Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Change Is Gonna Come

I don't actually have anything this month to talk about concerning chronology. What I will talk about is the changes that I'm going to be making here at Historical Sherlock Headquarters.

I enjoy bringing this blog to you every month, but I feel like it needs to be updated and rearranged a bit. As such, I am experimenting with various fonts, layouts, color combinations, etc. trying to come up with something that will serve my purpose here even better. Of course, the content is what it's all about, so that won't change in the least. I will still write about nothing but Sherlock Holmes and the chronology of his Canon, and anything related to it no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. To add to that, I am looking at adding one or two small features just keep your appetites whetted between Posts.

Also, I'm going to find a place to put my logo in each Post.

My intention is to have all of these plans in place at the start of the new year, and I don't believe that will be a problem. I already have one change in mind for the Facebook Posts, one that will increase their number. No longer will you have to sit on the edge of your seat rocking back and forth chewing your nails wondering when the next bit of Sherlockian chronology info will arrive to feed your hungry mind.


So, look forward to a new and even better blog. I promise it won't be flashy or filled with ads. And I am not technically savvy enough to have RSS feeds or streaming live broadcasts. It will just be a simple, yet better-looking, place to visit and read the ramblings about my favorite subject.

Thank you all so much for your patronage, the Comments and Likes, and the topic ideas and questions that have been sent via Messenger or email. While I do this for my own pleasure, it would be nothing if I couldn't share it with someone.

See you next month.

Monday, November 28, 2016

I'm Making A List...

We have now entered what is commonly known as the holiday season, and as such I think we should take a look at what holidays* are in The Canon, and how they might have any chronological affect.

I'll tell you up front that there are six mentioned, but some of them are related. (More on that in a bit.) Along with those six we have one that merits only an Honorable Mention. So let's talk about that first.

New Year(s)
Three stories (BRUC, VALL, and FIVE) talk about this one. They don't actually mention the day itself, but merely hint at it. Here is what each says:
BRUC:
“No; his needs were very simple and his salary ample. He had saved a few hundreds, and we were to marry at the New Year.” (Possibly a reference to the actual day.)
VALL:
"McGinty glanced his eyes over the account of the shooting of one Jonas Pinto, in the Lake Saloon, Market Street, Chicago, in the New Year week of 1874."
FIVE:
“Well, it was the beginning of '84 when my father came to live at Horsham, and all went as well as possible with us until the January of '85. On the fourth day after the new year I heard my father give a sharp cry of surprise as we sat together at the breakfast-table."

As you can see only two of them have it capitalized, while the other simply talks about the fact that the year is new. This is why I am not listing this holiday as an official mention.

Now, let's talk about the others alphabetically.

Christmas
Anyone who has ever read the entire Canon knows that BLUE is considered THE Christmas story. It is set only two days after. (In fact, the word Christmas appears in the text eight times.) No one has a problem with the date of December 27th, but the year can range from 1888 to 1890 depending on whose timeline you're looking at.
What you may not know, however, is that it's also in SPEC:
"Julia went there at Christmas two years ago, and met there a half-pay Major of Marines, to whom she became engaged."
This is done totally in passing and the only effect it has on the dating of April of 1883 is to strengthen it.

The Jubilee
In DANC we have the following passage:
" Last year I came up to London for the Jubilee, and I stopped at a boarding-house in Russell Square, because Parker, the vicar of our parish, was staying in it."
What we don't know from the text is which Jubilee Hilton Cubbitt was talking about. The first was the Golden Jubilee. It was held on June 20, 1887, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth being in charge. The other, or Diamond, occurred almost exactly ten years later on June 22, 1897. The evidence in the story doesn't really specify which it is, but there is not one single chronologist that believes it was the first one. The case is always dated as 1897 or 1898, and I agree with it. If it were the 1887 event then Watson would have been married (or at least would have talked about it in some way), but it doesn't seem that he is. He doesn't say a thing about it, and it looks as though he is living at Baker Street and has been for some time. Thus, it has to be the later one.

Lady Day
"It ended in my moving into the house next Lady Day, and starting in practice on very much the same conditions as he had suggested."
Also known as the Feast of the Annunciation (of the Virgin Mary), this observance takes place on March 25th. We find it in RESI. It has no bearing on dating the case, but this is one where chronologists don't agree very much. All that is certain is that it happened in an October before 1890, so even though all agree on October the year can be anywhere from 1881 to 1887.

May Day
"I went down to the Albert Dock yesterday at 6 p.m., and boarded the S.S. May Day, belonging to the Liverpool, Dublin, and London Steam Packet Company."
This one, from CARD, might qualify for an Honorable Mention as well, but hear me out with my reasoning. Yes, it's the name of a ship, but the ship has to be named for the holiday itself since the distress call of 'mayday' wasn't even created until much later in 1923 - and it has nothing to do with May Day itself. Obviously it doesn't factor in to the dates in any way. (By the way, May Day falls on May 1st.)

Michaelmas
"So it came to pass that one Michaelmas this Hugo, with five or six of his idle and wicked companions, stole down upon the farm and carried off the maiden, her father and brothers being from home, as he well knew."
This passage from HOUN is talking about a time over 140 years before The Hound of the Baskervilles. Clearly the date isn't bothered by it. And even though Michaelmas takes place on September 29th, it is just a coincidence that quite a few chronologists place the story around that time.

