The Chronology Corner (Hound, Valley, Last)

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The Hound of the Baskervilles

MORTIMER’S TERM OF SERVICE AT CHARING CROSS:
"Mortimer, James, M.R.C.S., 1882, Grimpen, Dartmoor, Devon. House surgeon, from 1882 to 1884, at Charing Cross Hospital."
"And he left five years ago—the date is on the stick."
"Just under the head was a broad silver band, nearly an inch across. "To James Mortimer, M.R.C.S., from his friends of the C.C.H.," was engraved upon it, with the date ‘1884.’"

THE DATE OF SIR CHARLES’S DEATH:
"This is the Devon County Chronicle of May 14th of this year. It is a short account of the facts elicited at the death of Sir Charles Baskerville which occurred a few days before that date."

OUT OF THE COUNTRY IN MAY:
"I had observed some newspaper comment at the time, but I was exceedingly preoccupied by that little affair of the Vatican cameos, and in my anxiety to oblige the Pope I lost touch with several interesting English cases."

TIME PASSES IN LONDON:
"How long will it take you to make up your mind?"
"Twenty-four hours. At ten o’clock to-morrow, Dr. Mortimer, I will be much obliged to you if you will call upon me here, and it will be of help to me in my plans for the future if you will bring Sir Henry Baskerville with you."

ANOTHER PAST CASE:
"Ah, Wilson, I see you have not forgotten the little case in which I had the good fortune to help you? . . . I have some recollection, Wilson, that you had among your boys a lad named Cartwright, who showed some ability during the investigation."

DAY OF DEPARTURE FOR BASKERVILLE HALL:
"To go to Baskerville Hall."
"And when?"
"At the end of the week."
"Then on Saturday, unless you hear to the contrary, we shall meet at the ten-thirty train from Paddington."

AND THE TIME UNTIL THAT DEPARTURE:
"I have made some inquiries myself in the last few days . . ."
"I can swear to one thing, and that is that we have not been shadowed during the last two days."

A "MILVERTON" REARING HIS UGLY HEAD:
"At the present instant one of the most revered names in England is being besmirched by a blackmailer, and only I can stop a disastrous scandal."

LENGTH OF TIME SELDEN HAD BEEN LOOSE WHEN WATSON ARRIVED:
"There’s a convict escaped from Princetown, sir. He’s been out three days now ..."

THE DATE ON WATSON’S FIRST LETTER:
" October 13th"

TIME SINCE SELDEN’S ESCAPE AT THAT WRITING:
"A fortnight has passed since his flight . . ."

THE DATE ON WATSON’S SECOND LETTER:
"Oct. 15th."

THE DINNER DATE DAY:
"We are to dine at Merripit House next Friday . . ."

THE SEASON REITERATED:
"We hurried through the dark shrubbery, amid the dull moaning of the autumn wind and the rustle of the falling leaves."

THE CURRENT DATE:
The extract from my private diary which forms the last chapter has brought my narrative up to the eighteenth of October, a time when these strange events began to move swiftly towards their terrible conclusion.

AFTER THE CASE:
"It was the end of November, and Holmes and I sat, upon a raw and foggy night, on either side of a blazing fire in our sitting-room in Baker Street. Since the tragic upshot of our visit to Devonshire he had been engaged in two affairs of the utmost importance, in the first of which he had exposed the atrocious conduct of Colonel Upwood in connection with the famous card scandal of the Nonpareil Club, while in the second he had defended the unfortunate Mme. Montpensier from the charge of murder which hung over her in connection with the death of her step-daughter, Mlle. Carere, the young lady who, as it will be remembered, was found six months later alive and married in New York."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
September 25, 1888.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
September 25, 1900.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
The math on this one seems pretty straightforward: 1884 plus "five years ago" gives you 1889. October 15 minus a fortnight, plus three days (courtesy of Watson’s diary and the convict escape references), rounding it to a nearby Saturday for the train trip to Dartmoor, and you get October 5 for the travel day. Subtract two days without anyone following Sir Henry, back up one day to the day they were followed, and back up one more day to Mortimer’s visit with Holmes and Watson . . . the result?

Tuesday, October 1, 1889.

