The Adventures of the Retired Colourman

Arthur Conan Doyle, ‘The Adventures of the Retired Colourman’
in The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
(London: John Murray, 1927)
First published: 1926

‘Thanks to the telephone and the help of the Yard, I can usually get my essentials without leaving this room.’


Holmes, in one of his melancholy moods and not wishing to travel to Lewisham to visit the house of a prospective client, Josiah Amberley, sends Watson to act as his representative. He is somewhat dismissive of Watson’s report, noting that ‘It is true that though in your mission you have missed everything of importance, yet even those things which have obtruded themselves upon your notice give rise to serious thought.’ He then goes on to reveal that he has already obtained the details Watson missed, by means of his telephone.

The story was one of the very last written by Conan Doyle before his death in 1930. With the telephone now much more common in British society, perhaps he felt that it was time that Holmes had one. The story was first published in the US in Liberty in December 1926. It was published in the UK in The Strand Magazine in January 1927. It was then published in the collection The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes. The first British edition of the collection, published by John Murray, and the first American edition, published by George H. Doran Co., were both published in June 1927.

by James Elder