Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Big Helping Of Maybe With A Side Of Perhaps

Lately I've been thinking about something. It occurred to me one night just as I laid my head down for some sleep. It actually kept me awake for a bit, and then it was the first thing I thought of (when lucid) the next morning. What about a Sherlockian society for chronologists?
I know there's not a lot of specialty groups out there, but they do exist. And I think they're kind of a cool idea. I belong to one out of Peoria, Illinois. It's a group of us who happen to have the same hansom cab clock. It's called The Hansom Cab Clock Club. Clever, eh? Look us up the internet. We're a small but growing group, and it's fun to belong to even though we've never had a meeting. And there's no actual rules. Well, except that you have to own one of these clocks, and the hands have to be set to 2:21 if you don't have it plugged in. Other than that it's just a harmless little society. We get a newsletter email from time to time, but it's mostly just to let us know of new folks. We even have official membership cards. (I believe I'm Member #008. I think. I'd have to find my card.) But, it's fun to be a part of this select group. This is my actual clock.
I belonged to another way back in the 90's called The American Firm. Everyone got an investiture name that you got to pick yourself. I chose Breckenridge since he was a salesman, and at the time I was, too. I don't know if they held meetings or not, but they did send out regular correspondence. I'd have to dig one of those out to find out if this was an actual get-together group.
What I'm getting at is that the idea of a specialty group appeals to me. I have heard of one for Sherlockian dentists, one for model makers, one for comic books, and so on. My (now late) friend Meredith Granger started one for cats called The Unequalled Bag of Tigers. They never had meetings, either.
But, my thoughts are for a group who have an interest in chronology. I already have about ten members picked out, a few of whom will be reading this. There would be no meetings that I can imagine, but I am envisioning a newsletter. And not an email newsletter, either. I mean a real one. One with articles, and columns, and ideas, and charts, and reviews. I even know what it would be named: TIMELINE. I don't see it being a monthly thing, but maybe quarterly. And all of us who have an interest in chronology have different parts of it we find fascinating. It would be a melting pot for all of those.

What I don't know yet is what to call it. I keep swirling it around in my brain. Maybe The World Sherlockian Chronologist's Society. Or The Society for Sherlockian Chronologists. I even considered the cute acronym style name where the acronym has something to do with the ideal. The only one I came up with was CL.O.C.K.- CLub of Chronological Knowledge. Might be nice for a club pin, but it doesn't really work too well for a name. (Maybe CLOCK can be used for something else in association with the group.)
I truly believe that there is enough material for this to become a reality. There are a couple of dozen chronologies, several being worked on, and thousands of findings. The great part is that there isn't a lot of agreement, and many different ways people have come up with their conclusions. See, plenty to discuss. A number of us have databases packed with information, and we wouldn't have to go far or look too hard to find something to write about. David Marcum has a chronology that includes anything Holmes that has a date. The amount of info he has is massive. James O'Leary has a monograph that deals heavily with Watson's marriage(s). Brad Keefauver has some of the most unique ways of thinking for his findings. I like to try and place Holmes and Watson into their actual surroundings, so I go looking for any corroboration for that. We all have different takes. Enough, I think, to use to make this happen.

These are all just thoughts at the moment. My Sherlockian calendar remains steadily full, and something new is always coming up for me to work on. But, since I do this every day anyway, I don't think it would be too much of a burden for me to do something official with it. Hell, it might even get official recognition from the BSI one day. The rest of the Sherlockian world has to take us seriously one of these years.
So, what do you think? Let me know in the Comments below or shoot me an email at [email protected] You can also PM me on the Facebook HS Page if you'd like. I look forward to hearing from you.

And, as always, thanks for reading. See you next month.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

When Is A Chronology Not A Chronology?

Recently I became involved in a conversation over on Facebook about a particular chronology book that I own but do not feature on the Page or here. That book is A Day-by-Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes: According to Zeisler and Christ by William. S. Dorn. The reason that I don't talk about it is because it doesn't strike me as an actual chronology. Dorn just takes the info from one person (Zeisler), uses another (Christ) for small holes in the timeline, and then uses his own logic to date only one story - 'The Adventure of the Three Gables' (3GAB). So, let's examine this knotty problem.
To begin with, let me admit that I do allow another chronology like this to be used in my work. A man by the name of Robert Pattrick published one in the Baker Street Journal (BSJ) in March 1963. He also used the chronologies of others to come up with a timeline, and only offered up one date that no one else had. The big difference is that he used ALL of the existing chronologies at the time to come up with his own. Nine of them. The one original date he used (for 'The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge' (WIST)) came from an article also in the BSJ from 1951 by a man named Rolfe Boswell. So, technically he doesn't use any dating of his own. Dorn did. But I still struggle with accepting Dorn's because he admits that he just plain uses E. B. Zeisler's chronology for his book, and that of J. F. Christ "who fills in a few gaps left by Zeisler." He also says that the only reason he came up with his own date for 3GAB was because neither Zeisler nor Christ had. So, I don't find his book to be an original work.
Mr. Pattrick, on the other hand, had to go through all of the known chronologies and decide which dates made sense to him and worked for his timeline. That sounds more like research to me. Having said all of this brings me to my actual topic for this post - the different kinds of chronologies. Let me explain.
All of the ones I have fall into sub-categories. At least I think they do. Not all are what I'd call "true" chronologies. A true one, to me, is one that tells us the logic and reasoning behind one's findings and is just about chronology. An "extended" one has the logic and reasoning, but is also a clearing-house for all sorts of Canonical problems. An "unrevealed" one doesn't tell us any of the logic at all, just dates. And an "imitation" uses other people's dates entirely, or almost entirely, to create a timeline. This is where I would place Mr. Dorn's book IF it were used in my work.
Here's how they all sort out for me...
TRUE
I Remember The Date Very Well by John Hall
An Irregular Chronology of Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street by J. F. Christ
A Basic Timeline of Terra 221B by Brad Keefauver (exists online only)
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: The Chronology of Their Adventures by H. W. Bell
Baker Street Chronology: Commentaries on the Sacred Writings of Dr. John H. Watson by E. B. Zeisler
Holmes and Watson: A New Chronology Of Their Adventures by Vincent Delay
Sherlock Holmes: A Chronological Canon by Chris J. Miller (exists online only)
Quel jour sommes-nous, Watson ? Chronologie critique des aventures de Sherlock Holmes by Jean-Pierre Crauser (I think this is in the right column, but I don't have a copy, so I'm not 100% certain)
The Biorhythmical Holmes: A Chronological Perspective by Carey Cummings (an incomplete chronology)
Through the Years at Baker Street: A Chronology of Sherlock Holmes - Revised Edition by Henry T. Folsom
EXTENDED
Ms. Holmes of Baker Street: The Truth About Sherlock by C. Alan Bradley and William A. S. Sarjeant
A Sherlock Holmes Commentary by Martin Dakin
Sherlock Holmes: Fact or Fiction by T. S. Blakeney
First Person Singular by Roger Butters
Holmes and Watson by June Thomson
My Dear Holmes by Gavin Brend
The Annotated Sherlock Holmes by William S. Baring-Gould
Sherlock Holmes Timeline: An Exercise in OCD by Craig Marinaro (exists online only)
UNREVEALED
A Complete Chronology of Sherlock Holmes Cases by Mike Ashley (This was actually Appendix 1 of an anthology titled The Mammoth Book of New Sherlock Holmes Adventures)
Dr. Watson and the Great Censorship by Edgar W. Smith (published in the Baker Street Journal in 1952)
The Cases Chronological Table by Aimee Shu (exists online only)

