From: ep. 3.3 (but also 3.1 and .2 a little)
Character: Charles Augustus Magnusson
Reference: Charles Augustus Milverton is the nefarious villain in the short story named after him. Holmes despises him almost more than he ever hated Moriarty, and goes to great lengths to bring him down. Thing is, he’s not the one that brings him down in fact–he’s in hiding in Milverton’s room when he witnesses a female victim of Milverton’s shoot him dead. Sound familiar? In ep. 3.3, Sherlock breaks in to Magnusson’s place (interestingly enough, the same way he does in the original story: by becoming engaged to his P.A. [in the story, it’s a scullery maid in Milverton’s household]) and does indeed witness the gun-threatening of Magnusson by a female victim of his. Of course, this doesn’t turn out the same way as the original story….
For fun, here’s Doyle’s Holmes describing Charles Augustus Milverton. I think the Sherlock series’ portrayal of Magnusson nailed the combination of sliminess and smoothness and power that Holmes describes. What do you think?
“Who is he?” I asked.
“The worst man in London,” Holmes answered, as he sat down and stretched his legs before the fire. “Is anything on the back of the card?”
I turned it over.
“Will call at 6.30—C.A.M.,” I read.
“Hum! He’s about due. Do you feel a creeping, shrinking sensation, Watson, when you stand before the serpents in the Zoo and see the slithery, gliding, venomous creatures, with their deadly eyes and wicked, flattened faces? Well, that’s how Milverton impresses me. I’ve had to do with fifty murderers in my career, but the worst of them never gave me the repulsion which I have for this fellow. And yet I can’t get out of doing business with him—indeed, he is here at my invitation.”
“But who is he?”
“I’ll tell you, Watson. He is the king of all the blackmailers. Heaven help the man, and still more the woman, whose secret and reputation come into the power of Milverton. With a smiling face and a heart of marble he will squeeze and squeeze until he has drained them dry. The fellow is a genius in his way, and would have made his mark in some more savoury trade. His method is as follows: He allows it to be known that he is prepared to pay very high sums for letters which compromise people of wealth or position. He receives these wares not only from treacherous valets or maids, but frequently from genteel ruffians who have gained the confidence and affection of trusting women. He deals with no niggard hand. I happen to know that he paid seven hundred pounds to a footman for a note two lines in length, and that the ruin of a noble family was the result. Everything which is in the market goes to Milverton, and there are hundreds in this great city who turn white at his name. No one knows where his grip may fall, for he is far too rich and far too cunning to work from hand to mouth. He will hold a card back for years in order to play it at the moment when the stake is best worth winning. I have said that he is the worst man in London, and I would ask you how could one compare the ruffian who in hot blood bludgeons his mate with this man, who methodically and at his leisure tortures the soul and wrings the nerves in order to add to his already swollen money-bags?”
I had seldom heard my friend speak with such intensity of feeling.
“But surely,” said I, “the fellow must be within the grasp of the law?”
“Technically, no doubt, but practically not. What would it profit a woman, for example, to get him a few months’ imprisonment if her own ruin must immediately follow? His victims dare not hit back. If ever he blackmailed an innocent person, then, indeed, we should have him; but he is as cunning as the Evil One. No, no; we must find other ways to fight him.”
Notice the signature of “C.A.M.?” Notice the look on Mary Morstan’s face when Sherlock reads the telegram from a “Cam” at the wedding in ep. 3.2? Yeah? Yeah me too.