The Martyrdom of Man

During The Sign of Four, Holmes recommended a book to me, Winwood Reade’s Martyrdom of Man, saying that it was “one of the most remarkable ever penned”.

At the time I was preoccupied, having just met Mary Morstan for the first time, and I remember sitting in the window with the volume in my hand, but my thoughts were far from the daring speculations of the writer.

My mind ran upon Mary’s smiles, the deep, rich tones of her voice, the strange mystery which overhung her life. I mused, until such dangerous thoughts came into my head that I hurried away to my desk and plunged furiously into the latest treatise on pathology. What was I, an Army surgeon with a weak leg and a weaker bank account, that I should dare to think of such things?

I have never given the Winwood Reade’s book another look but here I have a copy of it which you can read if you wish.

Later in that adventure, when we were close on heels of our quarry, Holmes referred to Winwood Reade again saying that “He remarks that, while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty. You can, for example, never foretell what any one man will do, but you can say with precision what an average number will be up to. Individuals vary, but percentages remain constant. So says the statistician.”

I was, and remain, none the wiser.

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