July 3, Saturday -- "The Gloria
June 23, Thursday -- "The Musgrave
July 16, 1881, Saturday -- Holmes meets Watson in Chapter One of A
Study in Scarlet
April 1, Sunday -- "The
Speckled Band" (Y-M)
March 4, Tuesday -- The investigation of A
Study in Scarlet (M-D-Wd)
March 29, Saturday -- "The Yellow
January 6, Tuesday -- "The
Red Circle" (S)
February 26, Friday -- "The
Beryl Coronet" (M-Wd)
October 2, Saturday -- "The Resident
April 26, Tuesday -- "The Reigate
July 19, Tuesday -- "The Second
July 29, Friday -- "The Naval
August 30, Tuesday -- "The Crooked
September 16, Friday -- "The
Five Orange Pips" (Y-M)
October 6, Thursday -- "The
Noble Bachelor" (M-D-Y)
January 7, Saturday -- The
Valley of Fear (M-D)
March 20, Tuesday -- "A
Scandal in Bohemia" (M-D-Y)
April 16, Monday -- "A
Case of Identity" (Wd)
June 20, Wednesday -- "The Greek
September 4, Tuesday -- The
Sign of the Four (M)
October 25, Thursday -- "Silver
June 1, Saturday -- "The Stock-brokers
June 8, Saturday -- "The
Boscombe Valley Mystery" (M-D-Wd)
June 21, Friday -- "The
Man with the Twisted Lip" (M-D-Y-Wd)
June 30, Sunday -- "The
Engineers Thumb" (Y-S)
August 30, Friday -- "The
Cardboard Box" (M-Wd)
October 1, Tuesday -- The
Hound of the Baskervilles (M-D-Wd-S)
December 27, Friday -- "The
Blue Carbuncle" (M-D)
March 18, Tuesday -- "The
October 11, Saturday -- "The
Red-Headed League" (M-D-Y)
January 12, Monday -- "Charles
Augustus Milverton" (D-S)
April 23, Friday -- "The Final
March 24, Thursday -- "Wisteria
March 15, Wednesday -- "Three
April 3, Tuesday -- "The Empty
June 1, Friday -- "The Mazarin
August 1, Wednesday -- "The
Norwood Builder" (M)
November 23, Friday -- "The
Gold Pince-nez" (Y-M)
April 20, Saturday -- "The
Solitary Cyclist" (M-D-Y-Wd)
May 6, Monday -- "The Three
July 10, Wednesday -- "Black
November 21, Thursday -- "The
Bruce-Partington Plans" (M-Y)
September 22, Tuesday -- "The
Veiled Lodger" (Y)
February 6, Saturday -- "The
Missing Three-Quarter" (M)
February 15, Monday -- "Abbey
March 16, Tuesday -- "The
Devils Foot" (Y-M-Wd)
July 25, Monday -- "The Dancing
August 20, Saturday -- "The
Retired Colourman" (Y-S)
October 4, Thursday -- "Thor
May 16, Thursday -- "Priory
November 19, Tuesday -- "The
Sussex Vampire" (M-D)
June 4, Wednesday -- "The Six
June 19, Thursday -- "The Three
July 26, Saturday -- "The
Disappearance of Lady Francis Carfax"
September 3, Wednesday -- "The
Illustrious Client" (M-D-Y)
January 21, Wednesday -- "The
Blanched Soldier" (M-Y-Wd)
May 26, Tuesday -- "Shoscombe
Old Place" (M)
September 6, Sunday -- "The
Creeping Man" (M-D-Y-Wd)
November 8, Sunday -- "The
Dying Detective" (Wd)
July 30, Tuesday -- "The Lions
August 2, Sunday -- "His
Last Bow" (M-D-Y)
The great "almost known"
The puzzle of the pyramids. The riddle of Stonehenge. The unknowable
source of the heads of the Easter Islands. Great mysteries, all of these,
yet they fairly pale in comparison to the challenge provided by the internal
dates of the John H. Watsons Sherlock Holmes stories. Sometimes
he tells us the exact day on which a case begins. Sometimes he doesnt
even mention as much as a day of the week in an entire story. And sometimes
he mentions days or dates that seem, at face value, impossible. Watson
teases us with just enough hard facts to make us think his tales can be
easily put to a historical calendar, then pulls the rug out from under
us, time and again.
