What If Sir Walter Raleigh Had Been Made To Carry A Government Health Warning?
Without Sir Walter Raleigh popularizing tobacco, the likes of Sherlock Holmes would be setting fire to empty wooden vessels protruding from their mouths and the compulsion to ignite objects in their environs might not have stopped there.
The fictional master detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would surely, in keeping with his unmatched intellect (one of the few items that would remain untouched by lighted match), seek to ignite fires in deviant manners befitting the worst excesses of the criminal fraternity he usually sought to expose by becoming a serial arsonist.
Testimony is here supplied via this extract from the very first Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet this, of course, in a world where Sir Walter Raleigh had done his biz as we currently know it:
Sherlock Holmes seemed delighted at the idea of sharing his rooms with me. ‘I have my eye on a suite in Baker Street,’ he said, ‘which would suit us down to the ground. You don’t mind the smell of strong tobacco, I hope?’
‘I always smoke ship’s myself,’ I answered.
‘That’s good enough.’
Extract from A Study in Scarlet 1887, by Arthur Conan Doyle.
In a tobaccoless world due to Sir Walter Raleigh having had to have carried a Government Health Warning around, the only way any sense could be made of the same exchange is by making a couple of tweaks so it appears thus:
Sherlock Holmes seemed delighted at the idea of sharing his rooms with me. ‘I have my eye on a suite in Baker Street,’ he said, ‘which I intend to burn down to the ground. You don’t mind the smell of dense smoke, I hope?’
‘I always set fire to ships myself,’ I answered.
‘That’s wood enough.’
Quite a departure from the super intellectual sleuth of the late-Victorian era, and it’s doubtful that this incarnation would’ve caught on with the reading public in quite the manner that thearsonist smooth master analytical deduction merchant we associate as Sherlock Holmes did. A Study in Scarlet would’ve proved an appropriate debut story title for the serial arsonist, making it crystal clear that his study would be licked by consuming red flames by the conclusion of the narrative.
Similarly, a whole host of Sherlock Holmes stories would have needed just a slight adjustment to transform them into a must have collection for pyromaniacs, as the following titles illustrate:
- A Candle in Bohemia (1891)
- The Flame Headed League (1891)
- The Man With The Tinderwood Lit (1891)
- The Adventure of the Spark Led Band (1892)
- The Adventure of a Summer Blaze (1892)
- The Hound of the Blasted Fires (1902)
- The Adventure of the Pyre Fee School (1904)
- The Adventure of the Devil’s Soot (1910)
- The Valley of Flare (1915)
- The Adventure of the Sussex Camp Fire (1924)
Of course, Holmes’ nemesis in all these adventures would no longer be the international super criminal Moriarty, but a Fire Prevention Officer from Camberwell called Fred Smith.