Sherlock Holmes, Italian Anarchists and Torpedoes: The Case of a Manuscript Recovered in Italy1



In Arthur Conan Doyle’s adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Italy is not a country for the iconic British detective to visit. John Watson considers Holmes’s journeys to Tibet, Iran, Arabia and Sudan but rarely dwells on trips to continental Europe: there are only references to France, Switzerland, and (what was then) Imperial Russia.2 Nonetheless, as Michael Kaser explains, Sherlock Holmes had ‘many clients from across the Channel’ (Haining, 1980 : 94), including personalities such as the kings of Scandinavia and Bohemia, as well as the Pope.3 However, Holmes’s international reputation has inspired a number of European writers to relocate Doyle’s hero in other countries. Singularly attractive to Italian writers, however, is the character’s supposed fondness for Italian culture. Holmes escapes ‘from [the] weary workaday world by the side door of music’ (Doyle, 1951: 244), by listening to opera and frequenting ‘garish’ Italian restaurants (Doyle, 1997: 103). His knowledge of the Italian language, as Enrico Solito suggests,4 is good and ‘The Adventure of the Red Circle’ (1911) demonstrates his ability to decipher a coded light signal in Italian. Whereas, in The Alternative Sherlock Holmes: Pastiches, Parodies and Copies (2003), Watt and Green simply state that ‘probable visits to Italy are well supported by references in the Canon’ (89), Solito eloquently investigates an unchronicled visit to Italy which Holmes refers to in ‘The Adventure of the Empty House’ (1903), the story that ends the Great Hiatus, in which Watson discovers that Holmes reached Florence a week after his fight with Moriarty on the Reichenbach Falls, on 4 May 1891.5


Italian Language Italian Detective Detective Story National Hero Narrative Frame 
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© Claudia Capancioni 2013

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