The Chronology Corner (Memoirs)

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"Silver Blaze"

THE BAKER STREET SCENE
" . . . as we sat down together to our breakfast one morning."

DAYS OF OUR LIVES
"Such was the general situation last Monday night when the catastrophe occurred."
"On Tuesday evening I received telegrams from both Colonel Ross, the owner of the horse, and from Inspector Gregory, who is looking after the case, inviting my cooperation."
"Tuesday evening! And this is Thursday morning. Why didn’t you go down yesterday?"
"It is obvious, therefore, that there were many people who had the strongest interest in preventing Silver Blaze from being there at the fall of the flag next Tuesday."
"Four days later Holmes and I were again in the train, bound for Winchester to see the race for the Wessex Cup."

VAGUE REFERENCE TO WATSON’S WORKS:
"Because I made a blunder, my dear Watson — which is, I am afraid, a more common occurrence than anyone would think who only knew me through your memoirs."

AGE OF SILVER BLAZE
"He is now in his fifth year . . ."

THE TIMES OF RESIDENCE
"We have found traces which show that a party of gypsies encamped on Monday night within a mile of the spot where the murder took place. On Tuesday they were gone."
"He has twice lodged at Tavistock in the summer."

THE SEASON
"In every other direction the low curves of the moor, bronze-coloured from the fading ferns, stretched away to the sky-line, broken only by the steeples of Tavistock . . ."

THE HORSES OF THE MATTER
"Wessex Plate [it ran] 50 sovs. each h ft with 1000 sovs. added, for four and five year olds. Second, L300. Third, L200. New course (one mile and five furlongs).
"1. Mr. Heath Newton’s The Negro. Red cap. Cinnamon jacket.
"2. Colonel Wardlaw’s Pugilist. Pink cap. Blue and black jacket.
"3. Lord Backwater’s Desborough. Yellow cap and sleeves.
"4. Colonel Ross’s Silver Blaze. Black cap. Red jacket.
"5. Duke of Balmoral’s Iris. Yellow and black stripes.
"6. Lord Singleford’s Rasper. Purple cap. Black sleeves."

COLONEL ROSS’S YEARS ON THE TURF:
"I have been on the turf for twenty years . . ."

JOHN STRAKER’S WORK HISTORY:
"He has served the colonel for five years as jockey and for seven as trainer."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
September 25, 1890

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY SAYS:
July 12, 1888

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY’S TIMETABLE:
Placing the year of "Silver Blaze" is another great challenge for the Sherlockian chronologist. It appears to take place before Watson started marrying, but beyond that, there seems little clue. (The reference to Watson’s memoirs is easily discounted, as Holmes could have said such a thing before Watson had written anything, basing it solely on Watson’s over-positive opinion of Holmes.) The thread I grabbed to follow through this tangled skein was the six horses of the Wessex Plate race. As four and five year olds, we know they were all born four to five years before the race. And as they were born, they were also named.
Now, a horse’s name can be a plain thing. Silver Blaze and the Negro were obviously named for their coloration. Pugilist was plainly called that in hopes he’d be a fighter. But what of the others? Why, for example, would Lord Backwater name his horse "Desborough"?
Consider what we know about Backwater — he’s a friend of Lord Balmoral’s family, as we saw in "Noble Bachelor." (Both men having horses in this race is but one more sign of their close friendship.) He’s also something of a romantic, as he is Lord St. Simon’s advisor when his bride disappears, and has also agreed to be Sir Robert’s intended host for his honeymoon. Backwater’s romantic tendencies plainly extended to his reading tastes, for in 1884, a Scottish novelist named Annie Swan had a novel published called "Mark Desborough’s Vow." Ms. Swan was a writer of idealized romances, and the romantic Backwater was so enthralled by the character of Mark Desborough that he named his horse after him.
Then we come to the Duke of Balmoral and his horse, Iris. From the data provided by Watson in "Noble Bachelor," we know that the Duke of Balmoral was not doing too well financially, even having to sell his pictures at some point. He was plainly searching for any business venture that might bring him much needed funds, and my theory is that the Duke named his horse Iris in 1884 to impress one James Wilkes, a toolmaker who was going out on his own in London that year and founding a company named "Wilkes Iris" to make irises for microscopes. Business did not boom immediately for Wilkes, who even had to turn to making cigarette lighters at some point to make ends meet, so the Duke’s interest in the company probably didn’t last much longer than the time it took to name the race horse, but name it "Iris" he did.
Taking the naming of the horses into account that places this case in the area of 1888-1889. But where to go from there?
The fading ferns, the ear-flapped cap — these are signs of autumn cold setting in. But when in autumn? Going by Canonical example alone, The Hound of the Baskervilles has the Dartmoor foliage fading by early October. As Watson is so solidly married (by his own dates) in autumn 1889, this places us in fall of 1888. And the fall of 1888 was a very busy time for Sherlock Holmes, if only for one reason: Jack the Ripper. Striking on August 31, September 8, twice on September 30, and then one last time on November 8, Jack was the one criminal who could not be ignored by anyone in London.
Sherlock Holmes’s distraction is evident from the way he ignores summonses from Colonel Ross and Inspector Gregory, though eventually he does go. That last part indicates some time has passed since the September 30th murder, yet with the still-fading foliage, November 8th (and the time after it to investigate) has not yet come. Given such considerations, and the days Watson gives us, I’d have to say the case begins on Thursday, October 25, 1888.