Quarter-day
"It is late in March, so quarter-day is at hand."
This is where some of the holidays listed here are related. There are four quarter-days: Lady Day, the unmentioned Midsummer Day (June 24th), Michaelmas, and Christmas. All are roughly three months apart with two are near equinoxes, and two near solstices. The tradition is that they are when rent was due, school terms began, and it was servant-hiring time.
The dating of WIST, where this term appears, does have something to do with the date. In fact, it is basically the hub it all spins on. Thus, nearly every chronologist places this case in March, but the year is hardly agreed upon with a difference of opinion that spreads over 20 years from 1892 to 1902 with most placing it in the early to mid-1890's.


Just like today, there were plenty of holidays, observances, and festivals going on in Victorian England that it's somewhat surprising that more aren't listed. However, Holmes never struck me as much of a fete kind of guy. Still, I can see Watson being more interested, but there's no way to prove that as we know even less about his religious feelings than we do about that of Holmes. Either way, we only have so many cases on which to glean our information about these topics. The Canon, as with a lot of things, is strangely quiet about this.

Make sure to join us next time to see if our intrepid hero can once again thrill us with incredible actions and unmatched intelligence! Until then...

*The term 'holiday' is in The Canon in five cases, but as we are talking about England it refers to a vacation or day off and not an observance of any kind.

Cases named:
BLUE - The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
WIST - The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge
CARD - The Adventure of the Cardboard Box
RESI - The Adventure of the Resident Patient
DANC - The Adventure of the Dancing Men
SPEC - The Adventure of the Speckled Band
BRUC - The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans
VALL - The Valley of Fear
FIVE - The Five Orange Pips
HOUN - The Hound of the Baskervilles

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Thing That Happened, And Then Happened Differently, And Then Almost Disappeared Once

Lately I've been doing a lot research for a book that I intend to write. It's a book about chronology, and the research I'm doing is taking me to all sorts of old and new places. One of those old places has to do with a curiosity that affects "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box" (CARD) and "The Resident Patient" (RESI). It's something I haven't thought about in a long time, but now that I'm reminded of it we can discuss it.

Grab a copy of a "complete" Holmes book. Find the stories mentioned above and read the beginnings. Just the first couple of pages or so. You'll notice that something seems very familiar. The text appears to look exactly the same at one point. Well, that's because it is. Let me explain. (This gets a little confusing. I apologize.)

CARD was published in early 1893 in the Strand Magazine in London. When George Newnes, LTD. put out the first book edition (in London) in 1894 of The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes it contained eleven cases. CARD was not included even though it had been one of the twelve stories that appeared in the Strand Magazine. When Harper published the first American edition it had CARD back in its rightful spot. Immediately following the publication of this book, however, was another edition from Harper that took CARD out again. It turns out Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had decided to exclude the story from any book because it involved an illicit love affair. It is believed that Harper didn't know about Doyle's decision before putting out the first version. Well, someone caught it, and a second version had to be rushed out. (They called it the 'New and Revised Edition' on the title page.) Personally, I would love to get my hands on one of the first Harper editions!

So, what does this have to do with RESI, you ask? Well, part of CARD was so good that a chunk of it was lifted and pasted into RESI. It didn't start out with the "mind-reading sequence" when it was published in late 1893. The fun part is that no one has any idea who decided on the changes. Was it Doyle? Watson? An editor? It's never been established. But, no matter - let's take a look at this mess.

In your book, go to CARD. Read a few lines into the second paragraph. When you get to the part that says "through the fogs of winter." stop. It is from this point that the pasting begins. Now read all the way to the line "I should not have intruded it upon your attention had you not shown some incredulity the other day." That is where the pasting stops. All of what you read in between was taken directly from CARD. However, none of that was in the original publication in the Strand Magazine when RESI came out. What was in their first was this...

I cannot be sure of the exact date, for some of my memoranda upon the matter have been mislaid, but it must have been towards the end of the first year during which Holmes and I shared chambers in Baker Street. It was boisterous October weather, and we had both remained indoors all day, I because I feared with my shaken health to face the keen autumn wind, while he was deep in some of those abstruse chemical investigations which absorbed him utterly as long as he was engaged upon them. Towards evening, however, the breaking of a test-tube brought his research to a premature ending, and he sprang up from his chair with an exclamation of impatience and a clouded brow.

"A day's work ruined, Watson," said he, striding across to the window. "Ha! the stars are out and the wind has fallen. What do you say to a ramble through London?"



Now, when you look at CARD you'll see that Watson tells us that "it was a blazing hot day in August." But, in RESI, before the pasting, it says that "it had been a close, rainy day in October." There's no conflict here since the weather descriptions come before the mind-reading part of the text. There's no chronological problems between stories for the same reason. All chronologists believe CARD was in August (though the year and date is debated), and all believe RESI was in October (but again the year and date is debated).

It doesn't end there, though, because when the English publisher John Murray published a book in 1928 called Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Short Stories, RESI had been altered once more! Now the pasting was completely gone and the two original paragraphs from above were shortened to...


It had been a close, rainy day in October. "Unhealthy weather, Watson," said my friend. "But the evening has brought a breeze with it. What do you say to a ramble through London?"

So, basically, you could have any one of the different versions of the mish-mash between these two stories. Next time you're perusing your Sherlockian library, take a look and see which ones you've got. Either way, you no longer have to worry about coming across this anomaly and being confused. This post should cover it for you.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Trust Watson, Eh?

