Friday, January 31, 2020

The Consensus (Re)Viewed

In the Autumn 2014 edition of The Baker Street Journal there appeared an article that was of profound interest to me. It was written by the eminent Sherlockian Les Klinger, and was titled 'A Consideration of Chronological Data'. Basically, it was a consensus of the dates of The Canon's cases and which date was most agreed upon for each. I don't want you to think I'm stepping on his toes here, so I'd like to point out the very first line in the article - 'The following statistical information is presented for further study.' I'd also like to point out the very last two lines of the article - 'The matter is deserving of further study. I look forward to further analysis of the data by more capable students.' Well, here I am.

When Les wrote that piece he was using only the fifteen chronologies listed in the back of The Sherlock Holmes Reference Library volumes. My collection is now at 27, so I think we can take a look at the subject with fresh eyes since the total is now almost doubled. (It would be 28, but there's one out there I may never be allowed to get my hands on as it's only for the authors private use.) Anyhoo, let's jump right in.

First, I'll tell you what his findings were, and then we'll see if any of them have changed given the new information in my database. I'm going to do it a bit differently than him, though - I'm going to give the most popular month and then tell you what the most agreed upon date is (unless his date is the most agreed upon).

I'll list it by case and then consensus, and then what my research shows. Changes are in bold.

'The Gloria Scott' (GLOR) - July 1873...July 1874
(Most agreed upon date - 12th)

[This one's a little unfair because only two people agree to the date I give above. In fact, no more than two people agree on anything with the dating of this case. Four other sets of people picked four other months or seasons, but they're not exact dates, so I went with the only one of those. However, Klinger's date is out because only one person says July 1873.]

'The Musgrave Ritual' (MUSG) - October 1879...No change
(Most agreed upon date - 2nd)
A Study in Scarlet (STUD) - March 4, 1881...No change
'The Speckled Band' (SPEC) - April 1883...No change
(Most agreed upon date - 4th)
'The Beryl Coronet' (BERY) - February 1886...No change
(Most agreed upon date - 19th)
'The Yellow Face' (YELL) - April 1886...April 1888
(Most agreed upon date - 7th)
'The Reigate Squires' (REIG) - April 25, 1887...April 1887
(Most agreed upon date - 26th)
'The Resident Patient' (RESI) - October 1887...October 1881

[Another little snag here - the most agreed upon date is actually undecided. Only one person has an "exact" date for October 1881, and he can't decide if it's the 28th or the 29th.
This leads to another interesting problem - in this case the most agreed upon date is actually October 6, 1888, but more people like October 1881, so I had to go with that. Quite the pickle, eh?]

The Valley of Fear (VALL) - January 7, 1888...No change
'A Scandal in Bohemia' (SCAN) - March 20, 1888...No change
The Sign of [the] Four (SIGN) - July 1888...September 1888
(Most agreed upon date - 18th)

'The Cardboard Box' (CARD) - August 1888...No change
(Most agreed upon date - 10th)
'Silver Blaze' (SILV) - September 1888...July 12, 1888
'The Noble Bachelor' (NOBL) - October 12, 1888...No change
'A Case of Identity' (IDEN) - April 1889...October 1889
(Most agreed upon date - 9th)
'The Boscombe Valley Mystery' (BOSC) - June 6, 1889...June 8, 1889

'The Stockbroker's Clerk' (STOC) - June 15, 1889...No change
'The Man with the Twisted Lip' (TWIS) - June 21, 1889...No change
'The Second Stain' (SECO) - July 1889...No change
(Most agreed upon date - 15th)
'The Naval Treaty' (NAVA) - July 29, 1889...No change
'The Engineer's Thumb' (ENGR) - August 1889...September 1889
(Most agreed upon date - 7th)

'The Crooked Man' (CROO) - August 1889...No change
(Most agreed upon - [tie] 6th and 28rd)
'The Greek Interpreter' (GREE) - September 1889...No change
(Most agreed upon date - 12th)
'The Five Orange Pips' (FIVE) - September 24, 1889...No change
The Hound of the Baskervilles (HOUN) - September 25, 1889...October 1889
(Most agreed upon date - 1st)

'The Blue Carbuncle' (BLUE) - December 27, 1889...No change
'The Copper Beeches' (COPP) - April 1890...No change
(Most agreed upon date - 7th)
'The Red-Headed League' (REDH) - October 11, 1890...No change
'The Dying Detective' (DYIN) - November 29, 1890...No change
'The Final Problem' (FINA) - April 24, 1891...No change
'The Empty House' (EMPT) - April 5, 1894...No change
'The Norwood Builder' (NORW) - August 1894...No change - sort of
[This one deserves another look. It's true that seven chronologists say it was August 1894, but eight people actually say 'Summer 1894'. Now, 'summer' could include August, but it's not specified, so this one's a toss-up.]

