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The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No.

2, Winter 2015


Foreword .........................................................................................................3
At the Heart by Dora Brown ...........................................................................5
Art by Diigii ...................................................................................................6
Sherlockian Fake Geek Girls by Liz .................................................................7
Through the Decades by Khorazir (Anke Eissmann) .....................................13
“A Perfectly Overpowering Impulse” (SCAN) Or, What’s A Square Like
Me Doing At A Retired Beekeepers’ Meeting? by Tweedisgood ...............17
Uninvited by A. J. Odasso ............................................................................20
Discretion by Violsva ......................................................................................21
Art by Ili ........................................................................................................23
The Man with the Watches and the Test of Time by James C. O’Leary ...........24
Art by Diigii ..................................................................................................32
Highgate by Elinor Gray .................................................................................33
Art by Fyodor Pavlov ....................................................................................35
Omi-Palone by Brontë Schiltz ..........................................................................36
Reading Holmes as a Trans Man by Basil Chap ...................................................39
My Dearest Holmes: A Review by Katie .......................................................44
Art by Ili ........................................................................................................49
Bent Back To The Original? Jeremy Brett And The Re-Queering Of Sherlock Holmes
by Quentin Broughall ...........................................................................50
Family Portrait by Maia Kobabe ......................................................................54
The Wonders of Shipping Johnlock by Shirley Carlton ..................................55
Art by Button ................................................................................................59
Come at Once, If Convenient by Meow .................................................................60
It’s Psychosomatic, Watson by Meow ..................................................................60
Contributors ..................................................................................................62
Afterword ......................................................................................................65
List of Canonical Abbreviations .....................................................................66

The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex


Copyright © 2015 by
The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex
All Rights Reserved

Copyright to individual articles, fiction, and art

is retained by their own authors and creators.

Volume 1, Number 2: Winter 2015

Cover design and essay illustrations by Basil Chap
Layout by Elinor Gray
The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

“... he sat dazing for a moment in silent amazement at a small
blue book which lay before him. Across the cover was printed in
golden letters Practical Handbook of Bee Culture.”
– “His Last Bow,” 1917.

T hank you for buying/downloading/printing/sharing the Retired Bee-

keepers’ second issue of The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture. If you enjoy
this issue, please pass it on to a friend! If you really enjoy this issue, please
consider donating to the Retired Beekeepers. We are an entirely volunteer-
run organisation and do not charge any membership or meeting fees, but we
do have some small operating costs, including the publication of this journal.
We appreciate your support in whatever form and denomination it appears.
If you would like a print copy of this journal, please visit retiredbeekeepers.
tumblr.com/handbook for information on how to obtain one.
The Retired Beekeepers are celebrating one full year of society-hood, and
have had a very full twelve months of events and goings-on. We have covered
barely one sixth of the canon, but we have gone on adventures, experienced a
myriad of adaptations, and eaten a lot of snacks. We’ve discussed topics rang-
ing from women in the canon to the role of animals, queerness to retirement,
Scotland Yard to the supernatural. We went on field trips to the Sussex Downs
and to the Crime Museum in London. We’ve watched a lot of television and
listened to a lot of radio. All in all, a productive year! We can’t wait to see what
the next year will bring, and we hope that you will be able to join us.
The theme of this issue is “Queerness in Sherlockiana.” When first pro-
posed, this seemed like almost too general a theme, having no limitations
whatsoever. In practice, however, it means that we have a broad and exciting
collection of essays, poems, art, and fiction to share with you. Queer read-
ings of literature have gained traction in mainstream academia but have not
been given the space and time they deserve in more “traditional” Sherlockian
circles. We aim to rectify this, both in our monthly meetings and in our regular
publications, and we look forward to sharing with you our collected thoughts,
experiences, and interpretations.

Believe us to be, dear Bees,

Very sincerely yours,
Basil, Elinor, and Michele

The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

At the Heart

Dora Brown
After “At the New Year”, by Kenneth Patchen

I n the cup of our room, in the soft tea

of evening, John
In all that is hidden in me, these buried breaths
and wantings
In everything I am to you, familiar
and forsaken, John
In the reverence I brought you, in the moment
of my leaving
In that unswerving night, in those dreamings
of my patience, John
In all the protestation, and in the calling
when my heart was breaking
In everything you stole from me, without knowing
you were taking the last of my air from me, John
In all that you returned to me, by your willing
for my truth to prevail
In the cause of kindness, to soothe the wretched
aching in us, John
Before the sun sets, before this warming in your look
can be suppressed
Before my open ribs are sewn, before my care
is folded under linen, John
There are the threads of liberation
Moisten them with your lips and pull them free
with your sure fingers
And there are ecstasies to sing, John
There are ecstasies to sing!

The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

Sherlockian Fake Geek Girls

Liz (@her_nerdiness)

F requently I’ve heard comments to the effect of, “Why do Holmes and
Watson always have to be gay? Why can’t they just be friends?” I ask
you, though, when have Holmes and Watson ever been portrayed as openly
queer1 in any major adaptation? Arguably, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
demonstrates Holmes’ unrequited romantic love for Watson, but as of 2015
there has not been a single mainstream adaptation wherein Holmes and
Watson are actually a same-sex couple. So when someone asks, “Why do they
always have to be gay?” what is that person really saying? I would argue they
are expressing their discomfort at having their own notions about Holmes
and Watson challenged by what appears to be a new nexus in the broad
Sherlockian fandom: the online slash fandom.
Slash fandoms have existed for decades, but the internet has brought slash
to the surface of our cultural landscape through increased availability and
accessibility. The term “slash” refers to romantic and/or sexual pairings of
same-sex couples due to the slash used to denote a pairing, such as Kirk/
Spock. Decades ago, slash fanworks were distributed through paper zines
sent in the mail, then through listservs and newsgroups, then through
LiveJournal, and now primarily through sites like Tumblr, fanfiction.net,
Wattpad, and Archive of Our Own (AO3). In 2014, anyone can peruse the
Johnlock (Sherlock Holmes/John Watson) tag on tumblr or AO3 and find new
content 24/7 without having to seek out a zine to subscribe to. Interviewers
now regularly ask actors if they are aware of the slash fanfiction and fanart
of their characters available online, and many of them are. Some are even
enthusiastic about the idea.
Slash fandom is, in many cases, largely a queer, female space. In my
personal experience, almost everyone with whom I’ve interacted in fandom
falls under the queer umbrella, which includes bisexual, pansexual, asexual,
lesbian, and gay people who are variously cisgender, transgender, non-binary,
genderqueer, or agender. Critically, most members of fandom fall outside
the boundaries of a cisgender heterosexual male identity. Though many
mainstream publications have assumed that straight women are writing all the
The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

gay erotica, that’s not necessarily true. In 2013, a survey of 10,005 AO3 users2
found that users of the site that responded to the survey were overwhelmingly
female with a significant queer population: “32.3% heterosexual women,
29.8% bi-/pansexual women, 3.6% homosexual women, 6.0% asexual
women, 12.9% women of other sexualities, 5.3% bi-/pansexual non-binary
people, 1.0% hetero- or homosexual non-binary people, 2.1% asexual non-
binary people, 3.2% non-binary people of other sexualities, 3.0% men and
0.9% non-respondents to one or both questions.”3 In particular, members
of male-male pairing fandoms were slightly less likely to be heterosexual
women and slightly more likely to be bi-/pansexual women as compared
to all respondents.4 Although this survey is not necessarily representative of
the entire fandom, as it constituted only AO3 users who chose to respond to
the survey, it provides a useful lens through which to view the online fandom
A vibrant community of slash fans has developed in response to the
various new Sherlock Holmes media properties, including the Robert Downey
Jr. movies (2009 and 2011) and BBC’s Sherlock (2010). Many of us were
introduced to Sherlock Holmes for the first time through these new adaptations,
although plenty have been reading his adventures since childhood. A thriving
community of canon slash fans has also existed both online and pre-internet
since long before this recent influx of Sherlock Holmes adaptations. As avid
slash fans, we naturally gravitate towards deep relationships between male
characters, and the relationship between Holmes and Watson is clearly a
special one.
We also exist among a broader geek culture on the internet, which has
had its own fraught and protracted battle with respect to gender relations.
Many facets of geek culture have long been unwelcoming to women, which is
part of why slash fandom developed as an offshoot of science fiction fandom
in the first place.5 Historically, women have struggled for acceptance in many
geeky communities, including science fiction, gaming, and comics. Women
who dare to be active and outspoken members of these communities are often
harassed, sometimes even to the point of fleeing their homes due to death
In many interactions between male and female fans, male fans will
question a woman’s “geek cred” by quizzing her on obscure (or even basic)
fandom trivia. For example: recently, a friend of mine was wearing a Captain
The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

America shirt and was confronted by a man who asked her if she even knew
Cap’s name. Among many geeks, there is a persistent stereotype of a “fake
geek girl,” explained as follows:
… “fake geek girls” is a term used to describe, “pretty girls pretending to be geeks for
attention” as Joe Peacock put it in a post on CNN. The idea is that hot women go to
cons, dress up in sexy cosplay outfits, and pretend to care about Star Wars or Spider-
Man in order to... do what isn’t exactly clear. The logic rather breaks down at this
point. Something about attention whores, something about taking advantage of geeks,
something about male paranoia and a big fat dollop of misogyny seems to be the basic
reasoning. Such as it is.8
Many men in geeky communities seem to be threatened by women
existing visibly in a space typically considered to be exclusively male, so they
express their frustrations by questioning why these women are even there in
the first place, let alone doing something like demanding better representation
and treatment of women. When a male fan asks “Do you even know what
Captain America’s name is?” he is implicitly telling a woman that she doesn’t
belong. He’s really asking her, “Why are you here?” Even if she answers “Steve
Rogers,” it doesn’t really matter; to that guy, she will never belong.
So amidst this milieu of the false threat of the “fake geek girl” in male-
dominated communities, we have many young, female, queer Sherlockians
who are slash fans joining the larger Sherlockian community. We are all fans
of Holmes and Watson, but what does that mean?
As the Baker Street Babes posted on their tumblr:
Just saw someone in a tag saying that you aren’t a true Sherlock Holmes fan unless
you’ve read the canon. Nope. You’re a true fan if you love Sherlock Holmes and John
Watson and their crazy stupid adventures. That’s all you need. You like the thing.9
Reading the canon is no longer the only entry point into the Holmes
and Watson fandom, or, as AO3 categorizes it, “Sherlock Holmes & Related
Fandoms.” After more than 120 years in circulation, Sherlock Holmes and
John Watson have outgrown the pages they’re printed on. The canon has
been adapted so many times that the characters of Sherlock Holmes and John
Watson have become archetypes, a shared cultural legend, perhaps even a
myth. And to use a term the internet is quite fond of, they have become a
The term “meme” was first coined by biologist Richard Dawkins to mean
a unit of cultural information, analogous to a gene as a unit of biological
The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