Baring-Gould once went with that same date, but the "What about Watson’s marriage?" crowd pressured him into a change of heart. Given Watson’s marital track record as we’ve seen it thus far, however, I’d hate to discount anything as plain as the above mathematics for the sake of domestic bliss that may in doubt anyway. Tuesday, October 1, 1889, it is!

 

The Valley of Fear

WATSON’S KNOWLEDGE OF MORIARTY:
"You have heard me speak of Professor Moriarty?"

PORLOCK’S PAST PERFORMANCE:
"Led on by some rudimentary aspirations towards right, and encouraged by the judicious stimulation of an occasional ten-pound note sent to him by devious methods, he has once or twice given me advance information which has been of value—that highest value which anticipates and prevents rather than avenges crime."

THE STATEMENT OF THE MONTH AND DAY:
"Being the seventh of January, we have very properly laid in the new almanac."

THE STATEMENT OF THE DECADE:
"Those were the early days at the end of the ‘80’s, when Alec MacDonald was far from having attained the national fame which he has now achieved."

MACDONALD’S PAST PERFORMANCE:
"Twice already in his career had Holmes helped him to attain success . . ."

THE LENGTH OF THE MORIARTY STUDY COURSE:
"Sometime when you have a year or two to spare I commend to you the study of Professor Moriarty."

THE STATE OF HOLMES’S CAREER ACTIVITY:
"A long series of sterile weeks lay behind us, and here at last there was a fitting object for those remarkable powers . . ."

WATSON’S LITERARY FAME:
"I am sure we are honoured by your presence and to show you all we know," said White Mason cordially. "Come along, Dr. Watson, and when the time comes we’ll all hope for a place in your book."
"We thought that it was probably you, as your friendship with Mr. Sherlock Holmes is so well known."
"He took a good look at us all, and then to my amazement he advanced to me and handed me a bundle of paper. ‘I’ve heard of you . . . You are the
historian of this bunch. Well, Dr. Watson, you’ve never had such a story as that pass through your hands before, and I’ll lay my last dollar on that. Tell it your own way; but there are the facts, and you can’t miss the public so long as you have those. "I’ve been cooped up two days, and I’ve spent the daylight hours— as much daylight as I could get in that rat trap — in putting the thing into words. You’re welcome to them — you and your public. There’s the story of the Valley of Fear."

THE YEARS OF DOUGLAS’S LIFE:
"He had been engaged five years before, when Douglas first came to Birlstone."
"How long were you with Douglas in California?"
"Five years altogether."
"Then when he left so suddenly for Europe . . ."
"That was six years ago?"
"Nearer seven."
"And then you were together five years in California, so that this business dates back not less than eleven years at the least?"
"That is so."
"I guessed I’d fight through it all right on my own, my luck was a proverb in the States about ‘76."

IMPRISONMENT OF THE SCOWRERS:
"For ten years they were out of the world, and then came a day when they were free once more . . ."

THE TIME OF THE INTENDED READING:
"And now, my long-suffering readers . . . I wish you to journey back some twenty years in time . . ."
"It was the fourth of February in the year 1875."

BIRDY EDWARDS’S AGE AT THAT TIME:
"He is . . . not far, one would guess, from his thirtieth year."

THE TIME OF THE EPILOGUE:
"Two months had gone by, and the case had to some extent passed from our minds."
"They started together for South Africa in the Palmyra three weeks ago . . . The ship reached Cape Town last night."

HOLMES’S VOW TO BEAT MORIARTY:
"I don’t say that he can’t be beat. But you must give me time — you must give me time!"

