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]

Which Month Was It?

Illustration by Frederic Dorr Steele for Collier’s (26 November 1904)

We were fairly accustomed to receive weird telegrams at Baker Street, but I have a particular recollection of one which reached us on a gloomy February morning, some seven or eight years ago, and gave Mr. Sherlock Holmes a puzzled quarter of an hour. It was addressed to him, and ran thus: Please await me. Terrible misfortune. Right wing three-quarter missing, indispensable to-morrow. OVERTON.

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

Despite Watson’s claim that the “Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter” took place in February of an unnamed year, Christ, Brend, Baring-Gould (1962), Zeisler, Folsom, Dakin, Butters, Bradley & Sarjeant, Hall, and Thomson all date the case to December of either 1896 or 1897. (Hat-tip to Peck & Klinger, whose “The Date Being–?” is a treasure.) And so today we find this in A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn, BSI, DWNP:

December 7, 1896: Godfrey Staunton disappeared. [MISS]

‘It’s this way, Mr. Holmes. As I have said, I am the skipper of the Rugger team of Cambridge ‘Varsity, and Godfrey Staunton is my best man. To-morrow we play Oxford. Yesterday we all came up and we settled at Bentley’s private hotel. At ten o’clock I went round and saw that all the fellows had gone to roost, for I believe in strict training and plenty of sleep to keep a team fit. I had a word or two with Godfrey before he turned in. He seemed to me to be pale and bothered. I asked him what was the matter. He said he was all right – just a touch of headache. I bade him good night and left him. Half an hour later the porter tells me that a rough-looking man with a beard called with a note for Godfrey. He had not gone to bed, and the note was taken to his room. Godfrey read it and fell back in a chair as if he had been pole-axed. The porter was so scared that he was going to fetch me, but Godfrey stopped him, had a drink of water, and pulled himself together. Then he went downstairs, said a few words to the man who was waiting in the hall, and the two of them went off together. The last that the porter saw of them, they were almost running down the street in the direction of the Strand. This morning Godfrey’s room was empty, his bed had never been slept in, and his things were all just as I had seen them the night before. He had gone off at a moment’s notice with this stranger, and no word has come from him since. I don’t believe he will ever come back He was a sportsman, was Godfrey, down to his marrow, and he wouldn’t have stopped his training and let in his skipper if it were not for some cause that was too strong for him. No; I feel as if he were gone for good and we should never see him again.’

Is Sherlockian Scholarship Scholarly?

Photo from Holmes Museum by Alberto Ghione [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

Sherlockian scholarship has a long and fascinating history, going back more than a century now. From Msgr Knox’s “Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes” to our own Watsonian, students of the Canon have analyzed Dr Watson’s chronicles from nearly every conceivable angle.

But is Sherlockian scholarship… well, scholarly? Robert Perret (JHWS “Sampson”) is currently researching this very question, and you can help! This short survey aims to gather information on the current state of Sherlockian scholarship. As with any survey, more participants make for better data. Responses are anonymous; the aggregate data is intended for use in a paper for a Sherlockian journal.

Take the survey: Is Sherlockian Scholarship Scholarly?

On December 6th…

Dr E W Pritchard and Family. Carte-de-visite from the Howarth-Loomes collection at National Museums Scotland.

Dr Edward William Pritchard was born in Southsea on December 6, 1825. He trained as a physician’s apprentice and served as a ship’s surgeon before eventually settling in Glasgow in 1860. His medical career, however, was of less interest to Holmes than was the murder case which made the papers in 1865.

“Holmes,” I cried, “I seem to see dimly what you are hinting at. We are only just in time to prevent some subtle and horrible crime.”

“Subtle enough and horrible enough. When a doctor does go wrong he is the first of criminals. He has nerve and he has knowledge. Palmer and Pritchard were among the heads of their profession. This man strikes even deeper, but I think, Watson, that we shall be able to strike deeper still. But we shall have horrors enough before the night is over; for goodness’ sake let us have a quiet pipe and turn our minds for a few hours to something more cheerful.” (SPEC – Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection. Maplewood Books, Kindle Edition)

Chips writes: I had often wondered about this doctor when reading of that case but had not taken time to look him and his criminal activity, which included the murders of both his wife and his mother-in-law. I suggest that anyone interested in the life of this notorious murderer look into the fabulous volume that Selena and I have been using as our secondary source for this column: A Curious Collection of Dates: Through the Year with Sherlock Holmes, by Leah Guinn and Jaime N Mahoney. Their write-up includes the most fascinating details.