information. Dr Ashley Polasek has explored the idea of Sherlock Holmes

as a meme and extended the use of analogous biology terms.11 Holmes and
Watson have replicated and evolved; they’ve taken on new forms that help
them survive in whatever time they inhabit. There are plenty of adaptations
to choose from, and each generation makes Holmes their own. Sometimes
the world needs Sherlock Holmes to fight Nazis, and sometimes the world
needs Sherlock Holmes to stop terrorists. Today’s young Sherlockians may be
obsessed with Sherlock, but in all likelihood, the next generation will hone in
on the next cycle of Sherlock Holmes adaptations, whatever form that may
take. For many, Sherlock is a gateway to reading the canon, seeking out other
adaptations, or creating their own versions of Sherlock Holmes and John
Watson. All of these incarnations of Sherlock Holmes are part of the same
cultural story, and to be a fan of any of them is to participate in the story and
keep it alive.
This generation’s reading of Holmes and Watson is fundamentally a
queer reading: both of the original source material and of recent adaptations.
A queer reading of Holmes is so important to these fans, many of whom
are queer themselves. People who join fandoms in the first place tend to be
marginalized people or people with less power in society, people whose stories
are rarely reflected in mainstream media. These fans see negative spaces in the
media they consume and seek to fill those negative spaces with reflections of
themselves. Laurie Penny explains the rift between storytellers in mainstream
media and fans who write their own interpretations:
What is significant about unofficial, extra-canonical fan fiction is that it often spins
the kind of stories that showrunners wouldn’t think to tell, because fanficcers often come
from a different demographic. The discomfort seems to be not that the shows are being
reinterpreted by fans, but that they are being reinterpreted by the wrong sorts of fans -
women, people of colour, queer kids, hor–ny teenagers, people who are not professional
writers, people who actually care about continuity (sorry). The proper way for cultural
mythmaking to progress, it is implied, is for privileged men to recreate the works of
privileged men from previous generations whilst everyone else listens quietly. That’s how
it’s always been done. That’s how it should be done in the future, whatever Tumblr
says. 13
To see one’s own story represented in mainstream media is to have oneself
affirmed as a full human being. Lesbian author Lee Lynch wrote of her quest
to find books in which she saw herself represented: “I had to find reflections
The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

of myself to be assured that I was a valuable human being and not alone in
the world.”14 However, most Western media focuses on the stories of white
heterosexual cisgender men, an identity that does not describe most online
fandom members or even a majority of human beings. In order to feel like
we belong, queer people seek out queer spaces and queer stories, and fandom
serves both of those ends.
Online fandom has created a space where both queer readings and queer
people are welcomed with open arms, and online fandom has spent decades
reinterpreting mainstream works of fiction through a queer lens. Finally, online
fandom spaces are now emerging into the mainstream consciousness, placing
a new spotlight on spaces and fanworks that were previously relegated to the
shadows. As members of both traditional and new fandom spaces interact, I
hope that all can learn to coexist.
When asked “Why do Holmes and Watson always have to be gay?” many
queer and/or female fans hear, “Why are you here?” As stated previously,
Holmes and Watson have yet to be portrayed as a same-sex couple in
mainstream media, so this is hardly a fair question. The question is patently a
nonsensical one, so I ask you to think about what it is you are really saying. I
ask that you welcome new fans and hear them out on their interpretation of
the source material without preconceived notions. Different readings of the
text can peacefully coexist, because in the end, we all love Sherlock Holmes.
As long as each new generation continues to love Holmes and Watson so
deeply and is so invested in them, Holmes and Watson will continue to live on
forever. And isn’t that what we all want?


1. I use the term queer as an umbrella term because it’s possible to be in a same-sex
relationship without being gay. For example, many fans interpret John Watson as bisexual.
2. Lulu. “AO3 Census: Masterpost.” 5 Oct 2013. http://centrumlumina.tumblr.com/
3. Lulu. “Overall Gender and Sexuality of AO3 Users.” 12 Aug 2014. http://
4. Lulu. “Demographics of M/M Fandom.” 12 Aug 2014. http://centrumlumina.

The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

5. Lothian, Alexis, Kristina Busse, and Robin Anne Reid. “``Yearning Void and Infinite
Potential’’: Online Slash Fandom as Queer Female Space.” English Language Notes 45.2
(2007): 103.
6. Feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian has been a target of a continuous harassment
campaign due to her critique of misogyny in video games. See the following article:
McDonald, Soraya. “Gaming vlogger Anita Sarkeesian is forced from home after
receiving harrowing death threats.” The Washington Post. 29 Aug 2014. http://www.
Additionally, indie video game developer Zoë Quinn has faced similarly targeted
harassment campaigns because of her position as an outspoken feminist in gaming. See
Sanghani, Radhika. “Misogyny, death threats and a mob of trolls: Inside the dark world
of video games with Zoe Quinn - target of #GamerGate.” The Telegraph. 10 Sep 2014.
7. Berlatsky, Noah. “‘Fake Geek Girls’ Paranoia Is About Male Insecurity, Not
Female Duplicity.” The Atlantic. 22 Jan 2013. http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/
8. The Baker Street Babes. 19 Aug 2014. http://bakerstreetbabes.tumblr.com/
9. Polasek, Ashley. “Anything Goes: The Memetic Life of Sherlock Holmes.” Scintillation
of Scions. Hilton Garden Inn, Hanover, MD. June 7, 2014. Conference Presentation.
(Tweets documenting the conference presentation can be found here: https://storify.
10. Penny, Laurie. “Laurie Penny on Sherlock: The Adventure of the Overzealous
Fanbase.” New Statesman. 12 Jan 2014. http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/01/
11. Bryson, Mary. “When Jill jacks in: Queer women and the Net.” Feminist Media Studies
4.3 (2004): 239-254.

The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

Through the Decades

Khorazir (Anke Eissman)

The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

“A Perfectly Overpowering Impulse” (SCAN) Or, What’s

A Square Like Me Doing At A Retired Beekeepers’


S o, I was planning a nice historical disquisition on the use of the word

“queer” in the Holmes stories, and its layers of meaning then and since.
For instance, did you know there are 69 (really) instances of its use in the
60 stories of canon, including two references to ‘Queer Street’ – which I’m
sure you all know means to be seriously, stony broke1? Bless you, Edit-Find
function. One much-tumblrd-out-of-context gem: “When a man does a queer
thing, or two queer things, there may be a meaning to it, but when everything
he does is queer, then you begin to wonder” (SHOS).
And then, several hundred words in, as you do, I had second thoughts.
Whatever its history, in the context of Beekeepers ultimately it’s not my word.
There is, too, no shortage of commentary about queer themes in the world
of Sherlock Holmes, not all of it by any means confined to the more recent
media adaptations. More from me would be superfluous.
It used to be received wisdom that M/M slash fiction was written and
read almost entirely by straight women.2 Women do seem to predominate
still (non-statistically-rigorous sampling ahoy) but increasingly the assumption
that we’re just all fetishizing and appropriating gay male sexuality for our own
straight female jollies has been challenged. Queer voices have been raised,
looking for their stories in the midst of mainstream fictional worlds, including
Doyle’s pages full of crime, logic, and lifelong friendship.
And yet. I’m a straight woman – there is a Mr Tweed, as your Queen
Bee will attest – albeit the mum of a bisexual (and poly, and kinky) man with
a genderfluid spouse. I read – and write, when I get the time these days –
Holmes/Watson ACD canon slashfic. So does that make me a cliché?
Believe it or not as you like, but it’s about far, far more than jollies – though
jollies are occasionally had, especially in respect of my ongoing love affair
with the English language and the latitude writing in a Victorian pastiche style
gives to it. I don’t need to (and don’t) believe that there is a subtext deliberately
written by Doyle into the original stories. His (negative) views on the subject
of at least Oscar Wilde’s homosexual behaviour are a matter of record.3 I
do know a fair bit about Victorian England and Victorian London, though,
The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

and if we play the Holmesian/Sherlockian Game and place Holmes and

Watson in its real streets, homes and railway carriages, there is no reason why
they should not be leading a private life hidden from the prying eyes of the
law, Watson’s bluff, adventure-seeking Literary Agent, and the unwarranted
assumptions since of mainstream Holmesian/Sherlockian “scholarship.”
“An Englishman’s home is his castle,” remember. It’s not just a quaint
phrase.4 The Victorians took very seriously the notion of the home as the
ultimate sanctuary and usually resisted all incursions into it on the part of the
State. Even the infamous Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 left people’s
homes pretty much untouched. Consenting acts in private could be prosecuted,
yes – but this almost always meant a private room in a hotel, a boarding house,
or a brothel. Not usually “a couple of comfortable bedrooms and a single
large airy sitting-room, cheerfully furnished, and illuminated by two broad
windows” (STUD) inhabited by two respectable middle class professionals,
one of them a self-described ladies’ man, not to mention their very discreet
and fond landlady.
People lived outside the mainstream in the 19th century in any number
of ways, including sexually. Some of them even did it more-or-less openly –
the educator, philosopher and community pioneer Edward Carpenter and his
partner George Merrill perhaps most freely of all: they are buried together
under the same headstone. Most however conformed – performed - for
society’s gaze but went their own sweet way when its back was turned. The
law was there, yes, in the background, and its symbolic importance and powers
to oppress can’t be ignored - but in fact until the 1940s its encroachments
were not that numerous compared to what must have been the actual LGBT
population.5 I’d argue society had more power than the instruments of law in
practice. Shame was more of a deterrent than punishment, blackmail more
of a risk than hard labour. That’s not to say that a prudent male couple in the
1890s wouldn’t have done well to lock their doors just in case. Servants don’t
always knock.
Oh, dear. Disquisition not entirely averted.
Fundamentally, I’m for respecting truth in history. The same impulse that
makes me pedantic about plumbing or the geography of Westminster c.1900
makes me determined not to assume that people, fictional or otherwise – are
or were straight. They weren’t necessarily. Statistics tell you about trends and
generalities. Only getting to know individuals tells you about those individuals.
I don’t drift from fandom to fandom looking for hot dudes to slash,
another popular caricature – yes, ok, seen it reasonably often myself, but
The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

again: statistics. My last not-quite-otp-more-my-fave-as-fandom-bike-but-

interesting-dynamic was a het one, albeit with a large age gap in it, with a
profitable sideline in other pairings for my fave.   The curious can seek my
fannish past out if they are so inclined.
It’s the characters, and the dynamic, of specific pairs (etc) which appeal to
me, not pretty male bodies smushing (I have a headcanon of podgy, arthritic,
middle-aged Watson and whipcord, bony, balding, shortsighted Holmes
anyway). The sexual or gender identity of the combination, if it has one,  for
me is secondary. I can see Sherlock Holmes and John Watson love each other,
how could one not? As to the exact shape which that love might take, well, I
want to explore and see where it takes me, and them. I want to see how they
get wherever it is, what they feel about it, how they live it in their world, the
past: that foreign country where they did some things differently, but others…
not so much.