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
January 7, 1888.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
January 7, 1888.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
We start this tale with a very clear month and day: January 7. The year would then seem a simple calculation using all the dates of John Douglas/Birdy Edwards. He took down the Scowrers in 1875. Scowrer associates who weren’t imprisoned chased him from Chicago (his bit of luck in 1876). He spent five years in California (making it 1881), then "nearly seven" in England, making it early 1888.
As A Study in Scarlet was published in December of 1887, Watson would have been undergoing his first flush of notoriety as an author in January of 1888, and although the general public wouldn’t have taken to him just yet, you can bet the men of Scotland Yard were all reading about their friends Lestrade and Gregson. Some, like MacDonald, probably even looked forward to a place in Watson’s next book, as his comments show. No mention of short stories just yet!
The Moriarty question is worth mentioning in dating this tale, as Watson’s seeming ignorance of him in "The Final Problem" in 1891 seems to weigh heavily against this case’s authenticity. But looking at Scotland Yard’s treatment of Holmes’s view of Moriarty between the two stories is enlightening on that point. In "The Valley of Fear," the men of the Yard think Holmes has "a bee in his bonnet" about Moriarty. It’s pretty much a joke to them, and Moriarty himself isn’t taking Holmes seriously either. Moriarty might even still have his university chair at this time. Holmes is rather frustrated about the whole thing, as his comments at the tale’s end demonstrate.
By the time of "The Final Problem," however, Holmes seems to have convinced the police of Moriarty’s guilt and the now "ex-Professor" himself now views Holmes as a threat. (One wonders if Holmes wasn’t responsible for those "dark rumors" which cost Moriarty his University job.) But years have passed, in which a married-and-gone Watson has had time to forget about the "scientific criminal" that no one ever took Holmes seriously about. Watson’s quote of Holmes saying, "You never heard . . . ?" was probably a paraphrase of "You don’t remember . . . ?"
Whatever Watson’s reasons for the slip, this case seems pretty solid in starting on Saturday, January 7, 1888.

 

"The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge"

STATEMENT OF THE MONTH AND YEAR:
"I find it recorded in my notebook that it was a bleak and windy day towards the end of March in the year 1892."
"It is late in March, so quarter-day is at hand."
"It was a cold, dark March evening, with a sharp wind and a fine rain beating upon our faces, a fit setting for the wild common over which our road passed and the tragic goal to which it led us."
"It was about five o’clock, and the shadows of the March evening were beginning to fall, when an excited rustic rushed into our room."

THE INVITATION AND THE VISIT:
"Within two days of our meeting he came to see me at Lee. One thing led to another, and it ended in his inviting me out to spend a few days at his house, Wisteria Lodge, between Esher and Oxshott. Yesterday evening I went to Esher to fulfil this engagement."

DURATION OF THE INVESTIGATION:
"Day succeeded day, and my friend took no step forward. One morning he spent in town, and I learned from a casual reference that he had visited the British Museum."
"I’m sure, Watson, a week in the country will be invaluable to you."
"I must admit, however, that I was somewhat surprised when, some five days after the crime, I opened my morning paper to find in large letters . . ."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
March 24, 1890.

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

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
It’s March, that much seems pretty plain. It’s March when the case begins, and it’s March five days later when the case ends. Quarter-day, March 25, is "at hand." Getting as close as we can "towards the end of March," remaining before quarter-day, and having five days left for the investigation, Thursday, March 24, 1892 seems the best candidate for this case’s beginning.
That’s the easy part with this case. The hard part is explaining just how it is that Sherlock Holmes is at Baker Street during the time he was thought dead to all of his countrymen but one, and was, in reality, travelling through Asia. Personally, I’ve always been of the opinion that Watson didn’t take Holmes’s death all that well. He even attempted to carry on the consulting detective business himself for a while, which added to the strain placed upon him. His wife wasn’t in the best of health, as she doesn’t seem to have lived through Holmes’s hiatus. And Mycroft has Mrs. Hudson keeping Holmes’s rooms just as if the detective still lives there. Put all that together, and what do you get?
Watson cracked. In Watson’s mind, Holmes was with him during the investigation of "Wisteria Lodge." (And a couple of Chronology Corners from now, we’ll see that Holmes wasn’t the only person in the story whose presence was a Watsonian delusion.) It explains why Baynes seems to be doing all the work in this case, and Holmes’s peculiar distance from it ... he was, in fact, very, very distant from it altogether. (For those of you who hate to see poor Watson gone temporarily insane, call it an astral projection from the real Holmes who was meditating in Tibet. That works, too.)

 

"The Adventure of the Cardboard Box"

THE STATEMENT OF THE MONTH:
"It was a blazing hot day in August."

THE STATE OF WATSON’S FINANCES:
"A depleted bank account had caused me to postpone my holiday ..."

SOME CURRENT EVENTS:
"Parliament had risen. Everybody was out of town, and I yearned for the glades of the New Forest or the shingle of Southsea.

THE DAY OF THE CASE:
"To-day is Friday. The packet was posted on Thursday morning. The tragedy, then, occurred on Wednesday or Tuesday, or earlier."

