A Note from Chips

In the comments on Sunday’s entry, Chips wrote:

Margie, Beth and all my other loved friends in the John H Watson Society. My health does not allow me to continue my column Tid Bits.
I will try to publish some things as I can. I hate to be so abrupt but I have to do what I can when I can. Thank you my dear,dear, friends, Ron, One for whom the game always has been, always is now always will be, the Lord permitting, Afoot

Our Chips has been dealing with health issues for some time, and he had planned to share a bit about them tomorrow (July 26th), because it is also the date in his much-referenced chronology for Percy Phelps’s recovery from Brain Fever [NAVA].

This is so strangely appropriate to what I have to inform you all of. I waited to inform you because of my off-beat sense of humor coupled with a fanatical love of the Canon. I wanted to tie it in with this occurrence in the Canon.  A few months ago I went in to hospital for some neurological programs. They tell me I  have a small tumor that is causing some problems that could be called an attack of Brain Fever. We are huddling to figure out where to proceed next with treatment.

Our thoughts are with Chips and his loved ones. Ron, please know you have our love, our support, and all our best wishes.

On July 24th…

“It is too little to say William Gillette resembled Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes looks exactly like William Gillette.” (Orson Welles, Mercury Theatre on the Air, 25 September 1938)

William Hooker Gillette was born on July 24, 1853, in Hartford, Connecticut. He played Sherlock Holmes on stage for the first time in 1899, and is inextricably linked to the role in the minds of many fans, having performed it more than 1300 times. He appeared in a 1916 film based on the play he wrote – a film thought long-lost until a copy was discovered in the Cinémathèque Française archive in 2014. The restored film was featured at film festivals and released on DVD in 2015.

(Ariana Maher (JHWS “Carla”) recounts her trip to see it at the Seattle International Film Festival in “A Day at the Movies“.)

The four-act play took elements from “A Scandal in Bohemia” and “The Final Problem”, as well as A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, “The Boscombe Valley Mystery”, and “The Greek Interpreter”. Other than Holmes, Watson, and Moriarty, the characters were Gillette’s inventions. Those include Alice Faulkner – Holmes’s client and eventual romantic interest – and Billy the Pageboy, before his appearance in “The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone”.

Cover illustration by Frederic Dorr Steele for Collier’s (1904)

Gillette’s portrayal of Holmes shaped the American image of the Great Detective. The curved pipe (which was better for being understood on stage) and the deerstalker cap (taken from Paget’s illustrations) became permanent accessories. Frederic Dorr Steele’s illustrations of Holmes for Collier’s Weekly seem to take Gillette as a model.

Between 1914 and 1919, Gillette designed and had constructed an elaborate home in East Haddam, CT. Upon his death in 1937, his will instructed that his home should not be allowed to go to  “some blithering saphead who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” The property was purchased by the State of Connecticut in 1943 and is now known as Gillette Castle State Park.

 

Sources: A Curious Collection of Dates: Through the Year with Sherlock Holmes, by Leah Guinn (JHWS “Amber”) and Jaime N Mahoney (JHWS “Tressa”); The Sherlock Holmes Miscellany, by Roger Johnson (JHWS “Count”) and Jean Upton (JHWS “Countess”); Kevin Noonan, “Lost ‘Sherlock Holmes’ Film Discovered After Almost a Century” (Variety.com); and IMDb.

The Flat at 221B by Jody Baker (AKA Inspector Baynes)

Jody was a good friend, again one I never met, but we exchanged e-mails and grew to be friends. I was a long-distance member of his society, Friends of the Soldier Named Murray. The group had the distinction of being the only active Scion in a Retirement Home recognized by Wiggins of the Baker Street Irregulars. When Jody and his wife decided it was time to move to a facility where his wife and he had the care they needed , they brought their love of All Things Sherlock with them. Their society was a hit with other residents and members all over the world with whom he had communicated. Their monthly meetings and their gazette, The Alpha Gazette, were lively and entertaining and full of a love of his passionate desire of the World of 1895. This is one article of many he and I exchanged. He informed me I could pass them along to keep the word of the Master forever Green.

