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The Case of Sherlock HolmesSecrets and Lies in Conan Doyle's Detective Fiction$
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Andrew Glazzard

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474431293

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474431293.001.0001

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Do We Progress?

Do We Progress?

(p.169) Chapter 16 Do We Progress?
The Case of Sherlock Holmes

Andrew Glazzard

Edinburgh University Press

James Mortimer, Holmes’s client in The Hound of the Baskervilles, is no ordinary general practitioner. Consulting the Medical Directory, Watson finds him to be the author of several learned essays: ‘Is Disease a Reversion?’, winner of the Jackson Prize for Comparative Pathology, and ‘Some Freaks of Atavism’ and ‘Do We Progress?’, published in The Lancet and Journal of Psychology respectively. It thus hardly seems fair for Holmes to characterise him as a mere ‘country doctor’ (6). Mortimer’s publication history is highly revealing, both about his own scientific world view and that of the novel. Keywords in the essays’ titles – ‘reversion’, ‘atavism’ and ‘progress’ – clearly indicate that these are investigations in evolutionary biology. More specifically, Mortimer is interested in the possibility that human evolution can actually go into reverse, producing degenerate specimens of the human race, descending down the evolutionary ladder into the animal kingdom, or afflicted by genetic conditions that cause abnormalities (‘freaks’) or disease.

Keywords:   Progress, Evolution, Baskerville, Mire, Africa, War

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