WATSON’S PUBLISHED WORKS:
"The case," said Sherlock Holmes as we chatted over our cigars that night in our rooms at Baker Street, "is one where, as in the investigations which you have chronicled under the names of ‘A Study in Scarlet’ and of ‘The Sign of Four,’ we have been compelled to reason backward from effects to causes."

THE BOAT SCHEDULE:
"It had been ascertained at the shipping offices that Browner had left aboard of the May Day, and I calculate that she is due in the Thames to-morrow night."
"I went down to the Albert Dock yesterday at 6 P.M., and boarded the S. S. May Day, belonging to the Liverpool, Dublin, and London Steam Packet Company."

A PREVIOUS CASE WITH LESTRADE:
"He is a big, powerful chap, clean-shaven, and very swarthy—something like Aldridge, who helped us in the bogus laundry affair."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
August 31, 1889.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
August 10, 1888.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
The curious thing about "Cardboard Box" is the way Watson is living the bachelor life at Baker Street, complaining of his weak bank account and reminiscing about his days in the military, yet he’s already written both STUD and SIGN. That fact alone means the tale could not have occurred before August of 1889 (according to my own dating of SIGN), but however you date it, Watson did pick up a wife in SIGN, and that wife is now absent.
As CARD was originally published as the second story of the Memoirs series, during Holmes’s 1891-1894 hiatus (in the beginning of which, Watson also had a wife), the latest August in which the events could have taken place would be that of 1890.
So when was it, August 1889 or August 1890? And why was Watson at Baker Street while his wife was obviously a part of the "everybody" who was out of town? For the answers, we need only look to Cox and Company, and the sadly empty account Watson kept there along with his tin dispatch box.
In "The Sign of the Four," when Watson met Mary Morstan, he complained of being "an army surgeon with a weak leg and a weaker banking account." And once he let romance sweep him into marriage and active medical practice, his fortunes did not immediately change. By August of 1889, the good doctor needed an influx of capital and, as luck would have it, an opportunity presented itself. This opportunity, however, would require him both to stay in town during his planned holiday *and* require him to curry Holmes’s favor a bit, so a stay at Baker Street would definitely be in order.
Using that rationale, I would have to place this case’s beginning on Friday, August 30, 1889 — the day Watson’s literary agent signed to contract to publish The Sign of the Four.
P.S. The brisk and capable Dr. Wood has pointed out to me that the possibilities for a train ride between Liverpool and New Brighton weren’t likely before 1891. Yet with "Cardboard Box" being published in January 1893 and the whole Holmes hiatus thing, that fact seems to leave us with another Watsonian faux pas. But in pondering this conundrum, it suddenly struck me that Watson isn’t the man who claimed a train went from Liverpool to New Brighton. The man who made that statement was Jim Browner, a drunkard whose head was known to "have all Niagara whizzing and buzzing" in it. Maybe the kill-crazed Browner *thought* he was on a train instead of a river ferry, with all the noises in his head. Maybe he like to refer to seats as "cars." Whatever the case, I must trust Watson over a madman transcribed by a Scotland Yard clerk of unknown abilities.

 

"The Adventure of the Red Circle"

THE STATE OF HOLMES’S BUSINESS:
"I really have other things to engage me."
"So spoke Sherlock Holmes and turned back to the great scrapbook in which he was arranging and indexing some of his recent material."

A PREVIOUS CASE:
"You arranged an affair for a lodger of mine last year," she said — "Mr. Fairdale Hobbs."

LUCCA’S ARRIVAL:
"You say that the man came ten days ago and paid you for a fortnight’s board and lodging?"
"He has been there for ten days, and neither Mr. Warren, nor I, nor the girl has once set eyes upon him."

HOLMES’S DAILY ROUTINE:
"He took down the great book in which, day by day, he filed the agony columns of the various London journals."

THE SCHEDULE OF PERSONAL ADS:
"That is two days after Mrs. Warren’s lodger arrived."
"Yes, here we are — three days later."
"Nothing for a week after that. Then comes something much more definite ..."
"That was in yesterday’s paper, and there is nothing in to-day’s."

MRS. WARREN’S TIME AT HER CURRENT RESIDENCE:
"Well, we’ve lived there fifteen years and no such happenings ever came before."

STATEMENT OF THE SEASON:
". . . the gloom of a London winter evening had thickened into one gray curtain . . ."

