On January 12th…

January 12 (or thereabouts), 1903: Sir James Saunders diagnosed Godfrey Emsworth’s disease as pseudo-leprosy. [BLAN]

Illustration by Howard K. Elcock for The Strand Magazine (November, 1926)

I was finishing this little analysis of the case when the door was opened and the austere figure of the great dermatologist was ushered in. But for once his sphinx-like features had relaxed and there was a warm humanity in his eyes. He strode up to Colonel Emsworth and shook him by the hand.

‘It is often my lot to bring ill-tidings, and seldom good,’ said he. ‘This occasion is the more welcome. It is not leprosy.’

‘What?’

‘A well-marked case of pseudo-leprosy or ichthyosis, a scale-like affection of the skin, unsightly, obstinate, but possibly curable, and certainly non-infective. Yes, Mr Holmes, the coincidence is a remarkable one. But is it coincidence? Are there not subtle forces at work of which we know little? Are we assured that the apprehension, from which this young man has no doubt suffered terribly since his exposure to its contagion, may not produce a physical effect which simulates that which it fears? At any rate, I pledge my professional reputation – But the lady has fainted! I think that Mr Kent had better be with her until she recovers from this joyous shock.’

On January 8th…

Chalk pit off Silkstead Lane near Silkstead Manor Farm. Photo by Pierre Terre [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

January 8, 1885: Joseph Openshaw was killed by a fall into a chalk pit. [FIVE]

On the third day after the coming of the letter my father went from home to visit an old friend of his, Major Freebody, who is in command of one of the forts upon Portsdown Hill. I was glad that he should go, for it seemed to me that he was further from danger when he was away from home. In that, however, I was in error. Upon the second day of his absence I received a telegram from the Major, imploring me to come at once. My father had fallen over one of the deep chalk-pits which abound in the neighbourhood, and was lying senseless, with a shattered skull. I hurried to him, but he passed away without having ever recovered his consciousness. He had, as it appears, been returning from Fareham in the twilight, and as the country was unknown to him, and the chalk-pit unfenced, the jury had no hesitation in bringing in a verdict of “Death from accidental causes”. Carefully as I examined every fact connected with his death, I was unable to find anything which could suggest the idea of murder. There were no signs of violence, no footmarks, no robbery, no record of strangers having been seen upon the roads. And yet I need not tell you that my mind was far from at ease, and that I was well-nigh certain that some foul plot had been woven round him.

January 8, 1888 (or maybe 1889): Jack Douglas confessed to killing Ted Baldwin. [VALL]

I was on my guard all that next day and never went out into the park. It’s as well, or he’d have had the drop on me with that buck-shot gun of his before ever I could draw on him. After the bridge was up – my mind was always more restful when that bridge was up in the evenings – I put the thing clear out of my head. I never figured on his getting into the house and waiting for me. But when I made my round in my dressing-gown, as my habit was, I had no sooner entered the study than I scented danger. I guess when a man has had dangers in his life – and I’ve had more than most in my time – there is a kind of sixth sense that waves the red flag. I saw the signal clear enough, and yet I couldn’t tell you why. Next instant I spotted a boot under the window curtain, and then I saw why plain enough.

Illustration by Frank Wiles for The Strand Magazine, (January, 1915)

I’d just the one candle that was in my hand, but there was a good light from the hall lamp through the open door. I put down the candle and jumped for a hammer that I’d left on the mantel. At the same moment he sprang at me. I saw the glint of a knife and I lashed at him with the hammer. I got him somewhere, for the knife tinkled down on the floor. He dodged round the table as quick as an eel, and a moment later he’d got his gun from under his coat. I heard him cock it, but I had got hold of it before he could fire. I had it by the barrel, and we wrestled for it all ends up for a minute or more. It was death to the man that lost his grip. He never lost his grip, but he got it butt downwards for a moment too long. Maybe it was I that pulled the trigger. Maybe we just jolted it off between us. Anyhow, he got both barrels in the face, and there I was, staring down at all that was left of Ted Baldwin.

On January 2nd…

January 2, 1881: Watson moved into 221B Baker Street. [STUD]

We met next day as he had arranged, and inspected the rooms at No. 221B, Baker Street, of which he had spoken at our meeting. They consisted of a couple of comfortable bedrooms and a single large airy sitting-room, cheerfully furnished, and illuminated by two broad windows. So desirable in every way were the apartments, and so moderate did the terms seem when divided between us, that the bargain was concluded upon the spot, and we at once entered into possession. That very evening I moved my things round from the hotel, and on the following morning Sherlock Holmes followed me with several boxes and portmanteaus.

