Walt Whitman, S. L. Q.


3 Cases Solved by Sherlock Holmes

In the 1850s, young Sherlock Holmes is a brilliant, if quirky, medicinal chemist at St. Bart’s who begins to collaborate with Police Commissioner Mayne on analyzing evidence at crime scenes. His half-sister, Agatha, introduces Holmes to her employer, John Watson, M. D. Watson gradually becomes an ally after Holmes leaves St. Bart’s to become a consulting detective. Disturbed by changes in his routine, the potential loss of his half-sister Agatha to her American dream rattles and depresses Sherlock Holmes.

Agatha Holmes — black sheep of the family — is an accomplished sculptress, and a free spirit. After the death of Holmes Senior, she must earn her living by assisting the research of Dr. John Watson, who is pioneering facial reconstruction using skulls. As their professional relationship gives way to a love affair, Watson invests in her creative career as a sculptress, enabling her to study in Rome under England’s greatest sculptor, John Gibson. Soon, however, Watson’s staid, conventional, and micromanaging ways drive them apart, and Agatha sets her sights on further training in the New York studio of Henry Kirke Brown. After rescuing the prim, conservative Watson’s copy of Leaves of Grass from destruction, she falls as deeply under the book’s spell. Like the historical figure of Anne Gilchrist, this obsession blooms into a tragic love for the author himself — Walt Whitman.

Dr. John Watson is introduced to the Holmes brothers through his relationship with Agatha. He initially turns to Sherlock Holmes, a chemist at St. Bart’s, to synthesize the nitrate of silver he is experimenting with. When Holmes leaves St. Bart’s to work with the Metropolitan Police, and next, with private clients, Holmes consults in medical matters relating to his cases. Watson is already involved with Holmes when the Ratcliffe Serpent begins to terrorize London’s Sailortown. When Holmes chases the Serpent to New York, he encourages Watson to further his research at New York Hospital. This enables Watson to assist with Holmes’s American adventures, and although he’s in denial about it, his reunion with Agatha holds hope that someday he may win her heart.

The prequel Kelson of the Creation introduces Walt Whitman in the years shortly before the arrival of Agatha, Sherlock, and John. That book, inspired by actual events, reveals the genesis of Leaves of Grass, and features Walt's most important but most mysterious lover — Fred Vaughan. Walt reveals the Ratcliffe Serpent's first victim — Walt's brother, Jesse, injured by the Serpent's brass knuckles and rendered insane. After The Case of the Ratcliffe Serpent, Holmes and Watson pursue The Case of the Senator’s Will and Whitman helps them understand the sordid volunteer-fireman society that was New York's path to political power. In The Case of the Death Mask, Walt finally reveals why there was such a drive to preserve a death mask of the great Quaker theologian, and friend of the Whitmans, Elias Hicks. In all three instances, the mysteries cannot be resolved until Holmes penetrates deep into the secret workings of Walt Whitman’s great seaport.