It's January, and that means we need to talk about the birthday of Sherlock Holmes. Not necessarily the year he was born (1854), but the date. Traditionally it's celebrated on the 6th, and with decent reason, but others (including myself), don't necessarily agree with it. So, this post is going to look at it from some old and new angles.
Last week I gave a short paper to my home society The Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis. The idea was to examine the birthday question from a chronological viewpoint. Well, in doing the research I recalled that I had written an article about it a long time ago. Some searching brought me to an edition of The Illustrious Clients News from December 2006. In it I found that I had suggested an idea for no other reason than for laughs. Well, the more I looked at it the more I thought it was worth looking at a little harder.
Let's start, though, with the reasons that exist for the 6th. The chart below (which I found on Facebook) sums it up pretty well.
I had stated once before that I thought the logic was kind of silly, but I also admitted that if I had come up with it I'd never shut up about it. In the article I look at other options for trying to tie down a date. They weren't very good, and I think perhaps I was just trying to get to my word count. But, today we're going to look at some possibilities, including where I finally landed.
There are those who think other dates fit the bill better. Some debate has been raised about the emerald tie-pin that Holmes received in 'The Bruce-Partington Plans' (BRUC) from a "certain gracious lady." Since the emerald is the birthstone for May, that month has been suggested. Someone else said the emerald had been the birthstone for June for a while (although I didn't find when) so June was an option. Another person said that it wasn't an emerald, but a different green stone - a rare green garnet. (That points back to January.) One person said the date had to be in May because he figured Holmes wasn't shooting 'VR' into his wall, but V13. Thus, May 13th. (I know. Kind of odd.)
Another thought that was explained to me was from a religious point of view. Turns out January 6th is the Feast of Epiphany on the Christian calendar. The Feast is when mysterious things re revealed, thus Holmes would be a perfect match for it. But, Epiphany is directly related to Twelfth Night, so I don't really count this as a separate piece of 'evidence.' Another problem is that some parts of the Christian community celebrate it on the 5th as they believe the 12 Days of Christmas starts on Christmas Eve. Further, there are a lot of traditions related to the Feast, and one is hard-pressed to find a way to tie any of them to Holmes in some way.
Sticking with June, there's another thought that it was June 17. Seems another researcher placed 'The Red-Headed League' (REDH) in a certain year, and in that year Sarasate played a concert in London, and Holmes gave that concert to himself as a birthday present. Again, it holds just as much water as the original logic behind January 6, but without the followers.
Now, let's get to the date I stumbled upon. When I was reading the reasoning of others, I was intrigued by the birthstone idea. Not a lot of jewels appear in The Canon, and birthstones aren't mentioned at all. But, with all the play June was getting I wondered a bit more about (one of) the stones representing June - the pearl. That led to me to 'The Six Napoleons' (SIXN). In that case Holmes is investigating a string of bizarre crimes centered around busts of the famous emporer. He eventually figured out that the whole thing had to do with the black pearl of the Borgias, and he went on to recover it.
The majority of chronologists place SIXN in June. One says May, a couple of others say summer, and two of them say it was either June or July. However, a specific date of June 8, 1900, was come up with by William S. Baring-Gould in his infamous The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, and it's a date I agree with. The case goes into the next day, the 9th. Toward the end of the story that next day Holmes does the big reveal. What happens after shows a man who's having a type of moment he didn't often have.
'Gentlemen,' he cried, let me introduce you to the famous black pearl of the Borgias.'
Lestrade and I sat silent for a moment, and then, with a spontaneous impulse, we both broke out clapping as at the well-wrought crisis of a play. A flush of colour sprang to Holmes's pale cheeks, and he bowed to us like the master dramatist who receives the homage of his audience. It was at such moments that for an instant he ceased to be a reasoning machine and betrayed his human love for admiration and applause. The same singularly proud and reserved nature which turned away with disdain from popular notoriety was capable of being moved to its depth by spontaneous wonder and praise from a friend.
Was there some reason Holmes was feeling particularly human that day? Maybe he was feeling gooey because it was his birthday. Also, Holmes would've turned 46 that day, and that's the perfect time to start a mid-life crisis.
Now, what about how the 9th fits Holmes from an astrological standpoint? Well, the types of people born on that day fit him pretty good. A lot of acting types were, so were a large number of famous musicians, not to mention some great thinkers. Holmes was a student of all of these, so it seems to me it fits. The date would make him a Gemini, so conclude from that what you will.
So, on to why I suggested this date in 2006 and why it was supposed to be funny: it's my birthday. But, please know I'm NOT picking the date because of that. I did so in jest 13 years ago, but now I truly believe it holds some water. After I gave that paper I talked about at the start of this post, people have been kidding with me about the 'coincidence' of it being my birthday and how it's silly for me to be so bold. I would like to point out that Holmes has other moments of lightheardedness in The Canon, and they would be just as viable as possibilities, but they don't seem to have the 'evidence' June 9th has.
I am not a big birthday person, so it makes no difference to me if it's the same as mine or not. It just happens to work out. At least I think it does. So, for those who think it's a bit egotistical for me to suggest this, please realize that I'm not just picking it out of thin air and stating it. The date really does seem to work, and I'm thrilled to have realized it.
There you have it - my choice for Holmes's birthday is June 9, 1854. Should I find a better possibility later I'll talk about it on here, but for now I'm satisfied. Let me know your thoughts. I'll see you next time, and as always...thanks for reading.