 

"The Yellow Face"

HOLMES’S CURRENT STATE:
"Few men were capable of greater muscular effort, and he was undoubtedly one of the finest boxers of his weight that I have ever seen."

THE FRIENDSHIP’S CURRENT STATE:
"For two hours we rambled about together, in silence for the most part, as befits two men who know each other intimately. It was nearly five before we were back in Baker Street once more."

NATURE’S CURRENT STATE:
"One day in early spring he had so far relaxed as to go for a walk with me in the Park, where the first faint shoots of green were breaking out upon the elms, and the sticky spear-heads of the chestnuts were just beginning to burst into their fivefold leaves."

GRANT MUNRO’S AGE:
"I should have put him at about thirty, though he was really some years older."

EFFIE MUNRO’S AGE:
"I am a married man and have been so for three years.
"She was a widow when I met her first, though quite young—only twenty-five."
"She had only been six months at Pinner when I met her; we fell in love with each other, and we married a few weeks afterwards."

THE TIMETABLE OF THE NEW NEIGHBOURS:
"Well, about six weeks ago she came to me."
"Well, last Monday evening I was taking a stroll down that way when I met
an empty van coming up the lane . . . it was clear that the cottage had
at last been let."
"All the rest of the night I tossed and tumbled, framing theory after theory, each more unlikely than the last."
"I should have gone to the City that day, but I was too disturbed in my
mind to be able to pay attention to business matters . . ."
"For two days after this I stayed at home . . . . On the third day, however, I had ample evidence that her solemn promise was not enough to hold her back from this secret influence which drew her away from her husband and her duty.
"I had gone into town on that day . . ."
"That was yesterday, Mr. Holmes . . ."
"In that case I shall come out to-morrow and talk it over with you. But we had not a very long time to wait for that. It came just as we had finished our tea."

PHOTO TIME FOR THE MUNROS:
". . . a full-length photograph of my wife, which had been taken at my request only three months ago."

WHAT ZEISLER, KING OF CHRONOLOGY SAYS:
A Saturday near April 1, 1885 or 1886

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
Saturday, April 7, 1888THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY’S TIMETABLE:
When placing this case in the years of Holmes and Watson’s cohabitation, much has been made of Watson’s words, "we rambled about together, in silence for the most part, as befits two men who know each other intimately." But their current level of intimacy really make any difference to Sherlock Holmes, who kept to himself on a regular basis? Watson didn’t have any choice but to become comfortable with Holmes’s silences very quickly, so I don’t think that line can fairly be used as a solid criteria for dating the tale.
Much more important, in my mind, is the reference to Holmes’s incredible strength and boxing ability. According to A Study in Scarlet, Watson learned of Holmes’s boxing abilities before he knew of Holmes’s line of work. As boxing was one of the few points of social contact Holmes engaged in during college, it’s not surprising that he and Watson made contact on that point early on. We know Holmes was boxing actively four years before The Sign of the Four, but past that, there is little evidence of it.
Going by Holmes’s physical condition, and Watson’s comments on it, I would have to date this case as early as possible, before the drug experimentation, before the cases that would cause him to collapse utterly. In 1883, at the time of SPEC, we know Holmes’s strength was poker-bendingly healthy, and that surely held out until 1884. Why 1884?
Starting with the day Grant Munro’s neighbors moved in, a Monday, it is easy to count the days in this story and find that Munro called upon Holmes on a Saturday. Which Saturday?
Well, there’s that photo that Grant asked his wife to have taken of her "three months before." And when would a man be asking his wife for a photograph? Christmas naturally suggests itself, and that would be the time Munro would think of as when his wife had it taken, regardless of when the actual photo session was. And three months later puts us right in that time when those green shoots are appearing on the trees: Saturday, March 29, 1884.
(Why 1884, and not 1883? Because in 1883 three months after Christmas would put this case at the same time as "Speckled Band" was set at in an earlier Chronology Corner.)

