On May 24th…

“Chips” writes:
There is no activity recorded for May 24th in our Chronology. So, we are going to stray into one of my passions in the Sherlockian world.

From my Limerick Corner: I have a rather large collection of Sherlockian Limericks, and I am going to post a few on the case that our chronological dating just started on yesterday. The first limerick is by a rather well-known Sherlockian.

The Adventure of the Naval Treaty
by Isaac Asimov, BSI

Poor old Phelps faces prospects of doom
And yet all he can do is fume.
The pact’s gone — He was sentry —
There’s no sign of an entry
But our Holmes can decode the locked room

The next one was composed by a gentleman I had the pleasure of meeting and corresponding with on the first Sherlockian discussion forum on the Internet. The group is the Hounds of the Internet, which is still going, and I have the pleasure of being a member of it.

The gentleman I met was posting quite wonderful limericks of his own creation, one for every short story in the Canon. After talking about each limerick as he posted them, he asked for my email address as he had a little gift for me he wanted to send me. I received a copy of every one of his limericks with his permission to publish wherever I felt Sherlockians would enjoy them. I miss Don every day when I hear of or read a limerick… which is every day. I still wish I could have talked him into writing a limerick or two for each of the 4 novels. His answer was always the same, “I am too lazy to do that, It might take too much work.”

Rest in peace, Don.

The Adventure of the Naval Treaty
by Don Dillistone

Responding to Phelps’s entreaty
Holmes found the lost Naval Treaty
But the absconder
Was not from Yonder,
But brother to Phelps’s own Sweetie.
–Don Dillistone, April 2002

On May 23rd…

From A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ compiled and edited by William S Dorn:

On May 23, 1889, the Naval Treaty was stolen. [NAVA]

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (1893)

The chamber into which we were shown was on the same floor as the drawing-room. It was furnished partly as a sitting and partly as a bedroom, with flowers arranged daintily in every nook and corner. A young man, very pale and worn, was lying upon a sofa near the open window, through which came the rich scent of the garden and the balmy summer air. A woman was sitting beside him, and rose as we entered.
“Shall I leave, Percy?” she asked.
He clutched her hand to detain her. “How are you, Watson?” said he, cordially, “I should never have known you under that moustache, and I daresay you would not be prepared to swear to me. This I presume is your celebrated friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes?”

This is one of the rare instances of a physical description of Watson in the Canon, and the one scholars use as proof that Watson had a moustache.

“A cold hand seemed to close round my heart. Someone, then, was in that room where my precious treaty lay upon the table. I ran frantically up the stairs and along the passage. There was no one in the corridors, Mr. Holmes. There was no one in the room. All was exactly as I left it, save only that the papers committed to my care had been taken from the desk on which they lay. The copy was there and the original was gone.”

Since Phelps was warned strongly about the need to keep the treaty safe, why did he leave it on the table in the first place? Why did he not put the original in his desk drawer and lock it up or lock the room before leaving the floor?

On May 22nd…

Photograph of Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle by Herbert Rose Barraud (1893)

We have no Canonical happening for today, but we celebrate a rather important event!

Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born May 22, 1859 at Picardy Place, Edinburgh, to Charles Altamont Doyle and Mary Doyle (née Foley).

In honor of Dr Doyle’s 158th birthday, we’d like to share some fascinating facts from A Curious Collection of Dates: Through the Year with Sherlock Holmes by Leah Guinn (JHWS “Amber”) and Jaime N Mahoney (JHWS “Tressa”). We rely on this excellent volume for inspiration for many of our non-chronology entries. As a rule, we avoid posting such long extracts from published works; we hope that this small taste will inspire you to grab a copy of the book from Wessex Press for yourself!

