Simanaitis Says

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ON HOLMESIAN HOLIDAYS

HOW DID THE world’s greatest consulting detective celebrate the holidays? I’ve cited Canonical evidence for his Victorian Christmas. But what about New Year’s? Given that his birthday was coming on January 6, Holmes may well have held off for that celebration, but this question does call for some research.

If I may stray for a moment from purely Canonical Holmes, there’s the December 28, 1947, radio broadcast of Holmes and Watson saving the ocean liner Gigantic from a pyromaniac. This was one of the recreations written by Sherlockian Extraordinaire Edith Meiser. It’s currently being featured on SiriusXM’s “Radio Classics” and also available from several online sources. One is Adam’s Oldtime Radio Shows.

For a latter-day Holmes on January 1, 2017, there’s BBC’s ”The Six Thatchers,” the first of a new season’s Sherlock featuring Benedict Cumberbatch. Here in the U.S., it’s part of PBS New Year’s Day programming.

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BBC’s Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Series 4 commences January 1, 2017.

For the authentically Canonical focus, I consulted my copy of An Irregular Chronology of Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street by Jay Finley Christ. It is one of several chronological studies, but is especially charming and thorough.

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Jay Finley Christ, 1884–1963, Professor of Law, University of Chicago, eminent Sherlockian scholar, posthumous awardee of the Baker Street Irregulars Two-Shilling Award, 1964.

Professor Christ’s contributions to Sherlockiana are many. In 1947 he devised a set of four-letter abbreviations for the 60 titles chronicled by Dr. John H. Watson: Stud, for example, for “A Study in Scarlet,” Scan for “A Scandal in Bohemia,” and so on. These abbreviations are still in use today.

In his extensive chronology, Professor Christ applied his deep knowledge of the Canon and a hefty dose of Holmesian deduction to identify the actual dates in which Sherlockian adventures took place.

Often Watson would leave straightforward clues: “The July which immediately succeeded my marriage…” But which marriage? There were two. Other times, Watson might have purposely misled the reader, no doubt to preserve some government secret or other.

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An irregular chronology of Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, by Jay Finley Christ, Magico Magazine, 1947.

Alas, Professor Christ correlates no particular adventure with December 31 or January 1. He comes close with Blue when chronicler Dr. John H. Watson definitively writes that “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” began on “the second morning after Christmas.”

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“The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.” Illustration by Sidney Paget, The Strand Magazine, January 1892.

Christ sleuths his way through other references in the tale narrowing the year to either 1889 or 1890. Resolution follows because of Watson citing the culprit’s December 22 visit to Breckenridge’s poultry shop.

December 22, 1889, was a Sunday; the poultry shop would have been closed. Therefore, Holmes’ Blue involvement must have commenced on December 27, 1890.

Great sleuthing, Professor Christ.

“The Adventure of the Red Circle” (RedC) is assigned January 1893. Christ gives evidence that it can’t have been a Sunday, but offers no more than ???? as for more precise dating. Tantalizingly, he cites that a Wagner opera was performed at Covent Garden from October 11, 1892, and Gounod’s Faust opened on February 4, 1893. Ergo, given performance dates, RedC must have occurred in January 1893.

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“The Adventure of the Red Circle.” Illustration by H.M. Brock, 1911.

The Professor quotes no less than Holmes himself in RedC: “What a ragbag of singular happenings!”

I hope your New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and entire 2017 are singular happenings of the best sort. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016

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