The Chronology Corner (Casebook)

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"The Adventure of the Illustrious Client"

THE WORLD’S MOST PERFECT DATE STATEMENT:
"On the upper floor of the Northumberland Avenue establishment there is an isolated corner where two couches lie side by side, and it was on these that we lay upon September 3, 1902, the day when my narrative begins."

THE PLACE OF WATSON’S RESIDENCE:
"I was living in my own rooms in Queen Anne Street at the time . . ."

THE STATE OF WATSON’S CAREER:
"I had some pressing professional business of my own, but I met him by appointment that evening at Simpson’s, where, sitting at a small table in the front window and looking down at the rushing stream of life in the Strand."

AND A SECOND MENTION OF SIMPSON’S:
"I did not see Holmes again until the following evening when we dined once more at our Strand restaurant."

THAT "KENNEDY ASSASSINATION" MOMENT:
"I think I could show you the very paving-stone upon which I stood when my eyes fell upon the placard, and a pang of horror passed through my very soul. It was between the Grand Hotel and Charing Cross Station, where a one-legged news-vender displayed his evening papers. The date was just two days after the last conversation."

TIME OF HOLMES’S INVALIDITY:
"For six days the public were under the impression that Holmes was at the door of death."
"On the seventh day the stitches were taken out, in spite of which there was a report of erysipelas in the evening papers. The same evening papers had an announcement which I was bound, sick or well, to carry to my friend. It was simply that among the passengers on the Cunard boat Ruritania, starting from Liverpool on Friday, was the Baron Adelbert Gruner . . . ."
"Friday! Only three clear days."

THE TIME UNTIL FINAL RESOLUTION:
"Three days later appeared a paragraph in the Morning Post to say that the marriage between Baron Adelbert Gruner and Miss Violet de Merville would not take place."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
September 3, 1902.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
September 13, 1902.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
When Watson says "September 3, 1902" at the beginning of a case, I have to go with Wednesday, September 3, 1902. As always, the good Zeisler wants to contradict Watson’s best fact based on a more trivial fact, counting off the days from the case’s beginning and deciding what beginning date fits the "Friday" reference. Too many details lie in figuring that day count, and all takes is one of them to be off to make the Zeisler thesis wrong. Better to go with Watson’s solid date, don’t you think?

 

"The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier"

STATEMENT OF THE MONTH AND YEAR:
"I find from my notebook that it was in January, 1903, just after the conclusion of the Boer War ... The good Watson had at that time deserted me for a wife, the only selfish action which I can recall in our association. I was alone."

CONFIRMATION OF MONTH AND YEAR:
"When I joined up in January, 1901—just two years ago . . ."

DODD’S VISIT TO TUXBURY OLD PARK:
"That was what took me down on Monday."

DELAY OF GAME AND OTHER CASES:
"It happened that at the moment I was clearing up the case which my friend Watson has described as that of the Abbey School, in which the Duke of Greyminster was so deeply involved. I had also a commission from the Sultan of Turkey which called for immediate action, as political consequences of the gravest kind might arise from its neglect. Therefore it was not until the beginning of the next week, as my diary records, that I was able to start forth on my mission . . ."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
January 7, 1903.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
January 7, 1903.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
January 1903, the month and year of this case, come from our most unimpeachable source — Holmes himself — and are backed up by the historical details of the Boer War and its end in May of 1902. The day it begins is easily determined by adding Dodd’s two nights at Tuxbury Old Place to his arrival there on a Monday: thus Holmes begins the case on a Wednesday. But which Wednesday in January of 1903?
Other chronologists have gone for the first Wednesday of that month, Zeisler doing his usual detailed lunar calculations based on a comment from Dodd about a half-moon. The thing I find hard to accept about an early January date for this case, however, is Holmes’s involvement in the Abbey School case. As the spring term of the Abbey School may not have even begun by January seventh, the lads there would have had hardly any time to get into trouble that required Holmes to clear up. Thus, I would think the second half-moon of the month, which appeared later in the evening on the twentieth according to Zeisler, would be the more likely candidate (even if it means a late supper for the residents of Tuxbury Old Park).
Thus, I’m going to place this case as beginning on Wednesday, January 21, 1903.

