The Adventure of the Resident Patient

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"The Adventure of the Resident Patient"
The Adventure of the Resident Patient 05.jpg
Blessington, Trevelyan, Holmes and Watson, 1893 illustration by Sidney Paget in The Strand Magazine
AuthorArthur Conan Doyle
SeriesThe Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Publication dateAugust 1893

"The Adventure of the Resident Patient", one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is one of 12 stories in the cycle collected as The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. The story was originally published in The Strand Magazine in the United Kingdom and Harper's Weekly in the United States in August 1893.[1]

Doyle ranked "The Adventure of the Resident Patient" eighteenth in a list of his nineteen favourite Sherlock Holmes stories.[2]


Doctor Percy Trevelyan brings Holmes an unusual problem. Having been a brilliant student but a poor man, Dr. Trevelyan has found himself a participant in an unusual business arrangement. A man named Blessington, claiming to have some money to invest, has set Trevelyan up in premises with a prestigious address and paid all his expenses. In return, he demands three-fourths of all the money that the doctor's practice earns, which he collects every evening, going over the books thoroughly and leaving the doctor 5/3d of every guinea (21 shillings or £1 1/- in pre-decimalized currency) from the day's takings. Blessington is himself infirm, it turns out, and likes this arrangement because he can always have a doctor nearby.

Everything has gone fairly well for the doctor since the arrangement began. Now, however, something has happened to Blessington. He has become excitable and agitated, this after he said that he had read about a burglary somewhere in the city.

1893 illustration by W. H. Hyde in Harper's Weekly

Shortly thereafter, the doctor acquired a new patient, a Russian nobleman with cataleptic fits. His grown son brought him in the evening while Blessington was taking his usual walk. The son insisted on waiting out in the waiting room while the doctor saw his father. During the consultation, the patient had a fit, sitting bolt upright and going quite rigid. The doctor rushed for some nitrite of amyl for his patient to inhale, but upon returning, found that both his patient and his son had left.

Surprisingly, the same two men came back the next evening, the son claiming that he had seen his father walk out into the waiting room and assumed the consultation was over. He then had taken his father home, only later realizing that something was not quite right. The doctor had another consultation with the Russian gentleman, and after they had left, Blessington was utterly beside himself. Someone had been in his room. There were footprints to prove it. It could only have been the Russian nobleman's son, but why did he go in there? Nothing had been disturbed or stolen.

At this point in Trevelyan's story, Holmes thinks that it would be wise to go to the doctor's Brook Street practice right away to see for himself what this odd case is all about. He discovers firsthand just how paranoid Blessington has become: he greets Holmes, Watson, and Trevelyan with a gun, but the doctor convinces him that the visitors mean no harm.

Holmes asks Blessington who these men are, and why they want to molest him. Blessington nervously says that he cannot answer the first question, but by way of answering the second question, he says that he keeps all his money in a box in his bedroom, as he does not trust bankers. Holmes knows that it must be more than this. He leaves in disgust, advising Blessington that he can expect no advice if he tries to deceive him.

Shortly after leaving, Holmes outlines to Watson his train of thought. He knows that two men, perhaps more, are out to get Blessington. The catalepsy was faked, just to keep Doctor Trevelyan busy so that he would not notice the other man going into Blessington's room. They did not wish to steal anything, as can be seen in their failure to rummage around in the room. They chose an appointment in the evening knowing that there would be no other patients in the waiting room. Holmes also knows just looking at Blessington that he is afraid for his own life, and deduces that he must therefore know who is after him, for no man could have such enemies without knowing about it. Also, it was only by chance that Blessington was not in both times that these two men came; they were obviously not familiar with Blessington's personal habits.

The next morning brings news that Blessington has hanged himself. Trevelyan's brougham is sent to 221B Baker Street to bring Holmes to the scene. When Holmes and Watson arrive, Blessington's body is still hanging from a hook in his bedroom ceiling. Inspector Lanner is there. He believes that it is a suicide, but Holmes soon deduces otherwise. Discarded cigar butts and other clues tell him that three other men were there, and for a while. They were let into the premises by a confederate inside, as the door was still barred in the morning. Suspicion falls on the new page, who has vanished.

It seems obvious to Holmes that the men came to "try" Blessington, and reached a verdict of guilty, and a sentence of death, which they then proceeded to carry out.

