Monday, May 27, 2019

Stumbling Down Memory Lane (Part 3)

Well, here it is - the last part of the paper. The one where I show what the problem is with all of this. Enjoy. (I'll just be over in the corner crying.)

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


When I got the invitation to give this paper again I decided I wanted to update it with something new. One of the ideas that I had had but never acted on was trying to figure out the relationship between this address and Camden House. What I found absolutely shocked me. Turns out that the Camden House school had a number of different locations throughout London, and other parts of England, at this time.

I found the actual address, and started to work on the line of sight problem from ‘The Adventure of the Empty House’. But, something didn’t add up. I felt like a mathematician working some ancient theorem. I had pieces of paper with notes and numbers scattered all over my desk, and I barely ate or drank. (Ok, the second part isn’t true.) Finally, I found the one thing I was looking for. I had solved the problem. But, the answer was not what I wanted.

Now, what I am about to say may be a first in the history of Sherlockian presentations. I am here to admit, in front of my colleagues, that I made a HUGE mistake and that this paper – which has truly achieved a life all its own – is wrong. See, 23 Baker Street couldn’t possibly be The Sacred Lodgings. Here’s why…

First, let’s take a look at something a couple of pages before the Ordnance map I used. (And that ruined the whole idea.)

This is a not-to-scale map of Baker Street in 1881. The ‘X’ marks the place where I have placed my find. If you look closely at the illustration you’ll note that the numbers run in sequence up one side of the street and down the other.

On that same page is a paragraph which explains that Baker Street was renumbered in 1930 when it was merged with Upper Baker Street.

Well, if we look at the page with the Ordnance map you’ll find a notation above the map. It actually says that “modern numbering” has been inserted.

23 Baker Street was on the East side of the street – the same side as Camden House. Even if I stuck with it there is NO WAY I could pull off the shot into the window as demonstrated in ‘The Empty House’. So, if we look at the correct number system for the time we find that the spot I picked was actually No. 76, while No. 23 would have been in the spot where No. 50 is today.

Thank you for allowing me set the record straight and retire this paper.

Well, there you have it: my first paper ever. I remember the reception of it was incredible. Within two years I'd given it four times in four different states - and had to turn down other invites. 23 Baker Street put me on the Sherlockian map, and my "career" was firmly established. I was also astounded by the reception of the admission of the error. It may be unique for someone to give a paper and then admit later they were wrong. This isn't the scientific world, after all. But, everyone understood.

I still love the research that went into this. It still has some great finds, and it may someday be used in another project or paper. For now, though, it goes back into retirement. I'll see you next month. And as always...thanks for reading.

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.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Stumbling Down Memory Lane

This blog was created way back in 2012, and has undergone three major revisions. Each of those has seen huge changes to the content, but not the journey. It's always been about placing Holmes and Watson in their world in any way possible. However, in order to cleanse myself and move on to the next transition, I made the foolish decision to completely erase the previous versions and start fresh. In doing so, I lost some good stuff. I now regret it. But...

I have most of those posts in paper form. And I've been asked to post them again. This includes the very first paper I ever gave. That's what you get to enjoy now...but in three parts. (It's just too long for one.) Now, for those of you who are familiar with this paper, I apologize for putting it out there again. I know you must be tired of it. However, not everyone has seen it because I retired it about five years ago. You'll have to wait until the end to find out why. So, let's have a look at it.

(Yep, an actual picture from that day.)

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

Some years ago I discovered that the part of this hobby I enjoyed the most was the chronology aspect of it. Flexing my analytical muscle has always appealed to me, and this was a perfect fit. And as a bonus, every so often I find something which makes it even more worthwhile. What you’ll see today is one of those discoveries.
Now, I know that chronological subjects make people sleepy, so I will do my best not to make this one of those long, drawn-out, boring talks about the subject. I CAN do those, so if that’s what you’re looking for just see me after the show and I can have you nodding off in minutes.

I once heard Mike Whelan say, and I’m paraphrasing here, “A good piece of scholarship is instantly recognizable and stands the test of time.” My group, The Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis, had gathered for a meeting and were discussing Watson’s middle name, and he was referring to Dorothy L. Sayers’s hypothesis that The Good Doctor’s middle name was Hamish, which I happen to agree with. Now, there are other examples of good scholarship, of course, that just happens to be the one we were talking about that evening. I won’t make the claim that what I found concerning A Study in Scarlet is just as noteworthy, but it seems pretty darn good to me and my hope is that you will feel the same.

The London Times Archives is a goldmine of information, and especially so for the chronologically-minded few of us. It’s hard to find a better source of at-the-moment data from Holmes’s time. I was looking through them on-line one day and decided to put some canonical names and dates in the search engine to see what I could find around the largely accepted date of the beginning of A Study in Scarlet - March 4, 1881.

