Monday, April 29, 2019

Finding Things By Not Looking For Them

One of the things I really enjoy doing is randomly flipping through the pages of publications from the Sherlock era. Having been in the hobby for some time means I can easily pick out Canonical words and terms from a page. Kind of like one's own name. My eyes are just drawn to them. Well, it happened again recently, and I want to show you what I found.


Back in 2012 I gave a talk at A Scintillation of Scions V that was a combination of several paper ideas I'd had. It was called 'Three Trite Problems' (I pride myself on my presentation titles) and it was about two ideas that really hadn't panned out, and then the main part (which was about evidence of the actual pawn shop where Holmes bought his Stradivarius.) One of the other two was about the possibility of someone at 221b being Catholic. The other was about coal tar derivatives. Neither went anywhere, and it was fun to get everyone worked up about them, and then see their faces when I admited we wouldn't be talking about them. Devious, I know. The main part I mentioned was something that is kind of similar to what I recently found and what we'll discuss here.


Google Books is one of my favorties sites. I always, yes always, have a tab open to it. I came across this serialized story called 'The Adventures of a Farce' in The Knickerbocker (or The New York Monthly Magazine) from 1871, and it contains some pretty cool things. The writer is unknown, but they seemed to channel a lot of terms that would be contained in some stories that would be published a couple of decades later.

Here's a list of those things:
There’s a reference to a Penang Lawyer.
One of the characters is a pipe smoker.
Cambridge is mentioned.
We find Bohemia, Shakespeare quotes, The London Times, and a Mr. Turner.
Someone named Hopkins is in there, one person is a doctor, the word Midland appears, as does the word Mendicant.
We also find a Tobias, and last but not least a Diogenes.
Oh, and did I mention that all of this takes place in London?

There may be more, but I don't have the strength to go through that story again. It's sooooo bad. You get the idea, though.

The way I found the story in the first place was when I was looking up 'Jew Pawnbroker Tottenham Court Road' in Google. You know, like the one in 'The Cardboard Box' (CARD). That's when the line "from a Jew broker in Tottenham Court Road" appeared. The actual line from CARD is "at a Jew Broker's in Tottenham Court Road." Now, come on. That's waaaaay too close to be nothing. But, there was no way to make a solid connection, so this had to remain just bizarre happenstance.

One a side note, I remember that I made my frustration about the pawnshop known in the paper with this:


So, on to my latest find. It was in The Illustrated London News from November 27, 1886. I was just scanning pages when a name caught my eye. I stopped, looked at it in a blinky-blinky way, and then saw something else. Then more. After scanning the whole page I had come across another Farce type thing.


Before we get to what I saw intially, I'll show you some other things from around the page. It's in three columns, and the first one (and part of the second) is about art exhibitions. There's nothing in there, unless you want to get silly. "Oh my gosh! There's the word 'the.' Holmes says 'the' in a lot of stories!" There are some words that do appear in The Canon, but nothing like what's in the other columns.

It was nice to see this name...


Another happy find was this classic Canonical conundrum, even though I am taking it out of context...


It was also very cool to see the name of the grandfather of noted Sherlockian scholar William S. Baring-Gould...


What I saw was what's in the first circle here. I found this article on Google Books, and the copy wasn't very good. Quite hard to read. So, I looked it up on British Newspaper Archives and found the bits I've used here. (It's soooo much clearer.) On Google Books I thought what I saw was the name 'Dr. Hill Barton' but it turned out to be Burton. Regardless, that's still really close. As I looked at it, somewhat astounded, I noticed the name in the third circle. Then, what was in the second. Very cool.


Now, I realize that this doesn't actually mean anything. These kinds of groupings are probably more common than I think, but in the past I've found them when looking through whole publications. Like Punch or The London Gazette. It's easy to go through one of them and collect many Canonical words and phrases. But when I find a tight little gathering of them I start wondering if they could possibly have anything to do with what we would see later on in The Sacred Writings.

Anyway, this is the kind of thing I look for. I wasn't expecting to find all of these in one spot, but I love that I did. It will help keep my fingers (proverbially) walking through old pages in the hopes something's there.

If you've ever come across something like this, let me know. I'd love to hear about it. Until then, I'll see you next time. And as always...thanks for reading.