 

"The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone"

WATSON’S ABSENCE FROM BAKER STREET:
"It was pleasant to Dr. Watson to find himself once more in the untidy room of the first floor in Baker Street which had been the starting-point of so many remarkable adventures."

A CERTAIN TIMELESSNESS:
"It all seems very unchanged, Billy. You don’t change, either. I hope the same can be said of him?"

THE STATEMENT OF THE SEASON:
"It was seven in the evening of a lovely summer’s day . . ."

A REFERENCE TO A PAST WAX DUMMY:
"We used something of the sort once before."
"Before my time," said Billy.

THE STATE OF WATSON’S PRACTICE:
"You bear every sign of the busy medical man, with calls on him every hour."

THE CAREER OF NEGRETTO SYLVIUS:
"It’s all here, Count. The real facts as to the death of old Mrs. Harold, who left you the Blymer estate, which you so rapidly gambled away. . . And the complete life history of Miss Minnie Warrender. . . . Here is the robbery in the train de-luxe to the Riviera on February 13, 1892. Here is the forged check in the same year on the Credit Lyonnais."
"No; you’re wrong there."
"Then I am right on the others!"

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
Summer 1903.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
Summer 1903.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
"The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone" is perhaps the most sadly neglected case in the world of Sherlockian chronology. While the elder chronologists have jumped through hoops to date many another case on scant facts, they seem to collectively toss up their hands at this one and say, "Why bother!"
Well, if their Associated Shades are reading this from some Sherlockian houseboat on the river Styx, I’m going to tell them why. For the same reason one tries to date any story in the Canon . . . because it’s there. And while it may be disrespectful to call one’s elders "gurly men chronologists" ala Hans and Franz, I’m going to do just that. And then I’m going to date this case, if I have to give myself brain fever to do it. So here goes nothing . . .
First, we know that the story takes place after February 13, 1892. Watson is returning to Baker Street after an absence, an absence of long enough that he’s surprised to find it unchanged. Billy is still there, as well.
While Watson did desert Holmes for a wife in 1902, he wasn’t gone from Baker Street long enough for him to be quite so amazed in returning to Baker Street at any time before Holmes left those rooms for Sussex. No, Watson’s reaction harkens back to a time when he was still surprised to find 221B unchanged after its chief tenant had been dead for three years. A time of air guns and wax dummies. And a time when the flat disc gramophone was just taking off.
The year 1894.
"Before my time," Billy says of the use of a wax dummy in "Empty House," yet we saw in "The Valley of Fear" that the page was around during Moriarty’s career. If Billy was Holmes’s employee, rather than Mrs. Hudson’s, it would make sense that he would be let go at Holmes’s "death" and hired back shortly after the events of "Empty House" — thus the first dummy was before his time (and after his time as well). Billy’s return and Watson’s first encounter with him also explains Watson’s reiteration of how unchanged 221B is, even though we know the doctor has been here before since Holmes’s return.
So it’s summer of 1894, yet early enough in summer that Watson and Billy are just becoming reacquainted as Sherlock Holmes rebuilds his life. As busy as 1894 was for Holmes and Watson, that would be extremely early . . . something possibly as early as June 1. And as June 1, 1894 fell on a Friday, which times out nicely with Sylvius’s projected timetable for cutting the diamond up in Amsterdam by Sunday, I’m going to place "Mazarin Stone" on that very date.

 

"The Adventure of the Three Gables"

WATSON’S CONTACT WITH HOLMES:
"I had not seen Holmes for some days and had no idea of the new channel into which his activities had been directed."
"I saw no more of Holmes during the day . . ."

REFERENCE TO AN OLD, OLD CASE:
"I believe that my late husband, Mortimer Maberley, was one of your early clients."
"I remember your husband well, madam, though it is some years since he used my services in some trifling matter."

STATE OF HOLMES’S CASELOAD:
"He is one of the Spencer John gang and has taken part in some dirty work of late which I may clear up when I have time."

