The View from the East End (27)
By Inspector HopkinsDecember 4, 2005
“The Many Facets of Sherlockiana”
Part 11a: Sherlockian Geography
Not too long after I began to get serious about studying the Canon, and after reading through it several times, I decided it might be fun to look up some of the places where Holmes and Watson traveled during the course of their adventures.
Then, while I was at it, I thought it would be an interesting project to also see how far they traveled in each of the cases they investigated. With Brad Keefauver’s advice and encouragement, these ideas actually formed the basis for starting my “Just_the_Facts” Canonical database, located here on Sherlockpeoria.net
As a beginner, I learned a lot about the Canon this way, and as it turns out, some two years later I’m still adding bits and pieces of information to the database! This amply demonstrates that geography is indeed another bona-fide facet of Sherlockiana.
I became acquainted with maps and geography when I had my first course in the subject as a pupil in the third grade. (I recall that before that time I had heard my teachers refer to “England” many times, but I did not know where it was, except that it was located in a place called “Europe”). We were introduced to these locations via a large globe in the corner of our classroom. Once I got my bearings as to where we were on this globe versus where Europe was, I was fascinated. And to realize that England was actually an island made me feel quite the scholar!
In the fourth grade we studied each continent in more detail, and our homework assignments included drawing the outlines of the various nations in Europe. I recall being further fascinated by the realization that each of these countries, France, Spain, Italy, etc all seemed to fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, each with their own colour and size and shape. Ah, the exuberance and innocence of youth!
And as an adult Sherlockian, this exuberance seemed to have been rejuvenated as I traced out the paths that Holmes and Watson made across England and the Continent. I sent off for the “A-Z Road Atlas of Great Britain”, determined to find out exactly where our heroes went across their magnificent island nation. A friend lent me his “Rand McNally Road Atlas of Britain”, and so I had two of them to make comparisons with.
One by one, as I read each story in the Canon, I consulted my atlases to follow the routes that each of their adventures had taken them. In many cases, for example The Adventure of the Six Napoleons, they just traveled back and forth across greater London itself. This particular case was difficult for me to follow, so I took one of the atlases and xeroxed several pages of London and the surrounding suburbs. I then spliced them together with Scotch tape and made my own detailed map of London, which I then marked up with differently coloured highlighter pens. I followed their route from 221B Baker Street to Pitt Street, then to High Street, and so forth, until they arrived back at their rooms. According to my humble calculations, it appeared that they traveled some 35 miles on foot and by carriage, and all in one day no less! Of course, I had to make some assumptions and simplifications about the exact route that they actually traversed, but this exercise showed me what Holmes and Watson had to do all in the normal course of their business.
Speculating a bit further, it must have been an exhausting day for them, going at only a few miles per hour, back and forth across the great Metropolis. It is interesting to note that Watson mentioned it was an hour’s drive from High Street to Morse Hudson’s shop in the Kennington Road. Of course, there will never be any way of knowing exactly where along the Road that his shop was, but my measurements showed about 4.5” of map distance along major roadways between these points. At a scale of 1.25 miles per inch, that worked out to about 5-6 miles, a reasonable hour’s drive and in agreement with what Watson wrote. Now when I read this story, I have a deeper appreciation for Mr. Holmes’s warning to Watson that “we have a long and rather complex day’s work before us.”
For the newer Sherlockian, doing a project like this is a very satisfying way to relate to the trials and tribulations of our heroes, and thus, to become much more involved with the Grand Game.
Until next time, when we will look at another aspect or two of this Facet of Sherlockiana, I am indeed,