A Legend

“Chips” sends in this tidbit that originally appeared in the Baker Street Journal vol. 16 no. 2 (June 1966) by Chris Redmond (JHWS “Buster”).

A LEGEND

by Chris Redmond

“The Naval Treaty” illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine, October & November 1893.

Observe the famous profile. See the pipe—

Traditionally curved, though really straight—

On which he puffs, as men of every type

Narrate their strange experience or fate.

That famous phrase of “Elementary,

My dear Watson,” was one he never spoke;

But he is known for it in every

Discussion of him, each pastiche, each joke.

Popularly, he crawled across the rug,

In deerstalker and cape, viewing with care

Through magnifying glass each thread or bug,

Each ash or bit of mud, which he found there.

It’s fiction, or else legend—but forsooth~

Since we believe it, isn’t it the truth?

The Oenologic Holmes

Chips writes: I read this book,  The Oenologic Holmes, by a former member and Chief Surgeon of Dr. Watson’s Neglected Patients. (He now lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, and he is in a scion group there.)

It is quite interesting even to a Coca-Cola man like me.

I recommend you obtain a copy for fascinating reading.

The author, Steve Robinson, sells copies through his eBay storefront, Wolf Mountain Books. His very appropriate username there is “Vamberry”. You can also find him through FaceBook at Wolf Mountain Books. Some of you may know first-hand what a fascinating man he is to talk to, especially about wine in Sherlock Holmes stories. This book continues that. You will enjoy it.

Selena says: That book does sound interesting. Looking through the storefront, I have fallen a little bit in love with this 1895 Lupton edition of A Study in Scarlet. That cover! Hmm, the holidays are coming up….

On May 7th…

May 7, 1902: Holmes confronted Sir Robert Norberton at the crypt. [SHOS]

Illustration by Frank Wiles for The Strand Magazine

Someone was walking in the chapel above. It was the firm, rapid step of one who came with a definite purpose, and knew well the ground upon which he walked. A light streamed down the stairs, and an instant later the man who bore it was framed in the Gothic archway. He was a terrible figure, huge in stature and fierce in manner. A large stable lantern which he held in front of him shone upwards upon a strong, heavily-moustached face and angry eyes, which glared round him into every recess of the vault, finally fixing themselves with a deadly stare upon my companion and myself.
“Who the devil are you?” he thundered. “And what are you doing upon my property?” Then, as Holmes returned no answer, he took a couple of steps forward and raised a heavy stick which he carried. “Do you hear me?” he cried. “Who are you? What are you doing here?” His cudgel quivered in the air.
But, instead of shrinking, Holmes advanced to meet him.
“I also have a question to ask you, Sir Robert,” he said in his sternest tone. “Who is this? And what is it doing here?”
He turned and tore open the coffin lid behind him. In the glare of the lantern I saw a body swathed in a sheet from head to foot, with dreadful, witch-like features, all nose and chin, projecting at one end, the dim glazed eyes staring from a discoloured and crumbling face.

Date information provided by the volume A Day-by-Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled and edited by William S Dorn.

On April 30th…

April 30, 1895: Violet Smith was kidnapped. [SOLI]

Holmes threw the reins into my lap and sprang down from the cart.
“You’re the man we want to see. Where is Miss Violet Smith?” he said, in his quick, clear way.

“That’s what I am asking you. You’re in her dogcart. You ought to know where she is.”

“We met the dogcart on the road. There was no one in it. We drove back to help the young lady.”

“Good Lord! Good Lord! What shall I do?” cried the stranger, in an ecstasy of despair. “They’ve got her, that hellhound Woodley and the blackguard parson. Come, man, come, if you really are her friend. Stand by me and we’ll save her, if I have to leave my carcass in Charlington Wood.”

April 30, 1895: Bob Carruthers shot Jack Woodley. [SOLI]

His revolver cracked, and I saw the blood spurt from the front of Woodley’s waistcoat. He spun round with a scream and fell upon his back, his hideous red face turning suddenly to a dreadful mottled pallor. The old man, still clad in his surplice, burst into such a string of foul oaths as I have never heard, and pulled out a revolver of his own, but before he could raise it he was looking down the barrel of Holmes’s weapon.

 

Some date information provided by the volume A Day-by-Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled and edited by William S Dorn.

On April 29th…

April 29, 1902 (or thereabouts): Sir Robert Norberton gave away his sister’s pet spaniel. [SHOS]

“Jasper” in Granada’s “Shoscombe Old Place”

“When did Sir Robert give away his sister’s dog?”

“It was just a week ago today. The creature was howling outside the old well-house, and Sir Robert was in one of his tantrums that morning. He caught it up, and I thought he would have killed it. Then he gave it to Sandy Bain, the jockey, and told him to take the dog to old Barnes at the Green Dragon, for he never wished to see it again.”

