“I suppose I shall have to compound a felony as usual” [3GAB]
One of the great threads running through the Sherlock Holmes stories is a strong sense of justice. Sherlock Holmes himself had a strong sense of right and wrong.
And in many cases, that meant allowing a perpetrator to go free after solving the case. Was this code of honor meant to speak to the potential character of such individuals in the future, in order to allow them to change their ways? Or perhaps he thought their deeds were justifiable?
In "The Blue Carbuncle," he flings the door open and allows James Ryder to escape, with a tinge of empathy:
"I suppose that I am commuting a felony, but it is just possible that I am saving a soul. This fellow will not go wrong again; he is too terribly frightened. Send him to jail now, and you make him a jail-bird for life."
But that term commuting a felony, was the preogative of the crown. In "The Mazarin Stone," he said he'd "compound a felony." And in "The Priory School," he said the Duke of Holdernesse "condoned a felony."
The proper term was "misprision of felony," or failing to report knowledge of a felony to the appropriate authorities. And while Watson didn't use that term, he and Holmes were guilty of misprision of felonies in "The Abbey Grange," "The Devil's Foot," and "The Three Gables," as well as other cases mentioned above.
To hear a discussion of this topic, check out Trifles Episode 53 - Compounding a Felony:
Meanwhile, Holmes's interest seems to be compounding at Baker Street Elementary...
Baker Street Elementary follows the original adventures of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, as they and their friends work through the issues of elementary school in Victorian London. An archive of all previous episodes can be viewed at www.bakerstreetelementary.org.