The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
How we cite our quotes:
[After doing a bit of amateur begging] I wrote my articles and thought little more of the matter until, some time later, I backed a bill for a friend and had a writ served upon me for twenty-five pounds. I was at my wit's end where to get the money, but a sudden idea came to me. I begged a fortnight's grace from the creditor, asked for a holiday from my employers, and spent the time begging in the City under my disguise. In ten days I had the money and had paid the debt.
Well, you can imagine how hard it was to settle down to arduous work at two pounds a week when I knew that I could earn as much in a day by smearing my face with a little paint, laying my cap on the ground and sitting still. It was a long fight between my pride and the money, but the dollars won at last (Twisted Lip.204-5).
Neville St. Clair's weakness for a quick buck doesn't exactly lead him into crime, but it does make him run the risk of a public humiliation. He figures that would so bad that he'd rather go to jail as a murderer than admit that he's been begging in disguise.
I see – her ladyship's waiting-maid. Well, the temptation of sudden wealth so easily acquired was too much for you, as it has been for better men before you; but you were not very scrupulous in the means you used. It seems to me, Ryder, that there is the making of a very pretty villain in you (Carbuncle.173).
James Ryder, like Neville St. Clair, gives in to sudden weakness in his theft of the Blue Carbuncle. But he's also willing to send another man to jail in his stead; those are the "not very scrupulous" means Holmes is talking about. So why does Holmes let Ryder go? What assurances does Holmes have that Ryder's really been scared straight? What do you think of our detective's decision?
The [Roylott] family was at one time among the richest in England, and the estates extended over the borders into Berkshire in the north, and Hampshire in the west. In the last century, however, four successive heirs were of a dissolute and wasteful disposition, and the family ruin was eventually completed by a gambler in the days of the Regency. Nothing was left save a few acres of ground, and the two-hundred-year-old house, which is itself crushed under a heavy mortgage (Band.24).
The Roylott family once had it all: money, reputation, and importance. But by the time we reach Dr. Grimesby Roylott, we still have the importance (the people in the village are glad to see a Roylott back at Stoke Moran) but definitely not the money or the good reputation. Social status is complex in Holmes's world: it's not just a matter of birth but also of respect. This is a distinctly modern idea, the notion that you aren't just born into good society – you have to behave well to stay there. We can compare this to earlier models of aristocracy, in which birth means everything in terms of social standing. In these stories, self-indulgence can ruin a Lord as quickly as it can ruin a common man.