Ten Facts about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle You Might not Know

from A Curious Collection of Dates: Through the Year with Sherlock Holmes by Leah Guinn and Jaime N Mahoney

  1. He was six years old when he wrote his first story. An adventure story about a hunting party’s encounter with a Bengal tiger, it was, as is typical for little boys’ tales, realistic about its protagonist’s fate: the tiger went away filled.
  2. He had a miniature monorail train built at Undershaw for his children and their friends.
  3. He could be musical. In the early spring of 1898, he wrote to his mother that he was learning the banjo: “To hunt and to play a musical instrument would 2 years ago have been picked out as the two things in the world that I was least likely to do.” (We cannot tell if he stuck with it.)
  4. He did not like corn on the cob. During his 1894 tour of the States, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that he “does not seem to be infatuated with ear corn.” Sweet potatoes and eggplant were apparently more palatable.
  5. He seems to have been asked to join The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, whose alleged members included William Butler Yeats, Arthur Machen, and Sax Rohmer. He declined the invitation, from a “Dr. Brown,” claiming that he simply did not have the time. A month later, he encountered “Dr. Brown” again at a social gathering, and heard him and a friend discussing their experiences with astral projection. “…I remain under the impression that I brushed against something strange,” he wrote later, “and something which I am not sorry that I avoided.”
  6. He could be a bit of a thrill seeker. In 1901, he excitedly reported to his mother that he had taken a ride in a hot air balloon, flying 25 miles from the Crystal Palace to Sevenoaks, “We went 1½ miles high,” he exulted, “It was a most extraordinary sensation and experience… […] I have always wanted to do this & am glad I have done it.”
  7. If he were shipwrecked on a deserted island and could choose only one book to have with him, it would be Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. This is, in fact, a multi-volume work, which might be considered cheating.
  8. He showed remarkably poor judgment… when, on Christmas morning in 1892, he decided to dress as a monster and jump out to scare his family. Four year-old Mary was traumatized, and biographer Daniel Stashower tells us that Arthur was give nighttime comfort duty, a just and fitting punishment.
  9. His name was valuable. In October of 1895, Conan Doyle felt obligated to write to a New York paper, The Critic, to alert readers that someone was publishing an anthology of stories under his name. He had only one story in Strange Secrets, he wrote, “a short one in the middle of the book.”
  10. He owned property in Canada. During his trip to Canada with Jean in 1914, he bought land in Fort William, Ontario, as an investment, paying $15,000. In 1965, his heirs sold the lot at a loss for $14,000.

On May 21st…

From A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ by William S Dorn:

On May 21, 1902, Shoscombe Prince won the Derby at Epsom. [SHOS]

Harrington Bird’s “Isinglass Winning the Derby”, from The Encyclopedia of Sport (1897)

It is generally known now that this singular episode ended upon a happier note than Sir Robert’s actions deserved. Shoscombe Prince did win the Derby, the sporting owner did net eighty thousand pounds in bets, and the creditors did hold their hand until the race was over, when they were paid in full, and enough was left to re-establish Sir Robert in a fair position in life. Both police and coroner took a lenient view of the transaction, and beyond a mild censure for the delay in registering the lady’s decease, the lucky owner got away scatheless from this strange incident in a career which has now outlived its shadows and ended in an honoured old age.

[Some of the prize money must’ve gone to grease some wheels, so Sir Robert got away with it. What a Cad and Bounder! –Chips]

On May 20th…

From A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ by William S Dorn:

May 20, 1900, was Beppo’s last pay day at Gelder & Co. [SIXN]

Andreas Markos as Beppo (BBC, 1965)

“No, no,” cried Holmes, “not a word to the cousin – not a word, I beg you. The matter is very important, and the farther I go with it the more important it seems to grow. When you referred in your ledger to the sale of those casts I observed that the date was June 3rd of last year. Could you give me the date when Beppo was arrested?”
“I could tell you roughly by the pay-list,” the manager answered. “Yes,” he continued, after some turning over of pages, “he was paid last on May 20th.”