1. The term appears in 1811 in the Lexicon Balatronicum: A Dictionary of Buckish Slang,
University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence, an updated version of Grose’s Dictionary of the
Vulgar Tongue. It is defined therein as: “QUEER STREET. Wrong. Improper. Contrary
to one’s wish. It is queer street, a cant phrase, to signify that it is wrong or different to
our wish.” Although often being associated with the Carey Street bankruptcy courts,
which also lends its name to a similar phrase, the term Queer Street appears to predate
the courts’ move to Carey Street [near Lincoln’s Inn fields and the other Inns of Court]
from Westminster in the 1840s.
Interestingly Henry Jenkins, one of the earliest academics to study media fandom, is the
author of an Ebenezer Scrooge/Jacob Marley slashfic.
3. Arthur Conan Doyle, “Memories and Adventures” 1924, Ch. VIII.
4. It has been a legal precept in England, since at least the 17th century, that no one
may enter a home, which would typically then have been in male ownership, unless by
invitation. This was established as common law by the lawyer and politician Sir Edward
Coke (pronounced Cook), in The Institutes of the Laws of England, 1628: “For a man’s house
is his castle, et domus sua cuique est tutissimum refugium [and each man’s home is his safest
5. http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/static/Gay.jsp

The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex


A. J. Odasso

M oon arched against stark clouds, round

as the Eye and just as wide. It’s enough

with the Thames to your left and the wind

humming hollow lullabyes. Your throat

won’t open for words. Can’t. Your hands

fight for purchase, fiercely part the dark,

find startled warmth. Not what you expected,

but this is sheerest want. Strange belonging

in the low strains of his kiss. The fall

of his hair, the hitch of his breath.

The fact that you have done this.

The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015



“Y ou wonderful madman. How did you survive to adulthood without

me to look after you?”
The words stop Rosalie Hudson by the kitchen door because they are the
very words she might have said to her husband, twenty years ago. Her lodgers
are in the hallway, and normally she would be minding her own business, but
nostalgia flashes over her for a second and she listens despite herself.
“But aren’t you glad I did?” In any other voice than Mr. Holmes’s, that
would be flirtation. Rosalie can’t believe it’s truly him.
“Oh yes.” A low laugh, and if her lodgers were a married couple Rosalie
would know exactly what they were doing afterwards. But they aren’t, and she
can’t believe it.
There is some more quiet conversation that Rosalie can’t quite catch,
and then the sounds of feet on the stairs. Rosalie has never meant to be one
of those snooping landladies, sticking her nose into matters that are none
of her concern so long as the rent is paid. She knows that’s part of why Mr
Holmes has stayed so long. But she stands stock-still in her kitchen until the
last footstep lands on the staircase, there is a quiet joyful gasp, and the door to
the upstairs apartment shuts with a click.

After that, she can’t help but watch them. Every movement, every smile,
every word – but they are just as normal, just as they have always been. Noth-
ing has changed.
But why would anything have changed? It did not sound like that close-
ness was anything new.
She has grown too used to them – if anyone could grow used to Mr.
Holmes – to tell if there is any sign they are more than simply friends – that
she was not imagining what she heard. They are simply them, and she could
not think of them any other way. She is rather shocked that she thought of
them so – shocked that she was not shocked, in fact.
So she lets it all fall to the back of her mind, since she cannot think
whether she wants to know or what she would do if she did.
The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

Two months later a client hammers on the door at six o’clock in the
morning until Rosalie at last rises and lets him in. She strides upstairs, not par-
ticularly pleased (though it certainly isn’t the first time such a thing has hap-
pened), and knocks rather more firmly than she might have on Mr. Holmes’
bedroom door.
She is answered by a loud thud, and a string of muffled curses in a voice
and vocabulary that certainly aren’t Mr. Holmes’s. She stands perfectly still
in front of the door for a moment, until Mr. Holmes exits through the small-
est possible crack, shuts the door behind him, and says, “Well?” He neither
sounds nor looks any happier than she had been at being awoken, his dressing
gown held tight around himself and his face decidedly grim.
After the client is placated and his fiancée found, Rosalie realizes that
Mr. Holmes is watching her. She is amazed that her first feeling is reassurance
– but of course, Mr. Holmes is always watching, and this merely means that
he is as all-knowing as ever and the world is the same as it has always been.
She still does not know what to do. Her mother, who had been raised
Peculiar, would have known at once, but Rosalie hasn’t thrown them out yet
and cannot imagine doing it now. They are Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson. She
can’t imagine the house without them, gunshots and queer callers included.
Well. Rather, she knows exactly what she wants to do, and cannot believe
it of herself. She wasn’t raised for this. She wasn’t raised to look at two men
and know that they fit together like hand and glove, that they are each infi-
nitely better with the other, that their names must always fit next to each other.
She can’t see them as separate, though. She cannot, most certainly, sepa-
rate them herself, perhaps destroy them. The idea is impossible. And she’s
heard what Mr. Holmes has to say about impossibilities.
The next time she knows Mr. Holmes is looking at her, wondering about
her, she meets his gaze squarely and nods. He looks straight back at her – she’d
not expect shyness from him – and nods in return. They stay.

The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

The Man with the Watches and the Test of Time

James C. O’Leary

I t is a mistake to judge people of the past by the standards of today. People

are the prisoners of the times they live in. To pass judgement on historical
figures based not on the mores of their times but by those of the present
not only does them a disservice but shuts the door on understanding them,
their actions and motivations and sets us, people of the present, as smug and
superior arbiters. How many of our cherished positions will be seen 150 years
hence as quaint or worse?
Arthur Conan Doyle (1858-1930) was a nineteenth-century man, Scot
by birth, Irish by heritage but proud Englishman by choice who aspired to
be part of the Victorian upper middle-class. He held unique views on politics
and spirituality, was a writer of the first order and no doubt a Mensa-level
genius, but still a Victorian.
Doyle’s mother Mary brought him up on tales of chivalry and chivalry
and fairness were guiding principal throughout his life. He cleared the name
of lawyer George Edalji, son of a South Asian father and English mother and
life-long subject of racial prejudice, who was convicted of a series of cattle
mutilations around Great Wyrley, Staffordshire. Later, he started on his effort
to clear Oscar Slater, a Jewish career criminal, of an Edinburgh murder the
evidence clearly showed he didn’t commit. Doyle spent years and his own
money in the ultimately successful effort.
Reports by journalist E.D. Morel and British consul in Boma, Congo
Free State, Roger Casement, on the human rights abuses committed by King
Leopold II of Belgium, lead Doyle in October of 1909 to publish The Crime
of the Congo. The enforced slavery, mutilations, rape, murder and at times the
destruction of whole villages in the cause of personal profit incensed Doyle
and he hoped his pamphlet would help to institute change.
Like most of his male contemporaries Doyle did not believe in Woman’s
Suffrage, and had serious moral objections to the more violent protesters
(in ‘His Last Bow’ (1917) he had Baron Von Herling say, “‘How then can
England come in, especially when we have stirred her up such a devil’s brew
of Irish civil war, window-breaking Furies, and God knows what to keep her
The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

thoughts at home?”) However, he worked tirelessly for Divorce Reform. Since

1857, a man might easily divorce his wife but the reverse was untrue. It was
also prohibitively expensive, costing around £650 to obtain a final decree. A
partner might be granted a “judicial separation” but such a judicial separation
would leave a Victorian woman in financial hardships and could lead to out-
of-wedlock cohabitation, which was a moral and legal crime. Doyle wrote
a pamphlet, also in 1909, for the Divorce Law Reform Association on the
subject. He wrote many times over the years championing the cause, with
most of the reforms passing in 1923.1
Doyle’s public views on homosexuality were complex. Like all members
of polite society he operated on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He wrote of
Oscar Wilde in Memories and Adventures,
I should add that never in Wilde’s conversation did I observe one trace of coarseness of
thought, nor could one at that time associate him with such an idea. Only once again did
I see him, many years afterwards, and then he gave me the impression of being mad. He
asked me, I remember, if I had seen some play of his which was running. I answered
that I had not. He said: “Ah, you must go. It is wonderful. It is genius!” All this with
the gravest face. Nothing could have been more different from his early gentlemanly
instincts. I thought at the time, and still think, that the monstrous development which
ruined him was pathological, and that a hospital rather than a police court was the
place for its consideration.
As Daniel Stashower wrote in Teller of Tales,
Conan Doyle’s respect for Wilde never dimmed, even after the “monstrous development”
that sent Wilde to prison five years later…. Needless to say Wilde’s difficulties arose
from something more than coarseness of thought, and Conan Doyle’s sympathy for
Wilde should not be confused with a tolerance of homosexuality.2
But one must remember the tenor of the times:
Until 1861… buggery had carried the death penalty. As it was, buggery still carried a
prison sentence of penal servitude for life. Penal servitude meant, for murderers, rapists
and sodomites, long hours of hard labour picking oakum, walking the treadmill or
working the dreaded crank, back-breaking work turning a handle to push a paddle
through a vat of sand.3
To see Wilde’s homosexuality not as a crime against God and man but as
an illness to be cared for was in fact a tolerant view for the turn of the century
and the most liberal one Doyle could express without be called a sodomite
The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

Doyle had also become friends with Roger Casement, an Irish-born

diplomat who, after years of investigating atrocities in the Congo and Peru,
became involved in Irish independence. Casement negotiated with the
German government to ship arms to Ireland in order to enact revolution
against England. These anti-imperialist activities lead to his conviction for
treason in 1916, and he was sentenced to hang.
Reading of Casement’s activities in Berlin, long before his arrest, Doyle
came to the conclusion that he was mentally ill. Doyle did not condone
treason but he also believed a legally insane criminal shouldn’t be put to
death and drafted a petition that Casement’s sentence should be commuted.
Others agreed with Doyle, and famous and influential people such as G. K.
Chesterton, W. B. Yeats, Jerome K. Jerome and John Galsworthy signed. At
this juncture, the British Government quietly started circulating Casement’s
diaries which detailed his same-sex liaisons. The diaries “entirely killed any
English sympathy there might have been for Casement.”4 and many of the
above withdrew their support. Such a ploy did not work on Doyle. He stood
by his petition. Casement was executed in August 1916.
There is one piece of fiction, familiar to Sherlockians, where Doyle
addressed, obliquely for the times, the issue of homosexuality. “The Man with
the Watches” is one of four stories considered to be the Apocrypha of the
Sherlockian Canon, three of which were written in that period in the 1890s
between when Doyle had sent Holmes to his death in “The Final Problem”
and resurrected him in “The Adventure of the Empty House.” “How Watson
Learned the Trick,” a third person sketch of Holmes and Watson, was written
in 1924 for The Book of the Queen’s Dolls’ House. “The Field Bazaar,” a gentle
parody in first-person narrative by Watson, was written for the Edinburgh
University Student in 1896. “The Lost Special” and “The Man with the
Watches” were part of a series of mystery and horror stories written for The
Strand in 1898. Both stories recount crimes celebre whose solutions are revealed
after a letter writer to the newspapers proposes an unworkable theory. “The
Lost Special” takes place in 1890 and has a letter to The Times written by
“an amateur reasoner of some celebrity at that date, attempted to deal with
the matter in a critical and semi-scientific manner” who starts out by saying,
“It is one of the elementary principles of practical reasoning that when the
impossible has been eliminated the residuum, however improbable, must
contain the truth.” Doyle clearly meant Strand readers to identify the letter
The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

writer as Sherlock Holmes.

