Monday, August 27, 2018

Just Generally Speaking...

I know other people have written about what I'm going to write about in this entry, but my guess is that not everyone knows about it. So, I'm going to talk about it again. Again, you say? Well, I touched on it briefly almost exactly one year ago today on August 29, 2017, in a post about 'The Adventure of the Cardboard Box' (CARD). (It was titled Data! Data! Data! if you want to take a look.) But the idea came from a recent post I made over on this blog's sister site on Facebook. Now, let's expand on it.
In CARD we hear the following:

'Do you mean to say that you read my train of thoughts from my features?'
'Your features, and especially your eyes. Perhaps you cannot yourself recall how your reverie commenced?'
'No, I cannot.'
'Then I will tell you. After throwing down your paper, which was the action which drew my attention to you, you sat for half a minute with a vacant expression. Then your eyes fixed themselves upon your newly-framed picture of General Gordon, and I saw by the alteration in your face that a train of thought had been started. But it did not lead very far. Your eyes flashed across to the unframed portrait of Henry Ward Beecher which stands upon the top of your books. You then glanced up at the wall, and of course your meaning was obvious. You were thinking that if the portrait were framed, it would just cover that bare space and correspond with Gordon's picture over there.'
'You have followed me wonderfully!' I exclaimed.

Major-General Charles George Gordon was a British Army officer who saw action on numerous fronts in Europe and Asia. It was his service in Asia that made him a national hero and earned him the nickname "Chinese" Gordon. Watson was obviously an ardent admirer of the man, as were many, and even went so far to put up a picture of him at 221b. (There are lots of pictures of Gordon, but the one shown here seems to be the most popular, so I picked it.) He was a hero in the eyes of the British people because of his exploits in other lands and because of his glorified death in 1885, but was less so to the British government who found him to be a bit of a troublemaker who sometimes went against orders.
Now let's talk about the part that will make you wonder.

There's another General Gordon.
The other Gordon, John Brown Gordon, was an attorney before becoming a soldier, and a Senator and railroadman after. He wrote a book in 1903, but that was after he was a Governor. He was also the leader of a veteran's group until he died in 1904. His war record isn't too shabby, either. He certainly seems like the kind of man to admire, right?
Well, this General Gordon was in the Army, too. The Confederate Army.
Now, I'm not going to express any opinion one way or the other, but there are certain things about him that can be viewed as unfortunate by some. This Gordon was, in fact, a slave owner like his father, and there is some evidence that he was the head of the Georgia KKK. (That's never been proven, by the way.)
Let's take a look at the next paragraph in the story.

'So far I could hardly have gone astray. But now your thoughts went back to Beecher, and you looked hard across as if you were studying the character in his features. Then your eyes ceased to pucker, but you continued to look across, and your face was thoughtful. You were recalling the incidents of Beecher's career. I was well aware that you could not do this without thinking of the mission which he undertook on behalf of the North at the time of the Civil War, for I remember your expressing your passionate indignation at the way in which he was received by the more turbulent of our people. You felt so strongly about it, that I knew you could not think of Beecher without thinking of that also. When a moment later I saw your eyes wander away from the picture, I suspected that your mind had now turned to the Civil War, and when I observed that your lips set, your eyes sparkled, and your hands clenched, I was positive that you were indeed thinking of the gallantry which was shown by both sides in that desperate struggle. But then, again, your face grew sadder; your shook your head. You were dwelling upon the sadness and horror and useless waste of life. Your hand stole towards your own old wound and a smile quivered on your lips, which showed me that the ridiculous side of this method of settling international questions had forced itself upon your mind. At this point I agreed with you that it was preposterous, and was glad to find that all my deductions had been correct.'

Looks like the Civil War was in fact on Watson's mind, but again it really doesn't say in what way. We can go the easy way and say that he was a fan of the Union, but what if? Again, I'm not levying an opinion here, I'm merely laying out the facts so that others can decide. It's a gray area, but one that I suspect most will say has to fall with the winning side. (Just remember, though, that the guy in the other portrait was an American. Hmm...)
So, which General Gordon was it? Both men had great war records, and both were distinguished gentlemen in most ways, but they also had their controversies. I don't know the answer here, but I know as a Brit Watson would probably have chosen his fellow countryman.
Well, those are all the pertinent facts. You can decide for yourself. Remember to follow your heart.
I'll see you next time. And as always...thanks for reading.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Adventure of the Veiled Logic