On January 1st… The Beginning

On January 1, 1881, Dr John H Watson, recently returned to London and living in “a private hotel in the Strand,” realized he had been “spending such money as [he] had, considerably more freely than [he] ought.” He decided “to leave the hotel, and to take up [his] quarters in some less pretentious and less expensive domicile.”

At the Criterion Bar, he was surprised by an old acquaintance, young Stamford, who just happened to know of another young man in search of someone with whom to share the expense of living in London. And so off to Barts they went….

Illustration by George Hutchinson (1891)

There was only one student in the room, who was bending over a distant table absorbed in his work. At the sound of our steps he glanced round and sprang to his feet with a cry of pleasure. ‘I’ve found it! I’ve found it,’ he shouted to my companion, running towards us with a test-tube in his hand. ‘I have found a re-agent which is precipitated by haemoglobin, and by nothing else.’ Had he discovered a gold mine, greater delight could not have shone upon his features.

‘Dr Watson, Mr Sherlock Holmes,’ said Stamford, introducing us.

‘How are you?’ he said cordially, gripping my hand with a strength for which I should hardly have given him credit. ‘You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.’

A very happy new year, dear Watsonians!

On December 15th…

The Sherlockian and Watsonian world received many gifts from a man born on this day in 1884. Already a Business Law Professor at the University of Chicago with several books and articles to his credit, he discovered the joy of playing The Game after reading Profile by Gaslight in 1944. He wrote a 16-page response to Anthony Boucher’s essay, “Was the Later Holmes an Imposter?”

He soon became acquainted with Vincent Starrett, who invited him to join the Hounds of the Baskerville (sic), which Starrett himself founded in 1943.

Among our Mystery Man’s Sherlockian publications were An Irregular Chronology of Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street (1947) and An Irregular Guide to Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street (1947, with supplements in 1947 and 1948).

It was the latter volume that introduced his most enduring and outstanding gift, one that almost every Sherlockian writing on the Canon uses nearly every day around the world. We use it whenever we post quotes or events from the Canon. It is an obvious convenience to use this rather than spelling out “The Hound of the Baskervilles” every time we refer to that book. It is, of course, Jay Finley Christ’s system of abbreviations of all 60 Canonical tales:


ABBE         The Abbey Grange
BERY         The Beryl Coronet
BLAC         Black Peter
BLAN         The Blanched Soldier
BLUE         The Blue Carbuncle
BOSC         The Boscombe Valley Mystery
BRUC         The Bruce-Partington Plans
CARD         The Cardboard Box
CHAS         Charles Augustus Milverton
COPP         The Copper Beeches
CREE         The Creeping Man
CROO         The Crooked Man
DANC         The Dancing Men
DEVI         The Devil’s Foot
DYIN         The Dying Detective
EMPT         The Empty House
ENGR         The Engineer’s Thumb
FINA         The Final Problem
FIVE         The Five Orange Pips
GLOR         The “Gloria Scott”
GOLD         The Golden Pince-Nez
GREE         The Greek Interpreter
HOUN         The Hound of the Baskervilles
IDEN         A Case of Identity
ILLU         The Illustrious Client
LADY         The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax
LAST         His Last Bow
LION         The Lion’s Mane
MAZA         The Mazarin Stone
MISS         The Missing Three-Quarter
MUSG         The Musgrave Ritual
NAVA         The Naval Treaty
NOBL         The Noble Bachelor
NORW         The Norwood Builder
PRIO         The Priory School
REDC         The Red Circle
REDH         The Red-Headed League
REIG         The Reigate Squires
RESI         The Resident Patient
RETI         The Retired Colourman
SCAN         A Scandal in Bohemia
SECO         The Second Stain
SHOS         Shoscombe Old Place
SIGN         The Sign of the Four
SILV         Silver Blaze
SIXN         The Six Napoleons
SOLI         The Solitary Cyclist
SPEC         The Speckled Band
STOC         The Stockbroker’s Clerk
STUD         A Study in Scarlet
SUSS         The Sussex Vampire
THOR         The Problem of Thor Bridge
3GAB         The Three Gables
3GAR         The Three Garridebs
3STU         The Three Students
TWIS         The Man with the Twisted Lip
VALL         The Valley of Fear
VEIL         The Veiled Lodger
WIST         Wisteria Lodge
YELL         The Yellow Face

Our thanks to A Curious Collection of Dates: Through the Year with Sherlock Holmes, by Leah Guinn (JHWS “Amber”) and Jaime N Mahoney (JHWS “Tressa”) for including Professor Christ’s birthday (and the note that his surname rhymes with “list”) among many other fascinating tid bits!

On December 13th… The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes


“The Final Problem” appeared in the December 1893 issue of The Strand. It was also the last story in the collection The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, published on December 13, 1893, by George Newnes of London.

