Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Amiable Convicts

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based not one but two Sherlock Holmes stories on the theme of outlaws returned from Australia to establish genteel, nondescript identities in rural England. In “The Gloria Scott,” a deported convict escapes while being transported to the lower continent. He travels the world before establishing himself as an English country judge . . . only to be plagued by a vile character come back from his past. A similar scenario plays out in “The Boscomb Valley Mystery,” wherein a one-time bushranger becomes a settled member of English gentry . . . again, only to be found out and abused by a surly visage from his lawless days.

Perhaps the message -- although not stated explicitly by Conan Doyle -- is that we’re all sinners with “a past.” Face up to it. Confess. Then move on.


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