THE FLAT AT 221B

The pleasure of seeing a mystery unveiled or a puzzle revealed might be the major attraction of the canonical tales. But these are found in most mystery stories that follow the plot formula of Poe. As we search for the distinguishing characteristic of the Holmes tales, perhaps, we might look at the “snuggery” factor If there ever was a cozy retreat, it was 221B Baker Street.

Though large enough to be “airy,” the flat was a self-contained unit where every necessity and every comfort were on hand for Holmes and Watson. Mrs. Hudson was always there to send up “beef, bread and beer” for the sideboard, or a hearty breakfast in the mornings, tea in the afternoons and other repast as needed, at any time. (How fortunate this fraternity of two to have Mrs. Hudson for a housemother.)

The tantalus, we know, was endowed with an endless supply of whisky. The nearby gasogene was never once known to run out of gas. Tobacco in the Persian slipper and cigars in the coal scuttle were there for the satisfaction of smokers. There was no shortage here of chemical contentment.

Resources to be consulted were always within reach. No need to go out on a stormy night to review records at the public library or the CID files at the Yard. Everything was right here. There were commonplace books for data, the agony columns, notes on old cases and techniques of past investigations and a supply of name directories for all manner of identifications. With everything on hand, Holmes rarely had to leave the fireside to research his cases.

Then, too, there was the warmth of the hearth fire to which our characters were drawn for their camaraderie and conversations. Nothing could be more comfortable than to walk from the blazing coal grate over to the nearby bow window and gaze out into the winter night. (Giant snowflakes float from a dark sky and land on wet cobblestones glistening with the reflected light of gas lamps.)

As an element of security, 221B was a second floor flat which commanded a full view of both the street below and the front door to the residence. Inside, the sound from the treads of 17 steps told Holmes much about a visitor even before the knock at the sitting room door, giving him the advantage over all who called upon him. By the strength of his personality, the clarity of his perception and his innate mental superiority, Holmes could dominate anyone who ventured to enter this sanctum sanctorum. (The mother-bird protects the nest by exercising control over it.)

Finally and most important, there was the fast, warm, manly friendship between two individuals, each of whom could accept the shortcomings of the other and appreciate the strengths of the other. Their personalities, though different, were complementary and not conflictive. Each was supremely confident of his own abilities in his own field. Holmes had his crimes to solve, and Watson had his romances (with the women of many nations on three continents) to pursue. Neither suffered from the insecurity which sometimes forces men to compete where competition serves no useful purpose.

These are a few of the factors of the friendship and of the snuggery in which that friendship prospered. In looking for the attraction of the Holmes tales, these should not be overlooked.

Josiah “Jody” Baker

FRIENDS OF THE SOLDIER NAMED MURRAY,
A Sherlock Holmes Society,
at The Terrace On Mountain Creek
SCION of the BAKER STREET IRREGULARS
.

On July 21st…

For generations of Sherlockian devotees around the world, Basil Rathbone was known as Sherlock Holmes. He portrayed the detective in two movies produced by Twentieth Century Fox and set in the Victorian era: The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939) and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939).

These movies pulled out all the stops; Twentieth Century Fox made what Chips considers one of the top versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles. As usual, they made some puzzling minor changes and one major change in the script to attract audiences, but otherwise it is a great movie. They converted more than one sound stage to make a wonderful moor and the chase of Sir Henry Baskerville by the hound had no music sound track underneath. It was more terrifying because of that.

Rathbone and his Watson from both films, Nigel Bruce, went on to feature in twelve films produced by Universal Studios that brought the characters forward in time to fight Nazis during World War II, among other adventures. With those films, fans of a generation learned of Sherlock Holmes. The films have morphed into a television event that can still be seen today. Thank Goodness for the chance to watch and re-watch these films.

The popularity of the films was a mixed blessing for Rathbone, who felt he had become typecast by the role.

“I was so badly typed,” he once said, “that when I went back to New York I lost my own identity. On the street no one ever said ‘Good morning, Basil,’ or ‘Good morning, Mr. Rathbone.’

“They said ‘Good morning, Sherlock.’”

He continued to work in film, television, and radio in a variety of roles through the 1960s. In 1956, he published an autobiography, In and Out of Character. He passed after an apparent heart attack on July 21, 1967, survived by his wife, Ouida, their daughter, Cynthia, and his son from his previous marriage, Rodion.

