I have a question about the opening sentence

I had intended "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange" to be the last of those exploits of my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, which I should ever communicate to the public. (The Adventure of the Second Stain)

I'm not sure what "should" and "ever" mean in the phrase "which I should ever communicate to the public."

1 Answer 1


Should is here the past of shall, which careful writers used to use for 1st person verbs. Most people today would write which I would ever communicate....

(Direct thought) : "This is the last ... which I shall ever communicate..."

Backshifted, as the complement of "intended" (in the past):

"I intended ... that this (would be) the last ... which I should ever communicate ... "

  • Thank you for your answer. Is the antecedent of "which" "the last" or "those exploits"? Apr 2, 2023 at 0:11
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    The antecedent is the last. There is no way to tell this from the syntax, but semantically, "The last of (those exploits which I shall communicate)" doesn't make sense, since all the other exploits have already been communicated.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 2, 2023 at 10:45
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    'Those exploits' = 'the exploits which'. Apr 2, 2023 at 14:21
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    @ColinFine "The antecedent is the last." I don't think so. First, I think "which" refers to "those exploits", and second, I don't think it's a pronoun. "which I should communicate" is a restrictive clause modifying "those exploits", so "which" is a subordinating conjunction. "Last" is then a superlative applied to the set of "exploits which I should communicate". Of those exploits I should communicate, it is the last. Apr 2, 2023 at 15:13
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    In the sentence "Jimmy Carter is the oldest living person who has been elected president", the clause "who has been elected president" modifies "living person". Then Jimmy Carter is the oldest of the entire set named by the phrase "living person who has been elected president". Apr 2, 2023 at 15:13

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