 

"The Stockbroker’s Clerk"

THE STATE OF WATSON’S CAREER AND MARRIAGE:
"Shortly after my marriage I had bought a connection in the Paddington district."
"I had confidence, however, in my own youth and energy and was convinced that in a very few years the concern would be as flourishing as ever."
"For three months after taking over the practice I was kept very closely at work and saw little of my friend Sherlock Holmes, for I was too busy to visit Baker Street, and he seldom went anywhere himself save upon professional business."

STATEMENT OF THE MONTH:
"I was surprised, therefore, when, one morning in June, as I sat reading the British Medical Journal after breakfast, I heard a ring at the bell, followed by the high, somewhat strident tones of my old companion’s voice."
"You had, then, been sitting with your feet outstretched to the fire, which a man would hardly do even in so wet a June as this if he were in his full health."

SIGNIFICANT REFERENCE TO A PRIOR CASE:
"I trust that Mrs. Watson has entirely recovered from all the little excitements connected with our adventure of the Sign of Four."

STATEMENT OF THE SEASON AND WATSON’S HEALTH:
"Summer colds are always a little trying."
"I was confined to the house by a severe chill for three days last week."

THE TIMELINE OF HALL PYCROFT’S CAREER:
"I used to have a billet at Coxon & Woodhouse’s, of Draper Gardens, but they were let in early in the spring through the Venezuelan loan, as no doubt you remember, and came a nasty cropper. I have been with them five years, and old Coxon gave me a ripping good testimonial when the smash came, but of course we clerks were all turned adrift, the twenty-seven of us. I tried here and tried there, but there were lots of other chaps on the same lay as myself, and it was a perfect frost for a long time. I had been taking three pounds a week at Coxon’s, and I had saved about seventy of them, but I soon worked my way through that and out at the other end. I was fairly at the end of my tether at last, and could hardly find the stamps to answer the advertisements or the envelopes to stick them to. I had worn out my boots paddling up office stairs, and I seemed just as far from getting a billet as ever."

THE DAYS OF PYCROFT’S NEW JOB(S):
"At last I saw a vacancy at Mawson & Williams’s . . .I sent in my testimonial and application, but without the least hope of getting it. Back came an answer by return, saying that if I would appear next Monday I might take over my new duties at once, provided that my appearance was satisfactory."
"When do you go to Mawson’s?"
"On Monday."
"Be in Birmingham to-morrow at one."
"Stick at it, and let me have the lists by Monday, at twelve."
"All Sunday I was kept hard at work, and yet by Monday I had only got as far as H. I went round to my employer . . . and was told to keep at it until Wednesday, and then come again. On Wednesday it was still unfinished, so I hammered away until Friday — that is, yesterday."
"And you can come up to-morrow evening at seven and let me know how you are getting on. Don’t overwork yourself. A couple of hours at Day’s Music Hall in the evening would do you no harm after your labours."

HOLMES AND WATSON ENTER THE TIMELINE:
"At seven o’clock that evening we were walking, the three of us, down Corporation Street to the company’s offices."

THE CURRENT DAY RECONFIRMED:
"It is customary at Mawson’s for the clerks to leave at midday on Saturday."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
June 15, 1889

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
June 15, 1889

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
Trusting Dr. Watson’s narrative, we can pull two undisputable references from "Stockbroker’s Clerk": that it was June, and it was a Saturday. Beyond those, the next most important chronological details would seem to be these three: (1) the case occurs after The Sign of the Four, (2) the three month duration of Watson’s marriage, and (3) the fact Watson hasn’t seen Holmes at all in that time, as he builds his practice.
Taking those last three details into account, and simply looking at the dates which the Smash has already assigned to the cases we’ve looked at thus far, the starting date of STOC is fairly plain: Saturday, June 1, 1889.
(Once more I’m taking Holmes and Watson’s weather reporting as a somewhat subjective phenomenon, and allowing that a man can reasonable say "so wet a June as this" at any given time during the month, even the very first day.)

 

"The ‘Gloria Scott’"

SEASON OF THE TELLING:
"I have some papers here," said my friend Sherlock Holmes as we sat one winter’s night on either side of the fire."
"I had often endeavoured to elicit from my companion what had first turned his mind in the direction of criminal research, but had never caught him before in a communicative humour."
"Those are the facts of the case, Doctor, and if they are of any use to your collection, I am sure that they are very heartily at your service."

POINT IN HOLMES’S CAREER:
"But why did you say just now that there were very particular reasons why I should study this case?"
"Because it was the first in which I was ever engaged."

POINT IN HOLMES’S EDUCATION:
"You never heard me talk of Victor Trevor? He was the only friend I made during the two years I was at college . . . and that only through the accident of his bull terrier freezing on to my ankle one morning as I went down to chapel.
"I was laid by the heels for ten days."
"Before the end of the term we were close friends."
"Finally he invited me down to his father’s place at Donnithorpe, in Norfolk, and I accepted his hospitality for a month of the long vacation."