Chronological Challenges

An eagle-eyed member pointed out that today’s entry for SIGN read “December 4, 1888”, when it should have been 1878. While there are a number of cases in which the source we use is an outlier (as also mentioned in the entries for today and yesterday), this was an typographical error on my part and has been corrected.

Apologies!

On December 4th…

Langham Hotel (Illustrated London News. July 8, 1865)

Langham Hotel (2009)

December 4, 1878: Mary Morstan visited the Langham Hotel. [SIGN] (A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn, BSI, DWNP)

“On reaching London I drove to the Langham, and was informed that Captain Morstan was staying there, but that he had gone out the night before and had not yet returned. I waited all day without news of him. That night, on the advice of the manager of the hotel, I communicated with the police, and next morning we advertised in all the papers. Our inquiries led to no result; and from that day to this no word has ever been heard of my Father.” (Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection. Maplewood Books, Kindle Edition.)

 

As noted yesterday, Dorn places NOBL in December of 1888 (most chronologists place it in October of 1888), so he also gives today’s date for the following events:

Francis Hay Moulton moved to 226 Gordon Square.

Peter Warnock as Francis Moulton in “The Eligible Bachelor” (Granada Television, 1993)

“It might have been difficult, but friend Lestrade held information in his hands the value of which he did not himself know. The initials were, of course, of the highest importance, but more valuable still was it to know that within a week he had settled his bill at one of the most select London hotels.” “How did you deduce the select?” “By the select prices. Eight shillings for a bed and eightpence for a glass of sherry pointed to one of the most expensive hotels. There are not many in London which charge at that rate. In the second one which I visited in Northumberland Avenue, I learned by an inspection of the book that Francis H. Moulton, an American gentleman, had left only the day before, and on looking over the entries against him, I came upon the very items which I had seen in the duplicate bill. His letters were to be forwarded to 226 Gordon Square; so thither I travelled, and being fortunate enough to find the loving couple at home, I ventured to give them some paternal advice and to point out to them that it would be better in every way that they should make their position a little clearer both to the general public and to Lord St. Simon in particular. (Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection. Maplewood Books, Kindle Edition)

Lord Robert St Simon married Hattie Doran.

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (April, 1892)

“Indeed! That is very interesting. And on the morning of the wedding?” “She was as bright as possible—at least until after the ceremony.” “And did you observe any change in her then?” “Well, to tell the truth, I saw then the first signs that I had ever seen that her temper was just a little sharp. The incident however, was too trivial to relate and can have no possible bearing upon the case.” “Pray let us have it, for all that.” “Oh, it is childish. She dropped her bouquet as we went towards the vestry. She was passing the front pew at the time, and it fell over into the pew. There was a moment’s delay, but the gentleman in the pew handed it up to her again, and it did not appear to be the worse for the fall. Yet when I spoke to her of the matter, she answered me abruptly; and in the carriage, on our way home, she seemed absurdly agitated over this trifling cause.” (Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection. Maplewood Books, Kindle Edition)

Hattie Doran disappeared.

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (April, 1892)

“Perhaps, Mrs. Moulton, you would like my friend and me to leave the room while you explain this matter?” “If I may give an opinion,” remarked the strange gentleman, “we’ve had just a little too much secrecy over this business already. For my part, I should like all Europe and America to hear the rights of it.” He was a small, wiry, sunburnt man, clean-shaven, with a sharp face and alert manner. “Then I’ll tell our story right away,” said the lady. (Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection. Maplewood Books, Kindle Edition)

 

 

 

On December 3rd…

December 3, 1878: Captain Arthur Morstan disappeared. [SIGN] (A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn, BSI, DWNP)

Terence Skelton as Captain Morstan in “The Sign of Four” (Granada Television, 1987)

In the year 1878 my father, who was senior captain of his regiment, obtained twelve months’ leave and came home. He telegraphed to me from London that he had arrived all safe, and directed me to come down at once, giving the Langham Hotel as his address. His message, as I remember, was full of kindness and love. On reaching London I drove to the Langham, and was informed that Captain Morstan was staying there, but that he had gone out the night before and had not yet returned. I waited all day without news of him. That night, on the advice of the manager of the hotel, I communicated with the police, and next morning we advertised in all the papers. Our inquiries led to no result; and from that day to this no word has ever been heard of my unfortunate father. (Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection. Maplewood Books, Kindle Edition)

Illustration by Josef Friedrich (1906)

A Day by Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled by William S Dorn, also places Frances Hay Moulton’s arrival in London and the newspaper announcement that the St Simon wedding “would be an absolutely quiet one” [NOBL] on this day in 1888, but it is an outlier, as other chronologies are near unanimous in putting the case in October 1888.