IMITATION
A Sherlock Holmes Chronology by Robert R. Pattrick (published in the Baker Street Journal in 1963)

Now, if I were so inclined I could also come up with subcategories here to make the whole thing even more convoluted, but I won't. I could talk about how Bradley & Sarjeant agree with Baring-Gould most of the time, but often when they don't they like Dakin. I could mention that Keefauver considers Zeisler 'The King of Chronology' and goes along with a lot of his logic, but doesn't always come up with the same dates. I might point out that Christ has a lot of "but's" and "however's" under his chronological findings that show he isn't always convinced of his dates.
I could also make sub-categories based on how the chronologies are made. Whether the stories are solely plotted against each other, or if internal evidence is used, or if both are figured in. Yeah, it could get messier. And the above lists may continue to grow as I do have two more, as you'll recall from my September blog post, that I haven't decided are original works yet or merely imitations. (Hey, a guy gets busy, ya know?)
In order to solve the question of whether they're imitations or not, I'm going to have do some study into chronology comparisons. It's going to take some time, but I don't mind. However, you'll have to wait. The filing and paperwork will take months.
I do all of this becasue I love this part of the hobby of Sherlockiana. I am not desiring to be a world's authority on this subject, but to be able to answer any question about it at any time in any situation anywhere. As such, I still have a lot of work to do. One doesn't just have the ability to answer those questions because they have a bunch of chronologies - one has to do the work of sorting it all out. We're talking about files and notebooks and binders and notated tabs and categories and sub-categories and sub-sub-categories. It's madness. And it may be something I can only use a few times in my Sherlockian life, but I don't mind. One day chronology will be recognized for it's (very important) place in this world, and I can only hope that my work can benefit future Sherlockians. So, I'll keep working. In the words of Stephen King: "If you disapprove, I can only shrug. It's what I have."

(On a quick side note...my speaking calendar for the coming year seems to be more open than usual. Changes in management at certain gatherings have caused me to be listed as only a back-up. Not that that's a bad thing. So, if you know of a group or gathering that could use a speaker let me know and I'll see what I can do.)

Thanks for reading. See you next month.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Comparing Comparisons...Or Something Like That

Earlier this month I mentioned in one of my Facebook Posts that 'A Case of Identity' (IDEN) may be the most disagreed upon tale in The Canon. When I sat down to write this blog entry, I looked once again just to make sure I was right. Well, I was...kind of. Of the 22 chronologies I have, it ties with others as having the most individual dates between chronologists. So, let's take a look at them, shall we?
As you can probably guess, I don't just go through the books I have when it comes time to make a post on here or anywhere else. I have a lot of different spreadsheets that contain of all the info I need to make them. And I even have a few more in mind. That way I can answer questions when I'm at a gathering or conference. (That doesn't happen often, but a guy can dream.)
The spreadsheet I'm using for this Post is titled 'Specifics' and it has all of the cases in alphabetical order with each chronologist's dates under each case title. Those dates are in order from earliest to latest, and are divided into four sections - Specific, Less Specific, Even Less Specific, and Unspecific. Here's what 'The Adventure of the Abbey Grange' (ABBE) looks like.
This spreadsheet allows me to see how cases stack up against each other in a detailed way, and it shows me which people to talk about. As you can see, T. S. Blakeney (BLAK) can't do any better than 1897, whereas five others nail down an exact date. Mr. Blakeney wouldn't get much screen time from me because there's not much to report. Nine of them, however, go with January 1897, and while that's still not terribly precise, almost half of the chronologists like it.
So, to what we're here for. 'A Case of Identity' (IDEN) has a date from all 22 people. (Remember that Carey Cummings [CUMM] didn't write a full chronology, thus he has no dates on about half of the cases.) Here's how the dates break down...

SPECIFIC
William S. Baring-Gould (B-G) has the earliest date with October 18, 1887.
Brad Keefauver (KEEF) is next with April 16, 1888.
Carey Cummings - June 20, 1889.
Jay Finley Christ (CHRI) - June 26, 1889.
Jean-Pierre Crauser (CRAU) - October 1, 1889.
Henry Folsom (FOLS) - October 7, 1889.
Ernest Zeisler (ZEIS) and Robert Pattrick (PATT) - October 9, 1889.
The duo of Alan Bradley & William S. Sarjeant (B & S) - October 18, 1889.
Vincent Delay (DELA) - May 17, 1890.