Date information provided by the volume A Day-by-Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled and edited by William S Dorn.

On April 28th…

April 28, 1895: Holmes received a note from Violet Smith saying that she was leaving her job. [SOLI]

The Thursday brought us another letter from our client. “You will not be surprised, Mr. Holmes”, said she, “to hear that I am leaving Mr. Carruthers’ employment. Even the high pay cannot reconcile me to the discomforts of my situation. On Saturday I come up to town, and I do not intend to return. Mr. Carruthers has got a trap, and so the dangers of the lonely road, if there ever were any dangers, are now over.

Some date information provided by the volume A Day-by-Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled and edited by William S Dorn.

On April 13th…

… or thereabouts; the canonical date is “the early spring”.

Friedrich illustration of Violet sitting in front of the window.
Illustration by Josef Friedrich

April 13, 1890: Violet Hunter sat in the window seat for the second time [COPP]

“Two days later this same performance was gone through under exactly similar circumstances. Again I changed my dress, again I sat in the window, and again I laughed very heartily at the funny stories of which my employer had an immense repertoire, and which he told inimitably. Then he handed me a yellow-backed novel, and, moving my chair a little sideways, that my own shadow might not fall upon the page, he begged me to read aloud to him. I read for about ten minutes, beginning in the heart of a chapter, and then suddenly, in the middle of a sentence, he ordered me to cease and change my dress.”

Source
A Day by Day Chronology of Sherlock Holmes according to Ziesler and Christ by William S Dorn DWNP, BSI.

On April 11th…

… or thereabouts, the canonical date is in “the early spring”.

April 11, 1890: Violet Hunter in window seat for the first time. [COPP]

Friedrich illustration of Violet Hunter sitting in front of the window.
Illustration by Josef Friedrich

“A chair had been placed close to the central window, with its back turned towards it. In this I was asked to sit, and then Mr. Rucastle, walking up and down on the other side of the room, began to tell me a series of the funniest stories that I have ever listened to. You cannot imagine how comical he was, and I laughed until I was quite weary. Mrs. Rucastle, however, who has evidently no sense of humor, never so much as smiled, but sat with her hands in her lap, and a sad, anxious look upon her face. After an hour or so, Mr. Rucastle suddenly remarked that it was time to commence the duties of the day, and that I might change my dress, and go to little Edward in the nursery.”

Source
A Day by Day Chronology of Sherlock Holmes according to Ziesler and Christ by William S Dorn DWNP, BSI.

On April 8th…

April 8, 1897: Holmes and Watson arrived in Poldu Bay, Cornwall. [DEVI]

“Cove and Point” © Copyright Jonathan Billinger and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

It was, then, in the spring of the year 1897 that Holmes’s iron constitution showed some symptoms of giving way in the face of constant hard work of a most exacting kind, aggravated, perhaps, by occasional indiscretions of his own. In March of that year Dr. Moore Agar, of Harley Street, whose dramatic introduction to Holmes I may some day recount, gave positive injunctions that the famous private agent would lay aside all his cases and surrender himself to complete rest if he wished to avert an absolute breakdown. The state of his health was not a matter in which he himself took the faintest interest, for his mental detachment was absolute, but he was induced at last, on the threat of being permanently disqualified from work, to give himself a complete change of scene and air. Thus it was that in the early spring of that year we found ourselves together in a small cottage near Poldhu Bay, at the farther extremity of the Cornish peninsula.

Date information provided by the volume A Day-by-Day Chronology of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, according to Zeisler and Christ, compiled and edited by William S Dorn.

On March 8th…

‘I’ve had bad news — terrible news, Mr. Holmes’ [illustration by Frank Wiles for The Strand magazine, 1915]
March 8, 1888: Holmes learned that Jack Douglas had been lost at sea. [VALL]

“No, I don’t say that,” said Holmes, and his eyes seemed to be looking far into the future. “I don’t say that he can’t be beat. But you must give me time – you must give me time!” We all sat in silence for some minutes, while those fateful eyes still strained to pierce the veil.

Source
A Day by Day Chronology of Sherlock Holmes by William S Dorn DWNP, BSI

On March 7th…

Illustration by Richard Gutschmidt (1902)

March 7, 1881: Jefferson Hope’s body was found in his cell. [STUD]

He had gone to the final judgment and reunion with Lucy. One can hope that mercy ruled determination of their case. Their suffering and pain on earth was enough. -Chips

Source
A Day by Day Chronology of Sherlock Holmes by William S Dorn DWNP, BSI

On March 6th…

Illustration by Richard Gutschmidt (1902)

March 6, 1881: Holmes tested some pills on the landlady’s dying dog. [STUD]

As he spoke he turned the contents of the wine-glass into a saucer and placed it in front of the terrier, who speedily licked it dry. Sherlock Holmes’s earnest demeanour had so far convinced us that we all sat in silence, watching the animal intently, and expecting some startling effect. None such appeared, however. The dog continued to lie stretched upon the cushion, breathing in a laboured way, but apparently neither the better nor the worse for its draught.

