The Murder of Mary Russell

The title of the latest memoir from Mary Russell, was when first mentioned, a cause for great alarm from those who (thought) they knew her.

murder_of_mary_russellIt does, for the first time, make public the life story of the woman who probably knew more about my partnership with Holmes than anyone else. Mrs. Hudson has, for many years, kept secret the identity of many of our visitors and the details of many of the cases we had worked on together. Most of us, including me, had no idea about her life before Baker Street and much of what I have written about her is now clearly wrong!

When Russell made me aware of what she intended to make public in this chapter of her memoirs, I knew that she must have obtained Mrs. Hudson’s permission (and that of Holmes too) as it would provide previously undisclosed details of the case I have referred to as The Adventure of the Gloria Scott.

Holmes had related the story of this, his very first case, to me and had agreed that I could have it published. Holmes had asked me to change the name of one of the central characters but I had already sent the manuscript to the publishers and, unaware of its significance, I failed to get it changed. I assumed that my readers would just consider it a coincidence as I had failed to remark on the name in the actual story.

It first appeared in The Strand Magazine in April 1883 and subsequently was one of the stories in the collection The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. At the time of its publication, Holmes was furious that I had left the name of Hudson unchanged (as he had asked me to) but, at the time, I had no idea why he was so insistent about it as he had stated that it was the “merest coincidence” that one of the central characters had the same surname as our landlady.

Two years earlier than the story’s publication, when Holmes was looking for new lodgings and came across Mrs. Hudson, he was aware of the connection but I was never made aware of the connection and it was only much later, as Russell relates in this memoir, that she and eventually I, really understood the connection. When I put the story of His Last Bow to print, I still had no knowledge of Mrs. Hudson’s past, and the role she took in that story.

This memoir of Russell’s opens in 1925 (though readers of the UK edition will find the date misprinted as 1995) with Russell in fear for her life. What leads us to this point is the early life of our landlady, Mrs. Hudson. Therein lies the link to the story of the Gloria Scott and with it Holmes earliest career. As that story unfolds, how we all ended up at 221B Baker Street becomes clear (for the first time to me, too!) and with it how Billy the page boy and Wiggins of The Baker Street Irregulars came to our assistance.

Most of all we learn the important part Mrs. Hudson has played and why, in many ways, it was an act, but one that even fooled “a nervy, limping medical man recently out of the army” when he first came to look at 221B, and for many years after!

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