LESS SPECIFIC
Howard Bell (BELL) says mid-September 1888.
John Hall (HALL) - September 17 or 24, 1888.
Martin Dakin (DAKI) - A Thursday in September 1888.

EVEN LESS SPECIFIC
Aimee Shu (SHU) prefers June 1887.
Roger Butters (BUTT) - May 1888.
Chris Miller (MILL) - September 1888.
June Thomson (THOM) and Gavin Brend (BREN) - April 1889.
T. S. Blakeney - April or May 1889.
Mike Ashley (ASHL) - May - June 1889.
Edgar W. Smith (SMIT) - September 1889.
And Craig Marinaro (MARI) - 1st three weeks (ending on the 19th) of October 1889.

UNSPECIFIC
None

That's 20 different dates among 22 chronologists! Note how they all stay in the same year range of 1887 to 1890, but that the month is anywhere from April to October. Like I said, this is a heavily debated story. There is almost no consensus at all. 'The Gloria Scott' (GLOR) is exactly the same with the 20 to 22 ratio, but that case is much harder to pin down. Only four give an exact date, while 13 fall into the Even Less Specific column.
'Silver Blaze' (SILV) is another with that same 20 out of 22. It presents a much wider range of years, like GLOR (1873 to 1880), with it being placed anywhere from 1881 to 1891. This time, nine people have a date, while eight are less specific. What's fascinating to me is that they all have the same info to use, and yet can't seem to agree. Some use actual horses and horse race schedules from the time period to pick a date, others use weather reports, and a few use the lack of a Watsonian marriage to work it into other case timelines. A book could be written just on the comparisons for each story alone.
Runners-up would be 'The Adventure of the Three Gables' (3GAB) and 'The Yellow Face' (YELL). 3GAB has 21 folks on the list as this is one of those that Mr. Cummings never got around to. Still, the ratio is 17 out of 21, with only two exact dates given. There is a real lack of specficity with this one, and one person even bails out totally and says it could be anywhere from 1883 to 1889 OR 1894 to 1903. Yes, that's in the Unspecific column.
YELL, the last alphabetical case, has 19 out of 22. It shows six precise dates, and a year range of 1881 to 1888. Other cases that fall into this runner-up list would be 'The Adventures of the Copper Beeches' (COPP) and 'The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton' (CHAS).

On the flip side, we have cases where there's almost universal, or near-universal, agreement. 'The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier' (BLAN) has two exact dates preferred by seven people. (Six for one of them, and one for the other.) The remaining chronologists all like January 1903. Another would be 'The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist' (SOLI). It has five precise dates listed that are liked by 14 people, and the rest all say April 1895.
Two anomolies are, of course, 'His Last Bow' (LAST) of which everyone agrees with August 2, 1914, and 'The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone' (MAZA). It has only one chronologist who was brave enough to come up with a date. Keefauver says it was June 1, 1894. Blakeney and Shu can do no better than 1903. Three others say it was June 1903, one says it was June or July 1903, another says it was July 1903, 12 say it was somewhere in the summer of 1903, and the last one says it was summer of 1904. Here again you can see the large gap of years. MAZA is terribly lacking in data with which to make a solid date with. Keefauver does so in his usual clever and odd way, but it works. (Of course, his style of logic also causes him to be totally alone on a lot of case dating...like here.)

If you don't know me personally, then you wouldn't know that I am a list guy. I like things in tidy columns and charts. Info is easily accessible and obtainable. From my spreadsheets I can see all of the oddities, comparisons, and patterns in the chronologies. Having the info at my fingertips makes this "job" more bearable. There's no way I could keep all of this in my head. Someone once asked Albert Einstein what the speed of light was, and was then astonished to hear that he didn't recall. He explained that he had it written down so he didn't have to remember it. That's one of the reasons for my sheets. I can carry all of this with me on paper, or in a file, or on a flash drive, and not let it rent too much space in my brain.
I'm not sure what the next post here will be about. I have so many ideas that I'm not even sure which to tackle. Either way, I'll see you next time. Let me know if you have any questions or comments, and as always...thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Joy Of Discovery

I love making new discoveries in this hobby. It's the payoff from hours of middle of the night research sessions, endless caffeine chugging, and blurred vision from staring at a computer screen for too long. But it's always worth it, even if you don't find what you're seeking. Not finding an answer is just as important as finding one, though, because now you know where not to look. My latest discovery, however, was one I made in my very own files. It had been awaiting my eyes for years, and when I saw it I said to myself, "Vincent...umm...what's this?" I felt rather stupid because it was a "new" chronology that I had had within arms reach all this time and completely forgotten about.
It appears I printed this list way back on October 1, 2010. It also appears that it was originally in Japanese. Luckily, there was a web address at the bottom that was complete, so I typed it into my search engine, and there it was. However, it's only years for cases, and not dates, so it's basically useless.
I set out to find more about it and quickly found myself involved in a bit of a mystery. First of all, I had no idea who the author/chronologist is/was, and no amount of looking solved that. So I began looking for the phrase "The Cases Chronological Table" that appeared across the top. It brought up a number of hits, but I was no closer to a solution. One of the hits took me to a site that looked identical to the one we're discussing here, but with a few minor changes, and one big one - a name. Across the top was this line: "I tried it in the order of occurrence for all 60 incidents. The Japanese translation of the title is based on the one of Shincho Bunko translated by Nobuhara Ken."