On May 19th…

From A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ by William S Dorn:

Nissar Modi as Lord Arthur Saltire (Granada, 1986)

On May 19, 1900, Lord Saltire was rescued. [PRIO]

[Holmes said,] “I will help you, but on one condition only. It is that you ring for the footman and let me give such orders as I like.”
Without a word the Duke pressed the electric bell. A servant entered.
“You will be glad to hear,” said Holmes, “that your young master is found. It is the Duke’s desire that the carriage shall go at once to the Fighting Cock Inn to bring Lord Saltire home.”

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (1904)


Also on May 19, 1900, the Duke of Holdernesse wrote a cheque for £12,000 to Holmes. [PRIO]

The Duke took a pen in his quivering fingers and opened his cheque-book.”I shall be as good as my word, Mr. Holmes. I am about to write your cheque, however unwelcome the information which you have gained may be to me. When the offer was first made I little thought the turn which events might take. But you and your friend are men of discretion, Mr. Holmes?”

According to Nicolas Utechin’s Coin of the Canonical Realm, in 2013, that £12,000 would have been worth approximately £1,065,600 GBP ($1,715,616 USD). Small wonder Holmes said that cheque was the most interesting thing he had seen in the North!

From Holmes to Sherlock (Book Review)

From Holmes to Sherlock

by Mattias Bostrom
Mysterious Press (August 2017)
544 p. ISBN 9780802126603

Publisher’s Summary

Everyone knows Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created a unique literary character who has remained popular for over a century and is appreciated more than ever today. But what made this fictional character, dreamed up by a small-town English doctor in the 1880s, into such a lasting success, despite the author’s own attempt to escape his invention?

In From Holmes to Sherlock, Swedish author and Sherlock Holmes expert Mattias Boström recreates the full story behind the legend for the first time. From a young Arthur Conan Doyle sitting in a Scottish lecture hall taking notes on his medical professor’s powers of observation to the pair of modern-day fans who brainstormed the idea behind the TV sensation Sherlock, from the publishing world’s first literary agent to the Georgian princess who showed up at the Conan Doyle estate and altered a legacy, the narrative follows the men and women who have created and perpetuated the myth. It includes tales of unexpected fortune, accidental romance, and inheritances gone awry, and tells of the actors, writers, readers, and other players who have transformed Sherlock Holmes from the gentleman amateur of the Victorian era to the odd genius of today. Told in fast-paced, novelistic prose, From Holmes to Sherlock is a singular celebration of the most famous detective in the world—a must-read for newcomers and experts alike.

General Review

Reviewing a nonfiction book is difficult for me, since there are no characters to review, just a series of facts and how they’re presented.  Wonderfully, however, Mattias Bostrom chose to write his history of Holmes and the people who shaped him in an engaging, story-like manner, making this not just an interesting read, but a fun one.

The book is divided into different sections, all of which cover a range of dates (there is no table of contents in my ARC, alas).  We begin, most naturally, with Arthur Conan Doyle and the circumstances that led him to create Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.  From there, the text makes a number of side trips into other people, such as publishers and editors, journalists and fellow writers.  At first I thought the stories and information about these people were added as colour to the text, but as we got further into the book I realized that the little asides about all of these different people had a point, and that they all influenced ACD or how Holmes and Watson would go on to become cultural icons.  It was a risky move- I could see some readers, perhaps not as devoted to Holmesian or Watsonian interests but more general readers, getting frustrated with the asides and leaving off before they saw the fruition.  But it’s a risk that pays off; Bostrom’s text is far more interesting for getting to meet some of our key players before they really enter the scene.

While the first two sections of the book are truly devoted just to ACD, in section three (1897-1930) we begin to see the impact that the stories have made and how Holmes begins to leave the hands of his creator and become the creation of a whole confluence of cultural factors.  It is in this section that we meet William Gillette and see the changes he wrought upon the character, as well as see some of the early films- and all the issues of copyright that immediately come up.