Lately I've been working on a new project that focuses on Sherlockian chronology (imagine that) and I got to thinking about what order the stories would be in if we used just what The Canon tells us. It is possible to come up with a general consensus by using other chronologist's findings, but what about just going straight to the source? Well, let's talk about that.

Watson was infamous for not checking his notes from past cases. He causes all sorts of problems with inconsistencies, so many so that we're still arguing about them. I applaud those who have assembled full chronologies because it means they overcame many hardships. It also means, though, that they had to ignore, go around, explain away, re-calculate, and/or tweak the clues in just the right way to get what they needed. Those with no interest in this part of the hobby like to fall back on the tired 'trust Watson' way of thinking, knowing full well that it doesn't work. But, in the interest of fairness we'll see if we can make something out of what he left us.

You should know up front that this will not be successful. At least not completely. There just isn't enough in some of the cases to use. I'm talking minimal info. There are actually two cases that don't give any kind of a date at all. With the rest, though, we're going to look at the evidence Watson put directly into the story. We're not going to go too deep. This is just skimming the surface and ignoring the mathematics and situation-juggling that usually comes with chronology. This is the kind of thing you find on a first read-through. (The kind of thing that just isn't good enough for the likes of me.) Luckily, it isn't too hard to start the list.

Nearly everyone agrees that the first three cases are GLOR, MUSG, and STUD. (Jay Finley Christ believes that BERY came before STUD based on weather reports. He is the only exception. To be fair, however, most chronologists place BERY not far after the other three.) So, we can start our list by placing GLOR and MUSG in the first two slots.

Here is the story abbreviation and then what The Sacred Texts say in regards to the date(s).

GLOR - The first month of a long vacation sometime in 1885 (1885 is when Holmes is telling the story to Watson. The actual case took place about ten years earlier when Holmes was in college and was the first he was ever involved in. This may be cheating a bit, but it's okay here, I think.)
MUSG - One winter's night (This is a little tricky: Watson doesn't actually tell us what year Holmes is telling him this story, so we should relegate it to the bottom series of cases at the end of this post, but we know that MUSG is a pre-Watson case and therefore deserves to be up here at the beginning. Holmes tells Watson that the actual action was four years after college, thus it goes in behind GLOR.)
(Now STUD should be in this spot, but all Watson tells us is that it's after 1878. No other year is given. The only thing we can be certain of is that STUD is before 1887 because that's when it was published, but that's getting deeper than I want to go here.)
SPEC - Early April 1883
REIG - April 25, 1887
FIVE - Late September 1887
NOBL - Early October 1887
SCAN - March 20, 1888
SIGN - July 7 or September 1888
TWIS - Friday*, June 19, 1889 (*That date was actually a Wednesday.)
ENGR - Summer 1889 (I placed this here because summer starts on the 21st or 22nd, so after the case before.)
HOUN - October 1889
REDH - June 27 or October 9, 1890
FINA - April 24 - May 6, 1891
WIST - Late March 1892 (This is obviously impossible since Holmes was thought to be dead at the bottom of Reichenbach Falls, wasn't, but then disappeared and didn't come back to London until...)
EMPT - April 1894
NORW - The August after EMPT
GOLD - Late November 1894
SOLI - Saturday*, April 23, 1895 (*Another bad date: April 23, 1895, was a Tuesday.)
BLAC - July 3, 1895
BRUC - November 21, 1895
VEIL - Late in 1896
DEVI - March 16, 1897
ABBE - Winter 1897
RETI - Summer of 1898 or 1899
3GAR - Thursday, June 19 or 26, 1902
ILLU - September 3, 1902
BLAN - January 1903
CREE - September 6, 1903
LION - A Tuesday in late July 1907
LAST - August 2, 1914 (The only non-debated date in The Canon.)

The above cases represent exactly half of the original 60.

So what do we have left? Well, we have eleven dates that give us some indication, but are not specific enough to be placed in a more exact spot.
BOSC - Early June in the late 1880's
BLUE - December 27 (After TWIS)
DANC - 1888 or 1898
IDEN - After SCAN, SIGN, and STUD
LADY - After 1889
MISS - A February 7 or 8 years before 1894
PRIO - A Thursday, May 16 after 1900
RESI - An October before 1890
STUD - March 4 in a year after 1878
3STU - 1895
VALL - January 7 sometime in the late 1880's

What remains are the ones that give little or no help at all to assist us.
BERY - A Friday in February
CARD - A Friday in August
CHAS - Winter in a "concealed" year
COPP - Early spring
CROO - A Wednesday in summer
DYIN - A Saturday in November
GREE - A Wednesday in summer
MAZA - Summer
NAVA - Late July
REDC - Nothing given
SECO - A Tuesday in autumn in a "nameless year"
SHOS - May
SILV - Thursday
SIXN - More than a year after May 20
STOC - A Saturday in June
SUSS - November 19
THOR - October 4
3GAB - Nothing given
YELL - A Saturday in early spring

What it boils down to is that is isn't possible to construct a chronology based on what The Canon gives us. Trusting Watson just isn't feasible. He just didn't leave us enough to go on, and therefore we can't even compare other chronologists to see who came the closest in comparison. This is where the detective work (so to speak) comes into play: looking for more clues to guide us toward a solid answer to this problem. Many have been called, but only a few have actually finished. But, trusting Watson just doesn't work. The stories where he does give us a "solid" date do not follow an order that has been accepted by a single chronologist. Therefore, we have more work to do. And I'll keep doing it.

