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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Baker Street Essays - The Veiled Lodger

The ‘Politician’

Sherlockians have speculated on the identity of the mysterious politician referenced in this case. The Veiled Lodger occurred in 1896 and was published in 1927. Presumably the events involving the politician, the lighthouse and the trained cormorant occurred closer to the latter date, rather than the former. Attempts to destroy the documents would likely not have waited over thirty years if they were that damaging.

Who could the politician be? How about Sir Roger Casement? Casement was a close friend of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and served for many years as the British Consul in Africa and South America.

Casement was openly critical of how native workers were treated in the Congo and his 1903 Report received international attention. As a result, Belgium improved conditions in the Congo in 1908. For his accomplishments, Casement was awarded a knighthood in 1911. He suffered from poor health and that same year he retired from public service and returned to Dublin, the city where he was born.

Casement became a strong supporter of the moment for Irish independence from England and he traveled to New York City, seeking aid for the Irish nationalist movement. World War I broke out and Casement traveled to Berlin in 1914, seeking German aid for Irish independence. Germany’s support was tepid, at best, and Casement became disappointed in the results of his efforts. He feared that an uprising planned in Ireland for Easter, 1916, was doomed to failure. A German submarine returned him to Ireland on April 12 of that year. Twelve days later, he was captured by the British and charged with treason.

The Black Diaries, allegedly written by Casement, surfaced after his arrest and certainly prejudiced his case. The diaries alleged that Casement had sex with young native boys during his diplomatic service.

Doyle argued that Casement’s homosexuality was caused by insanity and the man should be spared, but his efforts failed. Casement was found guilty of treason, stripped of his knighthood and hung on August 3, 1916.

His Last Bow revealed that Holmes was active in aiding the war effort for England. As the Irish-American agent Altamont, he was certainly capable of infiltrating the Irish Nationalist movement on behalf of the Foreign Office. Did Holmes’ actions result in Casement’s ultimate execution?\