What I found on Page 15 41 lines down in the February 3, 1881, edition sparked what you’re going to see here, and may help to satisfy those that are looking to configure a definitive chronology. You should know up front that what appears on that page and line is merely where this adventure begins, but not where it ends.

What started all of this was my wondering if anyone had ever tried to determine if Holmes had first heard about the suite he had his eye on in Baker Street by seeing it advertised in the paper. Most seekers of the true 221b have either tracked the evidence through the stories, or have gone there and satisfied themselves using physical or intellectual reasons, with the exception of Vincent Starrett who liked a particular spot due to its “occult sense of rightness.” The information that I found may give Sherlockiana a brand new candidate for the true location of 221b.

So, the first ads I found on page 15 started at line 41:

These two ads are from that February 3rd, 1881, edition. The first one has a curious line in it; ‘Only one family taken.’ I’m not sure if this means that one family has already moved in, or if it’s saying only one can, but it seems likely that it’s the latter. It also states that it has attendance, which is very significant as it means that someone lived there and took care of things. The second ad is very straightforward. It doesn’t specify attendance, but also says nothing about one family.

Now, I was wondering if either of these two could be the one he may have looked into, so I checked all of the info I could find about the story and came to a conclusion as to when an ad could work and when it couldn’t. But before I tell you what I figured out I’d like to show you a few other interesting items I stumbled across.

In the December 1, 1880, paper I came across this…

Cleveland Park is about 1 ½ miles west of Baker Street. The interesting thing here is the last line. ‘Apply to Mrs. Hudson.‘ Now, I won’t speculate at all on this one, it was simply a happy little find.

In that same edition I saw this…

This one has the same type of line as before; ‘No others received.’ Again, I don’t know if this is past or present tense. This one, sadly, can’t be the ad we seek as in subsequent versions it shows that it is to attract someone needing in-home medical assistance. Interestingly, the price went up to 2 ½ guineas the very next month. Not the best way to get takers.

In the January 17, 1881, issue I came across this…

If you look at the bottom you will make out the name M. Charpentier. As we all know from the story Inspector Gregson said that he had captured the murderer after visiting Madame Charpentier’s Boarding House. This is fairly close to that info, and the only reference I could find.

This is a good place to end this part as that last ad there was something I found later on. I was looking to add to the paper since I was giving it again. For the fourth time. AND in Tennessee. I wanted something fresh, and it was after finding this that I discovered what caused me to retire the paper on April 26, 2014, after I presented it in Chattanooga. (Again, you'll have to wait.)

Next time we'll look at some really cool things I found during my search. We'll talk about the 'b' in 221b, 'The Resident Patient' (RESI), a ship Watson was once on, and then the big payoff.

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

Monday, May 13, 2019

This Post Is Smokin'! (Sorry, Had To Do It.)

The Great Historical Collection Reduction giveaway is going wonderfully. I'm reducing my collection, and the items I'm giving away are going to good homes. Basically I have a lot of books and ogther publications to go through, but from time to time it'll be ephemera. Like this time.

This time it's all Holmes-related tobacco items. As usual I will give you a closer look at them so you can decide if you're interested in answering the trivia question for them. So, here they are. (Oh, first I have to put up the giveaway logo. Sorry.)

We'll do this by size. First is the box of matches.

This side features a Punch-like figure with a huge pipe. Beneath him it says "Delightfully...something." I haven't been able to determine what it says no matter what I've tried or who's looked at it. Anyway, here's what the other side looks like:

Now, this WILL NOT be shipped with the matches in it. That's very illegal and dangerous. I'll put a piece of styrofoam in it so the box won't crush. Besides, I need the matches for my cigars.

Next is the ashtray. It's glass, about 3 1/2 inches across, half an inch deep, and is in near-perfect condition. (Basic wear, at best.)

Next is the tin of tobacco. Now, this is a true tin full of tobacco. It's never been opened, and still has the price tag on the bottom. I cannot attest to the quality or condition of the product inside, but I doubt anyone's ever actually going to smoke it anyway. It's an inch deep, and about 4 inches across.

And then there's the pipe. It's not an expensive one, but it's a real one. The bowl detaches and is real porcelain. It appears to have been smoked at some time, but there's no smell. There's also very little wear on the bit of the stem. Again, I doubt it's going to be used, but it could.

The Trivia Question this month was:
We find tobacco in all forms many times in The Canon, but only two tobacconists are mentioned by name.
Who are they? And what are the cases?

However, I didn't do my homework very well because it turns out there were four tobacconists. So as not to count anyone out because of my mistake, I will accept any two of them (and the cases).

So, there you go. We've had a great response to this, and am expecting more, so any one person's chances get slimmer and slimmer...but someone has to win. Let me know if have any questions, or need more pictures.

Later this month you'll all get a real treat. I'm going to be posting the first paper I ever gave. I think you'll enjoy it, and the surprise ending that comes with it. See you then, and as always...thanks for reading.