SPORTING OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE:
"There was excellent wild-duck shooting in the fens, remarkably good fishing . . ."

HOLMES’S DEPARTURE FROM DONNITHORPE:
"At last I became so convinced that I was causing him uneasiness that I drew my visit to a close."
"All this occurred during the first month of the long vacation. I went up to my London rooms, where I spent seven weeks working out a few experiments in organic chemistry. One day, however, when the autumn was far advanced and the vacation drawing to a close, I received a telegram from my friend imploring me to return to Donnithorpe . . ."
"He met me with the dog-cart at the station, and I saw at a glance that
the last two months had been very trying ones for him.

THE DATING OF THE GLORIA SCOTT:
"Some particulars of the voyage of the bark Gloria Scott, from her leaving Falmouth on the 8th October, 1855, to her destruction in N. Lat. 15 degrees 20’, W. Long. 25 degrees 14’, on Nov. 6th."
"It was the year ‘55, when the Crimean War was at its height, and the old convict ships had been largely used as transports in the Black Sea."

YEARS PAST SINCE THE SHIP’S DESTRUCTION:
"Why, it’s thirty year and more since I saw you last."
"The case might have been dealt leniently with, but the laws were more harshly administered thirty years ago than now, and on my twenty-third birthday I found myself chained as a felon with thirty-seven other convicts in the ‘tween-decks of the bark Gloria Scott, bound for Australia."
"We prospered, we travelled, we came back as rich colonials to England, and we bought country estates. For more than twenty years we have led peaceful and useful lives, and we hoped that our past was forever buried."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
July 12, 1874.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
Summer 1876.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY’S TIMETABLE:
Here’s a fascinating little problem. Trevor distinctly dates the destruction of the Gloria Scott on November 6, 1855. He backs up the general period with the statement that the Crimean War was at its height, which it was in 1855. Yet both he and Hudson refer to that experience as being thirty years ago, which means this case would occur in 1885 . . . while Holmes and Watson were together.
Previous chronologers have dismissed the thirty years as a mutual mistake on the parts of Hudson and Trevor, but what about young Trevor, the physical evidence of those twenty peaceful years in England? The elder Trevor needed more than a few years to find fortune, travel, and eventually feel changed enough to head back to England as a colonial. He thought his past was well behind him, and that means his wife and son were certainly additions to his life after the return to England.
But what if the "thirty years" was not a mistake, but a simple rounding up of a number like twenty-seven or twenty-eight? Sound reasonable enough. In fact, any comparison between the 1850s and the 1880s would seem a bit like three decades, wouldn’t it? Of course, that would make Sherlock Holmes a college student when he first met Dr. Watson . . . but what was it Watson wrote in A Study in Scarlet?
"There was only one student in the room . . ."
Holmes speaks of coming back to his London rooms from Donnithorpe, most probably his Montague Street rooms (which we’ll later learn he had when he "first came up to London"), where he works on organic chemistry, much as he was doing when Watson first met him. Back when we were discussing A Study in Scarlet, I became convinced that Holmes and Watson first met in the summer of 1881. Would it be so impossible, then, that Holmes’s vacation in Donnithorpe took place in the summer of 1880?
Since Holmes’s trip to Donnithorpe begins with the traditional English university long vacation, I’m going to place both the trip and this case on Saturday, July 3, 1880.

 

"The Musgrave Ritual"

TIME PASSES ON BAKER STREET:
"It was only once in every year or two that he would muster energy to docket and arrange them." "Month after month his papers accumulated until every corner of the room was stacked with bundles of manuscript which were on no account to be burned, and which could not be put away save by their owner."

SEASON OF THE TELLING:
"I have some papers here," said my friend Sherlock Holmes as we sat together by the fire, I ventured to suggest to him that, as he had finished pasting extracts into his commonplace book, he might employ the next two hours in making our room a little more habitable."

THE STORY’S PLACE IN HOLMES’S BOX OF CASES: "Here’s the record of the Tarleton murders, and the case of Vamberry, the wine merchant, and the adventure of the old Russian woman, and the singular affair of the aluminum crutch, as well as a full account of Ricoletti of the club-foot, and his abominable wife. And here—ah, now, this really is something a little recherche." "He dived his arm down to the bottom of the chest . . ."

REFERENCES TO OTHER CASES:
"You may remember how the affair of the Gloria Scott, and my conversation with the unhappy man whose fate I told you of, first turned my attention in the direction of the profession which has become my life’s work." "Even when you knew me first, at the time of the affair which you have commemorated in ‘A Study in Scarlet,’ I had already established a considerable, though not a very lucrative, connection."

HOLMES’S RESIDENCE AT THE TIME OF THE CASE: "When I first came up to London I had rooms in Montague Street, just round the corner from the British Museum . . ."