As we know, the second pill had a rather different effect.

March 6, 1881: Jefferson Hope was captured. [STUD]

Illustration by George Hutchinson for A Study in Scarlet (1891)

The whole thing occurred in a moment – so quickly that I had no time to realize it. I have a vivid recollection of that instant, of Holmes’s triumphant expression and the ring of his voice, of the cabman’s dazed, savage face, as he glared at the glittering handcuffs, which had appeared as if by magic upon his wrists. For a second or two we might have been a group of statues. Then with an inarticulate roar of fury, the prisoner wrenched himself free from Holmes’s grasp, and hurled himself through the window. Woodwork and glass gave way before him; but before he got quite through, Gregson, Lestrade, and Holmes sprang upon him like so many staghounds. He was dragged back into the room, and then commenced a terrific conflict. So powerful and so fierce was he that the four of us were shaken off again and again. He appeared to have the convulsive strength of a man in an epileptic fit. His face and hands were terribly mangled by his passage through the glass, but the loss of blood had no effect in diminishing his resistance. It was not until Lestrade succeeded in getting his hand inside his neckcloth and half-strangling him that we made him realize that his struggles were of no avail; and even then we felt no security until we had pinioned his feet as well as his hands. That done, we rose to our feet breathless and panting.

On March 5th…

Illustration by Richard Gutschmidt (1902)

March 5, 1881: Stangerson found stabbed to death at Halliday’s Private Hotel. [STUD]

He stood in the centre of the room, fumbling nervously with his hat and uncertain what to do.

“This is a most extraordinary case,” he said at last – “a most incomprehensible affair.”

“Ah, you find it so, Mr. Lestrade!” cried Gregson, triumphantly. “I thought you would come to that conclusion. Have you managed to find the secretary, Mr. Joseph Stangerson?”

“The secretary, Mr. Joseph Stangerson,” said Lestrade gravely, “was murdered at Halliday’s Private Hotel about six o’clock this morning.”

Illustration by Richard Gutschmidt (1906)

March 5, 1881: An old “crone” retrieved the woman’s wedding ring advertised as “found” in the ad placed by Holmes. [STUD]

At my summons, instead of the man of violence whom we expected, a very old and wrinkled woman hobbled into the apartment. She appeared to be dazzled by the sudden blaze of light, and after dropping a curtsy, she stood blinking at us with her bleared eyes and fumbling in her pocket with nervous shaky fingers. I glanced at my companion, and his face had assumed such a disconsolate expression that it was all I could do to keep my countenance.

By Hope’s own admission, this person was not Jefferson Hope, so who was she or he? Hope took the secret with him to the hereafter. Any ideas out there?

Source: A Day by Day Chronology of Sherlock Holmes by William S Dorn DWNP, BSI

On February 17th… The Birth of a Sherlockian Scholar

February 17, 1888: On this date, the Reverend Monsignor Ronald A Knox, one of the most eminent original Sherlockian scholars, was born. Although he was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1912, he converted to Catholicism, becoming a Roman Catholic priest in 1918, later a Monsignor. He is best known for writing the paper Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes.

Cover of RONALD KNOX AND SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE ORIGIN OF SHERLOCKIAN STUDIES, edited by Michael J. Crowe
Available from Gasogene Books (Wessex Press)

If there is anything pleasant in life, it is doing what we aren’t meant to do. If there is anything pleasant in criticism, it is finding out what we aren’t meant to find out. It is the method by which we treat as significant what the author did not mean to be significant, by which we single out as essential what the author regarded as incidental. […] There is, however, a special fascination in applying this method to Sherlock Holmes, because it is, in a sense, Holmes’s own method. ‘It has long been an axiom of mine,’ he says, ‘that the little things are infinitely the most important.’ It might be the motto of his life’s work.

This paper has generated years of Sherlockian studies. It was presented to the Gryphon Club in 1911, published in The Blue Book Magazine in 1912, and republished a number of times, including in Knox’s Essays in Satire in 1928. [The link above will take you to a PDF file of the paper in Blackfriars v1 n3 (June 1920), hosted at the University of Minnesota. -Selena Buttons]

In a response to the paper, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote that “Holmes changed entirely as the stories went on” but that “Watson never for one instant as chorus and chronicler transcends his own limitations. Never once does a flash of wit or wisdom come from him. All is remorsely eliminated so that he may be Watson.” [A frankly absurd assertion! -Selena Buttons]

My source for the information on Knox’s birthdate comes from A Curious Collection of Dates by Leah Guinn (“Amber”) and Jaime N Mahoney (“Tressa”). [Additional information about the presentation and publication of “Studies of the Literature of Sherlock Holmes” and Dr Doyle’s response comes from The Ronald Knox Society of North America. -Selena Buttons]

(This post originally appeared on February 17, 2017.)