The case is a little more problematic for “The Man with the Watches.”
The Rugby Mystery took place in the spring of 1892, during that period
known as the Great Hiatus when Holmes was presumed dead. In the story
a“well-known criminal investigator” abandoning “the analytic or scientific
method” offers an ingenious hypothesis “in the synthetic fashion.”
The theory has the ring of Holmes without having any identifiable
maxims associated with the detective, and Doyle may indeed have wanted the
Strand reader come to that conclusion. Doyle may have forgotten the date of
Holmes’ death when he wrote “Watches” just as he forgot the date of Holmes’
resurrection when he set “The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge” in March 1892.
(In playing the Game, I believe the Daily Gazette writer to be Barker, Holmes’s
hated rival on the Surrey shore, trying to make a name for himself in Holmes’s
“Watches” starts by recounting the mystery. A man in his fifties and a
veiled young woman board the London-to-Manchester train. The train guard
opens the door to an occupied carriage containing a short bearded cigar-
smoking man in his thirties. The older man tells the guard that the lady objects
to smoke and they are seated in the next, unoccupied, carriage. At the Rugby
stop it is noticed that the door to the carriage containing the man and woman
is open and upon inspection the man and woman are gone; instead there is
an elegantly dressed young man without ticket or papers with a bullet hole in
his chest and six watches in various pockets. The bearded smoker in the next
compartment is also gone.
That crime had been committed was certain. The bullet, which appeared to have come
from a small pistol or revolver, had been fired from some little distance, as there was
no scorching of the clothes. No weapon was found in the compartment (which finally
disposed of the theory of suicide), nor was there any sign of the brown leather bag
which the guard had seen in the hand of the tall gentleman. A lady’s parasol was found
upon the rack, but no other trace was to be seen of the travellers in either of the sections.
Apart from the crime, the question of how or why three passengers (one of them a lady)
could get out of the train, and other get in during the unbroken run between Willesden
and Rugby, was one which excited the utmost curiosity among the general public, and
gave rise to much speculation in the London Press….
The only clue found was a pocket Bible inscribed “From John to Alice.
Jan. 13th, 1856,
The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

“James, July 4th, 1859,

“Edward. Nov. 1st, 1869.”
Here is where the letter writer to the Gazette supplies his erroneous theory.
The mystery lies dormant for five years until a statement arises describing the
circumstances and conclusion of the events.
What follows is a tale of redemption and forgiveness–and a coded love
story which the sophisticated Strand reader could decipher. James and his
younger brother Edward are first-generation Americans born to English
parents in New York State; their father dies before the narrative begins.
Doyle sets up the corruptible nature of Edward in a way that a nineteenth-
century reader would have understood: he is a beautiful creature with a weak
or non-existent male presence, a soft spot in him like mould in cheese, and
spoilt by his mother.
Hating the restrictions placed on him by James in an attempt to control
him, Edward runs away to New York City and quickly gets involved in a life
of crime, running cons with a “head of his profession”rascal called Sparrow
Doyle paints a picture of moral weakness, a downwards slide into
criminality, falling under the sway of a corrupt father-figure (MacCoy was
about thirty years older than Edward), and cross dressing in a city that was a
modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah (“‘They had made it right with Tammany
and with the police”, “if you only had a pull, you could do pretty nearly
everything you wanted.”). Cross dressing would have been understood by the
Strand reader as a signal of homosexuality.
In Victorian medico-legal texts dealing with same-sex sexual relationships, the notion
of sexual orientation was a function of the assignment of male/female identity.
Men who had a sexual interest in other men were held to be phenotypically male
and psychologically female, and their growing representation within psychiatric and
legal discourse supported this assumption by emphasizing their adoption of feminine
characteristic and social codes. […] It was not until 1899 that the sexologist Magnus
Hirschfield made a radical distinction between homosexuality and transvestism…but
this clinical opinion was slow to diffuse into mainstream thought.5
MacCoy’s first name of Sparrow is also suggestive. “Sparrow” had one
meaning as “a female prostitute” or “an attractive female” and also was used
in the term “Sparrow-chaser” as “one looking for a prostitute (or woman) to
have sex.” Then there is Catullus, the Roman poet whose volume could help
The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

fill the untidy gap on Watson’s second shelf, and his poem Passer, deliciae meae
puellae (Catullus 2). “Some have even made the case that the sparrow referred
to is a direct metaphor, either for Catullus’ penis or for Lesbia’s clitoris, and
‘passer’ (‘sparrow’) in Latin may also have been a slang word for ‘penis’.”6
Edward gets caught passing a bad check, though James knows it is due to
the influence of MacCoy. James buys the check up and convinces Edward to
go straight or he would see him in jail. Edward leaves for England (and leaves
MacCoy: “But I knew that this man Sparrow MacCoy had a great influence
over Edward, and my chance of keeping the lad straight lay in breaking the
connection between them.”).
Edward had kept himself straight in London for the first few weeks, and had done
some business with his American watches, until this villain came across his path once
more. I did my best, but the best was little enough. The next thing I heard there had
been a scandal at one of the Northumberland Avenue hotels: a traveller had been fleeced
of a large sum by two confederate card-sharpers, and the matter was in the hands of
Scotland Yard.
James chases the disguised pair to Euston Station and reveals himself as
the bearded man in the carriage. At Willesden, unnoticed by any witness he
enters Edward and MacCoy’s carriage. The trio have an argument. Emphasis
in the following lengthy passage have been added by me.
“Why don’t you run a Sunday-school?” he would say to me, and then, in the same
breath: “He thinks you have no will of your own. He thinks you are just the baby
brother and that he can lead you where he likes. He’s only just finding out that you
are a man as well as he.”
“A man!” said I. “Well, I’m glad to have your friend’s assurance of it, for no one
would suspect it to see you like a boarding-school missy. I don’t suppose in all
this country there is a more contemptible-looking creature than you are as
you sit there with that Dolly pinafore upon you.” He coloured up at that, for he
was a vain man, and he winced from ridicule.
“It’s only a dust-cloak,” said he, and he slipped it off. “One has to throw the
coppers off one’s scent, and I had no other way to do it.” He took his toque off with the
veil attached, and he put both it and the cloak into his brown bag. “Anyway, I don’t need
to wear it until the conductor comes round,” said he.
“Not then, either,” said I, and taking the bag I slung it with all my force out of the
window. “Now,” said I, “‘you’ll never make a Mary Jane of yourself while I can
help it. If nothing but that disguise stands between you and a gaol, then to gaol you shall
The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

That was the way to manage him. I felt my advantage at once. His supple
nature was one which yielded to roughness far more readily than to entreaty. He
flushed with shame, and his eyes filled with tears. But MacCoy saw my advantage also,
and was determined that I should not pursue it.
“He’s my pard, and you shall not bully him,” he cried.
“He’s my brother, and you shall not ruin him”’ said I. “‘I believe a spell of prison
is the very best way of keeping you apart, and you shall have it, or it will be no fault of
“Oh, you would squeal, would you?” he cried, and in an instant he whipped out
his revolver. I sprang for his hand, but saw that I was too late, and jumped aside. At
the same instant he fired, and the bullet which would have struck me passed through the
heart of my unfortunate brother.
He dropped without a groan upon the floor of the compartment, and MacCoy and
I, equally horrified, knelt at each side of him, trying to bring back some signs of life.
MacCoy still held the loaded revolver in his hand, but his anger against me and my
resentment towards him had both for the moment been swallowed up in this sudden
MacCoy jumps off the train and James follows, both rolling down a steep
At the bottom I struck my head against a stone, and I remembered nothing more. When
I came to myself I was lying among some low bushes, not far from the railroad track,
and somebody was bathing my head with a wet handkerchief. It was Sparrow MacCoy.
“I guess I couldn’t leave you” said he. “I didn’t want to have the blood of two of
you on my hands in one day. You loved your brother, I’ve no doubt; but you didn’t
love him a cent more than I loved him, though you’ll say that I
took a queer way to show it. Anyhow, it seems a mighty empty world now
that he is gone, and I don’t care a continental whether you give me over to the hangman
or not.”
He had turned his ankle in the fall, and there we sat, he with his useless foot and
I with my throbbing head, and we talked and talked unti1 gradually
my bitterness began to soften and to turn into something like
sympathy. What was the use of revenging his death upon the
man who was as much stricken by that death as I was?
The final few paragraphs are spent by James clearing up the remaining
bits of the mystery and asking the “well-known criminal investigator” for the
family bible back.
The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

There are many words and phrases that jump out at the twenty-first-
century reader with their double meaning obvious. In fact, many of those
meanings would be visible to a sophisticated nineteenth-century reader as
well, although the double entendres would not have the wide currency they do
today. “Straight” with its meaning of orthodoxy and conforming to societal
norms and “queer” with its meaning of atypical and abnormal along with
James’ tough-love harangue about Edward’s effemininity would carry the
same connotations then as they do now. Their period of enforced confinement
due to injuries led James understand MacCoy’s feelings for Edward were deep
and true and not exploitive.
By framing the story as a mystery and encoding one type of criminality—
in ways which today which will be seen as cliché and stereotypical though at
the time were not---within other, more socially acceptable criminalities, Doyle
was able to write about homosexuality in a clever “moving locked-room”
mystery suitable for a family magazine.
So we cannot say that Arthur Conan Doyle, Victorian white heterosexual
male, was flying a rainbow flag over Undershaw when he wrote “The Man
with the Watches” but he fictionally examined The Love That Dare Not
Speak Its Name and found it to be… love.

