Monday, July 30, 2018

Improving The Already Perfect

This post is going to briefly touch on something I love, and then it's going to continue on to something else I love. I know from time to time I get away from the chronology aspect here, but I take little trips outward to show you little glimpses of the world in which Holmes and Watson lived. I think it's necessary, and it's also a lot of fun. Today though, we're going to be taking a look at something I've long had in the back of my mind to do, but haven't taken the time to complete.
That thing I love is M*A*S*H. I've been a fan of the show since I was a kid, and will always be one. I have seen every episode literally hundreds of times, and can quote from them extensively. It is my absolute favorite TV show of all time. (Yes, I still cry when Col. Blake dies.) However, one of the criticisms I hear about it is that the show lasted 11 years, whereas the actual Korean War only lasted 2 1/2. I don't find this to be a problem at all because those who make that comment are missing an important aspect of the timeline: the show doesn't flow through from day one until the last day without a break. There are only 256 episodes, and each of them only covers a certain length of time. In other words, what would be the total number of days if you just looked at the actual length of each episode in that way? Would it equal more than 2 1/2 years? If so, then that argument would be valid. The other way is not.
Now to that other thing I love: Sherlock Holmes. It's not exactly the same thing when referring to the Holmes timelines because they could not possibly add up to the almost 20 years he was in practice. So, it's actually the opposite side of the M*A*S*H conundrum. But, nowhere in my databases do I have anything that shows the actual length of time each chronologist thinks each case took. I need to remedy that. Let me give you an example.

William S. Baring-Gould says that 'A Scandal in Bohemia' (SCAN) lasts from Friday May 20 to Sunday, May 22, 1887.
E. B. Zeisler agrees with the number of days, but says it was Friday, March 22 to Sunday, March 24, 1889.
H. W. Bell, on the other hand, says that the action lasted one day longer. He likes Thursday, March 22 to Sunday, March 25, 1888.
Now, ignoring the years (which are right next to each other purely by coincidence in choosing the story), you'll see that there's disagreement on how long the case took. That is what I am missing in my lists. I have realized this for a long time, but always got by on just having the beginning dates. What I'm doing, however, is cheating myself out of even more chronolgical information. Yes, the starting date is the most important, but what's missing could potentially affect other stories. There are a few that seem to have pauses in them, and those pauses may be because of (or contain) another case. I'm not completely certain of this, but it seems I can recall a situation like that somewhere.
This is going to take quite a bit of time to change, and I will only be able to peck away at it here and there. This little project of mine just continues to grow, and my time for new things keeps getting smaller. However, I am dedicated to this, so I will make it happen somewhere. In the end it will only allow for more blog posts, and I'll finally feel like I'm not cheating myself of all that other data. So, it looks like I've got a lot of work to do.
Now, on top of all of this, I recently became aware of a new chronology out there. I know where it is, I just have to go get a copy of it. (Actually, I have a copy on the way.) This will bring my total number of timelines to 24. I'm not sure how I didn't know about it, but was thrilled to find out. In addition, I have people asking about the society for chronologists that I've mentioned in previous posts. It's still going to happen, I just have to work out the details and do some of the fine tuning before I start requesting members. Also, I have several projects and papers that have upcoming deadlines, plus an invitation to write another pastiche. (I had to turn down the last invitation because of time constraints, so we'll see what happens with this one.) I love having all of these irons in the fire, and hope I can meet and/or exceed what's expected of me.
This is the first time I've ever had three posts in one month, and I foresee me having enough 'product' to continue to do so for some time. It may not always be three, but it will never be just one again. My archives and files are just filled with all sorts of interesting little tidbits that don't seem to mesh together, and you're the beneficiary. It should be a fun ride.
For now, I need to get to work on what I talked about above. I'll see you next month, and as always...thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Mistake? Intentional? You Decide

The Sidney Paget illustrations for The Canon cases are some of the most recognized in the world of Sherlockiana. A good number of them are iconic, and are repeated for images used on business cards, announcements, websites...just about anything we use in the hobby. They are a mainstay.
I have looked at all of these drawings and have found a few peculiarities in some. They are illustrations, after all, and not photographs, so there can be mistakes or oddities that need to be looked into or explained. Today, we're going to look at one of those. So, everyone open your copies of The Canon to 'A Scandal in Bohemia' (SCAN). Watson has come to visit Holmes, and during the conversation Watson takes a seat while Holmes stands in front of the fire and discusses Watson's weight.
Watson looks comfortable, and he expects something is about to happen since Holmes seems pensive. Then they start discussing the upcoming case. However, there's something missing in the picture. I don't know why it isn't there, but it isn't. Anyway, let's keep the narratve going here. Holmes tells Watson of the impending case, and they spend a few minutes examining a note that The Master had received.
The sound of "horse's hoofs and grating wheels against the curb" tells them that their mysterious visitor has arrived. Now, remember, only about five minutes have passed.
So, in that five minutes before this stately dude walks in and gets the case underway, what happened to cause what occurs next? Was Mrs. Hudson in the room and we just weren't told about it? Or had Holmes planned on doing it all along and just forgot until Watson arrived. Of course, he had to wait until Watson got out of the chair to do it, and it had to be quick.
What am I talking about, you ask? Well, take a look at the third illustration in the case and tell me what's missing from the first one.
Now do you see it? I don't quite understand it myself. Holmes and Watson never struck me as uncomfortable around royalty. Maybe they were just embarrassed that their meager belongings weren't of the caliber that this man was used to. Or, maybe Mr. Paget just missed or forgot it in the first illustration. Either way, it's weird.
I realize it doesn't mean much in this crazy world of ours, but it's the sort of thing that just tickles my liver, so I had to share it. I thought perhaps my audience would enjoy it.
Wait, you haven't seen it yet? Oh, sorry. Well, in the first illustration we can't see Holmes's chair, so it may have been that way all along, but you'll note that Watsons's chair is now covered with a sheet of some kind whereas before it was not.
Sorry, everyone. I was just having a little fun with you. This is one of those quirky little things I've noticed that I wanted to share with you. Please forgive me.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it. I am curious how many people said, "I never noticed that before!" But, fun is the idea behind all of this, and this version of the 'Spot the Difference' from the puzzle magazines is the kind of back burner topics I have floating around in my brain.
So, thanks for reading. I'll see you soon.

