I am quoting from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, the Stockbroker's clerk, by Arthur Conan Doyle. It says: "I used to have a billet at Coxon and Woodhouse's, of Drapers' Gardens, but they were let in in early in the spring through the Venezuelan loan, as no doubt you remember, and came a nasty cropper". I am wondering where was the company let in and what is the Venezuelan loan Hall Pycroft is refering to, It seems to me to be common knowledge since Pycroft and Waston have just met and Pycroft says "as no doubt you remember", but I still couldn't find such a thing as the Venezuelan loan, unless it's just imaginary.

  • 3
    I suspect the 'Venezuelan loan' is an invention of ACD's; a recent financial crisis which we are meant to assume had been in all the newspapers. We wouldn't use let in in this sense today, but presumably it means that they suffered heavy losses. Nov 13, 2020 at 9:41
  • 3
    @KateBunting This passage comes from the Wilipedia entry on Venezuela: Cipriano Castro, one of a succession of Venezuelan military strongmen to seize the Presidency, halted payment on foreign debts after seizing Caracas in October 1899. Britain had similar grievances, and was owed the bulk of the nearly $15m of debt Venezuela had obtained in 1881 and then defaulted on. As Coxon and Woodhouse were fictional stockbrokers they could easily be supposed to have had exposure to those loans and ACD's readership would have been well aware of the crisis.
    – BoldBen
    Nov 13, 2020 at 10:00
  • Thanks, @BoldBen. I didn't do a search as the OP said they had done so. Nov 13, 2020 at 10:16

1 Answer 1


In this story, Coxon & Woodhouse was a firm of stockbrokers or similar financial business. Doyle implies that it was involved in the finances of a loan associated with Venezuela. Doyle uses "Venezuelan loan" as a fictional proxy for a real-life large loan associated with some distant (and in those days, either by implication or by public knowledge, risky) national business. The consequence of involvement in such a loan, risky and probably fraudulent, ruined Coxon & Woodhouse.

The firm was "let in" in the sense of:

"let in" = to involve or commit unfavorably

"the provisions … could still let us in for trouble" — Elmer Davis

" ... smiled at all her schemes, little dreaming that … she was letting him in for some £20,000"

Merriam Webster

  • the verb "let in" is followed later by "through" so I assume the Venezuelan loan is the mean to let them in not the purpose so I doubt that this meaning of the verb is the one meant in this context
    – aissam
    Nov 13, 2020 at 10:13
  • 1
    There is no hint of purpose in my answer or the dictionary definitions. They were let in ... through ... means that they were let in (to financial ruin) as a consequence of the loan failure. The failure was the cause (not the purpose) of their being "let in".
    – Anton
    Nov 13, 2020 at 10:52
  • That's a good find, Anton. It hadn't occurred to me that being 'let in' in that sense was still current, albeit not in quite the sense that Doyle has his character saying it. I think that the sort of 'intransitive' usage that the character usage is outdated but that the 'transitive' one is still around.
    – BoldBen
    Nov 13, 2020 at 14:47

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.