As much as I enjoy talking to you about all the different little quirky finds I've made in the world of late-Victorian London and the time of Holmes and Watson, it's also important to get back to the roots of your quest. So, I bring to you another of the chronological columns that I wrote for my home society's newsletter. I'm not doing these in any order (except for the first one) so I just reached into the pile and pulled out one at random.
Now, I have to ask that you remember that these were done before I realized that I had forgotten to make a number of considerations for my findings. The logic isn't always sound, and often they were written in haste and can read that way. For the post here where I showed you my first chronology column ever, my friend James made some great points that I made note of for future considerations. I welcome these kinds of things, but ask you to be kind to me. I was a young, excited, budding Sherlockian trying to make my way in a part of the hobby that I was told not to waste my time on. Still, I do enjoy bringing these to you.
This time we'll be looking at 'The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger' (VEIL) in a piece I wrote for the October 2006 edition.

The Chronological Canon
by Vince Wright

"The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger" is just that and nothing more. There is neither an appreciable mystery nor a really great story, but from a chronological standpoint it's a darn fine problem. This tale does not cause a debate over the dating of it mainly because there are no dates to argue about.
A close look reveals some slim clues that help in the quest. We do find possible timelines to use, but not very obvious ones, and outside of "late 1896" there is no other direct help besides a delivered note from Holmes which did not come on a Sunday. Most chronologists (nearly all) just agree with Watson on the year and can go no further. Only our fellow Sherlockian Brad Keefauver narrows it down to a specific calendar square with some decent logic, and I will look at his thinking and see if I can come to the same conclusion.
As for the clues that don't help, here they are: Watson was living at Baker Street, Abbas Parva (which doesn't sound like an English name) doesn't exist, and the phrase "in his cups" (to be drunk or being a drunk) was used by Mark Twain in Innocents Abroad in 1869, and had been used in other works in different forms.
The only historical evidence in the story comes from the names Wombwell and Sanger, both circus folk. Their schedule traditionally began on May 1st, but as the term circus can be substituted for other words like carnival, menagerie, funfair, bazaar, or festival, it's hard to track down exact dates. Some were known to start in early January, but not all of them. According to Keefauver, "Lord" Sanger ran his circus for nine months a year, and I have to assume that Ronder, the rival, kept the same schedule. The season was still in as the killing happened while the show was on its way to Wimbledon and was camping between appearances. Leonardo, the strongman who worked for Ronder, died while bathing near Margate so the month was likely not a winter one.
The events on the story took place seven years before, and if 1896 is right that means 1889. The only indication of a time of year is "late" 1896. Keefauver gives us the exact date of September 22, 1889, based on these points: evidence of a late December starting time for circuses; Eugenia and Leonardo would have wanted to kill Ronder before the end of the season; and if late December/early January is right then it would have been over by September/October placing Leonardo's death in August or so since Eugenia read about his death in the paper "last month." Using the 22nd places the date later in the year, but having to exclude late, cold months makes this seem workable.
I cannot find a reason to disagree with Kefauver's date even though it doesn't feel right. Until new evidence comes to light I will accept this and agree.

Even as I re-type all of this I realize just how amateur my logic and reasoning seemed. (Often I would write these columns the night before the deadline, thus robbing myself and my readers of a better piece.) I also get to find all the places I left out commas or words, and see how often I didn't (did not) use contractions just so I could get to an exact word count.
Still, these aren't too bad, and they improved with time and experience. There's also the matter of me saying "all" or "most" chronologists because at the time I didn't have all of the chronologies I have now. That might change a few things, but not necessarily the date.
Speaking of the chronologies I have...
Recently I was able to obtain a 24th for my collection, and sat down to add it to my databases. While doing this I noticed a couple of small mistakes on another timeline. When I investigated it I found that the one collective place I'd gotten info for about half of my chronologies was in the wrong. So, I went back to the source material and got the correct dates, but found myself wondering just how many mistakes there were to find. After a lot of checking I discovered a number of them. I realized then that I should have went back to the original publications themselves for my data. (I shall be doing that from now on.)
I was disheartened, as well, because those errors meant I had also gotten some of my Facebook Posts wrong. But, what's done is done. I'll just have to make sure it's correct from this point on.
I hope you enjoyed this second foray into my chronological genesis. I love being able to share these with you. See you soon, and as always...thanks for reading!