One of the most amazing things about facts is how mutable they can be. I’m not talking about changing the facts. That’s impossible. As John Adams once said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of the facts and evidence.” Nor am I talking about this stupid “truthiness” that’s garnered so many headlines since Stephen Colbert coined the word in 2005. I don’t think many people realize that this is actually a comedic device invented for laughs and regardless of who or how many people take it seriously, it isn’t. I’m talking about rearranging the facts to create a faux truth which is then widely accepted as not only a reasonable facsimile but an actual alternative, indistinguishable from — and equal to — truth itself. It’s a sort of mutant truth, accepted and unquestioned, as if it were the real thing. Here’s how it’s done.
There is a widely held belief, purported by William S. Baring-Gould, that Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler had a love affair which produced a son who became, in later life, the great detective Nero Wolfe. Stuff and nonsense! Baring-Gould has taken a few isolated facts and woven them into a fiction that has gained enormous credibility. However, even though many accept this as the truth, including many reputable writers, nothing could be further from it. Let’s look at the facts — objectively.
It is well known that Irene Adler was the love (or as close as he could get) of Sherlock Holmes’ life. He kept a portrait of her on his desk, and she was the only woman he ever spoke about with grudging admiration. It is also well known that in May, 1891, Holmes and Professor Moriarty fought a life-and-death struggle on a ledge over the Reichenbach Falls, in Switzerland. It was reported at the time that, locked in mortal combat, both adversaries slipped from the dizzying heights and plunged to their deaths. Of course, we now know that, in fact, Holmes defeated Professor Moriarty but was unable to return to Watson because he was set upon by Moriarty’s henchmen. However, for three years, Holmes was presumed dead; his whereabouts, unknown.
This is all factual information. From it, we can conclude that Holmes must have been severely injured. Otherwise, he would have simply rejoined Watson in the nearby town of Meiringen. Therefore, we can also conclude that, because of his injuries, Holmes would have needed assistance to descend the mountain. These are two reasonable deductions, worthy of Holmes himself. The tricky part, however, is after recovering from his injuries, what would make Sherlock Holmes abandon his career as a detective for three years? Nothing else had ever captured the soul of Sherlock Holmes – except, perhaps Irene Adler whom, we know, was living on the continent with her husband. Therefore, it is more than reasonable to assume that it could only be Irene Adler, out hiking on a late spring vacation, who found Holmes and rescued him. We can further make the case that (given their history) in his weakened state, Holmes succumbed to Ms. Adler’s considerable charms. In short, as she nursed him back to health Irene Adler seduced him. No other explanation is possible.
The result was a child; however, not, as some would claim, a boy, but a girl whom they named Monica (from the Greek monos which means “solitary or alone.”) Obviously, in the early 1890s, this was a very delicate situation. Clearly, a love affair and an illegitimate child would have folded up Irene Adler’s marriage like a cheap lawn chair. Furthermore, Holmes was not exactly daddy material. Therefore the child was given to a local Swiss couple named Delacroix, who changed her name to “Monique,” and raised her as their own. Eventually, consumed by guilt, Holmes and Adler parted, never to see the child — or each other — again.
Monique Delacroix grew up totally unaware of her biological parents. During the First World War, she met Andrew, a dashing British military officer. They married in 1919, when he left the service and took employment as a Vickers’ armaments representative. They had one child, born November 11th, 1920, whom they named “James,” after his paternal grandfather. Unfortunately, Monique and her husband, in a weird stroke of irony, were both killed in a climbing accident, in the early 1930s. Eleven year old James went to live with his father’s sister, Miss Charmian Bond. James Bond completed his education in England and went on to a brilliant career in British government service. Thus, when we examine the facts objectively, we find that Sherlock Holmes is not, in fact, the father of orchid detective Nero Wolfe, but, indeed, the maternal grandfather of James Bond, 007!
As we can see, it is easy to fall into the trap of alternative truth. Even though the facts remain the same, sometimes they can be mismanaged, or perhaps unwittingly manipulated to produce, not a deliberate lie, but an untruth, all the same. William S. Baring-Gould were not maliciously trying to deceive us; yet deceive us they did. Therefore, it is always best, when faced with an acceptable truth, no matter how plausible, to return to the facts to make your own judgement call.
Originally written in 2012