THE SOURCE OF THE CASE:
"Now and again cases came in my way, principally through the introduction of old fellow-students, for during my last years at the university there was a good deal of talk there about myself and my methods. The third of these cases was that of the Musgrave Ritual . . ."

LENGTH OF TIME SINCE HOLMES SAW MUSGRAVE: "For four years I had seen nothing of him until one morning he walked into my room in Montague Street."
TIME SINCE MUSGRAVE’S FATHER DIED:
"He was carried off about two years ago."

THE MONTHS OF BRUNTON’S LOVE LIFE:
"A few months ago we were in hopes that he was about to settle down again, for he became engaged to Rachel Howells, our second housemaid; but he has thrown her over since then and taken up with Janet Tregellis . . ."

THE SOMETIMES-SUPPRESSED COUPLET:
"What was the month?"
"Sixth from the first."

THE DAY MUSGRAVE CATCHES BRUNTON:
"One day last week—on Thursday night, to be more exact."

BRUNTON’S PLEA FOR TIME:
"Only a week, sir? A fortnight—say at least a fortnight!"

THE DAYS AFTER MUSGRAVE CAUGHT BRUNTON:
"For two days after this Brunton was most assiduous in his attention to his duties. I made no allusion to what had passed and waited with some curiosity to see how he would cover his disgrace. On the third morning, however, he did not appear . . ."


DAYS AFTER BRUNTON’S DISAPPEARANCE THAT RACHEL DISAPPEARS:
"For two days Rachel Howells had been so ill, sometimes delirious, sometimes hysterical, that a nurse had been employed to sit up with her at night. On the third night after Brunton’s disappearance, the nurse, finding her patient sleeping nicely, had dropped into a nap . . ."

DAYS AFTER RACHEL’S DISAPPEARANCE BEFORE HOLMES CALLED IN:
"Although we made every possible search and inquiry yesterday, we know nothing of the fate either of Rachel Howells or of Richard Brunton."

HOLMES GETS DOWN TO BUSINESS:
"The same afternoon saw us both at Hurlstone."

ORIGINS OF HURLSTONE:
"Over the low, heavy-lintelled door, in the centre of this old part, is chiselled the date, 1607, but experts are agreed that the beams and stonework are really much older than this."

AGE OF THE OAK:
"It was there at the Norman Conquest in all probability."

TIME WITHOUT AN ELM:
"It was struck by lightning ten years ago."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
October 2, 1879.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
October 2, 1879.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY’S TIMETABLE:
This pretty little puzzle was handled with such impressive mathematical and cosmological skill by Ernest Bloomfield Zeisler that even Baring-Gould bowed to his mastery in The Annotated Sherlock Holmes. But the Smash must follow a different path, as always, and this time that path leads all the way back to Charles the First.
"What was the month?" asks the ancient ritual, in a passage mysteriously suppressed in many editions. The answer: "Sixth from the first." And while others might debate what exactly was the first month on the calendar back in 1649 A.D., my preferred thought is that "the first" refers to the man whom this whole ritual revolves around: Charles the First. While some might argue that he wasn’t called "Charles the First" immediately following his death, the passage merely refers to "the first," and, indeed, Charles was first in the minds of his followers, and as Holmes says, the advent of Charles II was already foreseen. Charles the First died on January 30, 1649. Six months later would have been June 30.
After dating "The Gloria Scott" in July of 1880 and discussed Holmes meeting Watson in the summer of 1881 back when A Study in Scarlet was the topic, it seems that I’m going to have to go with June of 1881 for this case’s placement. Brunton begs for "at least a fortnight" more on the job, presumably to finish his treasure hunt — a treasure hunt that needs to be performed on as close to June 30th as possible. A fortnight (fourteen days) before that is June 16th, a Thursday. (How perfect is that? Brunton was discovered on a Thursday.) Counting the days in Musgrave’s narrative, it then follows that Holmes took up the case on Thursday, June 23, 1881 — just in time to recreate the ritual on his own.

 

"The Reigate Squires"

A YEAR, A MONTH, AND A DAY
"It was some time before the health of my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes recovered from the strain caused by his immense exertions in the spring of ‘87."
"On referring to my notes I see that it was upon the fourteenth of April that I received a telegram from Lyons which informed me that Holmes was lying ill in the Hotel Dulong. Within twenty-four hours I was in his sick-room and was relieved to find that there was nothing formidable in his symptoms. Even his iron constitution, however, had broken down under the strain of an investigation which had extended over two months, during which period he had never worked less than fifteen hours a day and had more than once, as he assured me, kept to his task for five days at a stretch."

BACK TO BAKER STREET, OFF TO REIGATE
"Three days later we were back in Baker Street together . . . a week after our return from Lyons we were under the colonel’s roof."

THE DAY OF THE BURGLARY
"Old Acton, who is one of our county magnates, had his house broken into last Monday."