On January 24th… “Barcarolle”

‘I think I can promise you that you will feel even less humorous as the evening advances. Now, look here, Count Sylvius. I’m a busy man and I can’t waste time. I’m going into that bedroom. Pray make yourselves quite at home in my absence. You can explain to your friend how the matter lies without the restraint of my presence. I shall try over the Hoffmann Barcarolle upon my violin. In five minutes I shall return for your final answer. You quite grasp the alternative, do you not? Shall we take you, or shall we have the stone?’

Holmes withdrew, picking up his violin from the corner as he passed. A few moments later the long-drawn, wailing notes of that most haunting of tunes came faintly through the closed door of the bedroom.

Portrait of Hoffmann by an unidentified painter ca. 1800 (University of Adelaide), via Wikimedia Commons

Ernst Theodor Amadeus (E. T. A.) Hoffmann was born Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann on January 24th, 1776, in Königsberg, East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia).

He was a painter, a composer, and a writer. Three of his stories – “Der Sandmann” (The Sandman), Rath Krespel (Councillor Krespel; published in English translation as The Cremona Violin), and Die Geschichte vom verlorenen Spiegelbilde (The Story of the Lost Reflection) – formed the basis of Offenbach’s final opera, “The Tales of Hoffmann”. The soprano/mezzo-soprano duet, “Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour”, is considered the most famous barcarolle ever written and often referred to as simply “The Barcarolle”.

[Hat-tip to Leah Guinn and Jaime N Mahoney and their fantastic A Curious Collection of Dates: Through the Year with Sherlock Holmes”]

On January 23rd…

January 23, 1891: Holmes “incommoded” Moriarty. [FINA]

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand Magazine (December, 1893)

“You evidently don’t know me,” said he.

“On the contrary,” I answered, “I think it is fairly evident that I do. Pray take a chair. I can spare you five minutes if you have anything to say.”

“All that I have to say has already crossed your mind,” said he.

“Then possibly my answer has crossed yours,” I replied.

“You stand fast?”

“Absolutely.”

He clapped his hand into his pocket, and I raised the pistol from the table. But he merely drew out a memorandum-book in which he had scribbled some dates.

“You crossed my path on the 4th of January,” said he. “On the 23rd you incommoded me; by the middle of February I was seriously inconvenienced by you; at the end of March I was absolutely hampered in my plans; and now, at the close of April, I find myself placed in such a position through your continual persecution that I am in positive danger of losing my liberty. The situation is becoming an impossible one.”

“Have you any suggestion to make?” I asked.

“You must drop it, Mr Holmes,” said he, swaying his face about. “You really must, you know.”

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 10th… The Metropolitan Railway

By Unknown (illegible) (The Illustrated London News, Issue 1181, page 692) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“The trains which traverse the lines of rail beside which the body was found are those which run from west to east, some being purely Metropolitan, and some from Willesden and outlying junctions. It can be stated for certain that this young man, when he met his death, was travelling in this direction at some late hour of the night, but at what point he entered the train it is impossible to state.”

“His ticket, of course, would show that.”

“There was no ticket in his pockets.”

“No ticket! Dear me, Watson, this is really very singular. According to my experience it is not possible to reach the platform of a Metropolitan train without exhibiting one’s ticket. Presumably, then, the young man had one. Was it taken from him in order to conceal the station from which he came? It is possible. Or did he drop it in the carriage? That is also possible. But the point is of curious interest. I understand that there was no sign of robbery?” [BRUC]

The Metropolitan Railway opened its first line to the public on January 10, 1863 (just after Holmes’s own 9th birthday, per Baring-Gould). Of course, by the time we join Holmes and Watson in London, the Underground is already well-established.

My friend rose lazily from his armchair and stood with his hands in the pockets of his dressing-gown, looking over my shoulder. It was a bright, crisp February morning, and the snow of the day before still lay deep upon the ground, shimmering brightly in the wintry sun. Down the centre of Baker Street it had been ploughed into a brown crumbly band by the traffic, but at either side and on the heaped-up edges of the foot-paths it still lay as white as when it fell. The grey pavement had been cleaned and scraped, but was still dangerously slippery, so that there were fewer passengers than usual. Indeed, from the direction of the Metropolitan Station no one was coming save the single gentleman whose eccentric conduct had drawn my attention. [BERY]

[Hat-tip to Leah Guinn and Jaime N Mahoney and their fantastic book, A Curious Collection of Dates: Through the Year with Sherlock Holmes.]

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.