Until next time...

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Game of Sherlockian Pitfall (Without the Alligators)

The purpose of my paper in Minnesota this past June was to examine some of the pitfalls and roadblocks that were thrown in our way over 100 years ago by a well-meaning doctor. Without his written notes about the great detective Sherlock Holmes we would have nothing. But, since those notes do exist and have been made public, we have lots to sink our teeth into. I like to sink mine into the chronology of the stories, but John Watson did not make it an easy bite to swallow.

I'd like to start by telling you that there is only one definite with this topic: all of the stories had to have happened before they were published. That's it. There are no other absolutes, and as you will see there may never be.

When I first found chronology in the hobby I was thrilled. I was drawn to the finality of it. The black and white way it should have been. But I quickly found out it wasn't like that at all. It was a train wreck. Lots of inconsistency. I still found myself fascinated, though, and it was the inconsistencies that kept me coming back. People told me I was chasing a fool's folly, but I couldn't shake it. It seemed to be where I continued to turn. The reason I do it? It's almost solvable. That makes me crazy.

See, I believe that most things should boil down to very simple solutions, no matter how convoluted or intricate they are. Canonical chronology is quite complicated, and every attempt to work out a fresh new timeline has only muddied the proverbial waters. On the surface, though, it looks as though it should be simple enough.

Okay, let's begin by getting a big question out of the way: is chronology important?
Some say yes, some say no. It is possible to enjoy the stories without it. Many do. The deductions and inductions. The friendship. The era itself. The thrills, spills, and chills. I'm not sure about important, but I do think it's necessary, imbedded, and unavoidable. Here are my reasons.
Necessary: whenever you watch a crime drama or documentary one of the first things the detectives or police try to nail down is a timeline. It's crucial. Well, it’s the same for a historian or researcher. A solid order of events has to be established. From there everything else falls into place.
Imbedded: let's say you have a lighthearted conversation with someone about the number of times Watson was married. The only reason this problem exists is because of chronology. Now, some say they believe it had only been once, and I'm sure that’s how others in the early 20th century felt as well…until that one day when an astute reader said, "Hhhheeeeyyyy, wait a minute."
And what about Holmes's birthday? The date we have exists because of two things: Shakespeare and chronology.
Then there's the true location of The Holy Flat. Before 1932 there was no 221 on Baker Street in London. So, you have to look at Baker Street, Upper Baker Street, York Place, Camden House and anything else associated with 221b in order to try and determine exactly where it was. All of those things existed at some point in time, and to solve the unsolvable riddle you have to know when.
Unavoidable: if you give a paper about poisons, female detectives, the Pinkertons, Jack the Ripper, Victorian fingernail clippers, whatever it may be, you have to do research about times and dates or your presentation could sound something like: "Sherlock Holmes was really cool, and he did lots of stuff and went lots of places with Dr. Watson and they lived happily ever after. Thank you. Good night." (A little extreme, but you get my point.)
My friend, and fellow Illustrious Client, Pat Ward likes to say, "I'm glad there are chronologists because I wouldn't want to have to do it." I understand that. It isn't for everybody. I live it daily, but that's just me. It's how my parts are assembled. And actually, I'm glad there aren't a lot of us.

I'd like to share with you two quotes that show just how different attitudes can be about it:
"Some Sherlockian scholars persist in taking everything Watson says quite literally, forgetting that he was not giving a verbatim account - something he was not necessarily always in a position to do anyway - but telling a story for the amusement of the general reader." - John Hall
I chose not to believe that. However, there have been legions of people who do. But, even if it’s true, Hall still decided to write a whole book about it. Further, The Canon is a puzzle whether just amusing stories or not. And I am not a general reader.
Not everyone had such a cavalier attitude about the task. The following quote is from a chronologist who refers to chronology as a Demon or The Devil:
"As I toiled painfully along the rocky road of my servitude, the journey's end ever receded; but being prodded continually in the fleshy parts I was given no rest. The path was slippery with the tears of my exasperation."
- H.W. Bell
(THAT sounds more like me.)

So, let's take a look at what this tangent of Sherlockian study entails. One of the great things about investigating chronology is that there are other Canonical mysteries that we don't have to tackle. We will, and we have, but we don't need to for our purposes.

Some of those unnecessary conundrums are: Where were Watson's wounds? Who was Mrs. Turner? What did Holmes believe? Lama or llama - are we talking dude or animal? How many people named James Moriarty were in The Canon? Camford – Oxford or Cambridge? What color were Holmes's dressing gowns? These are questions better left for others to ponder. They could, in some small way, figure into a chronology, but they are not chronological problems.

Get any two of us chronologists together and there'll be a debate about whether you should read other people's versions first, after, or not at all. I like reading them first. I get a sense of the reasons for disagreements, and might find something I may not have noticed myself.
Others, like Brad Keefauver, prefer to do his own work first and then take a look at his predecessors after. I think either way works fine. No matter which someone does, the end result will still have disagreements. Let me give you an idea of some of those disagreements. Here is a graph I made that shows how the first ten cases compare from five random chronologists (Brad Keefauver, John Hall, Jay Finley Christ, Chris Miller, and William S. Baring-Gould).
There is a lot of agreement for the order of the first three or four cases, but then it goes all wonky, and that's just with ten cases and five chronologists. (You should see what a graph of all 60 looks like!) Also note that there are 10 cases that don’t correlate to other columns at all.