CUNNINGHAM CORRECTS HOLMES’S BOGUS NOTE
"You see you begin, ‘Whereas, at about a quarter to one on Tuesday morning an attempt was made,’ and so on. It was at a quarter to twelve, as a matter of fact."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
April 14, 1887.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
April 25, 1887.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY’S TIMETABLE:
Watson begins the sequence of events leading to "Reigate Squires" with an exact date that Canonical chronologists do not dispute in the least: Thursday, April 14, 1887. Watson made it to Holmes’s bedside by the 15th, they were back in Baker Street by the 18th, and in Reigate a week later, on Monday the 25th, a week after old Acton’s house was burgled. That night at 11:45 William Kirwan is killed, which Holmes purposefully mis-writes as 12:45 Tuesday morning.
The only question is when does one consider that the case actually started? When we first hear of Holmes on the 14th? Upon hearing of the Acton burglary on the 25th? Or when Holmes actually gets involved on the 26th? Personally, I’ll take Tuesday, April 26, 1887.

 

"The Crooked Man"

STATE OF WATSON’S MARRIAGE AND CAREER:
"One summer night, a few months after my marriage, I was seated by my own hearth smoking a last pipe and nodding over a novel, for my day’s work had been an exhausting one. My wife had already gone upstairs, and the sound of the locking of the hall door some time before told me that the servants had also retired."

TIME OF HOLMES’S VISIT:
"It was a quarter to twelve."

SIGNIFICANT OBSERVATITIONS FROM HOLMES:
"You still smoke the Arcadia mixture of your bachelor days, then! There’s no mistaking that fluffy ash upon your coat. It’s easy to tell that you have been accustomed to wear a uniform, Watson."

WATSON’S CURRENT SUBSTITUTE:
"I have no doubt Jackson would take my practice."

DURATION OF THE BARCLAY MARRIAGE:
"I may add that she was a woman of great beauty, and that even now, when she has been married for upward of thirty years, she is still of a striking and queenly appearance."

DURATION OF BARCLAY’S COMMISSION:
"It was commanded up to Monday night by James Barclay, a gallant veteran, who started as a full private, was raised to commissioned rank for his bravery at the time of the Mutiny."

DURATION OF BARCLAY’S RESIDENCE:
"The first battalion of the Royal Munsters (which is the old One Hundred and Seventeenth) has been stationed at Aldershot for some years. The married officers live out of barracks, and the colonel has during all this time occupied a villa called ‘Lachine,’ about half a mile from the north camp."

THE DAY OF THE CRIME:
"Now for the events at Lachine between nine and ten on the evening of last Monday."

THE DAY OF THE INVESTIGATION:
"That was the state of things, Watson, when upon the Tuesday morning I, at the request of Major Murphy, went down to Aldershot to supplement the efforts of the police."

DURATION OF WOOD’S SUPPOSED DEATH:
"I thought you had been dead this thirty years, Henry."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
September 11, 1889.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
June 26, 1889.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
With the Sepoy Mutiny beginning in 1857, and Mrs. Barclay’s clear statement that she thought Henry Wood had been dead for thirty years (and she had better reason to remember than anyone), the logical year for this case would be 1887. (Holmes’s statement of "upward of thirty years" has to be taken as an estimation — he’s good, but he doesn’t track wedding anniversaries.) Beyond that, one must look to the details of Watson’s married life, and, as always, that’s where it gets tricky.
While other chronologers have gone with 1889, Anstruther seemed to be Watson’s fill-in doctor that particular summer, as we have seen in "The Boscombe Valley Mystery," and Watson is using Jackson in this case. Holmes’s reference to Watson’s military career and bachelor days also mark this as a tale from earlier times, when Watson had only been married for the first time and was still not so long out of uniform. His wife then, was that Mrs. Watson from "Five Orange Pips" who went on a visit to her mother’s and never seems to have returned. Watson is more easily tired in those early days, still showing the effects of the war. Looking at the above details, 1887 still seems a likely choice for the year. As for the day within that year?
Well, a few months have passed since Watson’s marriage, a marriage that had obviously not taken place at the time of "Reigate Squires" in the last part of April. Watson’s attentions seem totally unencumbered by romance as he takes Holmes to the country in that tale, so I would even go so far as to say that he had yet to meet his future wife (or at least had yet to start dating her).
It’s also not long before Mrs. Watson runs off to her mother’s, I’d wager, as Watson is exhausted yet still not headed for the bedroom at nearly midnight. Definitely sounds like trouble in paradise. The "long series of cases" dealt with by Holmes and Watson in 1887 probably didn’t help matters any, and Holmes’s sudden appearance that Wednesday morning at breakfast may have been the last straw, sending the current Mrs. Watson packing for mother’s house.
Given all of the above, I’d place this case on Tuesday, August 30, 1887.

