Books Quiz

Fictional Characters - Dr. John H. Watson

Watson’s background is important to the Sherlock Holmes stories. After Army medical training at Netley, Watson became an Assistant Surgeon attached to the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers in India. By the time he landed at Bombay, the regiment had moved on to take part in the Second Anglo-Afghan War. Watson was packed off to join them at Kandahar and afterwards became attached to the Berkshires. He accompanied the Berkshires into the chaos of the Battle of Maiwand (which took place in real life, in July 1880) where he was badly wounded by a bullet from a jezail long arm rifle. He was obliged to leave the army and return to England on the troopship Orontes.

The writer of this quiz, Tim Symonds, is the author of five Sherlock Holmes novels including ‘Sherlock Holmes And The Mystery of Einstein’s Daughter’ based on an as-yet unsolved riddle in the famous physicist’s life - what did happen to his illegitimate daughter ‘Lieserl’? As the American scientist Frederic Golden put it in Time Magazine, ‘Lieserl’s fate shadows the Einstein legend like some unsolved equation’. Find out more by visiting Tim's website.

Tim Symonds has published five full-length Sherlock Holmes novels including ‘Sherlock Holmes And The Sword Of Osman’ and most recently ‘Sherlock Holmes And The Nine-Dragon Sigil’. Further information on the novels at Tim's website.

‘Sherlock Holmes And The Sword Of Osman’

‘It's 1906. Far from England, the Ottoman Empire ruled by the despotic Sultan Abd-ul-Hamid 11 is on the verge of imploding. Rival Great Powers, especially Kaiser Wilhelm's Germany, sit watching like crows on a fence, ready to rush in to carve up the vast territories, menacing England's vital overland routes to her Indian possessions. At his medical practice in London's Marylebone Watson receives a mystifying telegram. It's from Holmes.

'Dear Watson, if you can throw physic to the dogs for an hour or two I would appreciate meeting at the stone cross at Charing Cross railway station tomorrow noon. I have an assignation with a bird lover at the Stork & Ostrich House in the Regents Park which has excited my curiosity. Yrs. S.H.'

Watson finds the invitation puzzling. Why should such a mundane meeting at a Bird House excite the curiosity of Europe's most famous investigating detective or anyone else?’
1. The unassuming name ‘John H. Watson’ was not the one Arthur Conan Doyle originally envisaged. Watson had another name entirely. What was Holmes’s biographer first going to be called?
[ ] John Rance
[ ] Ormond Sacker
[ ] John Ferrier
[ ] G. Lestrade
2. Dr. Watson’s middle initial is ‘H’. What does the H stand for?
[ ] Hamish
[ ] Harry
[ ] Hartley
[ ] Nobody knows
3. In ‘The Sign Of Four’ Watson reveals he spent some of his boyhood in a town in a faraway country before returning to school in England. Where was that?
[ ] Ballarat, Australia
[ ] Pondicherry, India
[ ] Salt Lake City, USA
[ ] Johannesburg, South Africa
4. How did Watson and Holmes first meet?
[ ] Both played for Blackheath Rugby Club
[ ] Both were members of the Junior Naval and Military Club
[ ] Both were members of The Savage Club
[ ] They were introduced by a surgical dresser by the name of Stamford
5. Where did this historic encounter between Watson and Holmes take place?
[ ] In a Chemical laboratory at St. Bartholomew's Hospital
[ ] The Criterion Bar, Piccadilly
[ ] Madame Tussaud’s
[ ] Henley Regatta
6. Watson is introduced to Sherlock Homes in ‘A Study In Scarlet’. They shake hands. Holmes asks “How are you?” followed to Watson’s great astonishment with “You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive”. Holmes was correct but why did he make this deduction?
[ ] Watson wore the tunic badge of the Berkshires who fought in Afghanistan
[ ] Watson’s military bearing, skin burnt nut-brown, and damaged arm
[ ] Watson spoke some words of Pashto to a passing orderly
[ ] Watson had an unusual oriental tattoo on his right wrist
7. Early on, Watson discovered Holmes’s ignorance ‘was as remarkable as his knowledge’. Watson compiled an assessment of his new friend’s strengths and weaknesses. Of the following, which knowledge of the subject did Watson describe as ‘profound’ (i.e. first-rate)?
[ ] Knowledge of Chemistry
[ ] Knowledge of Literature
[ ] Knowledge of Astronomy
[ ] Knowledge of Politics
8. In 1881 Holmes invited Watson to join him in an investigation for the very first time. What title did Watson give this case?
[ ] The Musgrave Ritual
[ ] A Study In Scarlet
[ ] The Reigate Squires
[ ] The Yellow Face
9. In ‘The Valley of Fear’, Holmes slyly compliments Watson on his sense of humour, as follows: “You are developing a certain unexpected vein of _____ humour, Watson, against which I must learn to guard myself.”