One of those listed above, William S. Baring-Gould, gave compiling a timeline at least three tries. In 1948 he published a chronology in The BSJ. In 1955 he published The Chronological Holmes that used the same one from 1948, but did contain some revisions. In 1967 he put out his most famous work - The Annotated Sherlock Holmes. It contained a new chronology. Somewhere he found something that changed his mind and caused him to have to rethink and rewrite a large number of his previous findings.

So, how many stories in The Canon have a date that is unquestioned? The answer is 1. 'His Last Bow.' August 2, 1914. The start of World War 1.
Now, if you want me to get really nitpicky, I could point out that Great Britain didn't get into the war until August 4. The paper above, from New York, was the best image I could find which showed a date. It's from the next day. I am certain this info was known by other chronologists, but since the story actually has the date of August 2 in it, that's what everyone uses.

When it comes to researching for a paper (or whatever), I believe a person should read a story at least three times. The first time just gives you a general feel for it. The second time you start to look for details. The third time you look for all the details you missed. What kind of details, you ask? Well...
Publications – what newspapers or magazines are mentioned? Occupations – remember that most people didn’t work on Sundays. Real historic people – they can help if they really existed. Actual events – can also help if they really happened. Other cases – are others mentioned? How does this case relate to them? Billy the page – is he mentioned?
Holidays – absolute dates that can help. Weather events – weather can help if it can be confirmed. Dates – do all of the dates talked about work together? Odd words or phrases – was a word or phrase in use at the time? Anachronisms – could they have existed at the time? Watson's life – was he married? Living at Baker Street? Was he in practice? Mail – if new mail is mentioned it isn’t a Sunday. Brand names – did that product exist? Street names – did that street or those streets exist then? Clothing – does what is described help with the time of year? Age references – do we have any clues about the age of Holmes or Watson? Days of the week – can they be used to help date the story? (And this is just some of the things to look at.)

But, where do I find this info, you ask? Well, there are so many places that I can’t even scrape the surface about how many. The resources available to us nowadays is almost unbelievable. My shelves are filled with plenty of reading material which allows me to go back in time and find data, data, data. When those can't help I have a number of different websites I go on, and when I venture out there are plenty of sites that cover almost anything you can imagine.


There are three ways, I think, in which to make a chronology.
1. Make all of the stories work with each other. This is what a number of the older chronologists did.
2. Make all of the stories work with each other and add internal evidence. This is where it starts getting tricky. There is so much information included in the texts that one can look into. Living in the age of information is truly a great thing. Previous researchers could never have fathomed what we have at our fingertips. And more is discovered daily. (Now you'd think this would help in our quest, but it doesn't. Instead, it makes it worse. Now we have evidence to help with those small inconsistencies, but they often go against the story-interaction-only timeline. As such, we are still no closer to a definitive one.)
3. Trust Watson. Let's take a look at a few examples of why that isn't an option.

When I was in high school I was fascinated by Nostradamus. I read everything I could get my hands on, and preached his gospel to anyone who would listen. But, as I got older I began to realize that in order to believe in his work, you had to do a lot of manipulation to that work to get the results you wanted. The reason I bring this up is because I always got that sort of feeling when reading The Canon. There were certain problems with The Writings that had to be explained, and certain manipulations that had to be done in order to ferret out any truths.
Watson was not a psychic, seer, or prophet, but he did leave us intriguing little problems to be worked out. The list I have here is probably not all-inclusive, but I think it represents the major "rules" we have to use in our chronological journey.
Instead of reading them all, I'd like to talk a little bit about #6 – Used current terminology in older stories. This is something that came to my attention some years ago. I had never given it any thought, but when I did I realized that I had a whole new problem in trying to date the cases.
I was doing a story discussion and was leaning pretty heavily on some wording or phrasing, and one of our members asked the question, "What if Watson inserted that word or phrase while editing, but it wasn't actually in use at the time the story happened?"
I was floored. I had never realized this possibility, and I had to go back and do a lot of rethinking.
(I actually did this with SUSS and the term "yegg." My date was nowhere close to anyone else's, and I thought I had made some kind of breakthrough. Well, I hadn't. Had to throw out my reasoning and start all over again. Using this logic and making some adjustments I found my new date was similar to others.)

In SOLI we are told in the second paragraph that it was Saturday, April 23, 1895. Simple, straightforward, and precise, right? No. See, April 23, 1895, was a Tuesday. So, what did Watson mean? Did he really mean April 23, 1895, and just got the day of the week wrong? Did he really mean a Saturday in April 1895, but got the date wrong? Did he really mean April 1895, or was it supposed to be another month where the 23rd falls on a Saturday? Did he really mean 1895 or another year where April 23 falls on a Saturday?

Furthermore, how do we interpret the following in the texts?
Week - Does he mean around a week? Or does he mean 5 days? Or 7 days?
All day - Is that 24 hours? Sunrise to sunset?
Winter - True winter? Or just when there's snow on the ground?
Autumn - Is he talking about fall? Or before it gets really cold?

Another example of a problem occurs in CARD. Mary Browner and Alec Fairbairn buy tickets for New Brighton, as does Jim Browner. But, is this a reference to the New Brighton train station? That station was called simply New Brighton after it was remodeled in 1888. (Before that it was called Brighton Station.) Or is it just a reference to the town of New Brighton itself where there just happened to be a station? Whichever someone picks could completely change the dating. (I should point out that three major chronologists date the story before 1888, so they believed it referenced just the station.)

