Monday, July 23, 2018

A Pupil for the Scientific Methods

This month's story for The Harpooners of the Sea Unicorn was The Adventure of Black Peter, which offers many opportunities for scholarship.  Watson’s introduction is a gold mine for minutiae, including but not limited to Holmes’ employment by the Pope himself and passing reference to Holmes’ five refuges scattered throughout London where he was able to change his personality.  We also see Holmes contradict himself on theorizing before one has data and the inclusion of coincidences into his investigations.

While all of those are areas rife for future posts, I found the Scotland Yard investigator the most interesting trifle this week.  In BLAC we are first introduced to the young police inspector Stanley Hopkins.  Watson describes him as “an exceedingly alert man, thirty years of age, dressed in a quiet tweed suit, but retaining the erect bearing of one who was accustomed to official uniform.” 

Watson recognizes Hopkins when he enters into Baker Street in BLAC, because Stanley Hopkins is one of the recurring Scotland Yard officers not named Lestrade that pops up here and there.  (Side note, while Lestrade is the most often used officer; these less frequently used ones actually get their first names published in the stories, while Lestrade will forever only be known as “G. Lestrade.”)  Young Stanley Hopkins, Watson tells us in BLAC, is someone whose future Holmes has high hopes for.  Hopkins admires the consulting detective and openly treats Holmes as someone from whom he can learn a great deal.  We learn in a later tale that Hopkins has employed Holmes at least seven times in his career, but Watson has only chronicled three of these.  Hopkins’ tenure in the Canon is probably the most positive relationship Sherlock Holmes has with a Scotland Yard officer from beginning to end. 

Interestingly, Stanley Hopkins only appears on the pages of The Return of Sherlock Holmes.  BLAC is his first appearance, but since this story takes place in 1895, Holmes and Watson have worked with the young officer at least once before, in The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez in 1894.  Hopkins has shown some growth as an investigator by this time.  He tells Holmes “I know your methods, sir, and I applied them. Before I permitted anything to be moved I examined most carefully the ground outside, and also the floor of the room. There were no footmarks.”

Of course, Sherlock Holmes feels that his young student has missed some details, giving him an ironic comment that makes the man wince, but he keeps on.  Hopkins admits he should have involved Holmes earlier, but who hasn’t been a fresh faced youngster trying to make a name for themselves in a new career field?  We can hardly blame Stanley Hopkins for wanting to succeed at his job on his own merit.  We should be giving him credit for knowing when he is in over his head and looking for outside help.  As often as we see Holmes chide officers for taking so long to include him, I’m sure he would’ve been even more perturbed had he been summoned to every single crime scene in London for their first viewings.  Quite a tiring endeavor!

Hopkins produces more evidence for Holmes, who in turn, leads the investigation in the correct manner.  Would Stanley Hopkins have solved the murder of Captain Peter Caray on his own?  I doubt it.  He was unfamiliar with the initials on some of the Stock Exchange securities, and even if he had decided to wait for the suspect to return to the scene of the crime, his choice to wait INSIDE the cabin would have likely scared Neligan off as Holmes had predicted.  So, even though young officer Hopkins shows promise, he has a way to go.

We get a passing mention to Hopkins in The Adventure of the Missing Three Quarter later on, as he has referred that story’s client, Cyril Overton, to Holmes but his last canonical and chronological appearance is in The Adventure of the Abbey Grange, which takes place in 1897.  Here he calls Holmes in immediately, and he has been promoted to Inspector, but Hopkins is still far from being on the same level as the great detective.  Perhaps Stanley Hopkins will never reach the heights of deductive reasoning as Sherlock Holmes, but I’m glad to see that Scotland Yard has officers who are willing to keep trying.

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