Sources: A Curious Collection of Dates: Through the Year with Sherlock Holmes, by Leah Guinn (JHWS “Amber”) and Jaime N Mahoney (JHWS “Tressa”); Los Angeles Times; and IMDb.

On July 19th…

(Source: A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn.)

July 19, 1889: Holmes returned the missing letter to Trelawney Hope’s dispatch box. [SECO]

Patricia Hodge as Lady Hilda Trelawney Hope
(Granada, 1986)

Holmes raised the lady. “I am thankful, madam, that you have come to your senses even at this last moment! There is not an instant to lose. Where is the letter?”

She darted across to a writing-desk, unlocked it, and drew out a long blue envelope.

“Here it is, Mr. Holmes. Would to heaven I had never seen it!”

“How can we return it?’ Holmes muttered. “Quick, quick, we must think of some way! Where is the despatch-box?”

“Still in his bedroom.”

“What a stroke of luck! Quick, madam, bring it here.”

A moment later she had appeared with a red flat box in her hand.

“How did you open it before? You have a duplicate key? Yes, of course you have. Open it!”

From out of her bosom Lady Hilda had drawn a small key. The box flew open. It was stuffed with papers. Holmes thrust the blue envelope deep down into the heart of them, between the leaves of some other document. The box was shut, locked, and returned to his bedroom.

July 19, 1898: The first Dancing Men appeared. [DANC]

Holmes held up the paper so that the sunlight shone full upon it. It was a page torn from a notebook. The markings were done in pencil, and ran in this way: –

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (1903)

On July 18th…

(Source: A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn.)

July 18, 1889: Lady Hilda retrieved the missing letter from beneath Eduardo Lucas’s floor. [SECO]

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (1904)

The lady sprang to her feet, with the colour all dashed in an instant from her beautiful face. Her eyes glazed – she tottered – I thought that she would faint. Then with a grand effort she rallied from the shock, and a supreme astonishment and indignation chased every other expression from her features.

“You – you insult me, Mr. Holmes.”

“Come, come, madam, it is useless. Give up the letter.”

She darted to the bell.

“The butler shall show you out.”

“Do not ring, Lady Hilda. If you do, then all my earnest efforts to avoid a scandal will be frustrated. Give up the letter, and all will be set right. If you will work with me, I can arrange everything. If you work against me, I must expose you.”

She stood grandly defiant, a queenly figure, her eyes fixed upon his as if she would read his very soul. Her hand was on the bell, but she had forborne to ring it.

“You are trying to frighten me. It is not a very manly thing, Mr. Holmes, to come here and browbeat a woman. You say that you know something. What is it that you know?”

“Pray sit down, madam. You will hurt yourself there if you fall. I will not speak until you sit down. Thank you.”

“I give you five minutes, Mr. Holmes.”

“One is enough, Lady Hilda. I know of your visit to Eduardo Lucas, and of your giving him this document, of your ingenious return to the room last night, and of the manner in which you took the letter from the hiding-place under the carpet.”

On July 17th…

(Source: A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn.)

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

July 17, 1888: Silver Blaze won the Wessex Cup. [SILV]

From our drag we had a superb view as they came up the straight. The six horses were so close together that a carpet could have covered them, but half-way up the yellow of the Mapleton stable showed to the front. Before they reached us, however, Desborough’s bolt was shot, and the Colonel’s horse, coming away with a rush, passed the post a good six lengths before its rival, the Duke of Balmoral’s Iris making a bad third.

July 17, 1888: Holmes told Colonel Ross that Silver Blaze had killed John Straker. [SILV]

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (1892)

“My dear sir, you have done wonders. The horse looks very fit and well. It never went better in its life. I owe you a thousand apologies for having doubted your ability. You have done me a great service by recovering my horse. You would do me a greater still if you could lay your hands on the murderer of John Straker.”

“I have done so,” said Holmes, quietly.

The Colonel and I stared at him in amazement. “You have got him! Where is he, then?”

“He is here.”

“Here! Where?”

“In my company at the present moment.”

The Colonel flushed angrily. “I quite recognize that I am under obligations to you, Mr. Holmes,” said he, “but I must regard what you have just said as either a very bad joke or an insult.”

