On Monday, May 4, 1891, Mr. Sherlock Holmes
and his archenemy, Professor James Moriarty, fought a terrible battle atop
the magnificent Reichenbach Falls in Meiringen, Switzerland. Holmes, the worlds
foremost private consulting detective and a master of baritsu (the
Japanese system of wrestling), emerged victorious, and Moriarty fell, screaming
horribly, to his death.
Several weeks earlier, in the detectives rooms in Baker Street, not
far from Londons Marble Arch, Moriarty had warned his adversary: "You
hope to beat me. I tell you that you will never beat me."
But Sherlock Holmes walked away from the Reichenbach Falls on May 4, while
James Moriarty lay crushed and lifeless in the torrent of foaming water below.
It seemed as though the Professor had, for once, been proven wrong.
Or had he?
In 1939, almost half a century later, British poet T.S. Eliot published a
light-hearted collection of verse titled Old Possums Book of Practical
Cats. In one of the volumes many poems, "Macavity: the Mystery
Cat," Eliot at last revealed the astonishing, incredible truth: far from
having been beaten by Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarty had returned to
resume their duel.
Moriarty come back from the dead?
Indeed. But not in the form of an aging university don.
No, James Moriarty had been reincarnated as a cat!
Those interested in the full details, in the indisputable and incontrovertible
array of proofs backing up Eliots amazing claim, will have to await
the appearance of my forthcoming book, Five Famous Feline Felons, to
be published next fall by Pockat Books. But at the insistence of Director
P. Schreuders, I have agreed to make a brief summary of the principal indications
available for the readers of the Poezenkrant.
Consider, first, the physical aspects.
T.S. Eliots description of the mystery cat reads as follows:
Macavitys a ginger cat, hes very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly domed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think hes half asleep, hes always wide awake.
Now, compare that picture with Sherlock Holmes own description of Professor
James Moriarty, as chronicled in "The Final Problem" by Sir Arthur
Conan Doyle: "He is extremely tall and thin, his forehead domes out in
a white curve, and his two eyes are deeply sunken in his head (
face protrudes forward and is forever slowly oscillating from side to side
in a curiously reptilian fashion."
Some readers may, at this point, already be convinced. But, for the more skeptical,
"I shall keep piling fact upon fact upon you, until your reason breaks
down under them and acknowledges me to be right," as Holmes himself put
it during "The Adventure of the Red-Headed
According to Eliots report on the activities of Macavity:
they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napolean of Crime."
Now listen to Sherlock Holmes comments on Moriarty, again with "The
Final Problem" as the source: "He does little himself. He only plans.
But his agents are numerous and splendidly organized. (
) He is the Napoleon
of Crime, Watson!"
"Mungojerrie" and "Griddlebone" are, of course, only the
aliases which Eliot used to conceal the true identities of two of the most
heinous of Macavity/Moriartys henchmen.
"Mungojerrie" was in fact Colonel Sebastian Moran, "the second
most dangerous man in London" after Moriarty himself. When Eliot, earlier
in his poem, mentions that "Hes outwardly respectable. (They say
he cheats at cards.)," it is actually Moran and not Moriarty to whom
he refers. The Colonel "lived by his ill-gotten card gains," said
Holmes in "The Adventure of the Empty House," and murdered the Honourable
Ronald Adair in order to avoid exposure.
And "Griddlebone" was none other than Mr. Joseph Harrison, who at
the Professors command stole an important naval treaty from the Foreign
Office in the adventure recorded by Conan Doyle as, naturally, "The Naval
Treaty." Eliot referred to the case in line 27 of his poem: "And
when the Foreign Office finds a treaty gone astray
But back to the matter at hand.
Moriarty, "a man of good birth and excellent education, endowed by nature
with a phenomenal mathematical faculty."
Macavity, who was often "engaged in doing complicated long-division sums."
Moriarty his name eight letters long, beginning with an M and
ending in ty.
And then Macacity, the name chosen to cloak the Professors reincarnation
in secrecy also eight letters long, also beginning with an M,
also ending in ty.
The facts speak for themselves.
Yet one question still remains: after his fall from the Falls, did the archfiend
Moriarty wait a full half-century before effecting his return as a cat, or
did he come back sooner?
In 1939, T.S. Eliot wrote of another of Macavitys crimes, a case of
"the Admiralty [having lost] some plans and drawings
But years earlier, Sherlock Holmes had been called in to investigate that
very case, the theft of the plans and drawings of the Bruce-Partington submarine,
"the most jealously guarded of all Government secrets." In Conan
Doyles report, published as "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington
Plans," Holmes eventually was able to pin the theft on Colonel Valentine
Walter and Colonel Walter, like Colonel Sebastian Moran before him,
was clearly an agent of the Napoleon of Crime.
But "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans" took place in
November of 1895, a mere 4 1/2 years after the death of James Moriarty.
"You hope to beat me," the Professor had said to Sherlock Holmes.
"I tell you that you will never beat me."
By 1895, Moriarty was back.
And the game was again afoot.
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