I looked up Shincho Bunko and found it was just a brand of paperbacks in Japan made by the Shinchosa Publishing Co. Ltd. (Below is a picture of their headquarters. Exciting, eh?) No help there. I got no further with Nobuhara Ken, but this person may have simply been a translator and had nothing to do with the list. I clicked on the Homepage link at the bottom, and it took me to a Japanese site about Holmes. The webmaster's name was Miyu, and the web adress was almost identical to the first one I talked about above. That lead me to believe these were all connected somehow. Still, all I had was years...and no name.
Next on the list was a page that was in a different language. It was in Korean, and managed by someone named Gino (Jeeno). Luckily, I found a button that took me to a translated version. Still, all it had was years. AND they were the same as the ones on the Japanese lists. Talk about confused. I continued on.

I then landed on a page that was in English, but had been translated from Korean. This was ran by someone named Aimee Shu. Her chronological list is very similar to the other ones, but with some minor changes. Further, she had months! That was more usable. The only problem is that there's no explanations for those dates. So perhaps she just copied it from somewhere else. (Should be fun trying to find that list!)
I think what all of this means is that I may or may not have a few more chronologies. So far the Shu list doesn't match completely with any of the others I have, so it's a new one, but it might not be her original creation. And I'm still not sure about the other ones I talked about above, but I'll keep looking.

While looking, though, I have a new matter to chase. See, the lists I'm talking about have translation problems. The Japanese and Korean doesn't evenly carry over in English. 'The Adventure of the Copper Beeches' (COPP) comes across as 'Beech Woods Events.' The Hound of the Baskervilles (HOUN) becomes 'Hibiscus Bill of Dogs' (?). But, with that "problem" comes a possible lead on another chronology.
One of the websites talks about a timeline listed on the back of a book called "Terror of Terror." I am not familiar with this book, and have found nothing about it online. But, below that sentence is one that says the book (now called "Valley of Terror") is available as an ebook. I took this to mean the title is actually The Valley of Fear (VALL). I'm not familiar with any copy of VALL having a chronology on the back, but there is a series of books called The Chronological Sherlock Holmes and one of them is VALL. I know of these, but I don't believe they are a chronology of the cases, just publication order. No chronologist mentions them as a reference, and they aren't included on any listings of chronology books. (I have feelers out to the worldwide faithful to try and solve this dilemna.)
To wrap this up I'll just say that it seems as though I now have to broaden my searches for timelines. The countries on that side of the world are big Holmes fans, and it makes sense that someone has tried to do this same kind of work. Now I just have to find it and see if I can expand my database!
Thanks for reading. See you next month.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

DATA! DATA! DATA!

Lately I've been thinking of taking on a new project. I do this a lot. I find a new angle on something and I can't help but pursue it until I'm satisfied that I've wrung it dry. I don't actually have the time for anything else right now, but I always say that. I'm a glutten for Sherlockian punishment. Here's what I've been pondering.
Chronologists for the last 75 years have tried many different ways of finding dates for the Sherlock Holmes stories. Sometimes what they come up with is very clever. Other times, it's not. But one thing that isn't used as much as I like is the use of actual occurences in Victorian life that may have played a part. I'm talking about the news stories or city happenings that one doesn't hear about unless they are a die hard researcher who wants to know every single little thing that happened in London during Holmes's time. How did those events affect the cases that came to 221b? Are they mentioned in some offhand way in the case? Would they have caused a particular type of crime to be committed more often and thus bring more cases to Holmes's door? I want to see if there's any correlation.

Over on Facebook I do a post any time a listing for a chronological finding comes up. Very recently I found that Vincent Delay likes 'The Adventure of the Cardboard Box' (CARD) for August 28, 1885. He bases that almost entirely on the death of General Gordon. We learn from that story that Gen. Gordon's "newly-framed picture" is hanging at Baker Street. Now, that doesn't mean that Gordon had just died, only that his picture was just hung. Delay, though, takes "newly-framed" to mean that he did just die, and that the portrait was put on the wall because of that recent death. The says the date for his demise was August 22, 1885. Delay uses Watson's words that it was August, and a Friday. He concludes that the picture was framed and hung (just after the death) on Friday, August 28, 1885. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about. (I would like to point out that Mr. Delay is completely wrong about the death date of General Gordon. I don't know where he got the date he lists, but it's incorrect. However, what he does with this info [though wrong] is use it to help date a story. That's the point of this blog entry today.)
(For the record, there is another possible identity of "General Gordon" - Gen. John Brown Gordon. That Gordon was a Confederate officer, and it seems unlikely that his picture would be at Baker Street, but one or two people have tried to make a connection.)
Others have used the Queen's Jubilees, or May Day, or university holidays to come up with dates, and that makes sense in those cases, but I think digging even deeper would be fun, so let's look at some dates.

April 8, 1882 - This is the starting date of 'The Adventure of the Yellow Face' (YELL) according to H. W. Bell. It is also the day that French historian and Joan of Arc authority Jules Quicherat died in Paris. Now, the two probably don't have one single thing to do with each other, but one of the joys of this part of the hobby is that if you want to figure out or make a connection bewteen them, you can.
What about the terrible fog that enveloped London on January 9, 1888? It was so bad that it was given the title of "King Fog." Perhaps Holmes wasn't cranky at the beginning of The Valley of Fear (VALL) because he was hungover (part of the speculation that it was because of a birthday celebration) but because of the changing in the weather and the atmospheric pressure. Five different chronologists place the beginning of VALL as January 7 of that year. Maybe Holmes was under the weather.
What was Holmes was working on at the beginning of 'The Adventure of the Resident Patient' (RESI)? He was struggling with something dealing with test tubes, and it wasn't going very well. Was he under pressure to come up with an answer to a current case? Perhaps he was working on that of Louisa Jane Taylor. She had been arrested for poisoning on October 23, 1882, and was being held for possible other offenses. Jay Finley Christ believes RESI started on October 25, 1882, so maybe the Parker situation was what had Holmes in such a rush.
In the story 'The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist' (SOLI) we find Holmes doing a little boxing. He wins the street bout, and sends his unconscious opponent home on a cart. Jean-Pierre Crauser believes that this case started on April 23, 1898. Two days before that, the United States declared war on Spain. Maybe reading about war got Holmes feeling all manly, and he used his new testosterone high to play a little chin music on someone. Could be right. Who knows?