“Anything else?” asked Holmes, yawning. “Oh, yes; plenty. Then there is another note in the Morning Post to say that the marriage would be an absolutely quiet one, that it would be at St. George’s, Hanover Square, that only half a dozen intimate friends would be invited, and that the party would return to the furnished house at Lancaster Gate” (Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection. Maplewood Books, Kindle Edition)

 

SS Abyssinia (1870)

“Frank had been a prisoner among the Apaches, had escaped, came on to ‘Frisco, found that I had given him up for dead and had gone to England, followed me there, and had come upon me at last on the very morning of my second wedding.” (Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection. Maplewood Books, Kindle Edition)

A Limerick for Mary (from Ron “Chips” Lies)

I am going to post a limerick here by the great Isaac Asimov. The limerick is about The Sign of Four, which I will be posting about in the next few days. That is not the total reason that I am posting.

This limerick has been a love poem from myself to my wife, Mary. And I want to spread the word about just how fantastic a wife my Mary has been and how incredibly lucky I am to have her fall in love with me and stay with me through all the good and bad times for 45 years now and at least that many more.

The Sign of the Four

Muttered Sherlock” Never mind Cocaine’s pleasure,
Let us seek out the famed Agra Treasure.”
Answered Watson,”No pearls,
For Myself—only girls;
And its Mary who is made to my measure.”
-Isaac Asimov, BSI (and so much more)

[That is beautiful. I seem to have something in my eye… -Selena Buttons]

Chat on the Society Slack Channel

We love to talk in the comments section here on the blog, but sometimes we’d like a bit more room to have conversations. Enter the John H Watson Society Slack Channel!

The channel provides a members-only space for chatting about a variety of topics. To get your invitation to join the channel, please complete the form below with your name, your Society moniker, and your preferred email address.

See you in the Slack!

On December 1st…

Publicity photo of Rex Stout (Publishers Weekly, October 29, 1973)

Rex Todhunter Stout was born in Noblesville, Indiana, on December 1, 1886, the sixth of nine children. He is best known for his stories featuring detective Nero Wolfe and “his man Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday…”, Archie Goodwin. Stout published 33 novels and 39 novellas about Nero Wolfe between 1934 and 1973.

Stout received his BSI investiture – “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” – in 1949. This was several years after his (in)famous presentation to the BSI in 1941: Watson Was A Woman. Not only was Watson a woman, he argued, but Watson was actually Irene Adler, and she and Holmes were married. He claimed to be “collecting material for a fuller treatment of the subject, a complete demonstration of the evidence and the inevitable conclusion. It will fill two volumes, the second of which will consist of certain speculations regarding various concrete results of that long-continued and–I fear, alas– none-too-happy union.” Strangely, this work has never been located. [I do not believe that the two volume study never really existed. -Chips]

Fletcher Pratt, Christopher Morley, and Rex Stout (Herbert Gehr, Life Magazine, May 1, 1944)

There is a story that this presentation got Wolfe promptly tossed out in the snow.

A relationship between Holmes and Adler was clearly too juicy an idea to ignore, though. In a 1956 Baker Street Journal article, “Some Notes Relating to a Preliminary Investigation into the Paternity of Nero Wolfe”, John Drury Clark argued that Nero Wolfe was the product of a liaison between Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler in Montenegro in 1892. This theory was adopted by William S Baring-Gould, among others, and there have been a number of essays on the topic of Nero Wolfe’s parentage.

Sources: A Curious Collection of Dates: Through the Year with Sherlock Holmes, by Leah Guinn (JHWS “Amber”) and Jaime N Mahoney (JHWS “Tressa”); The Wolfe Pack: The Official Nero Wolfe Society.