'The Golden Pince-Nez' (GOLD) - November 1894...No change
(Most agreed upon date - 14th)
'Wisteria Lodge' (WIST) - March 1895...No change
(Most agreed upon date - 23rd...but only by one person. I guess that's not really "agreed" upon, is it?)

'The Three Students' (3STU) - April 1895...No change
(Most agreed upon date - 5th)
'The Solitary Cyclist' (SOLI) - April 13, 1895...No change
'Black Peter' (BLAC) - July 3, 1895...July 10, 1895
'The Bruce-Partington Plans' (BRUC) - November 21, 1895...No change
'The Red Circle' (REDC) - February 1896...September 1902
(Most agreed upon date - 24th)

'The Veiled Lodger' (VEIL) - October 1896...No change
(Once again, just one person, and they say the 28th.)

'The Sussex Vampire' (SUSS) - November 19, 1896...No change
'Abbey Grange' (ABBE) - January 1897...No change
(Most agreed upon date - 23rd)
'The Devil's Foot' (DEVI) - March 16, 1897...No change
'The Missing Three-Quarter' (MISS) - December 1897...No change
(Most agreed upon date - 7th)
'The Dancing Men' (DANC) - July 27, 1898...No change
'The Retired Colourman' (RETI) - August 1898...No change
(Here again the most "agreed" upon date is by one person - the 20th.)

'Charles Augustus Milverton' (CHAS) - January 5, 1899...No change
'The Six Napoleons' (SIXN) - July 1900...June 1900
(Most agreed upon date - 8th)

'The Priory School' (PRIO) - May 16, 1901...No change
'The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax' (LADY) - July 1901...No change
(Most agreed upon date - 1st)
'Thor Bridge' (THOR) - October 4, 1901...October 1900
(Most agreed upon date - 4th)

'Shoscombe Old Place' (SHOS) - May 6, 1902...No change
'The Three Garridebs' (3GAR) - June 26, 1902...No change
'The Illustrious Client' (ILLU) - September 3, 1902...No change
'The Three Gables' (3GAB) - October 1902...May 1903
(Most agreed upon date - 26th)

'The Blanched Soldier' (BLAN) - January 1903...No change
(Most agreed upon date - 7th)
'The Mazarin Stone' (MAZA) - June 1903...No change - sort of, again
[Here again we're stuck with what five people agree on, but to be fair fourteen chronologists say 'Summer 1903'. Once again, it's up to you to decide which should be right.]

'The Creeping Man' (CREE) - September 6, 1903...No change
'The Lion's Mane' (LION) - July 1907...No change
(Most agreed upon date - 30th)
'His Last Bow' (LAST) - August 2, 1914...No change

As you can see from the info above, there aren't a whole lot of changes from Klinger's fifteen to my list of twenty-seven. Seems the dates that were come up with decades ago hold up. There are some, though, and they represent a shift in thinking. Perhaps it's new data - weather or construction or some historical fact that wasn't known way back when. Whatever it was it shows that the chronological field is still evolving, albeit very slowly.

I would like to say that I think there are a few errors in Klinger's list. I won't bother pointing them out as they may be honest ones that don't need a spotlight, but I will mention one - REDC. Les says his consensus date for that case is February 1896. Well, I don't show a single person in my database who says that. I've checked all of my spreadsheets, and not one of them has it. Maybe he's privy to some chronological info that I'm not - though I doubt it. Either way, his date is now defunct as a new king for that case has taken over.

Well, that's the whole kit and kaboodle. Doing the research on this list has given me a couple of new ideas to look into, and one day I might bring them to you, my loyal readers. I know I fawn all over you all with my gratitude, but that's because it truly comes from deep within my heart. This is the Sherlockian subject no one wants to discuss. I'm the guy who gets the glossy-eyed looks at gatherings when it comes up. Suddenly the crab dip becomes more important to talk about. I don't care, though. I love this part of the hobby and will continue to plug away at it even if the only person reading my stuff is my own mother. (She doesn't, but I had to use someone.)

I'll see you all next month, and as always...thanks for reading.