Though the book focuses on the ways that Holmes has been shaped by so many different people, I would say that the issue of copyright- who owns Holmes?- is the most important theme throughout the story.  I will confess it up front: I am someone who, while interested in a vague way in the history of Holmesiana, has never studied or memorized it in the way that so many Holmesians have.  So this book, for me, did an excellent job of keeping my interest even while explaining why the issue of copyright is so complicated when it comes to Sherlock Holmes.  We get to see the way ownership was handed over so easily in the Edwardian era to various film companies, often at the same time, which created problems for later films and television adaptations, which led to fights among the Conan Doyle estate, both among themselves and with outside companies.  Bostrom’s narrative is extremely compelling in this regard, and even though I knew the eventual outcome, I found myself tense as all the different factions fought amongst themselves for well over eighty years.

As someone who adores adaptations, it was incredibly interesting to see how familiar faces came onto the stage.  Edith Meiser, Frederic Dorr Steele (who made me cry at my desk at work), Nigel Bruce (who also made me cry), Evelyn Herzog (her story made me ugly cry at my desk… look, I got emotional while reading this book, it was that good), Peter Cushing, Ronald Howard, Robert Stephens… there were so many figures dear to me in general that appeared in this book.  If I have one fault for this book, it’s that I wish it dug in deeper with the different films and television shows.  That wasn’t the purpose of this book, so that isn’t a slight on the author, but rather a compliment: this book was so engaging that I wanted him to write another 544 pages just on the production histories of every Holmesian film and television show ever.

I will warn readers now, however, that if you are fans of Conan Doyle’s children, you might want to brace yourself.  While Denis and Adrian are treated with fondness, the author doesn’t shy away from their less admirable characteristics, especially when it came to managing their father’s estate.  I walked away from this book deeply grateful that we have any additional Holmes and Watson things at all, given the way they handled things.

I thought this was a fascinating book.  I received an ARC from Edelweiss, and though excited, was also a bit apprehensive.  As I stated, my interests in Holmesiana lie elsewhere, and so I was concerned that I would be a poor audience for this book.  Rather, it captured my attention and aroused my curiosity.  After finishing this excellent volume, I wound up doing some more research on my own.

What About Our Watson?

As this is a nonfiction book that specifically focuses on what influenced the ongoing cultural creation of Sherlock Holmes, as well as the people who were influenced by him, it is perhaps not surprising that there isn’t much discussion about Watson.  Though we get to peak behind the curtain and see some of the evolution of film and television shows, they largely focus on the creators of those adaptations as well as the figures who portrayed Holmes.  This is not exclusive; Nigel Bruce is talked about a bit, for instance.  But by and large, Watson is a footnote in this book.

Thankfully, the author does give us one excellent point about Watson.  Bostrom proposes that ACD’s genius was not in creating Holmes, but in creating Watson, and giving us an organic, clever way to meet Holmes and join in the stories.  It is an interesting point, and given the respect the author extends Watson, I would love to see him do a history of Watson and his evolution, which is many ways is far more intriguing than the evolution of Holmes.

You Might Like This Book If You Like:

Histories; adaptations and how they came about; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his family

Is there a book you want Lucy to review? Let her know!

On May 18th…

From A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ by William S Dorn:

May 18, 1900: Heidegger’s body was discovered on lower Gil Moor. [PRIO]

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (1904)

Our search was not a very long one. The tracks of the tyre began to curve fantastically upon the wet and shining path. Suddenly, as I looked ahead, the gleam of metal caught my eye from amid the thick gorse bushes. Out of them we dragged a bicycle, Palmer-tyred, one pedal bent, and the whole front of it horribly smeared and slobbered with blood. On the other side of the bushes a shoe was projecting. We ran round, and there lay the unfortunate rider. He was a tall man, full bearded, with spectacles, one glass of which had been knocked out. The cause of his death was a frightful blow upon the head, which had crushed in part of his skull. That he could have gone on after receiving such an injury said much for the vitality and courage of the man. He wore shoes, but no socks, and his open coat disclosed a night-shirt beneath it. It was undoubtedly the German master.
Holmes turned the body over reverently, and examined it with great attention. He then sat in deep thought for a time, and I could see by his ruffled brow that this grim discovery had not, in his opinion, advanced us much in our inquiry.