Monday, July 9, 2018

From The Archives...

In the fall of 2005 I started a new feature in my home scion's newsletter. It was a column about my new-found love...chronology. I didn't know at the time where it would eventually take me, but I knew no one else was going to start one, so I wanted to add to the hobby in a way that wasn't going to happen otherwise. And, people needed to know the thoughts that were running around in my head. (Not that they asked.)
I contacted the (then) editor of the newsletter, Steve Doyle, and told him my thoughts. He gladly accepted the offer, and was probably relieved to have one less page to fill on his own. (The early days of the publication were often filled almost exclusively by him.) So, I set to work. Our calendar had the case of 'The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire' (SUSS) up next. It was as good a place as any to start, so I did the research, wrote the article, and started my new journey.
Here is the article in its entirety (with some light editing), including the lead that Steve put in to "warn" everyone of what they were about to read.

The Chronological Canon
by Vince Wright

We are pleased to offer a new regular column on the thorny subject of Canonical Chronology by Illustrious Client member Vince Wright. He leads off, appropriately, with "The Sussex Vampire."

Did 'The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire" take place in 1896/7 or 1901? This story requires looking outside the box in order to find an answer. We have the usual clues from Watson - train schedules, weather reports, the mail service, and his inability to properly read a calendar - but here we have something else. This case can probably be dated by investigating it etymologically and literally.
While most chronologists agree to the date of November 19, the year is always in question. Baring-Gould likes 1896, as do a few others, but yet others can do no better than placing it between then and 1902. The problem, however, is two-fold. First is the common usage of the term vampire/vampyre, and second is the appearance of the word "Yeggman."
Vampires were made world famous by the Irish novelist Bram Stoker. In May of 1897 he published a book about Count Dracula beased on the accounts written about a Vlad Tepes who ruled Walachia (now part of Romania) in the 15th century. Before this it's hard to find literature on vampires, as there are only three somewhat-well-known titles from the 1800's on the subject. If Dracula was released in 1897 it is hard to imagine that Holmes would already have it in his indexes as there would be little or no actual activity surrounding vampires before that. It seems more likely that a later date would be more accurate.
The other problem is the first appearance of the word yegg or yeggman. Specifically it refers to a burglar or safecracker and it is most likely a Gypsy word or name originally meaning 'bomber.' Noting that the word refers to a burglar who cracks safes sloppily, perhaps by using poorly made bombs, solves the bomber/burglar problem. The first recorded use of the word in print is attributed to The New York Evening Post in June 1903. It became part of the British vernacular in or about 1900 but was around in the mid-1890's in the United States as a slang term. In a series of speeches given and published from 1904 on by William Pinkerton, of the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency, the word is used heavily and in one case was what the entire speech was about. Holmes would have likely read these accounts but not in time to set the date in 1897. As "yegg" did exist in street lingo prior to these articles it is possible for him to have heard it, maybe from the Irregulars. Even so, he probably would not have yet had it listed in his files and certainly not in capitalized form.
Baring-Gould uses some logic when calculating post office schedules and effectively eliminates 1898 or 1899. Since I have already shown any year below that to be improbable we have to look at 1900 or later. 1903 seems likely but only on the basis of the newspaper piece in New York. This is the year our beloved detective retired and therefore can be counted out fairly safely. From 1896 to 1900 we have only a few tales recorded and even fewer published. In 1901 he got back into the swing of things and got back to detecting. In 1902 Watson moved to Queen Anne Street and was only around occasionally. Thus, we now have to draw the conclusion that the story happens from Wednesday, November 19 to Friday November 21, 1901.
Well, there you have it - my first step into the chronological quagmire. The writing, syntax, and punctuation is pretty bad, but I got better. (Haven't I?) I'm not even sure all of my facts were 100% correct, but when I re-examine this story sometime I'll double-check myself. Anyway, I thought you might enjoy seeing how all of this began, and how long I've been at it.
See you again soon.