In NAVA Watson tells us of three cases he has listed for the July preceding his marriage - "The Adventure of the Second Stain" "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty" and "The Adventure of the Tired Captain."
The third one here is an unpublished case. The first two we know about. Or at least we think we know about them.
Watson writes…
"The first of these, however, deals with interests of such importance and implicates so many of the first families in the kingdom that for many years it will be impossible to make it public. No case, however, in which Holmes was engaged has ever illustrated the value of his analytical methods so clearly or has impressed those who were associated with him so deeply. I still retain an almost verbatim report of the interview in which he demonstrated the true facts of the case to Monsieur Dubuque of the Paris police, and Fritz von Waldbaum, the well-known specialist of Dantzig, both of whom had wasted their energies upon what proved to be side-issues."
Problem: neither of these two men appear in SECO! Are we talking about a totally separate case, or did Watson make an error in the name of it, or did he hide the real facts but later changed them when it was okay to do so? Furthermore, in YELL Watson calls the case "a failure." Well, the published version surely wasn't one, so what are we to think? Not only that, The Doubleday, and other American editions, has MUSG in place of SECO. MUSG wasn't "a failure" either. And to throw one more pickle in the barrel, SECO wasn't even published until 1904. YELL was published in 1893. But, Watson refers to it in YELL as a past case. We cannot be talking about the same one.

Let's talk briefly about crocuses. Using the times that crocuses bloom is an easy way to nail down a timeline, but that isn't the case. First off, there are over 90 types. Second, at the time of Holmes career there were over 40 different versions in the UK. (That number does not include hybrids.) The problem is that the different versions can bloom almost all year round. Baring-Gould uses them in EMPT to help with his dating, but completely ignores them in SPEC. But, without knowing exactly which one is being referred to, it's not a usable piece of evidence.

Perhaps there are new ways to construct a chronology. How about:
1. Lump all of the stories where Watson is married into one marriage and work everything out around it.
Problem: what about the cases where Watson isn't living at 221b? He doesn't always say he's married.
2. Lump all of the stories where Billy the page appears.
Problem: "Billy" may have been a nickname for any pageboy.
3. Use the dining table to work out a timeline.
If you look at the Paget illustrations you'll find the dining table changes. Sometimes it had sharp corners, sometimes it had rounded corners. What if we lines up all of the sharp-corner cases, and then all the rounded-corner cases? (That last one is is entirely my invention. It would be fun to try it someday.)

So, this brings me to the end. But before I go, I want to include one last thing. One last factor. One last headache.
Let's say you've put in all of the necessary work to build a chronology. You've done all the research, compared all the stories, and read all of the reasoning that others before you laid out. Great, but…
Recall that in VEIL Watson talks about how long Holmes was in practice, and also how long he was with Holmes. Holmes's 23 years is not very debated, and can be calculated fairly easily. Watson's 17 years is heavily debated, but it has to fall into the 23 somewhere, of course. Your findings have to fit into this one last set of parameters. If they don't, then grab some caffeine, your Post-it Notes, those flash drives, the laptop that actually works, and the stacks of books which has to include The Canon, because now you have to start all over again.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Swimming In A Box

"She is the daughter of old Tom Bellamy, who owns all the boats and bathing-cots at Fulworth. He was a fisherman to start with, but is now a man of some substance. He and his son William run the business." - LION

Out of all of the things mentioned in the above passage, can you guess which we'll be discussing? Yep. Bathing-cots. What's a bathing-cot, you ask? Well, a very curious item that had its heyday and then just kind of faded away. It also happens to be one of the items mentioned only once in The Canon. Let's take a look at them.


Bathing-cots, also known as bathing-machines, were a fixture at beaches all around England and the world during the very prudish 1800's and early 1900's. Women and men were not to swim (or bathe) together at swimming locales, but with the women's rights movements that was to change. However, even if there were to be co-ed beaches, it still wasn't proper for ladies to be seen in their swimming outfits. So, a compromise had to be reached. Enter the batching-cot. It allowed women to swim at any public beach, but in private. Basically, it worked like this: the ladies entered the bathing-cot, changed into the proper attire, and then an attendant or team of horses would pull or push the carriage into the water. The people inside could enjoy the water, but away from the eyes of everyone.

Dimensions for them were different, but most were the size of a modern-day bathroom or walk-in closet. Often they were of wood construction, but some were canvas stretched over a frame. Two axles supported the four wheels, and often there was a hitch for the horses to be attached to. Very simple. Larger wheels were often preferred as it kept the cot from moving around in the tide too much. Later, smaller and heavier-made ones were used for the same purpose, the drawback being that it would sink into the shifting sand.

As they became more popular there started to be variations. Family-sized versions were built to allow mom and pop and the kiddos time to frolic. Some were built with small porches or stairs, and others were designed by wealthy patrons and featured curtained windows, gables, skylights, ornate metalwork, etc. (There was one built on 1908 that surpassed all of these. We'll get to it soon.) Often the outside of the commercial versions was very plain, but sometimes they were painted with stripes or decorated with fancy roofs.


Other variations included rounded-style main bodies, large canvas chutes on the back that extended to the water so people could actually get out and into the water, but still in privacy, and fenced-in areas.


