Over at the Solar Pons Facebook page, I posted a new essay on Pons. I’m sure it will end up in a future issue of the Gazette, but why wait?
Luther Norris was, is and will certainly remain the foremost Ponsian of them all. In his introduction to The Memoirs of Solar Pons, he points out that Pons has a wider range of interests than Holmes; using the titles of their published monographs as his foundation. Now, we can certainly take issue with Norris’ statement that “Holmes..has little concern for topics not related to his ‘little problems.’” I do not believe that the polyphonic motets of Lassus had anything to do with one of Holmes’ cases. And it’s quite likely that his monograph on the Chaldean roots in the ancient Cornish language was not work-related. However, the majority of his writings were on topics useful to his career as a consulting detective, so we will agree with Norris in principle.
Norris points to two monographs as examples of Pons’ more varied interests: An Inquiry into the Nan-Natal Ruins of Ponapae (1905) and An Examination of the Cthulhu Cult and Others (1931). The context of Norris’ discussion implies that these are non work-related topics. It is this point regarding the latter that we are addressing.
Dr. Parker’s literary agent, August Derleth, became an expert on the Cthulhu mythos over the course of his lifetime. It is possible that Pons’ writings on the topic contributed to Derleth’s interest.
Let us ask “Under what circumstances is it possible that Pons’ monograph concerning the Cthulhu mythos could actually be ‘work-related,’ rather than just a topic of interest?”
A review of the cases that Dr. Parker published regarding his friend and colleague does not seem to reveal any evidence. Adventures such as The Tottenham Werewolf and The Haunted Library include elements of the supernatural, but down-to-earth solutions are found. The Blind Clairaudient does leave one with the uneasy feeling that science alone cannot fully explain events, but there is certainly no sense of a Cthulhu-related involvement. The Ball of Nostradamus and The Snitch in Time are singular cases that fall outside of any normal categorization. But again, it seems unlikely that there is any connection with the Cthulhu mythos in those two cases: they do not resonate with the tone of dread associated with the subject matter.
In The Silver Spiders, Pons and Parker do come across a reference in a sales catalogue to The Necronomicon. However, the book actually had no bearing on the case but was just mentioned as a ruse. We do not find any helpful evidence in this case.
But perhaps we have overlooked an indirect reference. What of a potential clue at the beginning of the affair that Parker presented as The Adventure of the Triple Kent? The doctor writes, “We were on the way back from the South Downs, where Pons had paid an almost reverential visit to an old bee-keeper whose retirement concealed the identity of a brilliant genius to whom Pons habitually referred to as “the Master…”
The train stops at Tunbridge Wells and Pons is called upon to help solve a triple murder. There is no further mention of the trip to the Sussex Downs. Based upon the quote above, we can confidently assume that it was Sherlock Holmes whom Pons and Parker were visiting. That should be indisputable. But let us venture into the realm of speculation.
The aforementioned Derleth once referred to The Adventure of the Retired Bee Keeper, which certainly must refer to Sherlock Holmes. We shall posit that Solar Pons jointly solved a case with Holmes at least once. What might this case have involved? Surely it was something extraordinary to require the skills of Solar Pons and Sherlock Holmes. Could it not have taken place shortly before that stop at Tunbridge Wells? Parker tells us the detectives were together at that time.
If so, what was it? Why did Parker not tell the public of it? It may have been a sensitive matter that would harm certain well-known people. But it has been argued that there are other instances when Dr. Parker changed names and circumstances and the case was published. Did Holmes, not wishing for any publicity in his retirement, ask Pons to keep their adventure from the public? There are many more possibilities.
But what if, like the affair involving the giant rat of Sumatra, what passed during Pons’ visit was an event that the world was not yet ready for? Suppose it was so horrifying that both detectives required Doctor Parker’s silence? Perhaps even the doctor himself felt that the tale should not be told: at least not during their lifetimes.
Perhaps somewhere amidst Dr. Parker’s unpublished writings lies an account of that trip to Holmes’ cottage. Just maybe, that case will tell of an encounter between the master detectives and some element of the terrifying Cthulhu Cult. Might there be a blood-chilling tale of the Sussex Horror?
Could not that 1931 monograph have been about a subject matter that Pons was professionally concerned with, not a mere hobby? Did his suspicions blossom into certainty a few years later on the Sussex Downs? Should we look at An Examination of the Cthulhu Cult and Others as a recreational writing, or as a carefully researched monograph upon a subject that concerned Solar Pons?