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25 April, 2018

Percy’s obscure nervous lessons: The Adventure of the Sad End of a Misunderstood Visionary Figure

During the school holidays, many families visit the famous English Safari Parks, based in old family estates, for example the Duke of Bedford’s estate at Woburn Abbey or Lord Bath’s estate at Longleat.  It is acknowledged that the landowners make money from the entry price but they are also usually regarded as benefactors; looking after the animals in more natural conditions than a zoo and educating us in the ways of exotic creatures.

Why then is Dr. Grimesby Roylott vilified for being a pathfinder for these worthy modern enterprises? Surely the Doctor is much misunderstood? “He has a passion also for Indian animals, which are sent over to him by a correspondent, and he has at this moment a cheetah and a baboon, which wander freely over his grounds.” An admirable passion betokening a trailblazing zoologist.  The fact that these poor animals “…were feared by the villagers…” is surely just a reflection of the ignorance and narrow mindedness of the villagers who did not realise what a visionary they had in their midst and preferred to support other local worthies who presumably graced their walls with animal heads, as trophies of their hunting prowess. It is not that surprising that Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson had similar attitudes to those of the ignorant villagers; after all, in another tale, we are told that their sitting room was carpeted with a bearskin hearthrug. Perhaps also the local blacksmith, hurled over a parapet into a stream, had imprudently suggested to Dr. Grimesby Roylott he could provide the poor creatures with chains. Who but a kind man would leave milk out for the house snake?

He clearly was a principled man prepared to stand out against bigotry, witness his treatment of the gipsies, whom he befriended...

He had no friends at all save the wandering gypsies and he would give these vagabonds leave to encamp upon the few acres of bramble-covered land which represent the family estate, and would accept in return the hospitality of their tents, wandering away with them sometimes for weeks on end.”

Yet his kindness to the gipsies is viewed with deep suspicion by his stepdaughters and the interfering Scotland Yard Jack-in-office. These parties seem to have overlooked that the kindly Doctor took his stepdaughters to live with him, in his old ancestral home at Stoke Moran.  Although they lived modestly, the Doctor was attentive in ensuring that the house was well maintained and regularly renovated.

The good Doctor’s distaste for private investigators was perfectly understandable, as was his dislike of the fact that Mr. Holmes is clearly a snitch for Scotland Yard. Nonetheless, he entertained the detective and the Doctor with his new technique for modelling metalwork.

It really doesn't take a great deal of effort to see things from a different perspective and given that Sherlock Holmes admits,

“…I am no doubt indirectly responsible for Dr. Grimesby Roylott’s death, and I cannot say that it is likely to weigh very heavily upon my conscience.”

it is not surprisingly that an attempt was made after these unfortunate events to blacken the good Doctor's name.