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Leaning back in his arm-chair of an evening, he would close his eyes and scrape carelessly at the fiddle which was thrown across his knee.

I think the scrape means play here, fiddle means violin. But the part 'which was thrown across his knee' confused me. 'which' is referred to the 'fiddle', right? so does that mean he threw the fiddle on his knee? thanks. If he was playing violin, how he put it on his knee; if he was not playing, then did the author merely mean he just scrape the violin?

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    Either he was holding it in his lap, sort of, or he was holding it like a cello. – Hot Licks Jan 13 '18 at 23:49
  • Scrape means to play really badly (like a beginner). @HotLicks comment is apropos. – Mick Jan 13 '18 at 23:51
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    Here, 'thrown' = 'lying untidily'. Collins sense 2. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 14 '18 at 0:12
  • that's why I confused. If he was playing violin, how he put it on his knee; if he was not playing, then did the author merely mean he just scrape the violin? – conan Jan 14 '18 at 2:39
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The violin (a.k.a.fiddle) is held under the chin to play it properly, but there is nothing to stop anyone scraping the strings of the violin with the bow in any position whatsoever. The character of Sherlock Holmes was known to to "play" the violin in a careless manner while he was intoxicated, and this is why in the scene quoted, we find the character with the fiddle laid carelessly across his lap, scraping at the strings with the bow.

  • There is an old "country" style of playing a violin/fiddle in your lap. I think I saw it done once, but it was maybe 50 years ago, so I can't give any details. – Hot Licks Jan 14 '18 at 4:10

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