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Dr Watson’s Moons — 4 Comments

  1. The lunar calendar can be an important tool in Watsonian chronology. In “The Creeping Man”, for example, the dates Watson cites also coincide with the availability of moonlight as mentioned by various witnesses.

    It is in those stories that happen over an appreciable period of time that in little things like weather or moon phases Watson becomes more a writer and less a reporter; that is he makes good use of his “literary license”. In John Weber’s excellent “Under the Darkling Sky: A Chrono-Georaphic Odyssey through the Holmesian Canon”, he examines the various dates put forth by chronologist for “The Hound of the Baskervilles” against the moon phases mentioned in Chapters 6, 9 and 14. Out of all the years (1886, 1888, 1889, 1897, 1899, 1900) favored by chronologists, none match Watson’s lunar descriptions. However, giving “the man on the tor” incident precedence, 1889 and 1900 come out with the best fit. Weber: “The choice, then, is between 1889 and 1900. Is there anything which might tip the balance of one over the other? 1900 reads marginally better, and then there is the matter of the telegraph office at Postbridge, which must be given due weight.” After discussing Watson’s weather descriptions against the records, which “are as varied as the images in a kaleidoscope”, he opts for 1900. And yet Weber quotes Humphrey Bogart in “Key Largo”, “…’When your head says one thing, and your heart says another, your head always loses.’ That is the case with me. Against all reason, I cannot help feel that this case belongs properly in 1889, even though I realize that 1900 should be correct.” It is no wonder, through the centuries the moon has had a profound effect on humans. Logic and facts seem to dissolve leaving a dreamscape where emotions rule. Pondicherry Lodge and Dartmoor take on an otherworldly quality when the lunar rays are added to Walton’s pen. Even chronologists can become romantics when considering its spell.

    • What a wonderful beginning to a very large topic for exploration! Thank you very much, “Pippin.” Extremely interesting and well-written.

    • A recent paper by C. Tweed Roosevelt, “The Sun Never Set on Holdernesse Hall: Some Notes on ‘The Priory School'” (Baker Street Journal, Summer 2010), examines the times of sunrise and sunset in relation with the action of the story and proposes a new datation for PRIO. The moon phases for 1901 are also examined.

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