THE DECLINE OF DOUGLAS MABERLY:
"In a single month I seemed to see my gallant boy turn into a worn-out cynical man."

THE DEATH OF DOUGLAS MABERLY:
"He was attache at Rome, and he died there of pneumonia last month."

ARRIVAL OF DOUGLAS’S THINGS:
"‘Milano.’ ‘Lucerne.’ These are from Italy."
"They are poor Douglas’s things."
"You have not unpacked them? How long have you had them?"
"They arrived last week."

THE DETAILS OF THE MABERLY HOUSE:
"I have been in this house more than a year now, and as I wished to lead a retired life I have seen little of my neighbours. Three days ago I had a call from a man who said that he was a house agent."
"Yesterday the man arrived with the agreement all drawn out."
"You have been in this house a year."
"Nearly two."

THE QUICK WORK OF THE STOCKDALE BUNCH:
"Your letter to me had the 10 P. M. postmark. And yet Susan passes the word to Barney. Barney has time to go to his employer and get instructions; he or she — I incline to the latter from Susan’s grin when she thought I had blundered — forms a plan. Black Steve is called in, and I am warned off by eleven o’clock next morning."

THE BUSTLING, RUBICUND INSPECTOR’S TIME ON THE FORCE:
"In twenty-five years’ experience I have learned my lesson."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
May 26, 1903.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
Near June 1, 1896.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
Sherlock Holmes isn’t acting very much like Sherlock Holmes in this case. He lets Mrs. Maberly search for clues for him. He goes to Langdale Pike for what amounts to the solution to the case. A prize-fighter is involved, but Holmes’s own boxing connections are never brought up. Holmes seems something of a sociality in the way he knows of young Maberly without consulting his commonplace book. Baker Street is never specifically mentioned. There’s just something very wrong about it all, and it should be fairly apparent what that something is:
Sherlock Holmes is not actually involved in this case.
In an earlier Chronology Corner, we saw how Watson was hallucinating Holmes’s presence in March of 1892 during "Wisteria Lodge," and in "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs," he’s taken it a step further. No mere hallucination could account for Holmes’s bizarre behaviour in this case. I would propose that in his attempts to come to grips with Holmes’s loss, Dr. Watson used the royalties from his now successful writing career to set up shop with a new detective as a partner, a pseudo-Sherlock.
"I remember your husband well, madam," the faux-Sherlock lies to Mrs. Maberly at one point, "though it is some years since he used my services in some trifling matter." Luckily for "Sherlock," she had not met Holmes before, as her husband had been one of his early clients.
Mrs. Maberly’s son has died of pneumonia a month earlier in Rome, which isn’t exactly a cold city. The average minimum temperature there in January doesn’t even hit the freezing mark. Sure, one can die of pneumonia any time of the year, but a vital young man like Maberly, even a beaten, heartbroken one probably could use the extra encouragement of winter to die in such a way in Rome.
Christmas is a time for marriage proposals, and an especially tragic time for a rejection. Maberly persists after the object of his affection, insisting that she be his and his alone. A week later, on New Year’s Eve, Douglas Maberly is beaten outside of his former love’s window, winding up lying on that cold London street long enough to catch a chill that will start him on his downward trend. His mother accompanies him to Rome, getting her first taste of travel but seeing her "gallant boy turn into a worn-out cynical man." Once in Rome, all the son does is decline and write, sending the book off to Isadora the moment his pen leaves the last page. Without his vengeful purpose of writing left to sustain him further, Douglas Maberly dies.
His mother returns to London, hires fresh servants (at which time the spy, Susan, enters her household), and a month later, consults "Sherlock Holmes" on Wednesday, March 15, 1893.
Why March 15? You surely didn’t think the prophecy "Beware the ides of March!" was about a mere Roman emperor, did you? It was a warning that future generations would have to endure "The Adventure of the Three Gables."

