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"Somewhere in the vaults" [THOR]

Cox and Co., at Charing Cross

For students of the Sherlock Holmes Canon, the opening to "The Problem of Thor Bridge" offers a tantalizing glimpse into some of the unwritten cases of the great detective, of which Dr. Watson had notes, but didn't write for publication. The opening runs:
Somewhere in the vaults of the bank of Cox and Co., at Charing Cross, there is a travel-worn and battered tin despatch-box with my name, John H. Watson, M.D., Late Indian Army, painted upon the lid. It is crammed with papers, nearly all of which are records of cases to illustrate the curious problems which Mr. Sherlock Holmes had at various times to examine. Some, and not the least interesting, were complete failures, and as such will hardly bear narrating, since no final explanation is forthcoming. A problem without a solution may interest the student, but can hardly fail to annoy the casual reader. Among these unfinished tales is that of Mr. James Phillimore, who, stepping back into his own house to get his umbrella, was never more seen in this world. No less remarkable is that of the cutter Alicia, which sailed one spring morning into a small patch of mist from which she never again emerged, nor was anything further ever heard of herself and her crew. A third case worthy of note is that of Isadora Persano, the well-known journalist and duellist, who was found stark staring mad with a matchbox in front of him which contained a remarkable worm, said to be unknown to science. Apart from these unfathomed cases, there are some which involve the secrets of private families to an extent which would mean consternation in many exalted quarters if it were thought possible that they might find their way into print.
As you can imagine, such fantastical references (and others peppered throughout the Canon) have inspired a number of dramatizations, pastiches and take-offs that have been quite popular in their own right.

Our friend and fellow Irregular John Baesch, BSI ("Cardinal Tosca") shared a couple of poems that he read at a recent gathering called A Scintillation of Scions II put on by Watson's Tin Box in Maryland. Both are related to that long sought-after box, which features prominently in the opening of Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

One was written in 1946 by Jay Finlay Christ, BSI ("The Final Problem") an early member of the Baker Street Irregulars:

The Old Tin Box

In the vaults of Cox was an old tin box
With Watson's name on its lid.
What wouldn't we pay for that box today
And the secret notes there hid?

Old Russian dame, Ricoletti the lame.
The famous aluminum crutch;
For Alicia, the cutter, the parsley in butter,
What would you give for such?

Story of Randall, the Darlington scandal,
The coptic patriarchs.
The opal tiara, the Addleton barrow --
Dollars? or francs? or marks?

The tale of the pinch of Victor Lynch,
The furniture warehouse mob,
The case at the Hague, the murder at Prague
The powderless Margate job.

The giant rat, the cardinal's hat,
The Patersons (first name Grice),
The cormorant's bill, the Hammerford will --
We'd take 'em at any price.

The Phillimore fella who sought an umbrella,
The steamer Friesland (Dutch);
For Col. Carruthers or Atkinson brothers
One never could give too much.

The Vatican case and its cameo face,
The slithering, unknown worm,
The Abergavenny were none too many --
Where is this Cox's firm?

Oh, wonderful box in the vaults of Cox!
You come with a touch of salt!
But I offer two blocks of the choicest stocks
For the treasure of Cox's vault.

The other was penned in 1981 by the late Jim Duval, BSI ("The Battered Tin Dispatch Box"), whom we knew personally:

At Charing Cross

There at Charing Cross once stood grand old Cox
With its bright brass plate 'Army Agents'.
In strong vaults hard locked laid a dispatch box
Filled with cases long been aging.

The repulsive red leech, Major Prendergast the cheat,
The watch prematurely wound;
Of Crosby, the banker, Sophy Anderson and who sank her,
Not a locksmith to be found?

Baron Dowson the critic, the coiner who filled it,
Aldridge's bogus laundry bill,
The death of young Perkins, Vamberry the wine merchant --
Hammers? and Bars? and Drills?

The Majestic bow sweep of Charlie Peace,
The Conk-Singleton forgery case,
Mr. Hobb's affair, Bert Stevens' death lair,
John V. Harden's tobacco -- laced?

The captain who yawned, Merridew who's gone,
This Vanderbilt (Yeggman and all),
The arrest of Huret, Wilson the bird purist --
Try dynamite on that wall!

Mr. Dundas' meal stoppers in hurling his choppers,
Old Abe's mortal terror plea;
Of the Paradol Chamber or the Tarleton murders
Can no one find the key?

The Harley Street physician and his dramatic admission
The Bishopgate jewel hoard,
The Arnsworth Castle business was none too pleasant --
Call Cox's Chairman of the Board!

This military band with the look of swank
Is the guardian of the box.
But I need a kid who can crack a crib
Say, the vaults at Charing Cross.



awc1366 said... August 25, 2009 at 2:40 AM

Hi Scott,

Great work as usual. Keep the blog issues coming!

I'm sorry that you decided to use Hulu as a video source in this issue. As you may know, Hulu -- unlike Youtube -- does not allow its videos to be viewed outside the U.S., leaving us overseas fans of the Baker Street Blog staring at a black rectangle and a message of condolence. I hope this won't become a common practice.

...Doug Elliott