The Red-Headed League

by

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Jabez Wilson is an average pawnbroker, and the innocent victim of the story. He hires Sherlock Holmes and his assistant, Dr. John Watson, to solve a peculiar mystery tied to a strange organization called the Red-Headed League. Because Wilson’s house is next to the bank, criminal mastermind John Clay targets him as an access point. This proves fairly easy as Wilson is quite slow-witted and trusting, and doesn’t suspect anything odd going on in his house. John Clay poses as an assistant to Wilson, under the guise of Vincent Spaulding. Wilson describes Spaulding as an intelligent young man with a passion for photography, not realizing that the time Clay spends in the cellar is spent not developing photographs, but digging a secret tunnel to the bank. Wilson is also a target because of his need for money, which means that he is easy to lure out of the house with the promise of a well-paid job. His greed is not malicious however, it is just a result of his struggling business.

Jabez Wilson Quotes in The Red-Headed League

The The Red-Headed League quotes below are all either spoken by Jabez Wilson or refer to Jabez Wilson. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Bizarre vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bantam Classics edition of The Red-Headed League published in 1986.
The Red-Headed League Quotes

I took a good look at the man and endeavoured, after the fashion of my companion, to read the indications which might be presented by his dress or appearance. I did not gain very much, however, by my inspection. Our visitor bore every mark of being an average commonplace British tradesman, obese, pompous, and slow. He wore rather baggy gray shepherd's check trousers, a not over-clean black frock-coat, unbuttoned in the front, and a drab waistcoat with a heavy brassy Albert chain, and a square pierced bit of metal dangling down as an ornament. […] there was nothing remarkable about the man save his blazing red head.

Related Characters: Dr. John Watson (speaker), Sherlock Holmes, Jabez Wilson
Page Number: 264-65
Explanation and Analysis:

“Well, I never!” said he. “I thought at first that you had done something clever, but I see that there was nothing in it, after all.”

Related Characters: Jabez Wilson (speaker), Sherlock Holmes
Page Number: 266
Explanation and Analysis:

“I should not wish a smarter assistant, Mr. Holmes; and I know very well that he could better himself and earn twice what I am able to give him.”

Page Number: 267
Explanation and Analysis:

“But we have to be careful, for we have twice been deceived by wigs and once by paint.”

Related Symbols: Red-Headed League
Page Number: 270
Explanation and Analysis:
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Jabez Wilson Character Timeline in The Red-Headed League

The timeline below shows where the character Jabez Wilson appears in The Red-Headed League. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Red-Headed League
The Bizarre vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
...red hair.” Holmes seems very excited, and invites Watson inside to meet the man, Jabez Wilson, and to hear his story. Holmes encourages Watson to listen by reminding him that he... (full context)
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Watson attempts to figure out some aspects of Wilson’s character by observing his appearance, as Holmes usually does. However, Watson does not manage to... (full context)
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Logic and Rationalism  Theme Icon
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...notices what Watson is doing and smiles at him, before revealing his own conclusions about Wilson. Wilson, Holmes claims, has practiced manual labor (one hand is more muscular than the other),... (full context)
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Wilson thinks Holmes is impressive, but also notes how simple Holmes’ technique seems once it has... (full context)
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Greed Theme Icon
Wilson begins telling his story by producing a newspaper advertisement. The advert is a job listing... (full context)
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Wilson then explains a bit about himself: he is a pawnbroker, owns a business in Coburg... (full context)
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Wilson then explains that it was in fact Spaulding who showed him the advertisement for the... (full context)
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When Wilson and Spaulding arrived for the job interview on Fleet Street, the whole neighborhood was packed... (full context)
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Once inside the office, the employer, a man named Duncan Ross, hired Wilson for the job almost immediately. First, though, he pulled Wilson’s hair to make sure that... (full context)
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...to copy out the encyclopedia for four hours every day, at four pounds a week. Wilson is never to leave the office during these hours, or he will be immediately fired.... (full context)
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Wilson began his job, and at first, Duncan Ross came into the office several times each... (full context)
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Wilson went around the neighboring offices, hoping to find some explanation, but found that no one... (full context)
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Holmes promises Wilson that he will solve his case, but first asks a few further questions about the... (full context)
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...are going to a concert, but first, they visit Saxe-Coburg Square, the address of Jabez Wilson. Holmes inspects the property carefully, even hitting the surrounding pavement with his walking stick several... (full context)
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...As they walk away, Holmes tells Watson that the man who answered the door was Wilson’s assistant, Spaulding. Holmes remarks that Spaulding is the “fourth smartest man in London.” Holmes explains... (full context)
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...Firstly, Holmes realized that the Red-Headed League must simply be a ruse intended to keep Wilson out of the shop for several hours a day. He was suspicious of Wilson’s assistant,... (full context)
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When he went to visit Wilson’s property, Holmes carefully observed the nearby buildings and realized that there was a bank only... (full context)