In the nothing-has-changed category, you could always rely on companies to find a new place to advertise. Bathing-cots were no different. I found images showing that Beecham's Pills had a large part of the market, but here we see one from Pears' Soap. (Often the ad painted on the side was for the company that owned the cots.) There was a society formed in London in the 1890's that had members that refused to buy anything advertised in public places, thinking it a blight on their city walls and transportation. However, that group doesn't seem to have been very successful or well-attended.

These craft were invented in 1750 by a Quaker man named Benjamin Beale in Margate, Kent. Recall that Leonardo the strong man died while bathing near there in VEIL. He would have seen many bathing-cots as they had been a staple on beaches there for about 140 years. This photo shows one being pulled into the water by a horse at one of the actual beaches near Margate - perhaps even the one ol' Leo died at. It is obviously a single-person model judging by the size and the fact that only one horse is being used. Larger ones can be seen on the beach.

Notice the wagon with the advertisement on the far right of the above photo. It is for the company of Hancock & Jordan. I know the picture was taken on or before June 1, 1897, as that was the day their business was dissolved as you can see in this notice from The London Gazette of that year. Chronologically that works out quite well as none of the major chronologists place VEIL past late 1896 (which is what The Canon tells us, as well).

That cart that was built in 1908 that I referenced earlier was one that surpassed all others in size, functions, and decoration. It was an incredibly ornate model constructed specifically for King Alphonso XIII of Spain. He had been a king since birth as his father had died while he was still in the womb. He led an extravagant life, and no expense was ever spared for anything. In 1908 he had a bathing-machine made for him, his English wife, his children, and the Royal party. It was located in San Sebastian, Spain, on Ondaretta Beach. A steam engine pulley system pushed it into the water and also back out on a specially-built rail system. It was large, beautiful, and totally unnecessary. It was torn down in 1911.

In time these cots became obsolete and unnecessary, at least for their original use. Beaches around the world changed to co-ed, and women's bathing suits were slowly gaining acceptance. Most didn't get thrown on the woodpile, though, but had the wheels removed and became bathing huts. They made perfect changing rooms. Others were rolled away to be used as tool or storage sheds, and some were undoubtedly disassembled or thrown out. Quite a few went out to local farms to be turned into hay carts or something similar.

Some of them still survive today, but almost always as tourist attractions. They can be found on beaches or beachfront attractions around the world. Often they are completely restored, but others are shown just as they were after decades of use in the salt water. So, it is possible to get see an original bathing-cot from the time of Holmes and Watson if you do a bit of research.
There are hundreds of photos of these that can be found with a simple internet search. Unfortunately space won't permit me to show them all. Take the time to look at the history and use of these simple machines. It's a fascinating curiosity that isn't given much thought nowadays. Personally, I love finding things like this, and I truly hope I can bring you something just as cool again next month. Til then...

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Not Only Was Just "Sherlock Holmes Baffled"...


On April 26, 1900, two actors walked onto a hastily designed movie set on the roof of 841 Broadway in New York City and unknowingly prepared to make history. One donned a head-to-toe black outfit in an attempt to look like a burglar, and the other put a robe on over his clothes. He stuck a pistol in one pocket and matches in the other. In his mouth hung a cigar.

Usually only one camera was used to record these early pieces, and that was the case here. When it clicked to life the duo acted out a very early version of trick photography, with the thief disappearing and reappearing. Once completed the black and white film would be 18 feet in length and 49 seconds from beginning to the end (once you added the opening credits and the cheesy chamber music). And though the action only lasts 31 of those seconds, the pair had just recorded the first manifestation of the world famous detective Sherlock Holmes on screen. Including the name of Holmes also made it the first detective film, and it was likely used due to the popularity of the character.

The "story" itself bears no resemblance to any Canonical case. In its entirety it goes like this...

At Baker Street (?) a burglar is filling a sack with various items when a cigar-chewing Holmes interrupts him. Holmes taps the thief on the shoulder and he promptly disappears. Holmes sits down to ponder what just happened. He lights his cigar just as the villain reappears in front of him. The detective pulls a pistol and shoots, but the crook departs again. After several more poofs and re-poofs he finally disappears for the last time. The Master, baffled, throws up his arms in disgust. (The backdrop is a painting of a fireplace, vase, and piece of art which has been hung on a pre-existing wall that has a door and a window.The only actual items on the set are the table and chairs, and a bullseye lantern which is setting on the table. I am thrilled to admit that I own an authentic one that is the same type.)


This "motion picture" would be one of thousands made by The American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, also called AMBC. (In time the name was shortened to simply Biograph.) Arthur Marvin, brother of company co-founder Henry Marvin, was the director. This was one of over 400 he did. The movie, titled Sherlock Holmes Baffled, which was shot on 68mm stock (yes, 68mm!), was released in May of 1900, but wasn't registered until February 24, 1903, under the production number H28561.

This was the kind of item that was shown on Mutoscope machines. A person inserted a penny or nickel (hence the later Nickelodeon machines) and watched it through a small window. (It's where we get the term peepshow.) Eventually the films would wear out and were often discarded.

In 1968 the eminent Sherlock Holmes film historian Michael Pointer identified a paper copy of the print in the Library of Congress Paper Print archive. It was thought that it had been lost. Until 1912 motion pictures were not covered by copyright laws, so any companies that produced films submitted paper prints to register their work. Developed like a still photograph, the light-sensitive paper was the same width and length as the film itself. This is how thousands of movies from that time are preserved. This film has since been transferred to 16mm film and is in a collection at the Library of Congress.

