The Man with the Twisted Lip
|"The Man with the Twisted Lip"|
1891 illustration by Sidney Paget
|Author||Arthur Conan Doyle|
|Series||The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes|
"The Man with the Twisted Lip", one of the 56 short Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is the sixth of the twelve stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The story was first published in the Strand Magazine in December 1891. Doyle ranked "The Man with the Twisted Lip'' sixteenth in a list of his nineteen favourite Sherlock Holmes stories.
Late at night, Kate Whitney, a friend of Dr. Watson's wife, calls on them. Her husband, Isa, has been absent for several days. Frantic with worry, she begs Dr. Watson to fetch him home from the opium den where he goes. Watson does this; but he also finds his friend Sherlock Holmes in the den, disguised as an old man, seeking for clues among the habitués of the place.
The case involves Mr. Neville St. Clair, a prosperous, respectable, punctual man, who is missing. His family's home is in the country, but he visits London every day on business. One day when Mr. St. Clair was in London, Mrs. St. Clair also went to London separately. She happened to pass down Upper Swandam Lane, a "vile alley" near the London docks, where the opium den is. Glancing up, she saw her husband at a second-floor window of the opium den. He vanished from the window immediately, and Mrs. St. Clair was sure that there was something wrong.
She tried to enter the building; but her way was blocked by the opium den's owner, a lascar. She fetched the police, but they did not find Mr. St. Clair. The room behind the window was the lair of a dirty, disfigured beggar, known to the police as Hugh Boone. The police were about to put her story down as a mistake of some kind when Mrs. St. Clair noticed a box of wooden toy bricks that her husband said he would buy for their son. A further search turned up some of St. Clair's clothes. Later, his coat, with the pockets stuffed with hundreds of pennies and halfpennies, was found on the bank of the River Thames, just below the building's back window.
Hugh Boone was arrested at once, but would say nothing, except to deny any knowledge of St. Clair. He also resisted any attempt to make him wash. Holmes was initially quite convinced that St. Clair had been murdered, and that Boone was involved. Thus his investigation of the den in disguise. He and Watson return to St. Clair's home, to a surprise. It is several days after the disappearance; but that day Mrs. St. Clair had received a letter from her husband in his own handwriting, with his wedding ring enclosed, telling her not to worry. This forces Holmes to reconsider his conclusions, leading him eventually to an extraordinary solution.
Holmes and Watson go the police station where Hugh Boone is held; Holmes brings a bath sponge in a Gladstone bag. Finding Boone asleep, Holmes washes the sleeping Boone's dirty face—revealing Neville St. Clair.
Mr. St. Clair has been leading a double life, as a respectable businessman, and as a professional beggar. In his youth, he had been an actor before becoming a newspaper reporter. In order to research an article, he had disguised himself as a beggar for a short time, and collected a surprising amount of money. Later, he was saddled with a large debt, and returned to the street to beg for several days to pay it off. His newspaper salary was meagre and, tempted by the much larger returns of begging, he eventually became a professional beggar. His takings were large enough that he was able to establish himself as a country gentleman, marry well, and begin a respectable family. His wife and children never knew what he did for a living, and when arrested, he feared exposure more than prison or the gallows. But there is no murder, so he is released, and Holmes and the police agree to keep Mr. St. Clair's secret as long as no more is heard of Hugh Boone.
Points of interest
The ability of St. Clair to earn a good living begging is considered by some to be an unlikely event, but others disagree.
The morning the mystery is solved Watson awakes about 4:25 a.m., yet the summer sun is said to shine brightly already.
In one in-universe point of interest, Watson's wife Mary calls him by the name "James" despite his established first name being "John". This led Dorothy L. Sayers to speculates that Mary may be using his middle name Hamish (an Anglicisation of "Sheumais", the vocative form of "Seumas", the Scottish Gaelic for James), though Doyle himself never addresses this beyond including the initial.
In 1951, Rudolph Cartier produced an adaptation entitled The Man Who Disappeared. This adaptation was a pilot for a proposed television series starring John Longden as Holmes and Campbell Singer as Watson.
In 1964, the story was adapted into an episode of the BBC series Sherlock Holmes starring Douglas Wilmer and Nigel Stock, with Peter Madden as Inspector Lestrade and Anton Rodgers as Neville St Clair. The adaptation developed St Clair's attributed ability at repartee by showing him quoting from the classics, including Shakespeare.
"The Man with the Twisted Lip" was dramatised for BBC Radio 4 in 1990 as part of Bert Coules' complete radio adaptation of the canon, starring Clive Merrison as Holmes and Michael Williams as Watson.
- Arthur Pember, a real-life 19th-century journalist who published stories based on disguising himself as a beggar
- Trivia on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Favorite Sherlock Holmes Stories | Trivia Library
- "How much money do beggars make?". Retrieved 16 January 2009.
- Dorothy L. Sayers, "Dr Watson's Christian Name", in Unpopular Opinions (London: Victor Gollancz, 1946), 148–151.
- "SilentEra: PSFL: The Man with the Twisted Lip (1921)". Archived from the original on 5 July 2008. Retrieved 5 October 2007.
- "Maurice Elvey". IMDb. Retrieved 5 October 2007.
- "Cartier, Rudolph (1904–94) — Film & TV credits". Screenonline. Retrieved 24 February 2007.
- "The Man Who Disappeared (Failed Pilot) (1951)". Internet Archive. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
- "Plater, Alan (1935–) — Film & TV credits". Screenonline. Retrieved 24 February 2007.
- Bert Coules. "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes". The BBC complete audio Sherlock Holmes. Retrieved 12 December 2016.