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The View from the East End (87)

By Inspector Hopkins

June 29, 2008

What about Watson?  (part 2)

 by Inspector Hopkins

Now that we’ve firmly established that John H. Watson, MD was indeed a member of the “Blackheath Rugby Club”, we should take a closer look at some of the implications of this fact . . .

What could this mean?

Recall that in the very first case that Watson recorded for us (STUD), he clearly stated that he “had neither kith nor kin in England” (meaning no family or friends), and that he graduated from the University of London medical school in 1878.

Yet, as we saw in SUSS, he somehow managed to become a member of the Blackheath RC, located in southeast London. Following the reasonable assumption that Watson was approximately 25 years of age in 1878, it is generally accepted by Sherlockian scholars that he could have been born around 1853.

Between 1878 and 1881 (when he became disabled and first met Sherlock Holmes), he was in the British army. But if he graduated in 1878, how long would it have taken him to do so?  A reasonable assumption might be six-eight years (based upon today’s standards), implying that he began college approximately in 1870-72.

So what?

Well, these numbers make some sense, and are somewhat consistent. Watson needed to be in excellent physical condition to be a member of such a prestigious rugby club as Blackheath RC.  This also helps to imply that he was in the range of 17-20 years old. The descriptions of him that were given in CHAS are also consistent with an athletic physique, especially at a younger age, so we may conclude that he was in fact physically capable.

But . . . would he have had the time to be both a member of this club and a college student (aspiring to be a physician) as well? This is an area of Sherlockian speculation which may prove to be quite interesting (as well as belying my earlier assertion to you that there is nothing much left to discover in the Canon).   ;-)

Where is the Blackheath RC located?  Where is the University of London located?
Above all else, why would any medical student want to expose himself to the physical dangers, injuries, and exertion required by participation in the sport of rugby? Watson never gave us any indication whatsoever that he was aggressive, belligerent, violent or competitive, in any sense throughout the Canon. Thus, he must have had some other motivations for his athletic pursuits. If they were purely physical, he could have taken up jogging, walking, tennis, or even golf to stay in shape.

What am I driving at? 

Well . . . the most important thing is that according to his own testimony, Watson had no friends or family in England.  But if he exerted himself as much as he implied he would have had to do (being a member of a rugby team), he certainly would have had a lot more friends around London. We must logically conclude that he couldn’t possibly be a member of a rugby team without developing friendships with at least some of his teammates. The key word is here is “team”.   Thus, in extreme contrast to Sherlock Holmes, Watson may have been a very lonely individual, seeking the validation, companionship, and camaraderie of other people . . .

Until next time, and continuing to thank you for your attention, I am as always,

Yours faithfully,