There are a couple of little curiosities about it:
1. The work is not flawless. When Holmes sits to contemplate what just happened he lights his cigar and then jumps back when the thief reappears in front of him. But, he reacts before the reappearance. The timing was off.
2. I have watched this thing many times, and I am always convinced that the thief is being portrayed by a woman. Watch it and see what you think.
3. The look of Holmes is almost certainly a loose copy of Gillette's on-stage outfit. It's amazing to think so since the Gillette play had debuted only 5 1/2 months earlier!

This is nearly everything we know about it. Research makes it possible to determine which types of machines it was shown on, the other titles it was shipped with, and which theaters it was shipped to, but what has never been discovered is the name of the actors. The producers used anyone they could find, from vaudeville performers, to friends and family. I have also read that they would go out and get people walking on the street for extras. The "stars" were kept nameless since the movies were the draw, not them. The folks at AMBC may have had the names recorded somewhere, but that information has never been found. In fact, the payroll records still exist, but unfortunately yielded no usable information.

There are a few candidates for title of World's First Screen Holmes: William Gillette, Walter Huston, and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. All of these are very doubtful, but further research may be necessary before ruling any of them out completely. Maybe someday new evidence will come to light that will tell us the name of this man and his companion, but until then it will remain a Sherlockian/Holmesian mystery of the highest order. Watch the full movie here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jP_aPe-YsCI

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cabmen's Shelters - A Brief History

I look at a lot of websites that deal with Victorian London. Most of them are blogs, while others are instructional or educational. Either way, you can come across some pretty cool information. And so, a few years ago I discovered cabmen's shelters.

Cabmen's shelters, also known as Green Cabbie Huts, were specifically made as rest areas for cab drivers. Some had a small kitchen inside, but nearly all had coffee and snacks. They all had tables for multiple people, and a fresh stock of the day's newspapers. Basically they were home away from home for the drivers. And as you can see from the advertisement to the left some were often built with other necessary actions in mind.

The purpose for them were to be rest stops for cabbies who worked very long days. The original idea was born when an upper crust gentlemen sent out a servant to find a cab. The servant found a large number of inebriated cabbies in a local bar, totally unfit to drive. The gentlemen came up with the idea for a place for the cab drivers to gather that kept no alcohol. Between 1875 and 1914 61 were built around London. They were constructed to be only the size of a carriage since they were often in the middle of main streets. That idea was somewhat negated if a dozen or so cabs were parked outside and taking up a lot of room. And since by law the cabbies couldn't leave their cabs there and go somewhere else, the area could get clogged up. (This photo here is obviously a later one as you can see an automobile parked among the cabs.)


I am somewhat surprised that one of these doesn't appear anywhere in The Canon. It seems like the sort of regular everyday thing a Londoner would deal with, including Holmes and/or Watson. But, nowhere is one mentioned. I remember that I was doing research for a paper about Holmes when I come across a photograph that had one of the shelters in it. I didn't know what they were or what they were called, but more research led me to the proper name, and for some reason I developed a bit of a fascination for them. This is the actual picture I saw that piqued my interest.

The idea eventually spread to other parts of the world. Australia built some of their own, and Ireland did, too - the most famous of which was located at Butt Bridge in Dublin. That shelter was featured in a rather lengthy scene in Ulysses by James Joyce. The only other claim to fame for them is that it's possible that Jack the Ripper himself may have visited one using an alias. (Hell, it could have been his real name. No one really knows.) Outside of these two times you really won't find much about them in popular literature.

In time these structures became less necessary. More
people were taking trains or trolleys, bicycles were getting to be more popular, and when the automobile arrived it was basically the end of the need for nearly all of the buildings. Most were torn down, but some became storage sheds for the highest bidder. Strangely, others had people move into them to use them as a place to get away from it all. In the end there were 13 left standing. They were kept in decent shape for the most part, and ultimately a fund was set up for their restoration and upkeep. Now they have become tourist destinations in modern-day London, and a good number of them are refreshment kiosks or diners...still specifically for cab drivers.

The thirteen remaining shelters are scattered all over the city. Here are the locations:


Chelsea Embankment SW3 - close to junction with Albert Bridge, London
Embankment Place WC2 - close to the Playhouse Theatre
Grosvenor Gardens SW1 - to the west side of the north gardens
Hanover Square, London W1 - on the north side of the central gardens
Kensington Park Road W11 - outside numbers 8-10
Kensington Road W8 - close to the junction of Queen's Gate SW7
Pont Street SW1 - close to the junction of Sloane Street
Russell Square WC1 - Western Corner (relocated to here from Leicester Square)
St. George's Square, Pimlico SW1 - on the north side
Temple Place WC2 - opposite side of the road from the Swissötel Howard
Thurloe Place, Kensington SW7 - in the middle of the road opposite the Victoria and Albert Museum
Warwick Avenue, London W9 - centre of the road, by Warwick Avenue tube station
Wellington Place NW8 - near to Lord's Cricket Ground

That last one, at one mile away, was the one that (I believe) was the closest to 221b Baker Street. If I ever get to London it is the one I want to visit.
These little buildings have an interesting history. There are stories to be found about them all over the papers of the day, and it makes for a fun afternoon of research if the mood should strike you. If you decide to do so just remember that there were over 60 of them. Plan accordingly.