A little digging at police headquarters brings up the rest of the truth. All four of the men were once members of a criminal gang that robbed banks. Blessington's real name was Sutton, and the other three, two of whom played the Russians, were Biddle, Hayward, and Moffat. After robbing the Worthington Bank of £7,000 in 1875, Blessington (or Sutton) had turned informer, and as a result, another gang member, Cartwright, had been hanged for murdering the caretaker, and the others had each been given 15 years in prison. Blessington's "paranoia" was indeed a very real fear, caused by news of their early release, not by some burglary, as he claimed. The murderers chose hanging as their form of execution to avenge Cartwright.

Eventually, the page turns up, but the case against him falls apart for lack of evidence. As for the other three, they are never heard from again, and it is believed that they perished in the wreck of the Norah Creina off Portugal.

Publication history[edit]

"The Adventure of the Resident Patient" was published in the UK in The Strand Magazine in August 1893, and in the US in Harper's Weekly on 12 August 1893. It was also published in the US edition of The Strand Magazine in September 1893.[1] The story was published with seven illustrations by Sidney Paget in the Strand,[3] and with two illustrations by W. H. Hyde in Harper's Weekly.[4] It was included in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes,[3] which was published in December 1893 in the UK and February 1894 in the US.[5]

In many editions, the story starts with the Holmes "mind-reading" scene from "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box", which was added to this story after Doyle decided the latter story should not be included in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.[1]


Film and television[edit]

The story was adapted as a 1921 silent short film as part of the Stoll film series. It starred Eille Norwood as Holmes and Hubert Willis as Watson, and featured Judd Green as Blessington.[6]

In the 1985 Granada television adaptation starring Jeremy Brett, the episode presents Watson attempting to apply Holmes' methods to uncover his friend's current state but largely failing, although Holmes does admit that "there is an element of truth in what you say". This scene is very much in the manner of the Doyle-penned parody "How Watson Learned the Trick", which also features Watson making incorrect conclusions about Holmes. Near the end of the episode, Watson initially intends to entitle his memoir of the case "The Brook Street Mystery", but Holmes recommends the title "The Resident Patient". During the credits, Watson wrestles with variations of the suggestion before settling on "The Resident Patient".

The ninth episode of Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century, a sci-fi reimagining of some of Doyle's stories in which Holmes is brought back to life to combat a clone of Moriarty, is based on this story with significant changes. Blessington is a plastic surgeon who was coerced by Moriarty's henchman Martin Fenwick and some goons into using his experimental technology of molding one's face to another, as well as masking the subject's DNA for a short time before the effects wear off. Blessington survives this version.


Edith Meiser adapted the story as an episode of the American radio series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes which aired on 12 January 1931, with Richard Gordon as Sherlock Holmes and Leigh Lovell as Dr. Watson.[7] A remake of the script was broadcast on 14 March 1936 (with Gordon as Holmes and Harry West as Watson).[8]

Edith Meiser also adapted the story as an episode of the American radio series The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, with Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Watson, that was broadcast on 23 February 1941.[9]

Michael Hardwick dramatised the story as a BBC Light Programme radio adaptation that aired in 1961, as part of the 1952–1969 radio series starring Carleton Hobbs as Holmes and Norman Shelley as Watson, with Hamilton Dyce as Trevelyan.[10]

"The Resident Patient" was dramatised for BBC Radio 4 in 1992 by Peter Ling as part of the 1989–1998 radio series starring Clive Merrison as Holmes and Michael Williams as Watson. It featured Robert Lang as Blessington, Adjoa Andoh as Maria, and David Kossoff as Count Orlovsky.[11]

The story was adapted as an episode of The Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a series on the American radio show Imagination Theatre, starring John Patrick Lowrie as Holmes and Lawrence Albert as Watson. The episode aired in 2009.[12]


  1. ^ a b c Smith (2014), p. 97.
  2. ^ Trivia on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Favorite Sherlock Holmes Stories | Trivia Library
  3. ^ a b Cawthorne (2011), p. 86.
  4. ^ "Harper's Weekly. v.37 June-Dec.1893". HathiTrust Digital Library. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  5. ^ Cawthorne (2011), p. 75.
  6. ^ Eyles, Alan (1986). Sherlock Holmes: A Centenary Celebration. Harper & Row. p. 131. ISBN 0-06-015620-1.
  7. ^ Dickerson (2019), p. 27.
  8. ^ Dickerson (2019), p. 73.
  9. ^ Dickerson (2019), p. 97.
  10. ^ De Waal, Ronald Burt (1974). The World Bibliography of Sherlock Holmes. Bramhall House. p. 388. ISBN 0-517-217597.
  11. ^ Bert Coules. "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes". The BBC complete audio Sherlock Holmes. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  12. ^ Wright, Stewart (30 April 2019). "The Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Broadcast Log" (PDF). Old-Time Radio. Retrieved 17 June 2020.

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