1. See Richards, Dana, Conan Doyle and the Divorce Law Reform Union, Priory Press, 2010.
2. Stashower, Daniel, Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle. Henry Holt and
Company, New York, 1999.
3. McKenna, Neil, Fanny and Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England. Faber and
Faber, London, 2013.
4. Stashower, ibid.
5. Sweet, Matthew, Inventing the Victorians. St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2001.
6. http://www.ancient-literature.com/rome_catullus_2.html

The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015


Elinor Gray

I t didn’t take me long at all to discover where Watson had disappeared to,
once the date at the top of the newspaper and Mrs Hudson’s strangely
subdued attitude were considered in conjunction with one another. The sky
outside was grey, and there was ice on the eaves of the roof across the street;
there were only a few things that could draw John Watson out of doors on a
day like this, and since I had no case at the moment, the reasons dwindled to
I found him where expected, under a spreading oak, a bouquet of
hothouse flowers in one gloved hand and his hat held by the brim in the other.
He didn’t turn around as I approached, though I knew he heard me. I stepped
up beside him and for a moment we said nothing, looking down at the stone
standing erect in the frozen ground.

In Sacred Memory of 

Mary Amelia Watson

beloved wife of John H. Watson

who departed this life 1891

aged 30 years

“Those who walk uprightly enter into peace;

they find rest as they lie in death.”

As we stood there it began to snow, the first flakes sticking to the cold
headstone. Watson put his hat back on and heaved a sigh. Then he bent and
laid the flowers before the stone. When he straightened up again, I slipped my
hand into the crook of his arm. I could tell his shoulder hurt by the way he
was holding it.
“I meant to be back by the time you got up,” Watson said, still looking
down at Mary’s grave.
“I meant to lie in until you returned,” I replied. The warmth of our bed,
even without him in it, had been difficult to abandon.
I saw him smile for a moment. “Well,” said he, “shall we go back?”
The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

“I’m not in a hurry.” The snow had begun to accumulate on the footpath
and on the shoulders of our coats. “I just came to see if you needed anything.”
Another smile, more subdued. “No,” Watson said softly. “Nothing in
particular.” He turned to look at me finally, and I saw he had wept. Not much,
but his eyelashes sparkled with ice and gave him away. He realised that I had
observed this fact and he cuffed at his eyes quickly, embarrassed.
“I don’t mind,” I said. “She was a good woman and she ought to be
“I was thinking of you as well. Those were— years I would not repeat.”
“Nor I.” I had apologised enough, we’d agreed, but the guilt still gnawed
in my belly sometimes. “Watson.”
He met my eyes again, and I tipped his chin up with my index finger. His
lips were chapped and red, but they parted willingly as I leaned down to kiss
him. The wind was beginning to pick up, the snow swirling around us. My
toes and the tips of my ears were numb with cold; Watson’s mouth was warm
and welcoming. His tongue touched mine softly, and though I could not forget
the spectre of the woman who lay beneath us, it still felt right. He needed the
comfort: I had returned to give it to him.
“Let’s go home,” he whispered after a moment, barely drawing away
from me. I kissed him again, for good measure, and we walked back up the
hill, arm in arm. As we reached the main road where we might acquire a cab,
he paused on the footpath and squeezed my hand and said, “Thank you for
coming to get me.”
“You might have stood there until the snow obscured you entirely,” I
said, shrugging. “And I need you at home to set up that blasted tree, because
you know I’m not going to do it.” Selfishness was often enough the way to his
heart, I had discovered.
Watson laughed. “I do know that,” said he. “You try me sorely, Holmes.”
“I do my best, dear boy,” I said, patting his arm. “I do my everlasting

The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex


Brontë Schiltz

A lmost anyone with an academic interest in queer readings of the Sherlock

Holmes canon will be familiar with Rex Stout’s 1941 “Watson Was a
Woman” speech. Although it is, as Stout acknowledged, ‘very sketchy’ and
is mostly comprised of misogynistic jokes and deliberately absurd reasoning,
it is also an early example of the kind of thinking that has since contributed
to much of the queer criticism surrounding the Sherlock Holmes stories,
particularly regarding such sentences as “Imagine a man asking another man
to play him some of Mendelssohn’s Lieder on a violin!” There is also similar
theory surrounding Holmes him(/her)self, largely based on a combination of
equally sketchy evidence (Watson tells us upon discovering Holmes hiding out
on the moor in The Hound of the Baskervilles that “he had contrived … that his
chin should be as smooth … as if he were in Baker Street,” which to some
suggests a lack of facial hair to begin with) and the fact that people would
rather explain the romantic undertones in the Holmes/Watson relationship
in terms of one of them being female than in terms of two men being in
love. As such, the majority of the “was ‘he’ a woman?” theorisation has been
disregarded, but this was perhaps a mistake on the part of queer critics –
there is, in my view, more to be gained in examining Holmes and Watson’s
relationship with gender in order to explore their sexualities.
The connection between gender and queerness first occurred to me
a few years ago when I was working on an essay on the representation of
women in the canon. One of the areas I was looking at was descriptions of
female beauty, but it struck me, as I reread “A Scandal in Bohemia,” that there
is very little difference between the language used to describe the beauty of
women and that used to describe the beauty of men. Holmes praises Godfrey
Norton’s good looks twice, describing him first as “dark, handsome and
incredibly dashing” and then as “a remarkably handsome man, dark, aquiline
and moustached.” What makes this example particularly interesting is that,
despite the fact that Watson makes it clear from the outset that “it was not that
[Holmes] felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler,” many people interpret
Holmes’s feelings towards Adler romantically, and yet he does not speak of
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her as he speaks of her husband. He does comment on her appearance, but

there is a crucial difference in the language he uses to do so. Before he has seen
her, he tells Watson that “she has turned all the men’s heads down in that part.
She is the daintiest thing under a bonnet on this planet. So say the Serpentine-
mews, to a man.” Then, after he has seen her, he tells him that “she was a
lovely woman, with a face that a man might die for.” The crucial difference I
referred to is in that repeated phrase: “a man.” He speaks similarly of Maud
Bellamy in “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane,” informing the reader that
he “could not look upon her perfect clear-cut face, with all the soft freshness of
the downlands in her delicate colouring, without realizing that no young man
would cross her path unscathed.” What fascinated me about these descriptions
was how much they reminded me of some of Watson’s descriptions of men.
In The Hound of the Baskervilles, he describes Barrymore as “a striking-looking
fellow, very well equipped to steal the heart of a country girl,” and in “The
Adventure of the Illustrious Client” he gives a lengthy description of Baron
Gruner’s good looks:
He was certainly a remarkably handsome man. His European reputation for beauty
was fully deserved. In figure he was not more than of middle size, but was built upon
graceful and active lines. His face was swarthy, almost Oriental, with large, dark,
languorous eyes which might easily hold an irresistible fascination for women. His hair
and moustache were raven black, the latter short, pointed, and carefully waxed. His
features were regular and pleasing, save only his straight, thin-lipped mouth.
When Watson discusses male beauty in language implying sexual
attraction, he distances himself by suggesting that he is describing the
appeal he would expect the man in question to have for girls and women
rather than his own interest – an appropriate decision on his part, given that
homosexuality remained a criminal offence in England until 1967, and on
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s, given that The Picture of Dorian Gray was used as
evidence against Oscar Wilde during the Wilde vs. Queensberry trial of 1895.
Why, then, does Holmes do the opposite – openly discuss male beauty but
distance himself from descriptions of female beauty by stating that they would
be attractive to men in language that suggests that he is not including himself
in that category? Is there any validity to the theory that Holmes was in fact a
In short: probably not. The Sherlock Holmes stories exist in a fictional
world in which they are being written for the enjoyment of a real public – if
The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

Sherlock Holmes was in fact a woman, her clients and admirers would surely
have become aware of it. The mistake in the work of queer critics of the canon
lies, in my view, not in their disregard of the theory that Holmes was a woman,
but in their disregard of the possibility that Holmes did not see himself as a
man. Let me explain. In Victorian discourse, queerness was often described as
a third gender. Before the (derogatory, pathologised) term “homosexual” had
been coined, the term “Uranian” was used to denote someone with “a female
psyche in a male body” – someone who we would now refer to as a gay man,
but who, in the 19th century, was regarded as neither a man nor a woman
but someone somewhere in between. This was not only the case in external
discourse, but within the gay community, too, which brings me on to the title
of this piece. Due to the stringent laws on sexuality in England under Queen
Victoria, it was unsafe for gay and bisexual men to publicly discuss their desires
and experiences. Out of this dilemma grew Polari, a form of slang developed
and used predominantly by gay and bisexual men that allowed them to speak
openly without fearing arrest. One of several Polari terms for a gay man was
“omi-palone,” which translates literally to “man-woman” (likewise, “palone-
omi” or “woman-man” was used to describe lesbians). Just as it is believable
that a queer man in Conan Doyle’s time would distance himself from his
own attraction to men, it is equally believable that another queer man (and
particularly one who did not act on his desires, as is quite possibly the case
with Holmes) would be less cautious (not everyone was – take Wilde and Bosie
or Walt Whitman, for instance), and would not in fact view himself as a man
at all.
The majority of people who have written academically about queerness
in the Sherlock Holmes canon have treated the gender theories of Stout et
al. as a useful starting point, but ultimately counterproductive to their work. I
would argue that examining Holmes and Watson’s relationship to gender is in
fact not counterproductive at all, and in fact only serves to situate the canon
in a socio-historical context which supports the theory that both Holmes and
Watson, although they may have experienced, understood and expressed
their sexualities differently, took an interest in men that would not have been
deemed appropriate for explicit textual exploration in the period in which Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle was writing.