 

"The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire"

DATE OF THE FIRST NOTE:
"Nov. 19th. "

THE PAST CASE REFERENCES:
"I leaned back and took down the great index volume to which he referred. Holmes balanced it on his knee, and his eyes moved slowly and lovingly over the record of old cases, mixed with the accumulated information of a lifetime."
"Voyage of the Gloria Scott . . . Victor Lynch, the forger. Venomous lizard or gila. Remarkable case, that! Vittoria, the circus belle. Vanderbilt and the Yeggman. Vipers. Vigor, the Hammersmith wonder. Hullo! Hullo! Good old index. You can’t beat it. Listen to this, Watson. Vampirism in Hungary. And again, Vampires in Transylvania."
"Matilda Briggs was not the name of a young woman, Watson. It was a ship which is associated with the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared."

LENGTH OF THE FERGUSON MARRIAGE:
"This gentleman married some five years ago a Peruvian lady the daughter of a Peruvian merchant, whom he had met in connection with the importation of nitrates."

BALLPARK OF THE FIRST FERGUSON MARRIAGE:
"The gentleman had been married twice and he had one son by the first wife. This boy was now fifteen . . . ."

THE WATSONIAN REST PERIOD:
"Send him that wire and let the matter rest till morning."

PERIOD OF THE DOG’S AFFLICTION:
"It may have been four months ago."

AGE OF THE BABY AND THE ATTACK:
"This was a small matter, however, compared with her conduct to her own child, a dear boy just under one year of age. On one occasion about a month ago this child had been left by its nurse . . ."

THE SIMULTANEOUS SPORTS CAREERS:
"Watson played Rugby for Blackheath when I was three-quarter for Richmond."


DURATION OF THE FERUSON RELATIONSHIPS:
"I gather that you did not know your wife well at the time of your marriage?"
"I had only known her a few weeks."
"How long had this maid Dolores been with her?"
"Some years."

STATEMENT OF THE MONTH:
"It was evening of a dull, foggy November day when, having left our bags at the Chequers, Lamberley, we drove through the Sussex clay of a long winding lane and finally reached the isolated and ancient farmhouse in which Ferguson dwelt."

AGE OF THE HOUSE:
"Here, in a huge old-fashioned fireplace with an iron screen behind it dated 1670 . . ."

DATE OF HOLMES’S WRAP-UP:
"Nov. 21st.
"Referring to your letter of the 19th, I beg to state that I have looked into the inquiry of your client, Mr. Robert Ferguson, of Ferguson and Muirhead, tea brokers, of Mincing Lane, and that the matter has been brought to a satisfactory conclusion."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
November 19, 1896.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
November 19, 1896 or 1901.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
When looking for the year of "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire," the best source to begin our search would have to be Holmes’s good old index. That eclectic compendium of criminal data has much to tell the observant scholar, so let’s observe.
"Voyage of the Gloria Scott" comes first. As Holmes’s very first case, that comes as no surprise, but it also tells us there is a certain time-related sequence to the events therein. But at what point did Holmes include "Vampirism in Transylvania"? Well, a good many of his own cases fill the pages before we get to it. Given the relative low occurrence of the letter "V" in phone books, dictionaries, etc., we can safely say that piece wasn’t placed there early in his career. Later in his career, we would expect such data to come less from his studies than from newspapers and periodicals. And why would newspapers and periodicals suddenly be writing about vampires?
Bram Stoker’s Dracula, first published in 1897, would seem the logical inspiration for a sudden return of ancient myths to current events. So if the vampire reference tends to make the case post 1897, where to go from there?
Well, the history of Peru doesn’t look too good up until the early 1890s. Things didn’t really stabilize there until 1895, when a new president stepped in after a year of power struggles. Throw in the five year marriage of the Fergusons, and the most likely year for this case quickly starts to look like 1901, a time when Watson and Holmes were both still at Baker Street.
Given that marvelous London mail service, and the November 19th letter’s delivery by the last post, this one looks like Tuesday, November 19, 1901 to me.

 

"The Adventure of the Three Garridebs"

STATEMENT OF THE MONTH AND YEAR:
"I repeat, however, that this enables me to fix the date, which was the latter end of June, 1902, shortly after the conclusion of the South African War. Holmes had spent several days in bed, as was his habit from time to time . . ."