THE LUCCAS’ AMERICAN PERIOD:
"We fled together, were married at Bari, and sold my jewels to gain the money which would take us to America. This was four years ago, and we have been in New York ever since."

THE STATEMENT OF THE NIGHT, BY COMPOSER:
"By the way, it is not eight o’clock, and a Wagner night at Covent Garden! If we hurry, we might be in time for the second act."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
September 24, 1902.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
Winter 1895-1901.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
"Winter" is the only plain reference to the date Watson gives us in this tale, and a very weak reference it is. Holmes mentions "Wagner night at Convent Garden," but was he necessarily referring to Richard Wagner? For all we know he could have known a cellist named Violet Wagner whose part in the orchestra he especially liked to hear no matter what was being played. So we must once again turn to the subtler details to date this case.
Holmes claims he has "other things to engage me," but does he really mean other cases? Given the focused, driven aspect of Holmes’s personality, would he be pasting clippings into his scrapbook if he really had a case to occupy him? In fact, the very act of clipping agony columns to past in a scrapbook fairly sings of a younger Holmes, just starting out in his career, taking in all possible data which might be useful to him. For the later, busier Holmes of the 1890s, clipping agony columns surely didn’t balance benefits versus time spent enough to really be of profit to him.
Another sign of a younger Holmes is the way Sherlock is excited to meet the Pinkerton, Mr. Leverton, who seems to be the famous one in that exchange. Leverton doesn’t appear to have heard of Holmes at all, while Holmes is quite the fan.
A third element that marks this as an earlier case is Inspector Gregson. Gregson doesn’t make any documentable appearances after Holmes’s hiatus that ended in 1894. He is the first detective in the Canon to summon Holmes. He is Scotland Yard’s smartest in Holmes’s opinion, and the two men get along wonderfully. Which leads one to wonder why Holmes was working with Lestrade alone at the time of "The Final Problem." We see Gregson investigating organized crime in REDC and suddenly he’s gone in FINA, a tale of Holmes’s biggest battle against organized crime. Might Gregson have been killed by Moriarty during the late 1880s? I think so. Past "Greek Interpreter" in 1888, Watson only mentions Gregson in "Wisteria Lodge" in 1892 — a case wherein Watson was hallucinating the presence of Holmes himself, another of Moriarty’s victims. I think the Gregson of 1892 might have even been a ghost from Watson’s distraught mind overlaid upon another Scotland Yarder.
Yet why is this younger Holmes so reluctant to look into Mrs. Warren’s case? In those days he was all for the commonplace matters and not being put off by anyone’s personal qualities. The best excuse I can find for young Holmes looking to spend a lazy day at Baker Street is that it’s his birthday, and with that, and the previous considerations in mind, I’m going to place this one on Tuesday, January 6, 1885.

 

"The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans"

THE EXPLANATION OF THE DATE:
"In the third week of November, in the year 1895, a dense yellow fog settled down upon London. From the Monday to the Thursday I doubt whether it was ever possible from our windows in Baker Street to see the loom of the opposite houses. The first day Holmes had spent in cross-indexing his huge book of references. The second and third had been patiently occupied upon a subject which he had recently made his hobby — the music of the Middle Ages. But when, for the fourth time, after pushing back our chairs from breakfast we saw the greasy, heavy brown swirl still drifting past us and condensing in oily drops upon the window-panes . . ."

THE DAYS OF WEST’S LIFE AND DEATH:
"Cadogan West was the young man who was found dead on the Underground on Tuesday morning."
"He left Woolwich suddenly on Monday night."

REITERATION OF THE MONTH:
"All the long November evening I waited, filled with impatience for his return."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
November 21, 1895.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
November 21, 1895.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
Occasionally Watson likes to give us poor chronologists a break, and "Bruce-Partington Plans" is just such an occasion.
November of 1895 starts on a Friday, so the Thursday falling in the third week of that month is indisputably Thursday, November 21, 1895. Were all Watson’s records like this, Sherlockian chronologers would be out of a job.

 

"The Adventure of the Dying Detective"

THE MARRIAGE TO GUIDE US:
"I listened earnestly to her story when she came to my rooms in the second year of my married life . . ."

