Friday, March 31, 2017

Let Us Compare...

March is one of those months that has a special place in the heart of a Sherlockian/Holmesian. It happens to be the month where Holmes and Watson started their first case, A Study In Scarlet (STUD), together. There's not much doubt among chronologists that March 4 is in fact the date that they began working on it (though there are a scant few exceptions) and as such it is easy to do Posts about it over at Facebook.

But, there is some disagreement about the year. While a large portion of us like 1881, and with good reason, there are those who hold out that it was the next year. Or the next. Or even the next. So, I thought it might be interesting to look at the logic of a couple of different people and see why they like a particular year. I'll list their findings and we'll see how the same info can yield varying results.

In the first chronology book I ever owned, I Remember The Date Very Well, author John Hall likes 1881. His points of logic are:
- The Battle of Maiwand occurred in July, 1880 (an indisputable fact, by the way).
- Watson's journey home and subsequent recovery period from wounds and illness fits the timeline.
- The ship Orestes* that carried Watson home sailed into England in November of 1880.
- Accepts that it was March 4, 1881, from several references to it.
- Believes Watson's language suggests he was writing the case as it happened and not later from notes and is therefore reliable.
- Thinks references to days passing mentioned are vague and can be deciphered a number of ways.
*The name of the ship was the Orontes. Hall makes an error here. The Orestes did exist, but not for another 25 years.

Jay Finley Christ starts off his monumental book An Irregular Chronology of Sherlock Holmes on page 1 with our featured case. He provides one of the longer pieces about the dating of it, but I'll boil it down. He likes March 3rd, 1882. Here's why...

- The Battle of Maiwand suggests the year of the case has to be 1881 or 1882.
- The language and phrasing used seems to indicate a fairly long passage of time.
- Thinks the days of the week mentioned are not vague at all and prove the case couldn't have happened on Friday, March 4, 1881, but on Friday, March 3, 1882.
- Believes the newspaper account of the Drebber case was incorrect.
- Says a Neruda concert would fit better with 1882, and certainly not in 1883, given the weekday problem.
- Finds that all of the lounging and lack of visitors and such at Baker Street shows a much longer stretch of time and that 1882 fits that better, too.

A newcomer to the chronology game, Craig Marinaro, likes 1883 for STUD, but he is all alone in that belief. He published his chronology online in 2012, but hasn't put it in book form. The link is:
His findings are short:
- Uses evidence of the length of the partnership, mentioned in 'The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger' (VEIL), to work backwards and gets to 1883.*
*However, he says nothing about when they met except to say that in 1883 they had "already been roommates for several months by that point."

Brad Keefauver, on his website Sherlock Peoria, does think Holmes and Watson met in 1881, but that the actually case took place in 1884. His bullet points are:
- Thinks the newspaper wasn't wrong at all, and that when it said the 4th, it meant it.
- Believes that 4th, however, fell in 1884.
- That 1884 covers all of the time needed for everything to happen, including Watson's clipping out of articles about the Drebber murder and pasting them in his scrapbook.
- Knows this places 'The Adventure of the Speckled Band' (SPEC) before STUD, but thinks the latter was just lumped into one for publication and that no one would be the wiser.

This is my life. This the kind of thing I put up with. All of these people have the exact same story at their fingertips, and yet they all came up with a different year. I find it fascinating, but very hard to follow at times.

I have said before that I find Mr. Keefauver's logic to be clever and unique, and this time it's no different. I won't say I'm convinced, but intrigued. For now I think I'll stick with the whole thing happening in 1881. It's comfortable, and seems to fit all of the evidence (in my eyes). I will admit, however, that I have always been troubled by Watson's short timeline for everything. It does seem as though the span between meeting and the start of the case needed to be longer, but his vagueness and obscurity pull me back in and tell me to keep my butt firmly sat in 1881 due to lack of more evidence.

For the record, most chronologists go with 1881. Christ, Marinaro, and Keefauver all stand by themselves with their years, but nearly all of the others file in behind 1881 and stay there. (Some of their explanations take up pages and pages, though!)

I know I'm getting this out late in the month, but this is what I said we'd talk about, and we have, even if it took me until the 11th hour to get it done. As always, thanks for reading. I'll see you next month.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The February Wrap-Up

Just like I did in January, I'm going to do an end of the month follow-up for February. (Yes, I know I'm late.) Once again we have chronologists who can't seem to pin down anything specific about dating some stories. This is the remainder of the chronological finds for last month.

By the numbers, ten different people haggled about eight different dates in six different years about four different stories. But, is there anything left over that didn't get mentioned? Well, I'm glad you asked.

We'll do this starting with the earliest vagary someone came up with.
1882 is where a lot of people landed when dating 'The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet' (BERY). Most came up with a date, but a few did not. For instance, Mike Ashley likes February of that year for BERY, but that's all we get. He doesn't give any dates at all. Meanwhile, H. W. Bell tries a little harder and says it was a Friday in that month and year. Conversely, Vincent Delay also says it's a Friday in the second month, but says it can be any one between 1882 and 1887.

1884 finds another sort-of dating from Craig Marinaro. He, too, says February for BERY, but narrows it down a bit further to between 1884 to 1887. Jean-Pierre Crauser puts 'The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton' (CHAS) in February or March of 1885. And Chris Miller half-heartedly believes BERY could be in 1886, but places a question mark behind it. (Looks like he wasn't completely convinced. Again.)

Skipping ahead to 1894 finds three Sherlockians (June Thomson, Gavin Brend, Martin Dakin) who like February of that year for 'The Adventure of the Empty House' (EMPT). And one year after that Mr. Crauser puts 'The Adventure of the Red Circle' (REDC) in January or February of 1895. Crauser also places 'The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter' (MISS) in February of 1896.

In February of 1897 we have two trios of chronologists who place two different tales in that month. Miller, Bell, and Delay all say MISS happened then, while Thomson, Dakin, and Ashley say REDC happened. T. S. Blakeney says MISS occurred in February of 1898, even though no one else agrees with him.

After all of these findings we have a lull of four years before anybody thinks anything else happens. Sticking with REDC brings us to John Hall and Henry Folsom. They both like mid-February of 1902 for that case, but don't get any more specific. Bradley & Sarjeant place REDC in the same time frame (kind of) and say it could've taken place between November of that year and March of the next.

A different story altogether pops up at the end here in 'The Adventure of the Three Gables' (3GAB). Vincent Delay likes anywhere between July 1902 and November 1904 for what most consider one of The Canon's worst tales, while Roger Butters places it anywhere from October 1902 to April 1903. (Again, some of these time spreads are mentioned ONLY because the month we're discussing falls in there somewhere. They aren't necessarily February cases, but they could be. What I will leave out again this month are the folks who place a story in a year or range of years and nothing else. Yes, February falls in that year, but just giving a year isn't enough effort for me and therefore doesn't get any space here.)

See you at the end of March (or the beginning of April. You know how I am.) Thanks for reading.