Friday, May 24, 2019

Stumbling Down Memory Lane (Part 2)

Okay, let's jump back into the search for the true location of 221b Baker Street with the second part (of three) of my paper about the subject.

Page 15, Line 41 (Part 2)
by Vincent W, Wright
(Originally presented August 28, 2010)

In a later paper I found this…

I won’t read the whole thing to you, I just wanted to make note of the address in the upper part of this ad from the December 25, 1880 edition; 16a Baker Street. 16a Baker Street was the location of many businesses in the late 1800‘s. The advertisement here shows it to be a desirable property, which appears to be true.

I also discovered in further research about London street addresses that there is some controversy about the ‘b’ attached to the end of 221. I shall not venture into this mystery any farther as I have not read a definitive conclusion on the matter. I will show an ad, from June 5, 1889, that contains the only time I happened upon any address featuring a letter B.

This caught my eye in several editions…

I won’t read the whole ad as it is not important. This is from May 8, 1882, and I’m just throwing this one in because of the two lead words; Resident Patient. This has nothing to do with A Study in Scarlet, but apparently that was a fairly common term so this is just a curiosity. Oh, and from a chronology point of view this ad is not even CLOSE to being in the right year for that story.

And then there is this…

In part it reads ‘Her Majesty’s troopship Orontes, from Bombay, proceeded to Portsmouth today…’ Everything had to fit into place, even as far back as Watson’s arrival back in England, which is exactly what this talks about. I found numerous mentions about this ship, and they all fit exactly where they should have. This ad was from November 17, 1880.

So, let’s get back to the first two ads. Here they are again, but from a few days later…and inverted.

The one for 48 Baker Street runs for quite some time. The wording of it changed over time to reflect more urgency, and the terminology was prettied up a bit. Also, the annual rent fee went back-and-forth from 150 to 160 pounds. Problem: this one ran from the middle of December 1880 to at least the first week of April of 1881. If the chronology is right, and Holmes and Watson were living at 221b on March 4, then this can’t be our ad.

The other one here is much more promising. It ran from early December, 1880 to early February, 1881. Just as before, the wording did change some but stayed more consistent than the other one. There is nothing about this ad that disqualifies it from being THE ad that Holmes may have seen in the paper, with one exception; 35 Baker Street is on a corner. We have no evidence from the Canon that 221b was on a corner. We don’t have any evidence against it either, but it seems to me that it would be mentioned in some way.

And now this:

This ad ran ONE time on January 12, 1881. It was placed by the same person from the 48 Baker Street piece. This one has all the earmarks of being right, and I‘ll get to those in a moment, but first I would like to mention a couple of other points. The date here may seem a little early, but we have no definite early timeline in STUD, and there is no reason to believe that Holmes hadn’t already acquired the place a month before as Stamford tells us that Holmes had been looking for “someone to go halves with him in some nice rooms he had found,” so it is possible that he had already put down a deposit or made arrangements to acquire it.

Also, Brent Morris (husband of Jacquelynn Morris) planted the seed of another idea I had not realized. Watson obviously masked the real number of the address, and some effort has been made in the past to configure a chosen number into 221, but as it turns out (Brent noted) 23 easily translates to 221. I found that it does so in a couple of different ways:

2 + 21
2 & 2+1

So, do we have a new candidate? Is this The Sacred Lodgings? In the original Annotated there is an Ordnance Survey map from 1895 which shows that no. 23 is on the west side of Baker Street, which by all evidence is the correct side. There are some who would place it farther north but the majority of scholars have in fact placed it in the southern part, near George Street. This flat is precisely in that part. Furthermore, No. 23 isn’t on a corner, and it fits well into the location attributes laid down in the cases, although no single flat has ever fit ALL of them. I might also add that many of the addresses in this block have been named or suspected as 221b. This one never has.

I whole-heartedly accept the fact that this does have minor problems with it, but every single possibility has. It is one of the main things that keeps this hobby interesting for me. There is always that elusive answer just out of reach. It’s tantalizing and will keep me searching for answers for the rest of my life.
I’ll continue looking, but for now it seems a good likelihood, at least to me, that we now have a very strong contender for the real 221b.

So, if you haven't spotted the error yet, the next installment will explain everything. When people heard that I had retired this paper because of a massive mistake, some were notably dismayed. Some even tried their hardest to figure how to make it work even after they heard what the mistake was. Either way, you get to see on Monday when I post the addendum to this paper.

See you then, and as always...thanks for reading.