Reginald and the City Clerks

Cover of The Intellectuals and The Masses: Pride and Prejudice among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939It’s always a pleasant experience to come across something useful when you’re not expecting it. At the minute I’m reading John Carey’s The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939. While Carey does mention Munro in passing — specifically the stories ‘The Mappined Life’ and ‘The Music on the Hill’ (in relation to the dichotomy of suburban life and respectability versus the wild and pagan) — the sentence that caught my attention was in relation to the characterisation of Hall Pycroft, “The Stockbroker’s Clerk” in the Sherlock Holmes story of that name. “Clerk”, Carey has already explained, was a late nineteenth-century term that covered that broad swathe of “the middle and lower-middle class employed in commerce, banks, insurance and real estate” (58). Such people mostly lived in the newly constructed suburbs and commuted every day to their offices in the centre of cities.

Dr Watson writes:

The man whom I found myself facing was a well-built, fresh-complexioned young fellow, with a frank, honest face and a slight, crisp, yellow moustache. He wore a very shiny top-hat and a neat suit of sober black, which made him look what he was — a smart young City man, of the class who have been labelled cockneys, but who give us our crack volunteer regiments, and who turn out more fine athletes and sportsmen than any body of men in these islands.

Carey notes that “Richard Price, studying middle-class jingoism in the late nineteenth century, has found that there was a disproportionate number of clerks among volunteers for the Boer War” (64).

Is this what Reginald is getting at when he refers in passing to “the City, where the patriotism comes from” in ‘Reginald on Worries’? I’d previously assumed it was a more general cynical hit at big business (whose fondness for Imperial causes was likely not unconnected to the financial benefits the Empire brought with it). But it seems as if there may be a more concrete reference. I should probably check out Richard Price’s essay.


Carey, John, The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939, Paperb. ed., 1. publ. (London: Faber, 1992)

Doyle, Arthur Conan, ‘The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk’, first publ. in The Strand Magazine, March 1893. Collected in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (London: George Newnes Ltd., 1893)

Munro, H. H., ‘Reginald on Worries’, in The Complete Annotated Reginald Stories, ed. by Bruce Gaston, 1st edition (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016)

Price, Richard N., ‘Society, Status and Jingoism: The Social Roots of Lower Middle Class Patriotism, 1870-1900’, in Crossick, Geoffrey, ed., The Lower Middle Class in Britain: 1870-1914, Repr. (London: Helm, 1978)

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