Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Unsolitary Cyclists

Have you noticed that in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's story "The Solitary Cyclist" . . . there was no solitary cyclist? Sherlock Holmes solved the mystery of the two Charlington bicyclists—the tutor Violet Smith and her disguised employer/admirer/protector Bob Carruthers—in a thrilling action finish. Since Miss Smith, as client and victim, was the central character of the tale, she's generally considered the "solitary cyclist" in the story's title. She's introduced specifically in those terms in the opening paragraph.

Later, however, we read: "A solitary cyclist was coming towards us." That one was Carruthers.

To be precise, Doyle might have defined Miss Smith as "one of the solitary cyclists of Charlington." But then, it would have been confusing. And it would have ruined a good title.


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