Now, I'm not saying that any of these are accurate, I'm just saying that I think things like this are worth pursuing in trying to help establish a definitive timeline of the Sherlock Holmes canon. One has to look at every possibility in order to do this "job" and I find that nearly all of the chronologies I have collected shy away from doing the research on smaller events that might make a huge difference. I follow dozens and dozens of websites, blogs, and historians, and they all provide excellent information about the times of Holmes, and are an invaluable resource for people like me. It's because of those sites that I was able to write this particular column fairly quickly - all of what I wanted and needed was actually at my fingertips. Research! Research! Research! Data! Data! Data!

A task like this one doesn't happen overnight, so don't be expecting anything to happen to quickly. With 60 cases, and hundreds of different chronological findings from 20 diffrent people, it's going to take some time once I get started. However, as with all of this, it will be a labor of love, and one I will attempt to complete as fast as I can so that the great Sherlockian thirst for knowledge can be slaked.

Once again, thank for reading. I'll see you next month.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The 7th Month, and 7 Bajillion Details!

July is a great month for chronologists. Well, it's a great month for those who love the problems that go with chronology, but not if you're trying to construct one yourself. For me, the amount of information it holds is a goldmine. It has the fifth highest number of days in it that have some type of activity (17 of them), but it is the king when it comes to those who can't nail down a specific date.
The year range for July stretches from 1873 to 1907, but only 15 of those years are hit upon, with 1888 being the most discussed. Nothing happens in July 1875, 76, and 77 according to the chronologies I have. Same with 1881, 82, 83, 84, 85, and 86. 1880 and 1887 are both mentioned by Brad Keefauver for 'The Adventure of the Gloria Scott' (GLOR) in 1880, and for 'The Adventure of the Second Stain' (SECO) and 'The Adventure of the Naval Treaty' (NAVA) in 1887. No one else places anything in July in those years. 1891, 92, 93, and 94 are also blank (of course), as are 1896, 1904, 05, and 06. In fact, no one has anything ever placed in 1905 or 1906 at any time.

So, now that we've talked about what isn't covered, let's look at what is. The only way to make sense of it is to break it down in list form. So, let's do that. And let's do it alphabetically.
BLAC:
Gavin Brend, Roger Butters, Mike Ashley, and Edgar W. Smith all like July 1895 for 'The Adventure of Black Peter' (BLAC), but go no further.
Chris Miller and Craig Marinaro go a little further and say it was sometime early in the month.
John Hall gets specific and says it was the 2nd, while six others (H. W. Bell, J. F. Christ, T. S. Blakeney, William S. Baring-Gould, Vincent Delay, and the duo of Bradley & Sarjeant) say it started the next day.
Six others (Martin Dakin, Henry Folsom, June Thomson, E. B. Zeisler, Brad Keefauver, and Jean-Pierre Crauser) all say it was a week later than the previous six.

CROO
'Tha Adventure of the Crooked Man' (CROO) doesn't get much air time, but there are two entries for it.
Blakeney says it could've been in July of 1889, but he also says it may have been August.
Carey Cummings (the one with the incomplete chronology) says it began on the 17th.
DANC
'The Adventure of the Dancing Men' (DANC) has a lot of folks who place it this month in 1898, but they don't all say the same thing.
Thomson and Ashley go against almost the entire chronological community and say it was in July of 1897.
Dakin takes us back into 1898, but won't say when.
Miller and Marinaro go with late July of that year, while Hall and Roger Butters place it somewhere at the end of that month.
Brend, Bell, and Smith like anywhere from July to August.
Brad Keefauver gives the earliest full date with the 25th.
Zeisler, Christ, Baring-Gould, Crauser, and Bradley & Sarjeant believe it started two days later.
Meanwhile, Folsom says that happened the day after that.

ENGR
Miller and Butters go with a simple July 1889 for 'The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb' (ENGR).
Brend and Blakeney can't decide between July or August of 1889, and Hall joins them in their indecision.
Crauser comes along, though, and nails it down to the 11th.

GLOR
For Holmes's first case, 'The Gloria Scott' (GLOR), Folsom places it anywhere from July to September of 1873.
Dakin and Thomson shorten a bit and add a year saying it was from July to August of 1874 instead.
Reliable Keefauver places it at the beginning of the month on the 3rd, but prefers 1880.
Baring-Gould kicks it back to an earlier time and puts it on July 12 of 1874.
Bradley & Sarjeant, who usually agree with Baring-Gould, correct him by stating it was in 1873...and on the 15th.
GREE
'The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter' (GREE) falls in July of 1890 according to Smith.
But Hall goes a little further and says it was late in that month and year.
Folsom is the only person to nail down an exact date with the 25th of July 1888.
Crauser tries to get specific and says it was July 30th of 1890, but he also adds it may have fallen in August.

LADY
'The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax' (LADY) is a late case, according to most, but how late depends on who you ask.
Smith says it happened in July of 1899.
Folsom says it was actually two years later.
Bradley & Sarjeant start the case on the 1st of the month, but in 1897.
Baring-Gould, though, says that's right, but five years later in 1902.
Keefauver sticks with 1902, but opts for the 26th.
LION
One of Holmes's last cases, 'The Adventure of the Lion's Mane' (LION), is almost always placed in one the following discussed years.
Six (Thomson, Brend, Dakin, Marniaro, Ashley, and Smith) go with 1907, but no other date is given.
Miller agrees, and adds that it was late in the month.
Butters and Hall like late, as well, but says it was at the end of July. Basically, the same thing.
Bell kicks off the precise dating and goes with the 21st of July 1907.
Zeisler, Baring-Gould, Folsom, and Bradley & Sarjeant all like the 27th, but two years later in 1909.
Keefauver and Crauser take it back to 1907 and place it on the 30th.

