July 4th, 2020


(no subject)

I was recently rereading "A Scandal in Bohemia," and was struck by an interesting detail. Holmes is planning a ruse where he'll be injured by a kind of mob assault outside Irene Adler's house (so she'll take him inside without his arousing suspicion). And Holmes being Holmes, of course, can't just appear as a nondescript man about town:

He disappeared into his bedroom, and returned in a few minutes in the character of an amiable and simple-minded Nonconformist clergyman. His broad black hat, his baggy trousers, his white tie, his sympathetic smile, and general look of peering and benevolent curiosity were such as Mr. John Hare alone could have equalled.

But why a Nonconformist clergyman in particular? As I understand it (Brits/history buffs, correct me if I'm wrong), there was usually an official church whose clergy enjoyed the right to perform sacraments and preah in public and establish officially recognized churches. Like the Church of England in England, the Roman Catholic church in Ireland, and I believe a presbyterian church in certian parts of Scotland. But there were all sorts of minority Christian sects — the Methodists of my own background, Baptists, unitarians, evangelicals, even the Quakers — that operated outside the bounds of the official church. Sometimes they had limited authority to perform (some) religious rites; sometimes they weren't so well tolerated.

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