Readers did not take Holmes’s demise very well. A Curious Collection of Dates: Through the Year with Sherlock Holmes, by Leah Guinn and Jaime N Mahoney, quotes this passage from the Manchester Courier and General Lancashire Advertiser (December 30, 1893):

If […] Dr. Conan Doyle has some new vein [of gold] to work, well and good. We question if he can improve on Sherlock Holmes. But if not, he must resuscitate his hero, for we simply do not know what the reading public will do without him.

[A Curious Collection of Dates is a really remarkable book and a great read. –Chips]

Arsene Lupin Contre Herlock Sholmes

Cover of 1963 edition of Arsene Lupin contre Herlock Sholmes

French author Maurice-Marie-Émile Leblanc was born on December 11, 1864, in Rouen, France. A novelist and journalist, he is best known today as the creator of Arsène Lupin, the gentleman thief featured in more than sixty stories.

Lupin’s first appearance – “L’Arrestation d’Arsène Lupin” – was published in Je Sais Tout on July 15, 1905, and the character quickly gained a following. The following year, Je Sais Tout published the story “Sherlock Holmès Arrive Trop Tard” (“Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late”). That story came to the attention of Arthur Conan Doyle, who objected to the violation of his copyright. When the collected Lupin stories were published in book form in 1910, it was under the title Arsène Lupin Versus Herlock Sholmes. For the UK edition, the name was Arsène Lupin versus Holmlock Shears.

A century later (give or take a few years), Lupin and the now-public-domain Holmes met in digital format in the computer game Sherlock Holmes versus Arsène Lupin (Frogwares, 2007 (original) and 2010 (remastered)). In the game, Lupin tries to steal five valuable items in order to humiliate Britain, and it is up to Holmes (and some other characters) to stop him.

Sources: A Curious Collection of Dates: Through the Year with Sherlock Holmes, by Leah Guinn and Jaime N Mahoney; Encyclopædia Britannica

On December 10th…

We continue with the dating of the events of MISS in December (rather than February – as explained in a previous entry) and take today’s event from A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn, BSI, DWNP.

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (August, 1904)

December 10, 1896: Godfrey Stanton’s wife died. [MISS]

A woman, young and beautiful, was lying dead upon the bed. Her calm, pale face, with dim, wide-opened blue eyes, looked upwards from amid a great tangle of golden hair. At the foot of the bed, half sitting, half kneeling, his face buried in the clothes, was a young man, whose frame was racked by his sobs. So absorbed was he by his bitter grief that he never looked up until Holmes’s hand was on his shoulder.

‘Are you Mr. Godfrey Staunton?’

‘Yes, yes; I am – but you are too late. She is dead.’

Chips writes: This story always struck me as so sad. The passion for position and appearance should lead to conviction and punishment for murder, but the Golden Rule of how we should live our lives is so agreed to on a Sunday but ignored in behavior in the rest of life.

On December 9th…

We continue with the dating of the events of MISS in December (rather than February – as explained in a previous entry) and take today’s event from A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn, BSI, DWNP.

December 9, 1896: Oxford defeated Cambridge by a goal and two tries. [MISS]

‘Yes, the local evening paper has an excellent account in its last edition. Oxford won by a goal and two tries. The last sentences of the description say: “The defeat of the Light Blues may be entirely attributed to the unfortunate absence of the crack International, Godfrey Staunton, whose want was felt at every instant of the game. The lack of combination in the three-quarter line and their weakness both in attack and defence more than neutralized the efforts of a heavy and hard-working pack.”‘

[MISS – Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection. Maplewood Books, Kindle Edition]

On December 8…

As mentioned yesterday, a number of chronologists place MISS in December of 1896 or 1897, despite Watson’s own statement that it took place in February.

Based on that, we take this from A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn, BSI, DWNP:

December 8, 1896: Holmes visited Dr. Leslie Armstrong [MISS]

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (August, 1904)

It argues the degree in which I had lost touch with my profession that the name of Leslie Armstrong was unknown to me. Now I am aware that he is not only one of the heads of the medical school of the University, but a thinker of European reputation in more than one branch of science. Yet even without knowing his brilliant record one could not fail to be impressed by a mere glance at the man – the square, massive face, the brooding eyes under the thatched brows, and the granite moulding of the inflexible jaw. A man of deep character, a man with an alert mind, grim, ascetic, self-contained, formidable – so I read Dr. Leslie Armstrong. He held my friend’s card in his hand, and he looked up with no very pleased expression upon his dour features.

‘I have heard your name, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and I am aware of your profession, one of which I by no means approve.’

‘In that, doctor, you will find yourself in agreement with every criminal in the country,’ said my friend quietly.
[MISS – Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection. Maplewood Books, Kindle Edition]