Sherlock Holmes laughed. “I assure you that I have not associated you with the crime, Colonel,” said he; “the real murderer is standing immediately behind you!”

He stepped past and laid his hand upon the glossy neck of the thoroughbred.

“The horse!” cried both the Colonel and myself.

July 17, 1889: An inquest into the death of Eduardo Lucas was held. [SECO]

A Coroner’s Inquest (“Living London”, 1901)

All that day and the next and the next Holmes was in a mood which his friends would call taciturn, and others morose. He ran out and ran in, smoked incessantly, played snatches on his violin, sank into reveries, devoured sandwiches at irregular hours, and hardly answered the casual questions which I put to him. It was evident to me that things were not going well with him or his quest. He would say nothing of the case, and it was from the papers that I learned the particulars of the inquest, and the arrest with the subsequent release of John Mitton, the valet of the deceased. The coroner’s jury brought in the obvious “Wilful murder”, but the parties remained as unknown as ever.

 

On July 16th…

(Source: A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn.)

July 16, 1889: Trelawney Hope and Lord Bellinger asked Holmes for help. [SECO]

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (1904)

It was, then, in a year, and even in a decade, that shall be nameless, that upon one Tuesday morning in autumn we found two visitors of European fame within the walls of our humble room in Baker Street. The one, austere, high-nosed, eagle-eyed, and dominant, was none other than the illustrious Lord Bellinger, twice Premier of Britain. The other, dark, clear-cut, and elegant, hardly yet of middle age, and endowed with every beauty of body and of mind, was the Right Honourable Trelawney Hope, Secretary for European Affairs, and the most rising statesman in the country. They sat side by side upon our paper-littered settee, and it was easy to see from their worn and anxious faces that it was business of the most pressing importance which had brought them. The Premier’s thin, blue-veined hands were clasped tightly over the ivory head of his umbrella, and his gaunt, ascetic face looked gloomily from Holmes to me. The European Secretary pulled nervously at his moustache and fidgeted with the seals of his watch-chain.

It is amazing to me how Sidney Paget could draw a picture that so closely creates the image. –Chips

On July 15th…

(Source: A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn.)

July 15, 1889: Eduardo Lucas was stabbed to death by his wife, Mme. Fournaye. [SECO]

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (1904)

My friend has so often astonished me in the course of our adventures that it was with a sense of exultation that I realized how completely I had astonished him. He stared in amazement, and then snatched the paper from my hands. This was the paragraph which I had been engaged in reading when he rose from his chair:

“MURDER IN WESTMINSTER.

“A crime of a mysterious character was committed last night at 16 Godolphin Street, one of the old-fashioned and secluded rows of eighteenth-century houses which lie between the river and the Abbey, almost in the shadow of the great tower of the Houses of Parliament. […] The room was in a state of wild disorder, the furniture being all swept to one side, and one chair lying on its back in the centre. Beside this chair, and still grasping one of its legs, lay the unfortunate tenant of the house. He had been stabbed to the heart, and must have died instantly. The knife with which the crime had been committed was a curved Indian dagger, plucked down from a trophy of Oriental arms which adorned one of the walls. Robbery does not appear to have been the motive of the crime, for there had been no attempt to remove the valuable contents of the room. Mr. Eduardo Lucas was so well known and popular that his violent and mysterious fate will arouse painful interest and intense sympathy in a widespread circle of friends.”

On July 13th…

July 13, 1888: Holmes called upon Mrs Straker. [SILV]

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (1892)

“Three of them are receipted hay-dealers’ accounts. One of them is a letter of instructions from Colonel Ross. This other is a milliner’s account for thirty-seven pounds fifteen, made out by Madame Lesurier, of Bond Street, to William Darbyshire. Mrs. Straker tells us that Darbyshire was a friend of her husband’s, and that occasionally his letters were addressed here.”

“Madame Darbyshire had somewhat expensive tastes,” remarked Holmes, glancing down the account. “Twenty-two guineas is rather heavy for a single costume. However, there appears to be nothing more to learn, and we may now go down to the scene of the crime.”

Chips asks: What gall does it take to cover up buying dresses for your mistress and having the bills come directly to you with your wife satisfied that you are being a mail drop for a friend?