The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

My Dearest Holmes: A Review


“The accounts of these cases are too bound up with events in my personal life which,
although they may provide a plausible commentary to much of my dealings with Mr
Sherlock Holmes, can never be made public while he or I remain alive…”

R ohase Piercy writes My Dearest Holmes as the editor of two of Dr. Wat-
son’s heretofore unpublished manuscripts. The novel is composed of
one account, “A Discreet Investigation,” in which Holmes and Watson solve
a case of blackmail which is attributed to the Queen Bee, “an adventuress
of doubtful reputation,” and another which is concerned with the truth be-
hind Holmes’s disappearance and return. Due to the nature of these records,
which both have to do with homosexual life and romance, Watson had sealed
these and ordered them to be left unopened until 100 years after 1887, the
year in which the first case took place. At the forefront of both stories is the
developing romantic relationship between the detective and his biographer,
and so I would like to review My Dearest Holmes not only as a Holmes pastiche,
but also as one of the first genuine queer readings of the relationship between
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson.
As a character, Watson immediately struck me as somewhat terse, less of
a patient man than he portrays himself in the Holmes stories, and one who
speaks his mind more readily - for example, he takes issue with Holmes send-
ing him on “the most absurd wild goose chases” and defends himself when
kept in the dark. The novel begins with Watson attempting to listen to Holmes
as he animatedly discusses the particulars of a new case, though he is much
the worse for wear after a night of drinking, and it is difficult to imagine Dr.
Doyle, as Watson’s literary agent at the Strand, doing anything but swiftly
redacting such a passage for propriety’s sake, were it intended for publication.
The dialogue is slightly more candid and colloquial, and the narration is much
more reflective and personal. Watson’s writing does not focus exclusively on
the case in the first section, nor does it cater solely to Holmes as a protagonist
and literary figure. Watson is also more realistic about Holmes’s deductive
ability, for example, his analysis seems less fantastical, and there are fewer
The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

near-impossible leaps of logic and more pauses for thought when questioning
his client. These differences, which are in any case necessary considering the
personal nature of the memoirs, contribute to a much more realistic portrait
of what it would have been like for these two men to live and work together.
Piercy absolutely maintains Watson’s style of narration and sense of humour
as well as a contemporary verisimilitude, even when broaching subjects not
discussed in Doyle’s canon, namely his attraction to Holmes, and homosexu-
ality in general at this time.
Though Watson does not really go into detail in depicting the places he
frequents to meet other gay men, his sexual encounters, or the company he
has kept (beyond an old acquaintance connected with the case, and a refer-
ence to a nameless sailor), the way Piercy represents queerness and homo-
sexual lifestyle at this period in history reads very accura≠tely, and is therefore
deeply sad in its restrictedness. Watson desires Holmes both romantically and
sexually, yet feels that Holmes can hardly be admitted to like him even platoni-
cally, that it opposes his nature to form close emotional attachments, and that
he is a mere foil to Holmes’s genius, and sometimes not even of enough use
to be that. He does not seem to be romantically interested in any other man,
but he does seek out sexual encounters with them to fill the void created by
Holmes’s supposed lack of reciprocation.
Importantly, he is not ashamed of his desires, even if he is ashamed of his
actions, judging by his vaguely disgusted references to the places he frequents
and his encounters with men he does not love, probably supposing it is dishon-
est to be intimate with one man whilst thinking solely of the true object of his
affections. Only once does he describe his “guilt and fear,” but states that they
are “the inevitable counterpart to such inclinations in our present unenlight-
ened age,” so he does not shy away from his natural inclinations, but realises
they are only unacceptable because society deems them so. He knows who he
is and recognises that it is possible to live in a homosexual relationship, even
if it had to be kept secret for fear of losing standing in society, or worse, see-
ing as the addition to the Criminal Law Amendment Act was passed in 1885.
Watson maintains, as stated in the preface, optimism for future generations,
and hope that society will come to accept different sexualities or at least allow
people to live more openly and authentically than was possible in the Victo-
rian era, and that his memoirs will be received “with sympathy and respect”
rather than disdain, revulsion, and hatefulness.
The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

Another aspect of the novel that stood out to me was the presence of les-
bian characters. Positive representation of queer women is something which is
regrettably still lacking in modern media, not to mention Holmes adaptations,
so it is very interesting and refreshing to see their inclusion in a story which
could easily have been completely focused on the two central male characters
and the homosexual male lifestyle of the Victorian era in general. At this time,
lesbian relationships were not banned, but were simply denied or deemed
“impossible,” and rarely even included in discussions about homosexuality.
Of course, this did not prove to be a benefit for women, as their gender alone
made it near-impossible to live independent lives. Watson, however, recog-
nises that lesbian relationships are possible, and does not seem to find them
surprising or uncommon in any way. He uses the phrase ‘confirmed spinster’
to attempt to explain their client’s circumstances to Holmes (who is perhaps
not so unwitting in these matters as Watson may have assumed).
A confidence develops between Watson, a gay man, and Miss D’Arcy,
a lesbian woman - when Watson realises that she knows his “secret,” he is
quick to become very candid about his experiences and his romantic inter-
est in Holmes, and Miss D’Arcy is quick to give advice. She tells Watson that
she believes Holmes prefers his own sex, or at least is indifferent to women,
as he is described in the canon. It is not due to an insufficiency of love and
respect for Watson (whether platonic or romantic), but the fact that he is un-
able to accept himself or his emotionally vulnerable side, that he oftentimes
acts unfairly, even cruelly, towards Watson. She also advises him to take a wife
in order to put their relationship on different footing, to protect both him and
Holmes from public suspicion in a threatening social climate, and to protect
himself from being emotionally hurt by constant proximity to the object of
his affections.
Holmes confirms a good deal of Miss D’Arcy’s speculation in the follow-
ing chapter, which contains an especially poignant and emotional moment
between him and Watson. In an excellent piece of dialogue, Holmes gravely
remarks, “This hideous new law… will cause untold suffering, both mental
and physical, and will bring about the downfall of some of the most gifted and
sensitive figures of our generation. I do not intend that either you or I should
be among them.”
The case itself is concluded somewhat rapidly, without the traditional
“reveal” moment and proud explication on Holmes’s part. In my opinion, this
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benefits the work as a whole, as it really demonstrates the differences between

a detective story, with all its conceits and self-aware elements of construction
so that the reader will be most intrigued and most surprised, and a journal
or diary, which is, one can imagine, closer to how Watson’s actual case notes
might have appeared without the editing and fictionalisation.
Piercy’s intention in the second half of the novel is to tie up some of the
loose ends of “The Final Problem,” and so begins about four years after the
‘Queen Bee’ case. As editor, she includes a preface by Watson which explains
that the published version was merely to satisfy the public’s curiosity regarding
Holmes’s disappearance and return, and that the following would stay as close
to the truth as Watson could manage, just as he assured that the previous half
was ‘in no way romanticised’.
This section reads like a memoir even more so than the first. Watson does
nothing to conceal his depth of feeling for Holmes, the awkwardness of their
trip to the Continent to evade Moriarty, or his utter despondency following
Holmes’s death. He speaks openly of his relationship with his wife, which is
close, but purely friendly - they both married one another as a convenience,
to outwardly display their status as a heterosexual married couple in order to
continue to live their personal lives as freely as was possible.
Piercy winds her narrative perfectly through the major canonical events
of “The Final Problem” and leading up to “The Empty House.” My Dearest
Holmes effectively solves a fair few mysteries with the original stories while
expanding on aspects which may have been glossed over in the final edit, or
in this version, fictionalised or redacted for propriety. Not only does Piercy
manage to clear up or explain various issues in the canon, she includes much
about Watson’s personal life during the three years of Holmes’s Great Hiatus.
Rather than an objective description of the Ronald Adair murder case at the
beginning of “The Empty House,” Watson speaks of his own struggle with
the shock and the resultant “brain fever” following Holmes’s death, and rather
than a vague reference to Watson’s “sad bereavement”, we learn of his further
devastation upon the death of his wife, and his feelings of helplessness and
isolation. It is a portrayal of loss and grief which show just how altogether
unsatisfactory Doyle’s originals could be with regard to emotional realism or
convincing relationships and character development.
Piercy’s use of personal memoir allows Watson to place himself and his
relationship with Holmes in the spotlight, something which, in the 80’s, was
practically foreign to Holmes adaptations. The Granada series, beginning in
The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

1984, was perhaps the first to place Watson on more of a level with Holmes,
making him less of a bumbling sidekick caricature and more of an intimate
friend, confidant, and biographer, both intelligent and emotionally sensitive.
Recent years have seen an abundance of more relationship-driven Holmes
series, and the ensuing new generation of fans has issued forth an incredible
amount of relationship-driven fanworks. Piercy seems well ahead of her time
indeed when considering that there were few, if any, positive and sincere rep-
resentations of Holmes and Watson developing a romantic relationship prior
to this pastiche.
My Dearest Holmes, therefore, is not only interesting as a thoroughly con-
vincing study in Victorian style, but as a truly sensitive portrayal of a variety
of queer relationships in this era. It is, above all, an exploration of the re-
lationship between Holmes and Watson which is heartbreaking, passionate,
sensitive, and beautifully expressed.

An interview with Rohase Piercy, author of My Dearest Holmes, is available on

our blog. In it, we chat with Ms Piercy about her interest in the relationship between
Holmes and Watson, her contact with and participation in the Sherlock Holmes com-
munity, the trials of publishing a queer Holmes pastiche in the 80’s, and the reception
that her book has experienced over the years. Read the interview at retiredbeekeepers.

The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

Bent Back to the Original? Jeremy Brett and the

Re-Queering of Sherlock Holmes.

Quentin Broughall

S peculation about the allegedly romantic nature of relations between

Holmes and Watson has existed since the stories were first published.1
Recently, however, there has been a move by certain scholars and writers to
excavate or create a “queer” identity for Sherlock Holmes.2 Perhaps one of
the most overlooked attempts to fashion a queer Holmes, however, was Jeremy
Brett’s performance in the Granada television series (1984-94).3 Claiming
famously that he wanted in playing the role to “bend the willow,” but not
break it, Brett sought to create a distinctive interpretation of Holmes that
remained authentic, yet innovative. While he based his version upon a faithful
reading of the original Canon, he also imbued his performance not only with
a sophisticated theatricality, but also with a convincing personality. Thus, it is
this very notion of “bending” Holmes that appears to point towards Brett’s
arguable queering of the character, which created a far more sophisticated,
multi-layered representation than most previous on-screen incarnations.
The socialist writer Edward Carpenter once remarked that queer – or
“Uranian” in Victorian parlance – identity represented an interaction between
“the masculine and the feminine, […] logic and intuition, […] action and
mediation”, which “may give the mind […] a new power of perception.”4
In this light, a queer Holmes possesses some credibility in the context of
Arthur Conan Doyle’s portrayal of a consulting detective for whom deductive
reasoning is vital. Certainly, there are many suggestive pieces of evidence
in the Canon that imply a homosexual Holmes.5 For instance, he claims in
”The Adventure of the Second Stain” (1904) that “the fair sex” is Watson’s
department,6 and in The Sign of the Four (1890), Holmes fails to notice Mary
Morstan’s physical charms.7 Later, in “A Scandal in Bohemia” (1891), Irene
Adler is proclaimed to have been “the woman” to Holmes,8 but even she fools
him by disguising herself as “a slim youth in an ulster”9 in an unexpected
piece of gender-bending. Summing up, Watson explains that “as a lover,
[Holmes] would have placed himself in a false position”10 had he entered into a
relationship with a woman, which hints at a homosexual identity transcending
The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

his traditional bachelorhood.