LENGTH OF HOLMES’S ILLNESS:
"For three days he has been sinking, and I doubt if he will last the day."
"For these three days neither food nor drink has passed his lips."
"Poor Victor was a dead man on the fourth day — a strong, hearty young fellow."

THE STATEMENT OF THE DAY:
"He took to his bed on Wednesday afternoon and has never moved since."
"Do you remember a box—an ivory box? It came on Wednesday."

THE STATEMENT OF THE MONTH:
"In the dim light of a foggy November day the sick room was a gloomy spot, but it was that gaunt, wasted face staring at me from the bed which sent a chill to my heart."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
November 19, 1887.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
November 29, 1890.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
"The Adventure of the Dying Detective" — was it just another case, or the last one Holmes ever undertook at Baker Street?
Previous chronologists have tried to shoehorn this case into the 1880s, thinking that the "second year" of Watson’s married life puts it past the end of Holmes’s career when Watson’s latest marriage is used as a guide. But at its most basic level, the phrase "in the second year" simply means that the case fell after his first wedding anniversary, which leaves it as hardly any impediment to that later period at all.
And there is much about "The Dying Detective" that feels like a later story: Holmes’s certainty of his friends’ reactions to his illness. His use of Morton instead of Lestrade, a good friend in those later days who might not have let him pull his charade on Watson. The sureness with which Watson expects he can get any doctor in London to treat Sherlock Holmes. And the simple fact that all the other tales in His Last Bow (with the notable exception of CARD, for well-known reasons) occur in the later period of Holmes’s career.
We know from "Illustrious Client" that Watson had moved out of Baker Street by September of 1902. As Holmes says later that Watson deserted him for a wife, we know that Watson’s move was at least preparatory for a marriage, if not due to the marriage itself. In September of 1903, Holmes is investigating "The Adventure of the Creeping Man," which is "One of the very last cases handled by Holmes before his retirement from practice."
But not "the" last case.
One intriguing fact about "The Adventure of the Dying Detective" is that Holmes might not have really been investigating anything at all when it came upon him. He seems to have aired some opinions about Victor Savage’s death, which Victor’s uncle has taken exception to, but we have no real evidence that Holmes was ever wandering dockside alleys looking into anything. Indeed, his later fictions en route to convincing Mrs. Hudson and Dr. Watson of his illness would make the Rotherhithe story seem just another ruse.
In September of 1903, Watson has begun publishing the "Return" stories, so the public knows Holmes is alive again. With that unwanted publicity, any thoughts of retirement Sherlock Holmes was holding onto probably took center stage. By November of 1903, he might have even been packing for Sussex (which, given the litter upon his bedroom mantelpiece, wouldn’t be surprising). But when a criminal attempts your life by sending you a poisoned box in the mail, you just have to do something about it.
"It was clear to me, however, that by pretending that he had really succeeded in his design I might surprise a confession," Holmes explains at the case’s end. "That pretence I have carried out with the thoroughness of the true artist."
It is his last little cock-a-doodle-doo of victory, to be followed by one last victory dinner at Simpson’s.
Since Holmes took to his bed on Wednesday afternoon, then was "sinking" and not eating or drinking for three whole days, I’m going to also buck the chronology crowd on the day of this one and say Sunday was the day Mrs. Hudson came to Watson for help. And as Holmes wouldn’t be too excited about staying in a Strand-Magazine-filled London for any longer than he had to, I’m going to set it on the first Sunday of the month it occurred: November 8, 1903.
(An interesting corroboration of sorts: while no new Holmes cases were published in 1912 or 1914-1916, "Dying Detective" appeared in November 1913 — on the tenth anniversary of the actual case.)

 

"The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax"

ONE EXCELLENT QUESTION FROM HOLMES:
"Why the relaxing and expensive Turkish rather than the invigorating home-made article?"

AND AN EXCELLENT ANSWER FROM WATSON:
"Because for the last few days I have been feeling rheumatic and old. A Turkish bath is what we call an alterative in medicine — a fresh starting-point, a cleanser of the system."

ANOTHER EXCELLENT QUESTION FROM HOLMES:
"You say that you have had it because you need a change. Let me suggest that you take one. How would Lausanne do, my dear Watson — first-class tickets and all expenses paid on a princely scale?"

WATSON’S TRIP BEGINS:
"Two days later found me at the Hotel National at Lausanne, where I received every courtesy at the hands of M. Moser, the well-known manager."

