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References to Freemasonry in popular culture range from the vitriolic to the innocuous. Far more often they are merely misinformed allusions from which Freemasonry faces a far more insidious threat; that of being marginalized, trivialized, and fictionalized. Most of the references noted on this site are harmless, simply pointing out that Freemasonry has played a role in our society; some are humorous, yet some are disturbing in their associations.
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Masonic references in
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writings
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) was the author of fifty-six short stories and three novels with Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson M.D., as the principal characters.
Conan Doyle was not a particularly active freemason. One widely quoted report in the October 1901 Masonic Illustrated claims: "While at the seat of war, he attended the never-to-be-forgotten scratch lodge at Bloemfontein in company with Bro. Rudyard Kipling." In fact, Kipling was in Bloemfontein only between March 17 and April 3, 1900, a period when Rising Star Lodge No. 1022 E.C., the only lodge meeting in that part of South Africa, did not meet. At an April 5, 1900 meeting letters were received by the lodge from both Lord Kitchener and Conan Doyle, expressing their regrets at being unable to attend. A "loyal resolution" to be sent to the Prince of Wales was proposed by Kitchener at an April 23, 1900 meeting; a document signed by both Lord Roberts, who had not been present at the meeting, and Conan Doyle. The minutes of the lodge’s November 7, 1901 meeting refute the newspaper report and deny that Bros. Doyle and Kipling had ever visited their lodge. Also in 1900 Conan Doyle was made an honorary member of The Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel) No. 1 in recognition of his acceptance of an invitation to speak at a Burns' Night Dinner.
There is no mention of Freemasonry in his autobiography, Memories and Adventures and it is said that "Dr. Doyle looked in on Freemasonry and soon looked out again." There are, however seven distinct and several other oblique references to Freemasonry in his fiction.
[AQC 104 & 105]
The Adventure of the Norwood Builder (1903)
"You mentioned your name as if I should recognize it, but beyond the obvious facts that you are a bachelor, a solicitor, a Freemason, and an asthmatic, I know nothing whatever about you."
The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Oxford University Press, Oxford: 1980 [p.192].
The Adventure of the Red-headed League (1891)
"Beyond the obvious facts that he has at some time done manual labour, that he takes snuff, that he is a Freemason. that he has been in China, and that he has done a considerable amount of writing lately, I can deduce nothing else."
"Well, the snuff, then, and the Freemasonry?"
"I won't insult your intelligence by telling you how I read that, especially as, rather against the strict rules of your order, you use an arc-and-compass breastpin."
A Treasury of Sherlock Holmes. Hanover House, Garden City, New York: 1955 [p. 222-23].
The Adventure of the Retired Colourman (1927)
Another private investigator is described by Watson as "a stern-looking impassive man..., a dark man with grey tinted glasses and a large masonic pin projecting from his tie."
The Land of Mist
"He is one of those who wander about on the obscure edges of Masonry, talking with whispers and reverence of mysteries where no mystery is." [AQC xciii 3]
London : Universal library co, [1926]. 254 p ; 16 cm
The Lost World
Mr. Hungerton leaves to attend a masonic meeting. Lord Roxton says to Malone: "between you an' me close tiled." [AQC xciii 3]
London : Hodder and Stoughton, [1912]. vii, [8]-319, [1] p : front., ill. ; 20cm
A Scandal in Bohemia (1891)
"There is a wonderful sympathy and freemasonry among the horsey men. Be one of them, and you will know all that there is to know."
A Study in Scarlet (1886)
"Gold ring, with Masonic device."
A Treasury of Sherlock Holmes. Hanover House, Garden City, New York: 1955 [p. 21].
The Valley of Fear (1914)
Among the clues are a card with the symbol V.V.341 scrawled upon it, referring to the Ancient Order of Freemen, the "The Scowrers", Lodge 341, Vermissa Valley, USA. "There is no town without a lodge" and "grips and passwords are helpful. A brand mark on the arm of the murder victim: an equilateral triangle inside a circle. [AQC xciii 3]
London : Smith, Elder, 1915,189p ; 21cm
"John McMurdo", said the voice, "are you already a member of the Ancient Order of Freemen?"
He bowed in assent.
"Is your lodge No. 29, Chicago?"
He bowed again.

Excerpted, in part, from Ars Quatuor Coronatorum. vol 104. "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and Freemasonry." by Bro. Robert T. Runciman. London: 1991. ed. Frederick Smyth. pp. 178-187. cf. vol. 105, 1992. ed. Frederick Smyth. pp. 254-255.

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