MAZA
'The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone' (MAZA) is a heavily debated case, but two people place it late.
Smith likes July of 1903.
Crauser gives a bit more detail and says it was in June or July of that year.

MUSG
There is only one entry for 'The Musgrave Ritual' (MUSG), and that's for 1879. It comes from Miller, but there is nothing more added date-wise.
NAVA
In a tight span of just three years we have all twenty chronologists debating 'The Adventure of the Naval Treaty' (NAVA).
Brend, Butters, and Miller go with just 1888.
Hall agrees, and adds that it must have occurred after 'The Adventure of the Second Stain' (SECO).
Bell and Marinaro place the start of the case somewhere in late July of 1888.
Delay tries to nail it down to anywhere between July 26 and 31st that same month and year.
Blakeney, Thomson, Ashley, and Smith say it was in July of 1889 with nothing more specific.
Cummings tells us it began on the 13th of July in 1889.
Crauser says it was two weeks later on the 28th, and one year earlier.
Keefauver says it was the day after that, but jumps back to 1887.
Meanwhile, Dakin, Zeisler, Christ, and Folsom all like the 29th, as well, but take it back up to 1889.
Baring-Gould and the team of Bradley & Sarjeant say it was exactly one day after that.

NORW
'The Adventure of the Norwood Builder' (NORW) has only one entry for all of July, and that's on the 2nd in 1894 - so says Zeisler.

RETI
'The Adventure of the Retired Colourman' (RETI) is another late 19th century case.
Bell and Smith place it in July of 1898.
Zeisler and Ashley agree, but with a possibility of it starting in August.
Crauser gets specific with the 21st of the month, but in 1899.
Baring-Gould reels it back to 1898, and goes with the 28th.
SECO
The aforementioned SECO is a very controversial case. Some people say there was only one, some say there were two with that name, and some say there were three. (We'll tackle why in a future blog post.)
Here, we're only interested in the dating.
Butters and Crauser go with 1888.
Hall likes that, but adds that it had to have occurred before NAVA. (See NAVA above.)
Delay goes a little further with a Tuesday in July of 1888, but doesn't say which one.
Marinaro goes broader and says it could've been in July of 1888, but adds that anytime in autumn works just fine for him.
Zeisler states that it was on the 2nd in 1889. Or the 9th. Or the 16th. Or maybe the 23rd.
Folsom also agrees it was an unnamed Tuesday in July, but says it was in 1889.
Christ gives us a full date of July 15th, 1889.
Keefauver likes that week, but goes with the 19th. And 1887.

SIGN
'The Sign of (the) Four' (SIGN) usually gets placed in March or May. But, some like this month.
Thomson, Hall, and Marinaro go with July 7th of 1888, but say it could've been in September sometime.
Brend and Butters like plain old July 1887.
Blakeney likes plain old July 1888.
Folsom goes out on a limb with the only exact July dating we have with the 17th, and likes 1888.

SILV
The only time 'Silver Blaze' gets mentioned in July is for the 12th in 1888. That is done by Zeisler.

SIXN
Five of the twenty chronologies I have collected say 'The Adventure of the Six Napoleons' (SIXN) happened this month.
Dakin, Bell, Thomson, and Smith all say it was in 1900. Hall agrees, but adds that it could've been anywhere from June to July.
3GAB
'The Adventure of the Three Gables' (3GAB) might be considered one of the worst cases in The Canon, but chronologists still feel the need to date it.
Crauser likes 1902.
Thomson likes 1903.
Delay covers them both and says it could've been anywhere between July 1902 and November 1904.

Now you can see why I consider July so rich with data. It has a lot of variation, a lot of disagreement, and a lot of detail. Entire papers could be written about just this month, and lots of them probably have. Holmes and Watson, it seems, were very busy in July.

You've probably noticed that I only refer to the starting dates for the cases. Good catch. I know that's not the whole story when it comes to dating a case. There aren't too many cases that only last one day. Most of them last longer, whether a few days or a week or more. Well, that's something I'm working on. Turns out that the controversies with the beginning dates is only part of the story - the number of days, or length of the cases, is also very debated. Problem is, it's going to take some time to get all of that info together. When I do, though, we will talk about it a lot. *sigh* A chronologist's work is never done.

Thanks for reading. See you next month.
(Also, I think I may have the Comment problem straightened out. See it below?)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

"Where Do You Get Your Ideas?"

My sole purpose here at Historical Sherlock is to find ways to tie Holmes and Watson into the world we know them in. I am constantly on the lookout for anything that will help me with that goal. It consumes me when I'm not doing the usual everyday stuff like working or eating or playing with the grandkids. Whenever I go book shopping, or antiquing, or to flea markets or thrift stores, my primary focus is on finding something that will help bring Holmes and Watson a little closer to their world.
I don't actually collect ephemera anymore. It only tends to take up space for other things which might assist me in my quest. (Really, how many calabash pipes does one person need?) I understand collecting and the mania that goes with it, but what my office consists of almost completely are items (books, magazines, newsletters, pamphlets, diaries) to help me do this "job."

Recently, I was in Maryland and was taken to a used bookstore for my birthday. The place was huge, and I had to go back a second time. I spent hours in there mining through every shelf I thought might contain a nugget. Unfortunately, I could not remember exactly what books I had at home and what I didn't. Thus, I had to pass on a number of titles because they sounded too familiar. (No need having more than one of them, either.) When I returned home I went through my library and made a photographic record of all of the books I use for research. I was pleasantly surprised at some of the things I had, and then subsequently depressed that it wasn't more. Luckily, I'm going back to Maryland in November, and I'll be going back to get those titles I left behind.

