Plot Summary of the Adventure of the Gloria Scott

Updated on March 24, 2018
Colin Quartermain profile image

Colin has been reading as long as he can remember, and the works of Conan Doyle were some of the early works that kept him reading.

Sherlock Holmes and the Gloria Scott

The Adventure of the ‘Gloria Scott’ is an often overlooked Sherlock Holmes story from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The story of the ‘Gloria Scott’ though is an interesting one in many ways, as it tells of a problem faced by Holmes in his university days, long before he met Dr Watson.

Publication of the Adventure of the Gloria Scott

The Adventure of the ‘Gloria Scott’ was written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for the April 1893 edition of the Strand Magazine; the short Sherlock Holmes story appearing the month after The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk.

After the publication in the Strand Magazine, the story would subsequently be repeated as part of the compilation work, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

A Short Review of the Adventure of Sherlock Holmes

The Adventure of the ‘Gloria Scott’ is different from most other stories in the original Sherlock Holmes canon, for it is a story is told from the perspective of Holmes, rather than Dr Watson, and has the detective telling his friend about his very first case.

The story allows Conan Doyle to introduce new information about Sherlock Holmes, despite the character having appeared monthly in the Strand Magazine for two years. We find out that Holmes had been at university, but had been virtually friendless there, in a similar vein to his adult life. Holmes though does acknowledge that this was his own fault, and recognises it as a fault, having put too much time into his work.

As with many of the short stories, Conan Doyle provides the framework for the storyline, but the reader has all the details required to use their own imagination to expand on the story itself. The reader can imagine the people, the buildings, and in this story, the ship, in their own way.

There are common features between The Boscombe Valley Mystery, and The Adventure of the ‘Gloria Scott’, which does mean, that for regular readers of Sherlock Holmes, there is no great surprise in the story.

Sherlock Holmes’ youth is a theme taken up by many writers, but there is a problem of incorporating Watson into that storyline. Some stories introduce a young Dr Watson, whilst others do away with the friend altogether. This issue might be the reason why The Adventure of the ‘Gloria Scott’ was story not adapted by Granada TV for Jeremy Brett to play Holmes; although the concept of the code from the story does appear in Sherlock in the Empty Hearse.

Sherlock - The Empty Hearse

The Adventure of the Gloria Scott

Sidney Paget (1860-1908) PD-life-70
Sidney Paget (1860-1908) PD-life-70 | Source

Spoiler Alert - Plot Summary of the Adventure of the Gloria Scott

The Adventure of the ‘Gloria Scott’ sees Sherlock Holmes telling Dr Watson of one of his first cases; a case that the detective seems quite proud of.

Holmes tells Watson of a brief holiday that he spent at the home of Victor Trevor ten years earlier. At the time, Holmes was at university, and Victor Trevor was his only friend from campus. Holmes acknowledges he spent too much time on his work and studies, neglecting the social side of university.

Nevertheless, Holmes had spent time at the Trevor’s Norfolk estate; Victor Trevor’s father being a wealthy landowner and justice of the peace, having years earlier made his fortune in the Australian goldfields.

At university, Holmes had already become recognised for his deductive powers, and at the dinner table at the Trevors, Holmes gave a demonstration. Holmes deduced that the senior Trevor knew of someone with the initials JA, someone who he was now trying to forget. This deduction though, as unforeseeable results, for Trevor faints from the revelation.

The next day Holmes makes his excuses and leaves the Trevor estate; Holmes aware that he was making the senior Trevor uneasy with his presence. Before he departs though, a new guest arrives; a man by the name of Hudson, who it appears was once a shipmate of Trevor 20 years earlier.

Holmes returns to his studies, and thinks little of his brief holiday, but soon Holmes receives a telegram from Victor Trevor, asking for Holmes to return to the Norfolk estate. Victor Trevor’s father had received a seemingly meaningless letter that had induced a stroke. The father would unfortunately die before Holmes arrived back at the Trevor home.

Victor Trevor is able to explain some of the events that have occurred since Holmes had left. Victor’s father had basically given Hudson free reign over the household, and despite being constantly drunk, had made the old seaman the house’ butler.

Eventually though, Hudson had departed from Norfolk, saying that he was going to visit another old shipmate by the name of Beddoes, in Hampshire.

Shortly afterwards a letter had arrived from Fordingbridge; the letter reading –

“The supply of game for London is going steadily up. Head-keeper Hudson, we believe, has been now told to receive all orders for fly-paper and for preservation of your hen pheasant’s life.”

Holmes quickly deduces that there is blackmail afoot, and it takes Holmes only a short time to decipher the message, by reading every third word -

“The game is up. Hudson has told all, fly for your life”

Victor Trevor though now fears that the whole family will be in disgrace; although it is of course still unclear what the reason for the blackmail was. These missing details though are soon discovered for a written confession from the elder Trevor is found.

Hudson Arrives

Sidney Paget (1860 - 1908) PD-life-70
Sidney Paget (1860 - 1908) PD-life-70 | Source

Trevor was born James Armitage, hence the JA, but in his younger days he had been convicted of embezzlement, and had been sentenced to transportation to Australia. Trevor explains though, that he had taken the money to settle a debt of honour, but had been discovered before he could return the money as planned.

James Armitage was to be transported onboard the “Gloria Scott”, but it proved to be a most unusual journey. One of the other prisoners onboard, a Jack Pandergast, had managed to hide away a large fortune from his own crime of fraud, and had subsequently used a portion of it to bribe members of the crew, officers and clergyman (who was in fact Pandergast’ partner Wilson) to aide his escape.

Just before the plan was to be put into operation though, it was discovered, and a fight broke out between the loyal crewmembers, and the prisoners and crew in Pandergast’s pay.

Pandergast’s side would eventually come out on top, but the fate of the surviving loyal crew was now divisive. Armitage, and a small number of other prisoners, including a man named Evans (who would become Beddoes) would not stand for cold blooded murder, and so before the event they were set adrift in a small boat.

Before Armitage and the others had travelled too far though, the “Gloria Scott” exploded; it seemed that a loyal member of the crew had managed to set of the ship’s gunpowder. The small boat returned to the last position of the “Gloria Scott” but found only one survivor, a young seaman by the name of Hudson.

Luckily for the survivors, the small boat was spotted the next day by a passing ship; and the survivors passed themselves off as survivors from a passenger liner. The survivors would therefore find themselves transported to Australia, but as freemen rather than prisoners.

Armitage and Beddoes had done well in Australia, and in the goldfields had both accumulated large fortunes. The pair had then returned to England, and had become pillars of the community. The arrival of Hudson though, had thrown a spanner in the work.

No scandal though emerges because of the events that had passed, and the police surmise that Hudson had killed Beddoes before fleeing the country. Holmes though, figures the opposite has occurred; believing that Beddoes had killed Hudson as he through his secret was already exposed. Holmes then concluded that Beddoes had gathered as much money as he could, and had himself left the country.

Despite the lack of scandal, Victor Trevor had himself left the country, travelling to the Indian subcontinent. There he was said to be prospering as a respected and successful plantation owner.

The Problem Explained

Sidney Paget (1860 - 1908) PD-life-70
Sidney Paget (1860 - 1908) PD-life-70 | Source

The Adventure of the Gloria Scott

  • Date of Events - c1875
  • Client - Victor Trevor
  • Locations - Norfolk
  • Villain - Hudson

Questions & Answers

  • Who is Victor Trevor in "The Adventure of Gloria Scott"?

    Victor Trevor is best described as a friend of Sherlock Holmes. Trevor and Holmes were acquaintances at university, with Holmes one day being invited down to the Trevor family home.

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