Lord! If he had known there was such a thing as time travel and temporal anthropologists, I think the dear fellow would have guessed my occupation! This made me nervous. If I continued this assignment, coming in everyday, how much would he construe about me? I decided aborting the project was the safest option.

I felt bad that I had only recorded a week and a day of lectures from one of the University of Edinburgh’s most famous teachers. The University however was ecstatic. Not only did I record Bell in action, I had caught him on vid nearly deducing my own profession! They couldn’t have been happier.

As for myself, once I got over the shock and worry of it all, I have to admit upon rewatching the vid that it is rather thrilling to be nearly “caught” by “Sherlock Holmes” himself.

Sherlock Holmes by Sidney Paget