I thought it might be interesting to share with you some of the titles I have. So, let's talk about what I have the most of: books about London. How can you not if you're going to do any scholarly work in this field? You don't know London, you don't know Holmes.
I actually have two books with the title of The London of Sherlock Holmes. (And there are probably more.) One is from the early 70's and was written by Michael Harrison, a giant in Sherlockian/Holmesian circles. The book has lots of nice crisp pictures and illustrations, and does the same thing I try and do here - show what Holmes and Watson would have seen. It talks about many of the places in and around London that are mentioned in The Canon. It's a fantastic work, and I have referenced it many times.
The other one is from 2011 and is the work of Thomas Bruce Wheeler. Thomas is a man who is passionate about mapping out Holmes's London, and has several books about it. He also has a website about his maps that is interactive. The level of detail and information in this is invaluable. I simply don't know how anything more can be written about it, but if anyone finds a way, it will be Mr. Wheeler.

Other titles I have along this same line are London: The Glamour Years 1919-1939, the simply titled The Book of London, London: A Concise History, Underworld London, Underground London, A History of London, The Oxford Book of London, London Triumphant, Edwardian and Victorian London - from old photographs, Metropolis London, London Under, London Walks, The Very Bloody History of London, The Aquarian Guide to Legendary London, Criminal London, and a copy of Highways and Byways in London from 1903. And this is just part of the list!
From my desk here I can see at least ten books about Victorian people. Some of the titles are Victorian People (aptly enough), The Edwardians, Eminent Victorians, The Other Victorians, Victorian Freaks, and on and on. I can see several books about science and scientific study at the time, ones about criminal and forensic fields, and a few about Victorian home life.

There are also ones about Victorian furniture, architecture, prisons, hospitals and sanitariums, crimes, art, famous people, PUNCH cartoons, and even one about the practice of tea drinking. I have ones about violins, beekeeping, hangmen, colleges and universities, cemeteries and graveyards, the smells in London at the time, and two books right here on my desk about Victorian literature and society.
Sometime I pick up a book just to see if can give up one little something-or-other I can use in the future. I did just that at a library sale not long ago. The book is called Old Junk and is by someone named H. M. Tomlinson. It's basically a grouping of articles that last from January 1907 to April 1918 about this guy's walks around London and the things, people, and places he saw, met, and/or experienced. So far it hasn't given up anything, but it's a fun read nonetheless. I am anxious, though, to get to Chapter XII. (That's how they're numbered in the book.) That chapter is called 'The Lascar's Walking-Stick.' Hopefully it has something to use. (I'd like to point out that the book is a hand-numbered first edition, as well.)
Now, so far all I've talked about is books. I also have newsletters from different Sherlockian orgainzations from around the globe. A good number of them are no longer being printed, or the clubs have folded, but it's still fun for me to grab a handful of them and just sit and read what my predecesors had to say. I'm no longer surprised to discover that someone else had an idea long ago that I thought was fresh and original. I now understand that dang near everything from The Canon has been covered. But, I do find myself a bit disappointed when I find that an idea of mine that deals with an extension or tangent from the stories has been tackled. For instance...
Last night I was thinking about what Holmes would have thought about the Shakespeare authorship question. (For the record, I don't care one way or the other who wrote his stuff, I just love the detective work that goes into the puzzle.) Well, this morning I was flipping through some old copies of Baker Street Miscellanea when I came across an article from 1990 by someone named R. F. Fleissner called 'Conan Doyle and the Shakespeare Authorship Mystery.' Luckily, it wasn't about Holmes and the question, but it was close enough. However, it's not a very long article, and it can certainly be expanded given all of the discoveries that have been made on the subject since then.

I also have magazines, pamphlets, and other one-off bits of scholarship to help me along. One thing I don't have, though, is old newspapers. I haven't gotten into that yet, but happily all of the ones I would want to read are available online in different archives. Believe me when I tell you that it is a very addictive thing to read through the same newspapers Holmes would have. I have spent literal days reading, making notes, copying and pasting, and scanning the columns for tidbits. I need to do more of it, but I also need two or three more of me just to have the time.

One of the other collection of books I have are those about Jack the Ripper. Now, for those of you who attended A Scintiallation of Scions in Maryland in June, you'll recall during my presentation that the subject of Holmes and JtR exhausts me. However, I don't have them because I'm interested in a solution to the murder. I have them because they are a perfect snapshot of the London police force at the time Holmes was in practice. Think about it - you get to learn about their procedures, ranks, uniforms, practices, routes, equipment. Everything. I think it's a goldmine, and I continue to collect them just for that purpose. Here are a few of mine...
Last but not least would be the Sherlockian research books. I have many, many of them. I have read all of them, and some of them more than once. Titles like The Quest for Sherlock Holmes, Baker Street Byways, Naked is the Best Disguise, Sherlockian Heresies, The Standard Doyle Company, A Quick Succession of Subjects, A Curious Coolection of Dates, In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong, The Marriage of Sherlock Holmes...it just keeps going.

If I had to rely on just what I have in my office here for research I would be sunk. I am so glad that we have the internet for just such work. There is almost no limit to what can be found if you're willing to dig and dig for it. And since I don't think it's going away any time soon, I'll be here talking about Holmes, Watson, chronology, and Victorian London. As always, thanks for reading. See you next month.

(p.s. I know the Comments feature is still missing from the bottom here. It's a problem with Blogger. I didn't take it off intentionally. Hopefully it's something they'll fix soon. Please feel free to Message me on Facebook, or email me at historicalsherlock.com if you have something to add or say.)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Presentation Retrospective...