In the case of the Granada Sherlock Holmes, the casting of Jeremy Brett
represented something of a return to a canonical Holmes, which was
a departure from the many unorthodox cinematic interpretations that
had predominated during the 1970s.11 Known for playing Victorian and
Edwardian characters, Brett’s acting experience and elegant delivery seemed
perfect for restoring Conan Doyle’s initial vision while updating the character
for a new era. By using Sidney Paget’s original drawings as a guide for the
series” cinematography, and producing a 77-page reference file for the actors
and crew, Granada hoped to produce a faithful representation of the original
Canon. Indeed, the first few series were a testament to this quest for veracity,
with an athletic, slender Brett bringing Holmes back to life with vigour and
inventiveness. Latterly, though ill health sometimes impaired his performance,
he never failed to inhabit fully the role for which he became most famous, yet
claimed was the “hardest part [he] ever played”.12
Beyond the set, Brett claimed to have little in common with his black-and-
white on-screen persona – calling him “an isolated, damaged penguin”13 – but
it is clear that aspects of his own personality influenced his interpretation
of Holmes as an individual. Enjoying marriages to Anna Massey and Joan
Sullivan Wilson, as well as long-term relationships with fellow actors Gary
Bond and Paul Shenar, Brett’s bisexuality undoubtedly contextualises his
performance of a queered Holmes. In addition, his battle with manic
depression must have also played a part in his creation of an at-times troubled
Holmes, which deepened the psychology of the character. Of course, it would
be wrong to associate his personal life with his acting approach in anything
other than superficial terms, but one must highlight these influences in order
to appreciate fully the subtle and complex temperament that he created for
Holmes. Yet, far from making Holmes into a bisexual manic depressive, Brett
brought colour and life to his performance by using his own experiences
to queer it in certain directions, which imbued the character with renewed
interest and subtlety.
With his rolling Rs and resonant timbre, Brett forged a character both
familiar and original. Portrayed with steepled fingers and wry grin, his Holmes
possesses a camp hauteur and waspish wit that he expresses with a supercilious
flourish. David Stuart Davies has written of the sexual ambivalence of Brett’s
version, but clearly Holmes already possessed some sexual ambiguity in the
The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

original stories; all Brett did was to restore this element, though in a way
that placed it to the fore as an essential feature of his personality. Through
his physical mannerisms and sartorial style, the showman in both Holmes
and Brett emerged with a verve and fluency that emphasised their shared
queer identity. Moreover, compared to previous actors who had played the
role, Brett’s performance possessed a freshness and immediacy that might be
claimed to have been lost through the overexposure of Sherlock Holmes in
popular culture. In short, within 41 separate television films produced over a
decade, Brett created a definitive Holmes that possessed a genuine affinity to
the original portrayed in the Strand Magazine, while reviving the queer traits
that had been deliberately elided from previous on-screen interpretations.
Twenty years after his death, Jeremy Brett’s Holmes still retains a rare
potency that remains influential. For many the quintessential Sherlock
Holmes, his version has clearly inspired certain aspects of more recent
performances. For example, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Holmes in the BBC
series Sherlock (2010) has been widely assumed to be gay, while Robert Downey
Jr.’s incarnation in the Guy Richie films (2009 and 2011) often pokes fun at
the supposed homoerotic tension between Holmes and Watson. All of this
has helped to keep alive a queer vision of Sherlock Holmes that has flourished
in the context of the increasing diversity and equality of twenty-first-century
sexual identity. Ultimately, however, Sherlock Holmes stands beyond any one
group’s revisionist claim on the character; so, while the LGBTQ community
might prefer a queer Holmes, truly, he continues to belong to all. Thus,
however much Holmes” character may be bent by alternative interpretations,
it can never be broken by them; he will always remain as aloof and enigmatic
in his identity as he once appeared behind Jeremy Brett’s inscrutable grin.


1. In regard to a romantic connection between Holmes and Watson, the scene in "The
Adventure Of The Three Garridebs" where the former expresses deep concern for
the latter following his shooting has often been cited as indicative of their intimate
connection. In it, Watson exclaims that it had been "worth a wound […] to know the
depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. […] For the one and only
time, I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as a great brain". (Leslie S. Klinger (ed.),

The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes (2005), vol. 2, 1598.)

2. For instance, see Graham Robb, Strangers: Homosexual Love In The Nineteenth Century
(2004), 260-6 and J.R.G. DeMarco (ed.), A Study In Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes (2011).
3. See David Stuart Davies, Bending the willow: Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes (1996) and
Michael Cox, A Study In Celluloid: A Producer’s Account Of Jeremy Brett As Sherlock Holmes
4. Carpenter, Intermediate Types Among Primitive Folk: A Study In Social Evolution (1921), 63.
The term “queer” appears over fifty times in the Canon, though it possessed only an
oblique sense of its modern connotation to an alternative sexual identity.
5. See Christopher Redmond, In Bed With Sherlock Holmes: Sexual Elements In Arthur Conan
Doyle’s Stories Of The Great Detective (1984), ch. 9, 126-40.
6. New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, vol. 2, 1203.
7. Ibid., vol. 3, 235.
8. Ibid., vol. 1, 5.
9. Ibid., 35.
10. Ibid., 5.
11. For instance, Billy Wilder’s The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes (1970), Gene Wilder’s
The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975), Boris Sagal’s Sherlock Holmes in New
York (1976) and Herbert Ross’s The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976).
12. Quoted in Terry Manners, The Man Who Became Sherlock Holmes: The Tortured Mind Of
Jeremy Brett (1997), 212.
13. Quoted in Daniel Stashower, “And here there are genuine tears” in The Armchair
Detective, vol. 29 (1996), 87.

The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

The Wonders of Shipping Johnlock

Shirley Carlton

Three years and six weeks ago

I’d heard of Sherlock Holmes, of course. (Who hadn’t?) And even without
having read any of the stories or ever having seen a single film or television
adaptation, I think I probably even knew that he was frequently accompanied
by a certain Doctor Watson. The image I had of the duo, however, was
something along the lines of “stuffy, old-fashioned, and something to do with
looking at footprints” and it never particularly appealed to me. That is, until
I saw an episode of BBC’s Sherlock. That turned my world upside down.
From the day that I saw that first episode (The Reichenbach Fall, can you
imagine?!), I instantly became greatly and constantly distracted, practically
24/7, by insistent, vivid fantasies about the love between Holmes and Watson.
The spark between them that is clearly visible on the screen had ignited a
blaze in my imagination. Ever since then, it is as if my mind has created a
Mind Palace specifically of 221B, in which Sherlock and John perpetually
reside, happy and in love. Strangely (but wonderfully), this has resulted in a
continuous “being in love” feeling that I feel personally, as if on their behalf.
And it brightens every moment of my life – while at the same time having a
highly addictive effect, I must admit. If I’m having a rough day, I think about
Sherlock and John embracing or kissing and I magically feel better.

Two and a half years ago

From the moment my obsession began, it still took half a year before I
found the online “johnlock” fandom (mainly on tumblr). Encountering the
vast amounts of fan creations, in the form of fanart, fanfiction, photomanips,
graphics and meta analyses centered around the fictional pairing of John and
Sherlock, was like arriving in an exotic country that I hadn’t known existed. I
was overwhelmed by the creativity and the diversity and, above all, the scale
of it all. It turned out I was not the only one obsessed with the love between
these two fictional men. The quality of some of the creations was simply
astounding. Digital paintings that looked like photographs, meta analyses of
academic level, and fanfiction written as well as, if not better than published
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novels by famous authors.

Being from the Netherlands, I had never even heard of the term
“fanfiction,” so you can imagine what it was like for me to find that there were
tens of thousands of stories about Sherlock and John falling in love, being
in love, and making love. As soon as I started reading, I felt an itch to write
those kinds of stories myself, too. But that idea was immediately quenched by
the realisation that my English would never be good enough to write fiction.
Three months later, I gave in.

Two years ago

The tumblr-blog I had started in order to “collect” fanart as soon as I
came across the phenomenon, started to gain followers. Two hundred already,
within a few months! I still couldn’t believe that there were so many more
people out there with the same interest. I was still feeling a bit funny about
it myself. Wasn’t it weird for a woman to fantasise about the love (and sex)
between two men? And to have such strong feelings about it and have it play
such a major role in my life? I spent every free hour on tumblr, looking for
more fanart. (Addictive, as I already mentioned, especially since I kept finding
more and more.) That same autumn, I was playing a male part in a musical
with a local theatre group I had joined. There’d been too few men to play the
band of pirates and I had instantly volunteered. From childhood, I’d liked
the idea of “being a boy or man.” I’d sung with the tenors in a previous choir
(and loved it), so I knew that my voice was low enough when I wanted it to
be. The extent to which I enjoyed portraying a man, however, and the lengths
to which I happily went in order to find a way to flatten my chest, apply
make-up so as to make my face look manly and also to study and copy male
posture and mannerisms, baffled me in much the same way that shipping
johnlock did. Other women never seemed to want these things. My whole
life started to revolve around wanting to imitate men and wanting two men
to be together, while at the same time I was happily married (to a thankfully
very understanding man), I had two lovely children and an interesting job
(still do). And, as much as I enjoyed the idea of portraying a man and reading
(and writing) stories written through the point of view of men, I also felt
perfectly comfortable in my female body. I couldn’t wrap my mind around
what all this meant. The wonderful thing about tumblr, though, is that it’s not
only a network full of johnlock art works, but also a very open-minded and
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emancipated place with lots of posts about LGBT and gender identity issues.
This is how I found out that I am genderqueer: I alternately identify with the
female and male gender, and, again, there turned out to apparently be more
people like that. Tumblr and fandom thankfully gave me the opportunity
to explore this new-found side of myself. I started an AU blog that features
reblogs of not only kid!lock, fawn!lock and punk!lock, to name a few, but also
fem!lock and trans!lock images.
As well as the incredibly open-minded attitude within fandom, there is
also the rather remarkable (I thought) habit of many fanfiction writers of
having their works beta-read by fellow writers. I was lucky enough to find
three very talented writers who were willing to beta my stories and teach me
a thing or two about fiction writing, thus enabling me to develop my talent
further. Without them, I would never have dared publish anything on the
internet. One of them even became a great friend with whom I correspond
(across the Atlantic Ocean) on an almost daily basis. Being able to “grow” in
a new field so many years after finishing my studies really gave me a powerful
energy boost that made my life significantly less dull – even though it hadn’t
been that dull to begin with.

