I feel that sufficient time has passed since Geoff pointed out the interesting Mormon bits in the first Sherlock Holmes tale, A Study in Scarlet (interestingly, the first time I ever read that story, it was in an abridged version that cut out the Mormon bits. I didn’t find out about the Mormon chapters until college). Anyway, There is one other Sherlock Holmes tale featuring Mormons.
Except that there’s no Sherlock Holmes (but Watson is there). And it’s the same tale (sort of). Read on to find out more:
After A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle still wasn’t aware of how popular Holmes would become. He also wrote for the stage, and like any good writer, he stole from himself – and thus he wrote a stage play called “The Angels of Darkness.” This basic plot of the play (which went unpublished until 2001, as Doyle set it aside once he realized that there was something more to this Holmes character than a single novel) follows the Mormon chapters in A Study in Scarlet and few of the plot points from the rest of the book, though the entire setting is America and Sherlock Holmes never appears.
It’s clearly a product of its times. One character, Splayfoot Dick, is a “negro” who embodies many of the stereotypes of the era (a pidgin-ish dialect and laziness being the most prominent). The Asian character Ling-tchu doesn’t fare much better; the play starts with a “comic scene” featuring both characters arguing (and the comedy apparently comes from the fact they speak with non-standard dialects).
Watson doesn’t appear until the third act, and then mostly to create some romantic tension. In this play, he is in love with Lucy. However, Lucy’s (believed to have died a year earlier) lover Jefferson Hope arrives at her home, near dead after having killed one of the Danites. Watson must decide whether to treat the man Lucy loves, or let him die. Of course, Watson does the right thing, but Mr. Hope is killed by one of the remaining Danites (who is then shot in the back by a character named Smee). Dr. Watson comforts Lucy in the bloody aftermath (the final line of the play is Watson calling Lucy an “angel of light” after another character refers to the Danites as “angels of darkness.”)
The edition of this I have (in The Apocrypha of Sherlock Holmes, edited by Leslie S. Klinger) contains a photo with the following caption: “Dr. Watson (Curtis Armstrong, left), Jefferson Hope, Elias Fortescue Smee, and Lucy Ferrier (The Danite Players) in the premiere performance of Angels of Darkness August 30, 2008, Salt Lake City.” If anyone saw this or has information (or better yet – a video!) let me know. (All I can find online is a brief reference in this pdf file).
I came across this information because I am writing a chapter on canon and apocrypha in the stories of Sherlock Holmes for Open Court’s Sherlock Holmes and Philosophy (coming out sometime later this year). It’s surprising how many Holmes stories, written by Doyle, exist that aren’t in any editions of the complete works. (But that’s a separate issue and will be dealt with in my essay).