Which adjective did Holmes use to describe Watson’s particular type of humour?
[ ] Pawky
[ ] Morbid
[ ] Juvenile
[ ] Slapstick
10. In ‘The Adventure Of The Empty House’ Watson faints away for the first and last time in his life. Was it because...
[ ] Holmes reappears from the dead
[ ] Watson’s deceased wife Mary Morstan reappears from the dead
[ ] ‘The Napoleon of Crime’, Professor Moriarty, reappears from the dead
[ ] The woman’, Irene Adler, reappears from the dead
Books Quiz
Fictional Characters - Dr. John H. Watson
1. The unassuming name ‘John H. Watson’ was not the one Arthur Conan Doyle originally envisaged. Watson had another name entirely. What was Holmes’s biographer first going to be called?
[ ] John Rance
[x] Ormond Sacker
[ ] John Ferrier
[ ] G. Lestrade
Doyle wrote the story in six weeks between March and April 1886. The working title was ‘A Tangled Skein’. Very soon ‘Ormond Sacker’ became John H. Watson. Doyle must have realised that Watson’s everyman status was better served by a more ordinary name and changed it. Holmes’s first first-name underwent a change too, from Sherrinford to Sherlock
2. Dr. Watson’s middle initial is ‘H’. What does the H stand for?
[ ] Hamish
[ ] Harry
[ ] Hartley
[x] Nobody knows
The famous fiction writer Dorothy L. Sayers speculated the ‘H’ might be Hamish because of possible Scottish ancestry. Surprisingly it was never spelt out by Conan Doyle, just as Inspector G. Lestrade’s first name is not. Even the ‘John’ of Dr. John H. Watson is mentioned on only four occasions
3. In ‘The Sign Of Four’ Watson reveals he spent some of his boyhood in a town in a faraway country before returning to school in England. Where was that?
[x] Ballarat, Australia
[ ] Pondicherry, India
[ ] Salt Lake City, USA
[ ] Johannesburg, South Africa
Located on the Yarrowee River in the Grampians region of Victoria, Australia. As he wrote in ‘The Sign Of Four’, he stood hand-in-hand with Miss Mary Morstan, his wife-to-be, in the grounds of Pondicherry Lodge, 'like two children'. His childhood came back to him. ‘I have,’ he remarked, ‘seen something of the sort on the side of a hill near Ballarat, where the prospectors had been at work'
4. How did Watson and Holmes first meet?
[ ] Both played for Blackheath Rugby Club
[ ] Both were members of the Junior Naval and Military Club
[ ] Both were members of The Savage Club
[x] They were introduced by a surgical dresser by the name of Stamford
Regarding the real but short-lived Junior Naval & Military Club, there is no indication Holmes ever served in the Army or Navy and he would therefore not be eligible for membership in any of the famous London clubs with military connections
5. Where did this historic encounter between Watson and Holmes take place?
[x] In a Chemical laboratory at St. Bartholomew's Hospital
[ ] The Criterion Bar, Piccadilly
[ ] Madame Tussaud’s
[ ] Henley Regatta
Taken there by his former surgical dresser Stamford, Watson finds Holmes experimenting with a reagent, seeking a test to detect human haemoglobin. Holmes explains the significance of bloodstains as evidence in criminal trials.

Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts consider this meeting an event in fiction as momentous as the real-life encounter ten years earlier between the explorer Henry M. Stanley and the famed missionary Dr. David Livingstone in the middle of Africa
6. Watson is introduced to Sherlock Homes in ‘A Study In Scarlet’. They shake hands. Holmes asks “How are you?” followed to Watson’s great astonishment with “You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive”. Holmes was correct but why did he make this deduction?
[ ] Watson wore the tunic badge of the Berkshires who fought in Afghanistan
[x] Watson’s military bearing, skin burnt nut-brown, and damaged arm
[ ] Watson spoke some words of Pashto to a passing orderly
[ ] Watson had an unusual oriental tattoo on his right wrist
Later, Holmes explains: "I knew you came from Afghanistan. From long habit the train of thoughts ran so swiftly through my mind that I arrived at the conclusion without being conscious of intermediate steps. There were such steps, however. The train of reasoning ran: ‘Here is a gentleman of a medical type, but with the air of a military man. Clearly an army doctor then. He has just come from the tropics, for his face is dark, and that is not the natural tint of his skin, for his wrists are fair. He has undergone hardships and sickness, as his haggard face says clearly. His left arm has been injured. He holds it in a stiff and unnatural manner. Where in the tropics could an English army doctor have seen much hardship and got his arm wounded? Clearly in Afghanistan’.”

Tattoos are mentioned elsewhere in Watson’s chronicles but they didn’t become a practice in Afghanistan until the US-led NATO intervention in 2001
7. Early on, Watson discovered Holmes’s ignorance ‘was as remarkable as his knowledge’. Watson compiled an assessment of his new friend’s strengths and weaknesses. Of the following, which knowledge of the subject did Watson describe as ‘profound’ (i.e. first-rate)?
[x] Knowledge of Chemistry
[ ] Knowledge of Literature
[ ] Knowledge of Astronomy
[ ] Knowledge of Politics
Watson listed Holmes’s Knowledge of both Literature and Astronomy as ‘Nil’ and Knowledge of Politics as ‘Feeble’.

In October 2002, Britain’s eminent Royal Society of Chemistry bestowed an Extraordinary Honorary Fellowship upon Sherlock Holmes as the first detective to exploit chemical science as a means of detection
8. In 1881 Holmes invited Watson to join him in an investigation for the very first time. What title did Watson give this case?
[ ] The Musgrave Ritual
[x] A Study In Scarlet
[ ] The Reigate Squires
[ ] The Yellow Face
Watson and Holmes have taken rooms at 221B, Baker Street. Holmes receives a telegram requesting consultation in a fresh murder case. He is reluctant to help because credit would go entirely to the officials. Fatefully, Watson urges him to reconsider. Holmes does so, and invites Watson to accompany him to the scene of the crime, an abandoned house off the Brixton Road. And so the world-famous partnership began.

‘A Study in Scarlet’ was the first work of detective fiction to incorporate the magnifying glass as an investigative tool
9. In ‘The Valley of Fear’, Holmes slyly compliments Watson on his sense of humour, as follows: “You are developing a certain unexpected vein of _____ humour, Watson, against which I must learn to guard myself.”

Which adjective did Holmes use to describe Watson’s particular type of humour?
[x] Pawky
[ ] Morbid
[ ] Juvenile
[ ] Slapstick
Having or showing a sardonic sense of humour. A Scottish and Northern English term Arthur Conan Doyle would have known well from his own Scottish upbringing. In context Holmes may have used the term in the sense of ‘sly’ or ‘artful’
10. In ‘The Adventure Of The Empty House’ Watson faints away for the first and last time in his life. Was it because...
[x] Holmes reappears from the dead
[ ] Watson’s deceased wife Mary Morstan reappears from the dead
[ ] ‘The Napoleon of Crime’, Professor Moriarty, reappears from the dead
[ ] The woman’, Irene Adler, reappears from the dead
The mortal struggle with arch-foe Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls in ‘The Final Problem’ had not led to the Consulting Detective’s demise after all. Although Conan Doyle wanted to rid himself of his famous creation and turn to other literature, he came under more and more pressure to revive him (not least from his money-conscious mother), which he did in ‘The Empty House’, proposing that Holmes had decided to travel incognito to exotic places over a three-year ‘great hiatus’.

Watson writes, ‘I had not been in my study five minutes when the maid entered to say that a person desired to see me. To my astonishment it was none other than the strange old book-collector, his sharp, wizened face peering out from a frame of white hair, and his precious volumes, a dozen of them at least, wedged under his right arm. “You’re surprised to see me, sir,” said he, in a strange, croaking voice. I acknowledged that I was.’

Thinking Holmes long since dead, Watson has no idea whatsoever it’s his old comrade-in-arms in disguise. Watson continued, ‘When I turned again Sherlock Holmes was standing smiling at me across my study table. I rose to my feet, stared at him for some seconds in utter amazement, and then it appears that I must have fainted for the first and the last time in my life.’