TIME OF HOLMES’S VISIT TO LITTLE RYDER:
"Well, we shall be round about six."

STATEMENT OF THE SEASON:
"It was twilight of a lovely spring evening, and even Little Ryder Street, one of the smaller offshoots from the Edgware Road, within a stone-cast of old Tyburn Tree of evil memory, looked golden and wonderful in the slanting rays of the setting sun."

MEETING OF THE GARRIDEBS:
"I went after him two days ago and explained the whole matter to him."
"He called last Tuesday."

CRIME AND SENTENCING FOR KILLER EVANS:
"You shot this man Prescott, did you not?"
"Yes, sir, and got five years for it."

OTHER KILLER EVANS FACTS:
"Aged forty-four. . . . Came to London in 1893. Shot a man over cards in a night-club in the Waterloo Road in January, 1895. Man died, but he was shown to have been the aggressor in the row . . . . Killer Evans released in 1901."

NATHAN GARRIDEB’S TENANCY:
"Our client, as he told us, has been there five years. It was unlet for a year before then."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
June 26, 1902.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
June 26, 1902.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
A combination of three factors give us the date of "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs":
1. The case starts two days after the Tuesday meeting of the Garridebs.
2. The case starts in the second half of June 1902.
3. Watson refers to it as spring.
Putting those three factors together gives us one date, and one date only: Thursday, June 19, 1902.
The sun seems to be setting as Holmes gets to Garrideb’s apartment at the pre-arranged time of six o’clock, which doesn’t correspond to near-equinox June whatsoever. This, however, we simply must ascribe to Holmes’s tardiness.

 

"The Problem of Thor Bridge"

STATEMENT OF THE MONTH:
"It was a wild morning in October, and I observed as I was dressing how the last remaining leaves were being whirled from the solitary plane tree which graces the yard behind our house."

WATSON’S PLACE OF RESIDENCE:
"I descended to breakfast prepared to find my companion in depressed spirits . . ."

HOLMES’S RECENT PAST:
"After a month of trivialities and stagnation the wheels move once more."

RECENT HIRINGS AND RECENT PUBLICATIONS:
"There is little to share, but we may discuss it when you have consumed the two hard-boiled eggs with which our new cook has favoured us. Their condition may not be unconnected with the copy of the Family Herald which I observed yesterday upon the hall-table."

THE DATE ON THE LETTER AND THE APPOINTMENT SET:
"October 3rd."
"Well, I’ll come at eleven to-morrow . . ."

J. NEIL GIBSON’S CURRENT FINANCIAL RANKING:
"This man is the greatest financial power in the world."

NEIL GIBSON’S TIME IN HAMPSHIRE:
"He bought a considerable estate in Hampshire some five years ago."

LENGTH OF MARIA PINTO GIBSON’S LOVE:
"She adored me in those English woods as she had adored me twenty years ago on the banks of the Amazon."

THE SEASON REITERATED:
"The sun was setting and turning the rolling Hampshire moor into a wonderful autumnal panorama."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
October 4, 1900.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
October 4, 1901.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
Twenty years before "The Adventure of Thor Bridge," a young, passionate J. Neil Gibson was supposedly gold-hunting on the banks of the Amazon River. As he’s romancing a city official’s daughter, we can probably assume he was hunting gold that other people had already found, hence his time spent in the city, rather than the jungle. In the fifteen years that followed, he returned to the United States and was elected to the U.S. Senate for a number of years. After that (as one wouldn’t think he could get elected with such activities in his past) Gibson broke "communities, cities, even nations" in his rabid pursuit of profit, ruining "ten thousand men" in the process. Having surely made enough enemies in America, Gibson moved to England for five years.
And when Dr. Watson first meets him, J. Neil Gibson is looking a lot like Abraham Lincoln.
Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. As a boy of no more than fourteen at the time of the shocking assassination, Gibson would still regard Lincoln as pure hero, and carry that regard into manhood, doing things like running for Congress and growing a beard to complete his resemblance the Great Emancipator’s best known image, even while indulging in ruthless business practices that were far from Lincoln’s style.
But J. Neil Gibson’s superficial Lincoln-worship didn’t just stop with Congress or a beard. He would also propose to a girl of local social prominence named Mary ("Maria" being the Manaos, Brazil equivalent) at age twenty-nine, just as Lincoln had. Twenty years later, Gibson would regret his arbitrary Lincoln emulating, even though the girl had seemed a perfect catch at the time.
Following this Lincoln-inspired path of J. Neil Gibson’s life, I would place this case in the year 1900, when October 3 fell on a Wednesday, and the case began the following day: Thursday, October 4, 1900.
(This would mean, of course, that the cook had to leave the house to pick up a copy of the Family Herald, which was published on Wednesday, but for the reader ardent enough to screw up breakfast the next morning because she just has to read the latest "love romance," that should pose no problem.)