A year and a half ago

After having reblogged thousands of pieces of johnlock fanart, I finally
gathered the courage to try and draw something myself. I always used to love
drawing in school, but since then there had never really been any reason to
draw anymore. And now that there was, it gave me great pleasure to do so.
Seeing my drawings being reblogged by others gave a wonderful feeling of
being appreciated and it contributed to the feeling of “giving something back”
to fandom (along with my writing).

Half a year ago

Over the course of these three years, I’d attended three local fan meet-
ups. Then last spring, I decided to help organise a meeting of Sherlock fans
in the Netherlands. I co-coordinated the event and made up some fandom
games, which was another very welcome outlet for my creativity.

One week ago

Upon organising my second fan meetup last weekend, I decided to cosplay
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for the first time (as Lestrade), which once again was a liberating experience.
And I won third prize in the cosplay contest! For months previously, I had
enthusiastically been collecting items of clothing and props for my cosplay. I
think that might actually be one of the most fun things about fandom: it gives
me a sense of purpose. My blog now has 1893 followers and I love seeing
them “liking” the posts that I have carefully selected to reblog for them. I
write stories, knowing that people will read and appreciate them. And feeling
appreciated and being seen, I think, is one of the most basic human needs.

Although more than three years have passed, it is still difficult to wrap
my mind around the immense change that Sherlock Holmes and his fandom
caused in my life. It is almost as scary as it is fascinating. What would the rest
of my life have looked like without this extra dimension added to my free time,
to the development of my artistic talents and to my sexual and gender identity,
even? I think I’m actually rather glad not to know the answer to that question.

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The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

Come at Once, If Convenient


Tell me we’ll never get used to this,

the rope arrow way of life where you tell me
that the dead birds will become a part of us,
glowing in the night with the gaps in our bones,
and your breath in her mouth
drowning the life out of me;
tell me you’ll come if convenient,
and come especially in spite of it.

It’s Psychosomatic, Watson


You know, I went back home and

carved a bullet wound on my shoulder
just to imagine how
you’d feel under my fingertips;

Ours was a love psychosomatic.

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The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex


A. J. Odasso is the author of two poetry collections from Flipped Eye Pub-
lishing, Lost Books and The Dishonesty of Dreams.  She serves as Senior Poetry
Editor at Strange Horizons magazine, and she has been writing in various liter-
ary and visual-media based fandoms for a very, very long time.

Khorazir (Anke Eissmann) is an illustrator and graphic designer interest-

ed in Sherlock Holmes (particularly BBC Sherlock) and Tolkien (books), art,
history, nature and environmental issues, cycling and too many other things.
Drawing is her default state of existence. She can be found at khorazir.tumblr.

Basil is a small French worm whose passions include cooking, drawing, and
fighting anyone who has ever written shit about trans Holmes. They live in
Sussex (where they co-founded the Retired Beekeepers) and have a toned-
down gay cartoon in every issue of the BSJ.

Brontë Schliltz is currently in her final year at Royal Holloway University

of London where she is doing her B.A. in English Literature and Creative
Writing. When she’s not playwriting, working on her dissertation or cuddling
cats, she likes talking at length about how queer the Sherlock Holmes canon
and various adaptations are. Her original writing can be found at sisterima-

Button is a Modern Literature student at the University of Padua (Italy) and

Raffles scholar. They can be found at arataya.tumblr.com

Diigii is an illustrator and cartoonist from Manila, Philippines. They love

The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

cats, coffee and cheezy crime dramas.

Dora Brown lives in Brighton and writes poetry.

Elinor Gray is a co-founder of the Retired Beekeepers. She graduated in

2015 from Queen Mary University of London with an M.A. in Human Ge-
ography; her thesis considers the representation of nineteenth century wom-
en’s mobility in the Sherlock Holmes adventures. She writes fanfiction and
original fiction and can be found online as “mistyzeo.”

Fyodor Pavlov, a Russian émigré and longtime New Yorker, is a freelance

illustrator, comic artist and smut peddler. Pavlov’s work can be found in Zelda
Magazine, Tor.com, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, G.D. Falksen’s The
Ouroboros Cycle, Queerotica: A Comics Anthology, and more. Fyodor has
been a fan of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson since his grandma first intro-
duced him to the Russian translations of the stories and the Vasilyi Livanov
film adaptations, and hopes to age as gracefully as those two. Find out more
at www.fyodorpavlov.com.

Ili is currently studying set and costume design at a hungarian university. She
is fuelled by dark jazz, hot tea and the secret and desperate glimpses between
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Leading a life of quiet desperation to touch
Martin Freeman’s victorian mustache, she is available at waltzingdetective.
tumblr.com or @slowbees on twitter.

James C. O’Leary is a long-time Sherlockian and the current editor of The

Watsonian, the magazine of the John H. Watson Society. He was born and
currently is still a twentieth-century white American male heterosexual, but
doing the best he can within such limitations.

Katie studies English Literature and French at the University of Sussex, does
a bit of art, and can be said to enjoy the occasional detective story. She can be
found as apidologist on tumblr and twitter.

Liz is an engineer by day and a fan by night. She co-founded GridLOCK

DC, a Sherlock Holmes fan convention in the Washington, DC, area. You can
The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

find her tweeting way too much at @her_nerdiness or at liz@gridlockdc.com.

Maia Kobabe recently graduated from California College of the Arts with
an MFA in Comics. More of Maia’s work can be found online at redgoldsparks.

Quentin Broughall lives in Dublin, where he has recently completed a

Ph.D. on the influence of ancient Rome on Victorian culture. He has a keen
interest in art, architecture, culture and history, as well as all-things Holme-

Smriti “Meow” Prabhat is currently in India and if she ever manages

to leave, you would find her in some old bookshop in London, quite possible
combing through Sherlock Holmes pastiches. She writes bad fanfics and de-
cent fanverses, and for berating her about her work, you can drop her a mes-
sage at watsons.tumblr.com.

Shirley Carlton is a Dutch biologist who runs two johnlock blogs, prettyre-
alisticjohnlockfanart.tumblr.com and prettyamazingjohnlockaus.tumblr.com
and can be found on AO3 under ShirleyCarlton.

Tweedisgood: middle-aged, middle-class, middle of a Sherlock Holmes ob-

session. Tweed is a former historian who went to the same university as Sher-
lock Holmes. Mr Tweed, to whom she tries to be a Watson and who went to
the Other Place, disagrees. Reader, writer, parent, social worker. Not always
in the right order.

Violsva has studied ancient civilizations and literature, and is currently pur-
suing a lifelong love affair with the city of Toronto. She can be found at vi-

The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015


S herlock Holmes called his Practical Handbook of Bee Culture with some Observa-
tions upon the Segregation of the Queen, “the fruit of my leisured ease, the mag-
num opus of my latter years!” We hope to continue to publish this Handbook,
but we can only do it with your help. Submissions are always open, and the
Handbook accepts fanworks of any and all varieties: fiction, non-fiction, meta,
essays, poetry, scripts, radio plays, visual art... anything you could print out
and hand to a fellow Holmes aficionado. Check our website for the theme of
the upcoming issue. The Handbook is in black and white and while we accept
colour submissions, please bear in mind that they will have to be edited to fit
the rest of the content. Also, please keep all submissions under a PG-13 rat-
ing. Exploration of gender and sexuality is encouraged but we can’t publish
graphic sex or violence. If you have any questions about, suggestions for, or
comments on the publication, get in touch! We look forward to hearing from

T he Retired Beekeepers of Sussex are an all-inclusive Sherlock Holmes

enthusiasts’ group and we want to extend an invitation to members of
the LGBTQIA+ community specifically. Our conversations are lively and var-
ied, and we hope you will join us for our next Sunday mid-month meeting! To
find out more information about us, you can join our Facebook group (The
Retired Beekeepers of Sussex), subscribe to our Tumblr (retiredbeekeepers.
tumblr.com), follow us on Twitter (@SussexBees), or email us at retiredbee-

The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

List of Canonical Abbrevations

as reduced by Jay Finley Christ (1947)

ABBE : The Adventure of the Abbey Grange

BERY : The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
BLAC : The Adventure of Black Peter
BLAN : The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier
BLUE : The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
BOSC : The Boscombe Valley Mystery
BRUC : The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans
CARD : The Adventure of the Cardboard Box
CHAS : The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton
COPP : The Adventure of the Copper Beeches
CREE : The Adventure of the Creeping Man
CROO : The Adventure of the Crooked Man
DANC : The Adventure of the Dancing Men
DEVI : The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot
DYIN : The Adventure of the Dying Detective
EMPT : The Adventure of the Empty House
ENGR : The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
FINA : The Adventure of the Final Problem
FIVE : The Five Orange Pips
GLOR : The Adventure of the Gloria Scott
GOLD : The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez
GREE : The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter
HOUN : The Hound of the Baskervilles
IDEN : A Case of Identity
ILLU : The Adventure of the Illustrious Client
LADY : The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax
LAST : His Last Bow
LION : The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane
MAZA : The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone
MISS : The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter
MUSG : The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual
The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture No. 2, Winter 2015

NAVA : The Adventure of the Naval Treaty

NOBL : The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
NORW : The Adventure of the Norwood Builder
PRIO : The Adventure of the Priory School
REDC : The Adventure of the Red Circle
REDH : The Red-Headed League
REIG : The Adventure of the Reigate Squire
RESI : The Adventure of the Resident Patient
RETI : The Adventure of the Retired Colourman
SCAN : A Scandal in Bohemia
SECO : The Adventure of the Second Stain
SHOS : The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place
SIGN : The Sign of Four
SILV : The Adventure of Silver Blaze
SIXN : The Adventure of the Six Napoleons
SOLI : The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist
SPEC : The Adventure of the Speckled Band
STOC : The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk
STUD : A Study in Scarlet
SUSS : The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire
THOR : The Problem of Thor Bridge
3GAB : The Adventure of the Three Gables
3GAR : The Adventure of the Three Garridebs
3STU : The Adventure of the Three Students
TWIS : The Man with the Twisted Lip
VALL : The Valley of Fear
VEIL : The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger
WIST : The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge
YELL : The Adventure of the Yellow Face