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Canonical Valentine? — 6 Comments

  1. I haven’t done the kind of thorough examination of the stories that I would if this were for something like a dissertation, but a cursory look yields the following:

    Direct Mention of Holidays in the Canon:

    BLUE is set on December 27th, “the second morning after Christmas.” We are told that Mr. Henry Baker lost his hat and goose at four o’clock on Christmas morning and that Holmes received both articles a few hours later. The goose is directly called “a Christmas goose” and referred to as Mr. Baker’s “Christmas dinner.” Mrs. Oakshott, James Ryder’s sister, intended to give him a goose as a “Christmas present.” Holmes refers to Christmas indirectly at the end of the story, calling it “the season of forgiveness.”

    SPEC also mentions Christmas. Julia, Helen Stoner’s sister, went to her aunt’s house for Christmas two years prior to the events of the story. It was on this visit that Julia met the man who would become her fiancé, causing her stepfather to murder her to keep control of her inheritance.

    In HOUN, the curse of the Baskerville family is supposed to have begun when Hugo Baskerville chased down a maiden who escaped from him on Michaelmas.

    In DANC, Hilton Cubbitt meets Elise Patrick when he comes to London for “the Jubliee” — which would either be Queen Victoria’s Golden or Diamond Jubliee (the anniversary celebration of her 50th or 60th year of reign). Most chronologists favor the Diamond Jubliee. In either case, it was a holiday for the whole country.

    Though there is no direct mention of Valentine’s Day in the Canon, there is a villain by the name of Valentine–Colonel Valentine Walter, who took an impress of keys belonging to his brother, Sir James Walter, in order to steal the plans for the Bruce-Partington submarine.

    Epiphany (Twelfth Night)/Holmes’s “Birthday”:

    Though Epiphany is not directly mentioned in VALL, the murder at Birlstone occurs the day after in the early morning hours, and Inspector MacDonald brings news of it to Holmes at breakfast time. Baring-Gould uses Holmes’s initial mood over breakfast as evidence in favor of Christopher Morley’s designation of Jan. 6 as Holmes’s birthday. Baring-Gould argues that Holmes must have had a hangover from celebrating his birthday the night before. Morley declares Jan. 6 as Holmes’s birthday because Holmes often quotes Shakespeare, and the play he most often quotes is “Twelfth Night.”

    Stretching Things a Bit:

    While the stories below do not mention holidays, they are appropriately set near them or (in the case of GLOR) recount an incident near a appropriate holiday…

    In GLOR, we are told that the Gloria Scott blew up and sank on November 6. This is the day after Guy Fawkes Day (November 5)–a day that commemorates the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, in which barrels of gunpowder were placed beneath the House of Lords in an attempt to kill James I and take over the government. Ironically, the first mate of the Gloria Scott uses a barrel of gunpowder to blow up the ship in order to foil the convicts’ attempts to take it over and escape their sentence.

    FINA opens on April 24–a day in which Moriarty’s agents make three attempts on Holmes’s life. April 24 is the day after St. George’s Day. (St. George is the patron saint of England, and April 23 is traditionally accepted as the anniversary of his death.) St. George would not stand down when he was told his life would be spared and he would be rewarded if he renounced his faith; instead, he stood fast and was tortured and beheaded. Holmes also refuses to stand down even though Moriarty threatens his life if he does not, and three attempts on his life follow. Interestingly, Holmes and Moriarty have their confrontation at Reichenbach Falls on May 4–the day before some Eastern Orthodox celebrations of St. George’s Day. Though generally the Orthodox Church now celebrates St. George’s feast day on May 6, there is an older tradition that held to the 5th. Why is this important? Bram Stoker mentions the feast day as falling on May 5 in Dracula and describes it as a day when evil holds sway from midnight on. If this is regional folklore and not Stoker’s own invention, then what better day than May 4 for Holmes to cast Moriarty over the Falls? In either case, both dates from FINA occur around St. George’s Day–a day commemorating England’s patron saint and slayer of dragons. Holmes is the intellectual equivalent of that.

    If the events of FINA are set near the death day feasts of England’s patron saint, what of EMPT, Holmes resurrection story? Chronologists place the date of Holmes’s reappearance between April 2-5, 1894. Those dates would have put his “resurrection” just over one week after Easter that year…

    Important Publication Dates Relating to Holidays:

    All Sherlockians know STUD was first published in the 1887 edition of Beeton’s Christmas Annual.

    Prize for Most Creative Use of a Holiday in a Screen Adaptation of a Holmes Story:

    In my opinion, the prize goes to Granada’s version of CARD. Doyle’s original story is set in the blazing heat of August, but Granada changed the setting to Christmas so that the cardboard box containing the human ears could come to Susan Cushing as a Christmas present instead of just a postal delivery.

    • “Faith”

      What a superb post and fast bit of research! Thank you. Melissa is from Peoria, Illinois and is a Dr Watson expert. Her excellent new book, “The Mystery of THAT Woman” is currently being reviewed by potential publishers.

      Thank you very much for your contributions!

  2. Melissa’s insightful remarks should be considered for publication as a short item in The Watsonian. They certainly merit wider exposure.

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