 

"The Adventure of the Creeping Man"

STATEMENT OF THE WEEKDAY, MONTH, AND YEAR:
"It was one Sunday evening early in September of the year 1903 that I
received one of Holmes’s laconic messages . . ."

TIME UNTIL THE WRITING:
"Mr. Sherlock Holmes was always of opinion that I should publish the singular facts connected with Professor Presbury, if only to dispel once for all the ugly rumours which some twenty years ago agitated the university and were echoed in the learned societies of London."

DATES FROM THE ADMIRABLE BENNETT:
"Thus I have it here that it was on that very day, July 2d, that Roy attacked the professor as he came from his study into the hall. Again, on July 11th, there was a scene of the same sort, and then I have a note of yet another upon July 20th."
"I have said, sir, that it was the night before last—that is, September 4th."
"There was a period of excitement upon August 26th."
"This excellent young man’s diary shows that there was trouble upon July 2d, and from then onward it seems to have been at nine-day intervals, with, so far as I remember, only one exception. Thus the last outbreak upon Friday was on September 3d, which also falls into the series, as did August 26th, which preceded it."

AND ONE FROM HOLMES:
"The date being September 5th . . ."

THE FOLLOWING DAY:
"To-morrow, Mr. Bennett, will certainly see us in Camford."
"Monday morning found us on our way to the famous university town."

THE DAY OF HOLMES’S RETURN:
"Unless I am mistaken, next Tuesday may mark a crisis. Certainly we shall be in Camford on that day."
"I saw nothing of my friend for the next few days, but on the following Monday evening I had a short note asking me to meet him next day at the train."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
September 6, 1903.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
September 6, 1903.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
For a somewhat outlandish tale, "The Adventure of the Creeping Man" could give us no clearer set of dates, all nicely corresponding to the days of the week cited. It was a Sunday early in September of 1903 and "the night before last" was the 4th, so it must be Sunday, September 6, 1903.

 

"The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane"

STATEMENT OF THE MONTH AND YEAR:
"Towards the end of July, 1907, there was a severe gale, the wind blowing up-channel, heaping the seas to the base of the cliffs and leaving a lagoon at the turn of the tide. On the morning of which I speak the wind had abated, and all Nature was newly washed and fresh."

THE DAY OF THE WEEK:
"Tuesday was to-day, and I had meant to meet him to-night."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
July 27, 1909.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
July 27, 1909.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
In dating previous cases, I’ve always followed the motto, "Trust Watson." One can hardly do less with Holmes, as the detective himself would have to be an even more precise observer — and this case is all Holmes. If Sherlock Holmes says there was a gale in late July of 1907, then we can surely assume there was a gale in late July of 1907, even if standard weather historians have missed it. Thus, we can place this case on Tuesday, July 30, 1907, and let disbelievers like Baring-Gould and Zeisler think what they like.

 

"The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger"


THE LENGTH OF HOLMES’S CAREER:
"When one considers that Mr. Sherlock Holmes was in active practice for twenty-three years, and that during seventeen of these I was allowed to cooperate with him and to keep notes of his doings, it will be clear that I have a mass of material at my command."

THE STATEMENT OF THE YEAR:
"One forenoon — it was late in 1896 — I received a hurried note from Holmes asking for my attendance."