Next week I go on vacation. I'm taking two weeks off, and in the smack middle of it I'm taking my annual trip to Maryland to attend the conference A Scintillation of Scions (SoS). I've been going to this gathering of the faithful since 2010. Not only was that the first year I went, it was also the first time I gave a presentation. Ever. Anywhere. (I had done a few things with my home Sherlockian group, but none were ever a paper or presentation.)

This is the tenth year for the event, and it has just grown and gotten better every year. I am speaking again this time, something I've been fortunate enough to do four times before. (A record, by the way, for SoS presenters. Pretty proud of that.) I look so forward to that whole weekend every year, and getting to present makes it even better for me. I love imparting knowledge to people. I love the looks on their faces when I reveal something they've never seen or heard before. I love the questions afterward that show that some just want more. I love the contacts I make with those who wish to collaborate, or talk further, or want to send me something they've written or worked on just to get my opinions and thoughts. There truly is nothing like it.

When I was reminiscing about all of papers, I thought perhaps it might make a decent post here. So, that's what I'm going to write about. Here we go...

In 2010 I gave a paper which went on to make me somewhat well-known in the hobby. I enjoy having titles for my pieces which don't reveal too much, and this one was called 'Page 15, Line 41.' It was about the true location of 221b Baker Street based upon a London Times ad I had found for a flat at 23 Baker Street that seemed to fit into what we know about 221b. I spent months and months on the paper, working on it every day (this was pre-grandkids), and being truly convinced that I had found something amazing. The paper went over so well that within a year I had given it in four different states.
In time I had to retire it, though, when I discovered that I had made a huge mistake, and that my hypothesis was impossible.

In 2011 I was invited to speak again, and I eventually found my topic one day when I was just flipping through a book of Holmes-related pictures and saw a set of initials on the front of the 1902 edition of The Hound of the Baskervilles. As far as I could find, no one had ever covered who those initials belonged to. When I looked into it I found that the man, Alfred Garth Jones, had a cool story to tell, and a mystery attached to his death, as well. I gave the presentation, but made everyone wait until the end before revealing why I was talking for fifteen minutes about this man that no one had ever heard of.
(Jacquelynn Bost Morris, the lady who created this event, once said on I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere that this was the first talk I had ever given at SoS. That was an error. However, I know she wasn't feeling well when she did the podcast, and we are talking about events from six or seven years ago. Also, I don't hold it against her because she's, well, awesome. She gave me my start in the Sherlockian speaking world, and I will always be indebted to her for that. I made her a promise that I would never miss an SoS, and I never have.)
The mystery surrounding his death was eventually solved by the family. I like to think that my interest in him, and all of the emails and messages, prompted them to look further into it, but I can't be certain that's the case. Either way, they got closure.

2012 saw me back once again. My first two papers had apparently gone over well enough to get me a return performance. The original paper was to be about one particular illustration from 'The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet' (BERY) that hinted at someone at Baker Street being Catholic. When that didn't work out, I decided to investigate the pawn shop where Holmes would've bought his Stradivarius violin. This is discussed in 'The Adventure of the Cardboard Box' (CARD). I was able to find records of a shop on Tottenham Court Road (where he says he got it) with a Jewish manager. I pinpointed on a map where it was, and where it was in relation to Holmes's room on Montague Street where he lived at the time. Further, I was able to find the name of a concert violinist who lived only one-half mile away and had had a number of his instruments stolen. It all came together nicely. And then I found a curious parallel in an American magazine to CARD that was too much of a coincidence, and threw that in.
To add more meat, I tossed in the failed Catholic idea, and also another idea that I had worked on that didn't pan out. I called the paper 'Three Trite Problems.'

In 2014 I was asked to present again. My idea came from an article I had read about a failed Arctic hot-air balloon expedition that had a tie-in to a well-known Sherlockian performer of the last few decades. I conceived of a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon meets Connections (the James Burke show) kind of thing, and the more I looked for things that could be tied to Holmes, Doyle, and the Victorian era, the more I found.
The paper was the quickest one I ever wrote, and by the time I was done it was over an hour long. I did a lot of cutting to get it down to the allotted fifteen minutes, and then titled it 'Around the World in 63,540 Days.' That length of time referred to the number of days between the earliest thing I mentioned and the latest.

The paper I'm giving next week is titled 'If Holmes's Bedroom Walls Could Talk.' I'll let your imagination run wild with what you think it might be about, but I'll almost guarantee you you're wrong. I've had a blast researching it, and once again I really hope people enjoy it. It's another of those ideas that doesn't seem to have been explored very much in the 100+ years since the words were written. (That always boggles my mind.) I have to give it soon, and even as close as I am to doing so, I am still making corrections and revisions. Probably will be up until the night before. Also, I'm not completely crazy about the ending. The ending is always where I "make my money" with these things. It has to be perfect, so I'll keep working at it until I love it.

This coming SoS may be the last I ever speak at. Not by choice, mind you, but because they are going to be making some huge changes. I may be old hat and have to step aside for younger blood. I'm good with that. I get to enjoy the records I have set as a presenter, and marvel in the fact that I made people smile, think, and write papers of their own. I will also enjoy the fact that people who like the research part of the hobby come to me for help and guidance. My papers seem to make an impression, and I can only hope they inspire someone else to pick up the proverbial pen and roll up their proverbial sleeves and dive into their own research. It can only benefit the future of the hobby, and I am looking very forward to seeing what discoveries are made.

I know it's an old axiom, but believe me when I tell you that if I can do it, anyone can. Even you. So, I challenge you to do your own research. To write your own articles and papers. To send things in to newsletters for publication. To read The Canon, find something you want to know about, and then go after it. Everything I have ever found, spoken about, written up, and had published was something I did ENTIRELY from my laptop and my book collection. The info is out there. We just have to go digging for it. Think outside the box. Looks in odd places. Try new avenues of ideas. And then, shock the world with it. Believe me, the rewards are amazing.

As always, thanks for reading.