Welcome to 2016. I know it's been a while since I Posted, but I am here now with a new resolve to do so every month. And since it is the first month of the year, I thought we might as well start at the beginning of The Canon - with A Study in Scarlet. (Also, let's act like there has been no hiatus on my part. All in agreement? Excellent.)
Towards the beginning of the story, the third chapter to be exact, we find the title 'The Lauriston Gardens Mystery.' The debate around the true location of No. 3 Lauriston Gardens has been a matter of some debate for a long time. Some of the best minds to ever play The Game have taken it on, and so far no two people seem to agree on where it actually was.
The eminent Sherlockian H. W. Bell found a row of four houses on Brixton Road that he felt matched Watson's description of the place. These houses were numbered 314-
Another famous searcher was Michael Harrison. He agreed that it was likely on Brixton Road, but found a different set of houses (this time five instead of four) that were numbered 152-160. He does confirm that there is a Lauriston Road, but that it is nowhere near Brixton Road.
A third well-known name in the hobby, Bernard Davies, said the location was a row of houses numbered 329-335 Brixton Road, on the east side, between Villa Road and St. John's Row (now St. John's Crescent) and that No. 3 is actually No. 333 in that grouping.
A gentleman named Colin Prestige felt that it could be found on Knatchbull Road, at Myatt's Field, which is about one half mile to the east of Brixton Road.
I can't see why Watson had to invent a fake address to use here. Yes, it was the scene of a murder, but other than that there is no real reason to hide the actual address. The residence was empty, and had been for some time judging by the amount of dust on everything and by the sparseness of the garden in front.
We also see a reference to an Audley Court. It is said to be near Kennington Park near the site of the old turnpike gate, but Audley Court has never actually existed. Bernard Davies (remember him?) claimed that it was really Aulton Place, which was the combined name given to Aulton Passage and Grove Place. That name, however, was bestowed in 1893, some years after STUD. Not sure how Mr. Davies explained that.
Here again we have Watson making up a street name. This time, though, it is the address of a police officer. That certainly makes sense.
The next fictional place we hear about is a big one - an entire college.
In Part 1 Chapter 5 we find the following lines:
Here again Watson uses No. 3 for a fictional address. Peckham has never had a Mayfield Place.
After that we find out that Enoch Drebber, the deceased, had stayed at Madame Charpentier's boarding house on Torquay Terrace. But, there is no such place. This is another half-point situation since it involves the dead and a business. Bernard Davies thought that perhaps this address was actually in Dover Terrace in Coldharbour Lane.
After all the above examples we find ourselves in the part of the story that deals with the U.S. Here we see that living on one continent shows how someone can get bad info to put into the text. But, there are fewer examples of "mistakes" about this other land than there are about Watson's own home city. And they have better explanations for them.
He tells us in Part 2 that the Mormon Prophet, John Ferrier, was bound for the Nevada Mountains. Now, Nevada does have mountains, but they are not called the Nevada Mountains...at least not with both words capitalized. This one is not too far of a stretch, but it does seem that Holmes would have had a volume that would have covered this fact.
One diligent researcher decided that Sierra Blanco was the pseudonym for Oregon Buttes, near South Pass, Wyoming.
The other is The Great Alkali Plain. Jack Tracy, the writer of the book The Encyclopedia Sherlockiana, explains this away in a manner I cannot improve upon:
“The myth of a ‘Great American Desert’ between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains was an old one even at the time of the Louisiana Purchase, for explorers crossing the Great Plains bound for the Rockies often mistook the semi-arid but deceptively fertile buffalo lands to be uncultivable, and their unoptimistic reports were easily inflated into tales of a vast central wasteland.”
The ultimate question to ask here is whether or not these "misleadings" have any bearing upon the dating of this or any other story. Well, they can. Dating can be decided by the simplest, smallest mentions. It can be anything from an address that may have moved, or on a street/road/etc. that may have been under construction or renamed at some point. In the instances above it makes no difference at all, but at other times if Watson had given us actual addresses or real places then we would have another piece of data at our fingertips to help make a full and correct chronology. We're safe here, but what about other little problems like these? Well, we'll take a look at more next month.
Thanks for reading.