 

"The Resident Patient"

STATEMENT OF THE MONTH:
"It had been a close, rainy day in October."

CURRENT STATE OF LONDON:
"The paper was uninteresting. Parliament had risen. Everybody was out of town, and I yearned for the glades of the New Forest or the shingle of Southsea." A depleted bank account had caused me to postpone my holiday."

CURRENT STATE OF WATSON’S CAREER:
"You are yourself, I presume, a medical man?"
"A retired army surgeon."

THE START OF TREVELYAN’S PRACTICE:
"I won’t weary you with the account of how we bargained and negotiated. It ended in my moving into the house next Lady Day, and starting in practice on very much the same conditions as he had suggested."
"A few good cases and the reputation which I had won in the hospital brought me rapidly to the front, and during the last few years I have made him a rich man."
"Some weeks ago Mr. Blessington came down to me in, as it seemed to me, a state of considerable agitation. He spoke of some burglary which, he said, had been committed in the West End . . . For a week he continued to be in a peculiar state of restlessness . . . ."
"Two days ago I received the letter which I now read to you."
"He proposes to call at about a quarter-past six to-morrow evening . . ."
"You can imagine my amazement when, at the very same hour this evening, they both came marching into my consulting-room . . ."

THE YEAR OF THE ORIGINAL CRIME:
"This was in 1875. They were all five arrested, but the evidence against them was by no means conclusive. This Blessington or Sutton, who was the worst of the gang, turned informer. On his evidence Cartwright was hanged and the other three got fifteen years apiece. When they got out the other day, which was some years before their full term, they set themselves, as you perceive, to hunt down the traitor and to avenge the death of their comrade upon him."

DISTANCE OF WATSON’S WRITING FROM THE CASE:
"From that night nothing has been seen of the three murderers by the police, and it is surmised at Scotland Yard that they were among the passengers of the ill-fated steamer Norah Creina, which was lost some years ago with all hands upon the Portuguese coast, some leagues to the north of Oporto."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
October 6, 1886.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
October 29, 1887.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY’S TIMETABLE:
It’s October. It’s before 1890. Watson is seriously depressed, in that way that only a man who has been without female companionship for some time can be depressed. The year 1887 seems full of female contact for Watson, if past Chronology Corners are to be believed, and Watson’s feelings of being cooped up in the sitting room sound a lot like the early Watson of Baker Street, still nursing his post-war health. Given the fact that they wouldn’t have let the Worthingdon bank gang out of prison *too* early, I’ll have to place this case in 1886.
As to the day in 1886, the heat seems to indicate earlier in the month, the kaliedoscope of evening activity on the Strand seems to say Saturday night. Based entirely on those thoughts and a touch of male intuition, I’m going to call this one taking place on Saturday, October 2, 1886.

 

"The Greek Interpreter"

TIME HOLMES AND WATSON HAVE BEEN FRIENDS:
"During my long and intimate acquaintance with Mr. Sherlock Holmes I had never
heard him refer to his relations, and hardly ever to his own early life."

THE SEASON OF THE CASE:
"It was after tea on a summer evening . . ."

A SIGNIFICANT ORBITAL COMMENT:
"The conversation, which had roamed in a desultory, spasmodic fashion from golf clubs to the causes of the change in the obliquity of the ecliptic . . ."

THE NIGHT OF THE CASE:
"This is Wednesday evening," said Mr. Melas. "Well, then, it was Monday
night — only two days ago, you understand — that all this happened."

THE RESIDENTS OF 221B:
"We had reached our house in Baker Street . . ."

AND A MUCH LATER EVENT:
"Months afterwards a curious newspaper cutting reached us from Buda-Pesth."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
September 12, 1888.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
August 15, 1888.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY’S TIMETABLE:
The obliquity of the ecliptic isn’t something that comes up every day in casual conversation. In fact, it really is only particularly pertinent on two days of the year: the summer solstice and the winter solstice, the high and low points of the Earth’s cock-eyed spin around the sun. Well, we know it’s summer. We know that summer solstice usually occurs on June 21. And we know it’s Wednesday. The only pre-Reichenbach date on which the summer solstice occurs on a Wednesday is in 1882 — far too early for Holmes and Watson to have had a "long and intimate acquaintance."
The years 1887 and 1888 are somewhat likely candidates, as Wednesday falls the day after and the day before summer solstice, respectively, in those years. But Holmes, being a forward-thinking individual, was most likely anticipating the solstice that would occur in the early morning hours of the next day. Therefore, I’m calling this one as beginning on Wednesday, June 20, 1888.

