I’d like to ask about a sentence in "His Last Bow" by Arthur Conan Doyle.

You yacht against them, you hunt with them, you play polo, you match them in every game, your four-in-hand takes the prize at Olympia.

I wanted to know whether this last line, your four-in-hand takes the prize at Olympia, was one of figurative speeches or not. Well, I thought this to be one. The speaker refers to (and addressing to) a remarkable international spy who uses sports activities as a means to associate with locals to get some information of course. He obviously involves in various activities and associate with various people, so I thought the line in question was figuratively saying like “your multi-tasking is really remarkable” as a four-in-hand driver manipulates four horses well. So horses are metaphor for several activities, sports or some people in this case maybe? I don’t know. Or, is it just literally saying he has a remarkable carriage maneuvering skill?

1 Answer 1


The first International Horse Show was held at Olympia in Jone 1907, and until halted by the First World War

established itself as one of the social events of the annual calendar. ‘In those great and far-off days almost everyone was horse-minded so it was hardly surprising that great success became the under-taking,’ wrote Geoffrey DS Bennett in Horse & Hound in 1954. https://olympiahorseshow.com/information-british-showjumping/olympia-history/

The passage in the story is setting out how well the character's cover as a sporting gentleman had been established. There is no reason that this particular reference any more than those relating to yachting, polo or hunting, should be figurative. All have in common that they are appropriate to the social class Von Bork is occupying.

Von Herling goes on to say 'What is the result? Nobody takes you seriously'. If the objective is for Von Bork not to be taken seriously, Von Herling would not be applauding him for publicly demonstrating his ability to multi-task. he is commending him on seeming like a fellow who likes to do physical things rather than be a deep thinker.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.