LENGTH OF THE VEILED LODGING:
"You say that Mrs. Ronder has been your lodger for seven years and that you have only once seen her face."

THE DAYS OF RONDER:
"He was the rival of Wombwell, and of Sanger, one of the greatest showmen of his day."

THE PERIOD OF THE TRAGEDY:
"On this particular night, seven years ago, they both went, and a very terrible happening followed, the details of which have never been made clear."

WATSON’S LOCATION DURING THE TRAGEDY:
"And yet you were with me then."

THE DOINGS OF THE CIRCUS:
"They were on their way to Wimbledon, travelling by road, and they were simply camping and not exhibiting, as the place is so small a one that it would not have paid them to open."

THE DELAY OF THE INVESTIGATION:
"It was six months before she was fit to give evidence, but the inquest was duly held, with the obvious verdict of death from misadventure."

THE END OF LEONARDO:
"He was drowned last month when bathing near Margate. I saw his death in the paper."

WATSON CHECKS UP ON HOLMES:
"Two days later, when I called upon my friend, he pointed with some pride to a small blue bottle upon his mantelpiece."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
October 1896.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
October 1896.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
Finding the date of "The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger" seems to be intimately connected to finding the date of the original Abbas Parva tragedy. Previous chronologists have used Watson’s presence at Baker Street as a key indicator in this search, but the true answers lie far from that locale, as far away as the circus itself where the tragedy occurred.
Mrs. Ronder’s worsening mental state would have to be attributed to a powerful combination of two events: the death notice of Leonardo the strong man and the coming anniversary of the tragedy itself. So when did the tragedy occur? Though we generally think of circuses running in a season from March to October, I’ve run into at least one source that mentions Boxing Day, December 26, as the official start of the circus season. While that may seem plenty early, Ronder’s fellow showman George Sanger ran his circus for a nine-month season, which — if it indeed began in late December to catch the holiday crowds — would bring it to an end as October rolled around.
If October meant the end of the circus season for Ronder’s Wild Beast Show, it would make sense that Eugenia and Leonardo wanted to kill Ronder before the season’s end, sometime in late September. If the tragedy’s anniversary fell in late September, and Eugenia Ronder’s dread of it began earlier in the month, Leonardo’s death while swimming would have occurred, quite naturally, in August, a fine month for swimming.
As the Ronder show was "camping and not exhibiting" on the night of the tragedy, one would expect it to be a Sunday night — the traditional night off for circuses of the day — as even near a small town, a slavedriver like Ronder would hope to pick up a few coins. With the Wimbledon shows still ahead of them, that would most likely place the tragedy on Sunday, September 22, 1889.
"On this particular night, seven years ago," Holmes says with enough appropriate drama to make one believe that the day Mrs. Merrilow has come to see them is the actual anniversary of the tragedy: Tuesday, September 22, 1896.
(Watson says "it was late in 1896," yes, but the remark is so casual as to let one believe in could be anywhere in the later half of 1896, and September certainly qualifies.)

 

"The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place"

A CURRENT MATTER AND A PAST ONE
"In the St. Pancras case you may remember that a cap was found beside the dead policeman. The accused man denies that it is his. But he is a picture-frame maker who habitually handles glue."
"My friend, Merivale, of the Yard, asked me to look into the case. Since I ran down that coiner by the zinc and copper filings in the seam of his cuff they have begun to realize the importance of the microscope."

WATSON’S FORMER VACATION HOME
"I know it well, for my summer quarters were down there once."

SIR ROBERT’S RIDING PAST:
"He is about the most daredevil rider in England — second in the Grand National a few years back."

STATEMENT OF THE MONTH:
"Thus it was that on a bright May evening Holmes and I found ourselves alone in a first-class carriage and bound for the little "halt-on-demand" station of Shoscombe."

THE RECENCY OF SIR ROBERT’S LATEST OUTRAGE:
"We only found it out yesterday—after I had written to you. Yesterday Sir Robert had gone to London, so Stephens and I went down to the crypt.

LENGTH OF SERVICE OF THE MAID:
"There is her maid, Carrie Evans. She has been with her this five years."

