I am quoting from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, "The Stockbroker's Clerk", by Arthur Conan Doyle. Does "a connection" mean "a clinic" or "a business" or something else? I looked it up in 3 online dictionaries but couldn't find anything.

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    You don't say which story the quotation is from. Presumably the speaker is some kind of professional man and the 'connection' is a list of potential clients which he has paid someone retiring from the same line of business to pass on to him. Nov 9, 2020 at 11:14
  • It's "The Stockbroker's Clerk" at the very beginning.
    – aissam
    Nov 9, 2020 at 11:15

1 Answer 1


The narrator of a Sherlock Holmes story by Arthur Conan Doyle is Doctor Watson. In those days doctors were private practitioners who had to set themselves up in business (there being no public employment of doctors as in our present UK National Health Service). Watson did this by buying a share (in this case 100%) in the practice (the business) of an older doctor, a Mr Farquhar. This would have been normal at the time, with Watson getting access to the patient list of Fraquhar and thus making a living from them, while Farquhar received money for his old age. The practice was in the Paddington district.

At that time, the way of describing the purchase of part of the business was to say you had bought a connection (to the business). This phraseology has fallen out of use: if you look at the google ngram for "buy a connection" you will find that it was in vogue from about 1890 to 1910.

The story is The Stockbroker's Clerk and it may be found in


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    Actually, the 'I' appears to be Dr. Watson himself, as narrator of the story. Hall Pycroft is the stockbroker's clerk of the title. Nov 9, 2020 at 13:43
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    You might like to edit your answer to clarify was that an archaic or 19th-century term? I've never heard it.
    – smci
    Nov 9, 2020 at 19:17
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    It means the whole practice, lock, stock, and barrel. Doyle uses the word in several stories, and there is no implication anywhere that the vendor remained 'connected' with the business in any way.
    – user207421
    Nov 10, 2020 at 7:15
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    I suspect that the use of 'connection' in this way was part of the abhorrence shown by the middle class (and most if not all professionals at the time were middle class) of any suggestion that they might be conducting anything that could be thought of as "trade". I'll bet even the word 'bought' stuck in the throats of some of them.
    – BoldBen
    Nov 10, 2020 at 13:02
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    It's not that different today. GPs are not employed by the NHS. General Practitioners surgeries are private businesses which partners need to buy into. Nov 10, 2020 at 14:08

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