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.’

On March 20th… A Scandal

Illustration by Sidney Paget for The Strand magazine [July 1891]

One night – it was on the 20th of March, 1888 – I was returning from a journey to a patient (for I had now returned to civil practice), when my way led me through Baker Street. [SCAN, emphasis added]

In A Curious Collection of Dates, Leah Guinn (JHWS “Amber”) and Jaime N Mahoney (JHWS “Tressa”) write about this opening sentence:

“Although Watson is (atypically) quite clear on the date for ‘A Scandal in Bohemia,’ it’s a puzzling one. First, he describes a Lenten wedding – a Victorian faux pas. More bizarrely, however, he claims to be married, when – if the dating of The Sign of the Four is correct – he has yet to meet his wife.”

Over the years, of course, Sherlockians have tried to reconcile this puzzle in various ways. Baring-Gould puts the case in May of 1887, while Zeisler argues for March of 1889. Whenever it happened, I think we’re all glad that it did.

Information provided by A Curious Collection of Dates by Leah Guinn (JHWS “Amber”) and Jaime N Mahoney (JHWS “Tressa”)

Posted by The Dynamic Duo: “Chips” aka Ron and “Selena Buttons” aka Beth.

On March 16… We Travel. Or Do We?

Illustration by Philip Cornell (JHWS “Parkes”)

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. [DEVI]

According to Guinn and Mahoney in A Curious Collection of Dates, the Adventure of the Devil’s Foot begins on March 16, 1897.

But! In Dorn’s A Day by Day Chronology of Sherlock Holmes, the Adventure of the Devil’s Foot begins on April 8, 1897.

These two listings are contrary to each other as to when this case started. It is an example of one of my favorite controversies in Sherlockian scholarly world: Figuring out when each case occurred, based on clues picked up from the case and our outlandish Sherlockian minds. So, on we go, and we shall see if the chronology of Leah Guinn and Jaime Maloney and their volume disagree in other cases with the chronology of William Dorn and his volume.

A Curious Collection of Dates by Leah Guinn (JHWS “Amber”) and Jaime N Mahoney (JHWS “Tressa”) and A Day by Day Chronology of Sherlock Holmes by William S Dorn DWNP, BSI

Posted by Ron aka “Chips” and Beth aka “Selena Buttons”, proud columnists for the John H Watson Society.