DAYS AND NIGHTS OF MR. JOHN MASON:
"Because I have seen him, Mr. Holmes. It was on that second night."
"We only found it out yesterday — after I had written to you. Yesterday Sir Robert had gone to London, so Stephens and I went down to the crypt."
"We expect him back to-day."
"When did Sir Robert give away his sister’s dog?"
"It was just a week ago to-day."

THE TIMING OF SIR ROBERT’S STORY:
"Well, Mr. Holmes, my sister did die just a week ago."
"If I could stave things off for three weeks all would be well."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
May 6, 1902.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
May 6, 1902.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
"The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place" begins in May, according to Watson, and two weeks and one day before the Derby, according to Sir Robert’s desire for three week’s time when his sister died. To figure out which year Sir Robert’s Derby took place, one could calculate the phases of the moon, the times the moon would rise on all the appropriate evenings and the amount of light each of those moonrises would project through recorded cloud cover in Berkshire. Or one could take the route Holmes takes in this case and just go fishing.
Wait a minute . . . Holmes goes fishing during this case? He hasn’t been fishing since Trevor senior first put him on to the detective biz, way back in "The Gloria Scott"! Sherlock Holmes suddenly deciding to go fishing while on the job is a perfect example of what a 9-to-5 office denizen would call "vacation mode." He can see the finish line, and he’s starting to slack off in anticipation of it. He’s headed for that life of nature in Sussex, and sees an opportunity to slip a little nature in early.
On that basis, and that basis alone, this case has to take place in 1903, the detective’s last year in active practice. Derby Day in 1903 took place on June 3, which then places the case’s beginning two weeks and a day earlier on Tuesday, May 26, 1903.

 

"The Adventure of the Retired Colourman"

THE YEARS OF HIS LIFE:
"He made his little pile, retired from business at the age of sixty-one . . ."
"Retired in 1896, Watson. Early in 1897 he married a woman twenty years younger than himself — a good-looking woman, too, if the photograph does not flatter. A competence, a wife, leisure — it seemed a straight road which lay before him. And yet within two years he is, as you have seen, as broken and miserable a creature as crawls beneath the sun."
"The couple went off together last week."

HOLMES’S OTHER CASE:
"You know that I am preoccupied with this case of the two Coptic Patriarchs, which should come to a head to-day."

THE STATEMENT OF THE SEASON:
"And so it was that on a summer afternoon I set forth to Lewisham, little dreaming that within a week the affair in which I was engaging would be the eager debate of all England."

THE ENTERTAINMENT CALENDAR:
"On that particular evening old Amberley, wishing to give his wife a treat, had taken two upper circle seats at the Haymarket Theatre."
"Carina sings to-night at the Albert Hall."

WATSON’S PLACE OF RESIDENCE:
"In the morning I was up betimes, but some toast crumbs and two empty egg-shells told me that my companion was earlier still."

THE SCHEDULE OF THE PAPER:
"A couple of days later my friend tossed across to me a copy of the bi-weekly North Surrey Observer."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
Thursday, July 28, 1898.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
July or August 1898.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY’S TIMETABLE:
The summer of 1898 was not a good time for Sherlock Holmes. In mid-August, his too-late deciphering of the "Dancing Men" code had resulted in a man’s death and the horrible wounding of his wife. Was that event the cause of his melancholy at the beginning of "Retired Colourman" and words like "But is not all life pathetic and futile?" I think so.
Other chronologers have used the closing of Barrie’s "The Little Minister" at the Haymarket theater as their base in dating this case, but as the ticket Amberly shows Watson is for a seat that didn’t exist in the Haymarket as we know it, that seems a bit more unreliable than Holmes’s sincere depression occurring so near to a tragedy which he himself could have stopped.
As bi-weekly newspapers tend to have a mid-week edition in my experience, and five days (one for Carina, one for Little Purlington, one for the arrest, and two for the paper to come out) prior to that gives us Saturday, the perfect evening for Holmes to distract himself with a concert, I’m going to place this case on Saturday, August 20, 1898.

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