A facsimile of the "anthropometic card" of a French anarchist named Ravachol—notice the "mug-shot," similar to those used today
"…created so much excitement in Devonshire."
Devonshire, or Devon as it is most commonly called today, is a county in southwest England known for its wild, rugged landscape. Dartmoor, the dangerous setting of The Hound of the Baskervilles, is today a British national park.

"You will observe, Watson, the alternative use of the long s and the short. It is one of several indications which enabled me to fix the date."
Holmes could very well deduce a range of dates for the document's age. The long s, or ƒ, which resembles an f, had a long and complex history in English, and was used within the body of a word when two s's occurred together. By the end of the 18th century, this practice had died out.

"…in the time of the Great Rebellion (the history of which by the learned Lord Clarendon I most earnestly commend to your attention)…."
Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon (1609-1674), was an advisor to Kings Charles II while both were in exile. He wrote a six-volume history of the English Civil War from a royalist point of view called A History of the Great Rebellion.

"…it came to pass that one Michaelmas…"
September 29, the feast day of the Archangel Michael in the Christian calendar.

"…nouveaux riches…."
Those made newly rich by commerce, as opposed to those who inherit long-established wealth.

"The moor is very sparsely inhabited…."
Dartmoor, a granite plateau stretching over hundreds of acres through Devon in the southwest of England, is a windswept wilderness of peat bogs and granite outcroppings. Sheep and wild ponies run free, although the extreme weather conditions make life difficult for animals, and even for plants.

"…and many a charming evening we have spent together discussing the comparative anatomy of the Bushman and the Hottentot."
Again, Mortimer's interest in Social Darwinism is evident. Today, scientists can determine the heredity of a person from skeletal evidence. Social Darwinists, on the other hand, attempted to establish an evolutionary hierarchy based on bodily measurements and characteristics. This hierarchy went hand-in-hand with colonialism, since it was used to find "scientific" reasons why the white race should dominate all others. The distinction between "Hottentot" and "Bushman" was based on misconceptions by colonials. Today these names are considered offensive, and "Khoisan" is preferred.

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