May 18, 1900: Rueben Hayes was arrested in Chesterfield for murdering Heidegger. [PRIO]
Birmingham Parks Police photo

As to Hayes I say nothing. The gallows awaits him, and I would do nothing to save him from it. What he will divulge I cannot tell, but I have no doubt that your Grace could make him understand that it is to his interest to be silent. From the police point of view he will have kidnapped the boy for the purpose of ransom.


On May 17th…

From A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ by William S Dorn:

May 17, 1900: Dr Thorneycroft Huxtable fainted on the hearth rug at 221B Baker Street. [PRIO]

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (1904)

We have had some dramatic entrances and exits upon our small stage at Baker Street, but I cannot recollect anything more sudden and startling than the first appearance of Dr. Thorneycroft Huxtable, M.A., Ph.D., etc. His card, which seemed too small to carry the weight of his academic distinctions, preceded him by a few seconds, and then he entered himself – so large, so pompous, and so dignified that he was the very embodiment of self-possession and solidity. And yet his first action when the door had closed behind him was to stagger against the table, whence he slipped down upon the floor, and there was that majestic figure prostrate and insensible upon our bearskin hearthrug.
We had sprung to our feet, and for a few moments we stared in silent amazement at this ponderous piece of wreckage, which told of some sudden and fatal storm far out on the ocean of life. Then Holmes hurried with a cushion for his head and I with brandy for his lips.

Now here we have a sample of the famous Watson’s remedy. I think, in this case, from a non-medical point of view, the best medicine for the situation.

Msgr Knox and the Sherlock Holmes Story

Since there no points of interest listed in our Sherlockian Calendar for today, I had an idea for a change of pace. I have a friend, a retired teacher of special education, who made a presentation to a class of middle schoolers who were studying Sherlock Holmes in their literature class. Larry made his own copy of the points that Reverend Ronald Knox wrote up as being parts of a Sherlock Holmes story. Larry took out the Latin translations that were part of the fanciful article that Reverend Knox wrote as a basis for creating Sherlockian Scholarship. Larry listed the parts in such a clear way I wanted to pass it along to our group.

We hope you enjoy.

The Eleven Essential Parts of a Sherlock Holmes Story by Reverend Ronald Knox

As compiled by Larry Feldman, a retired Special Education teacher and Sherlockian Scholar

Part 1 – The Homely Baker Street Scene – implicit introductions.
a) “invaluable personal touches”
b) a lecture/demonstration by the detective.

Part 2 – Statement of the Case
a) Client’s statement
b) Newspaper account

Part 3 – Personal investigation
a) Scene of the crime
b) Famous “floor walk”

Part 4 – Refutation of Scotland Yard’s Theory of the Crime

Part 5 – Holmes gives a few stray hints to the police (and the reader)
that the police dismiss.

Part 6 – A partial sketch of the true course of the investigation –usually to Watson alone.

Part 7 – Further follow-up of the investigation
a) Cross questioning of witnesses/suspects/family
b) Examination of the corpse
c) Visit to the record office
d) Holmes assumes a character, disguise.

Part 8 – Criminal is caught, exposed revealed

Part 9 – Criminal’s confession or story

Part 10 – Holmes describes clues, his thought process, how he solved the case

Part 11 – Final thought
a) Quotation
b) Ironic observation
c) Sum up of experience

Note: Most Sherlock Holmes stories do not have all eleven sections, or necessarily in this order. Most have 5 to 6 parts. It is a list of the structural pieces of a Sherlock Holmes story.