 

"The Naval Treaty"

THE MARRIAGE CONNECTION:
"The July which immediately succeeded my marriage was made memorable by three cases of interest, in which I had the privilege of being associated with Sherlock Holmes and of studying his methods. I find them recorded in my notes under the headings of ‘The Adventure of the Second Stain,’ ‘The Adventure of the Naval Treaty,’ and ‘The Adventure of the Tired Captain.’"

THE TIME FOR TELLING SECOND STAIN:
"The new century will have come, however, before the story can be safely told."

THE DATE OF THE TREATY PASSING:
"Nearly ten weeks ago—to be more accurate, on the twenty-third of May— he called me into his private room, and, after complimenting me on the good work which I had done, he informed me that he had a new commission of trust for me to execute."

DURATION OF THE BRAIN FEVER:
"Here I have lain, Mr. Holmes, for over nine weeks, unconscious, and raving with brain-fever."

WATSON’S POINT IN GETTING TO KNOW HOLMES:
"I had never before seen him show any keen interest in natural objects."

THE SLOW SEASON FOR THE MEDICAL BUSINESS:
"I was going to say that my practice could get along very well for a day or two, since it is the slackest time in the year."

COUNTING HOLMES’S CASES:
"On the contrary," said Holmes, "out of my last fifty-three cases my name has only appeared in four, and the police have had all the credit in forty-nine."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
July 30, 1889.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
July 29, 1889.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY’S TIMETABLE:
While the time of year in "The Naval Treaty" seems abundantly clear from Percy Phelps’s tale, again we come to a case where the dating of Watson’s marriage would seem to be necessary to pinpointing the year. Of course, with evidence in other cases of a Watson marriage in both 1887 and 1889, choices still have to be made. As Holmes has but fifty-three cases on his books in which he worked with the police at this point, I have to take the earlier choice on this one.
Given the facts that Watson said this case took place in July, that the last day of July 1887 is exactly ten weeks past the theft of the treaty (which took place "nearly ten weeks ago," and that the case seems to take three days, I’d have to put the start of this case at Friday, July 29, 1887.

 

"The Final Problem"

THE DATES OF THE NEWSPAPER ACCOUNTS:
"As far as I know, there have been only three accounts in the public press: that in the Journal de Geneve on May 6th, 1891, the Reuter’s dispatch in the English papers on May 7th, and finally the recent letters to which I have alluded."

THE MARRIAGE, 1890, AND THE DATE OF THE CASE:
"It may be remembered that after my marriage, and my subsequent start in private practice, the very intimate relations which had existed between Holmes and myself became to some extent modified. He still came to me from time to time when he desired a companion in his investigations, but these occasions grew more and more seldom, until I find that in the year 1890 there were only three cases of which I retain any record. During the winter of that year and the early spring of 1891, I saw in the papers that he had been engaged by the French government upon a matter of supreme importance, and I received two notes from Holmes, dated from Narbonne and from Nimes, from which I gathered that his stay in France was likely to be a long one. It was with some surprise, therefore, that I saw him walk into my consulting-room upon the evening of April 24th."

THE MORIARTY CAMPAIGN:
"You crossed my path on the fourth of January,’ said he. ‘On the twenty-third you incommoded me; by the middle of February I was seriously inconvenienced by you; at the end of March I was absolutely hampered in my plans; and now, at the close of April, I find myself placed in such a position through your continual persecution that I am in positive danger of losing my liberty.’"

THE TIMETABLE FOR ENDING MORIARTY’S REIGN:
"This morning the last steps were taken, and three days only were wanted to complete the business."
"’You must drop it, Mr. Holmes,’ said he, swaying his face about. ‘You really must, you know.’
"’After Monday,’ said I."

THE EUROPEAN TOUR DATES:
"We made our way to Brussels that night and spent two days there, moving on upon the third day as far as Strasbourg. On the Monday morning Holmes had telegraphed to the London police . . ."
"For a charming week we wandered up the valley of the Rhone, and then, branching off at Leuk, we made our way over the Gemmi Pass, still deep in snow, and so, by way of Interlaken, to Meiringen."
"It was on the third of May that we reached the little village of Meiringen ... on the afternoon of the fourth we set off together, with the intention of crossing the hills and spending the night at the hamlet of Rosenlaui. We had strict injunctions, however, on no account to pass the falls of Reichenbach . . ."

WHAT THE BARING-GOULD ANNOTATED SAYS:
April 24, 1891.

WHAT ZEISLER, THE KING OF CHRONOLOGY, SAYS:
April 24, 1891.

THE BIRLSTONE RAILWAY TIMETABLE:
Some things you just can’t argue with. Gravity. Semi-trucks. The dating of "The Final Problem." The only fellow ever to try it was named J. Christ (J. Finley Christ, to be specific, but you can see why he might have tried to pull off a miracle of chronology). Me, I’m going with Watson’s clear and accurate dates. This one starts on Friday, April 24, 1891.

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