GREEN’S TIME ON THE JOB IN LONDON:
"For two days the Hon. Philip Green (he was, I may mention, the son of the famous admiral of that name who commanded the Sea of Azof fleet in the Crimean War) brought us no news."

LIFESPAN OF AN OLD NURSE:
"We brought her round here, called in Dr. Horsom, of 13 Firbank Villas — mind you take the address, Mr. Holmes — and had her carefully tended, as Christian folk should. On the third day she died . . ."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
July 1, 1902.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
August 1895 or 1897-1901.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
The hard chronological evidence in "Lady France Carfax" is scant indeed: No years. No months. No days of the week. What we do get, however, is a Watson living at Baker Street who feels old and in need of a change. We also have a Holmes who wants to know why anyone would favor a Turkish bath to the convenience and efficiency of the homemade article. Is that enough evidence to fix a date for this case? It just might be.
September 3 of 1902, we find Holmes and Watson enjoying a Turkish bath at a time when Watson has moved out to his own rooms in Queen Anne Street, in "Illustrious Client." Holmes has obviously been intrigued by Watson’s earlier recommendation. In June of that same year, Holmes refuses a knighthood and Watson gets shot in the leg by Killer Evans. It’s the kind of thing that gets you thinking, "I’m too old for this business," and I’d wager that in July of 1902, that’s exactly what Watson was thinking. It was time for a "fresh starting point."
Holmes, on the other hand, probably feeling more than a little guilt for getting Watson shot. And what would please Watson more than a first-class trip to Europe and the chance to rescue a damsel in distress?
Giving Watson’s wound a bit of time to heal, taking Saturday as the day Watson might pick for a thoroughly cleansing bath prior to a big night on the town, and considering Monday as a natural day for arriving in Lausanne to begin an investigation, I’d have to place this case on Saturday, July 26, 1902.

 

"The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot"

THE DAY PERMISSION WAS GRANTED:
"It was, then, with considerable surprise that I received a telegram from Holmes last Tuesday . . ."

THE STATEMENT OF THE SEASON, YEAR, AND MONTH:
"It was, then, in the spring of the year 1897 that Holmes’s iron constitution showed some symptoms of giving way in the face of constant hard work of a most exacting kind, aggravated, perhaps, by occasional indiscretions of his own. In March of that year Dr. Moore Agar, of Harley Street, whose dramatic introduction to Holmes I may some day recount, gave positive injunctions that the famous private agent lay aside all his cases and surrender himself to complete rest if he wished to avert an absolute breakdown."

TIME OF THE WRITING:
"Now, after thirteen years, I will give the true details of this inconceivable affair to the public."

DATE OF PUBLICATION:
December 1910.

DAY THE CASE BEGINS:
"These were the two men who entered abruptly into our little sitting-room on Tuesday, March the 16th, shortly after our breakfast hour . . ."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
March 16, 1897.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
April 17, 1897.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
Here’s a tale where the quirkiness of Ernest B. Zeisler’s chronology really comes through. Watson tells us that the case began on "Tuesday, March the 16th" in "the spring of the year 1897." Could it be any more plainly stated?
Yet out of all that, Zeisler homes in on the word "spring." March 16th is not spring, he contends. He then accepts Watson’s judgment of when spring is over Watson’s judgement of when Tuesday, March 16th, is. Personally, I think Watson was probably better with days and dates than vernal equinoxes. But Zeisler, being a "millennium isn’t until 2001" kind of guy, just can’t let our good doctor call March 16th spring.
I can.
Tuesday, March 16, 1897, it is.

 

"His Last Bow"

THE STATEMENT OF DAY AND MONTH:
"It was nine o’clock at night upon the second of August—the most terrible August in the history of the world."

THE STATEMENT OF THE MONTH AND YEAR:
"Well, I chose August for the word, and 1914 for the figures, and here we are."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
August 2, 1914.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
August 2, 1914.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
While "His Last Bow" might be a harbinger of war as far as its place in history, when it comes to chronology this tale is a moment of truce between every Sherlockian chronologist past and present. It’s is the only tale where every blessed one of them agrees to the year, month, and day of the case. It’s hard to argue with both Watson and the start of World War One, and I shan’t attempt it either.
Sunday, August 2, 1914 it is.

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