A great unknown is quite a thing, but what of a great "almost known"
such as the one true sequence of Watsons stories? It is a mystery
forever at the edge of our fingertips, yet forever out of reach. Many
have tried to produce the definitive sequence of these tales, and many
have failed one might even say "dying in the attempt,"
for the pursuit of the true Watsonian chronology is a lifelong endeavor.
Even the best of chronologers date the tales and then date them again
after further study. Its a challenge that never ends. A puzzle that
will never be solved.
Yet, as impossible as the task may seem, as unknowable as Watsons
calendar might be, we have to try. It is truly the Mount Everest of Sherlockian
scholarship, the one great peak some Sherlockians must climb, once they
finally give up the chronological training wheels of the sequence used
in Baring-Goulds The Annotated Sherlock Holmes and find themselves
unsatisfied by anyone elses attempt. Some Sherlockians start this
early in their Sherlockian careers, some late in the Game, some not at
all (dont know whether thats intelligence, or just plain old
sanity). But the challenge is always there, looming over us, waiting.
It took me two attempts to make it all the way through the sixty Sherlock
Holmes stories in an attempt to decode Watsons dates. The first
time, in the early nineties, I gathered all the data, but was more timid
in drawing my conclusions. The second time, beginning in September of
2000, I had just signed on as discussion leader for the Hounds of the
Internet. That elder on-line group discusses the sixty Holmes tales at
the rapid rate of one per week, and in addition to supplying discussion
questions I told the Hounds that I would supply a weekly study of dating
that weeks tale. I called the weekly feature "Chronology Corner,"
and used it as a ploy to force myself to put dates to all sixty stories.
The ploy worked.
Every Monday, I posted some notes and conclusions on finding the beginning
date of the story for that week, quoting key dating points from the story,
the dates two important past chronologers had claimed were the beginning
point of the tales, and my own feeble (and eventually maniacal
wait for "Silver Blaze") attempts to pin down those same points.
I called my own small part of those studies "The Birlstone Railway
Timetable," to go with my Hounds nickname, "The Birlstone Railway
Smash," and used every form of logic, illogic, and as much as I hate
to say it, flat-out guesses to put dates to those tales.
You may find that my personal judgment calls and rules of chronology
may be totally antithetical to your own. I like doing original research
first, drawing my conclusions, and only then consulting past chronologers.
I dont like bending or breaking plainly stated dates just to keep
Watson monogamous, as some Sherlockians have done. And while some like
to see Sherlockian scholarship as a science, I am one of those who definitely
views it as an art, subject to the occasional whim and style-based choice.
But my own conclusions were never intended to be the last word on the
subject, merely something to occupy my own brain and perhaps encourage
others to try solving the puzzle themselves. That is the truly great thing
about studying the lives of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson . . . unless
some very astonishing and authentic hard evidence turns up, we will never
have definitive final answers. Each Sherlockian is forever left to draw
ones own conclusions, no matter how much ones fellow Sherlockians
try to help one out.
Thus, this collection of quotes and theories is not intended as a pleasant
evenings read. Youll bore yourself silly if you try to use
it so. It is not intended to be a complete and thorough record of all
work on the subject done before. There are other works for that. The purpose
of this collection is two-fold: First, as shelf-filler for the completist
Sherlockian collector (I love helping those guys out!). And second, as
one more aid for those rare future Sherlockian adventurers attempting
to chart their own chronal course through Watsons chronicles.
Could one of those adventurers be you? Only one person can decide that,
and hes not someone from the dusty pages of the past.
While a number of excellent and brave Sherlockian scholars have attempting
putting dates to Watsons tales over the years, I only use two of
them at touch-stones in this text. The first is William S. Baring-Gould,
whose popular work The Annotated Sherlock Holmes provided the most
commonly accepted set of dates among the fans of Holmes. The second was
Ernest Bloomfield Zeisler, whom I got into the habit of calling "the
King of Chronology." Why?
There have been a lot of excellent laborers in Watsons date orchard,
but something about Zeislers Baker Street Chronology has
always impressed me. Chronology is something that most fans of Sherlock
Holmes may find dreary and dull, but Zeisler dove headlong into the topic
without any sidelights on other aspects of Holmess cases, without
making any pretense at doing a biography. Zeisler was into chronology
for chronologys sake, and one has to admire such pure devotion.
Yet as much as I do admire the guy, and even though I may call him the
"King" of this specialty of Sherlockian study on occasion, it
doesnt mean his dates are any more valid than those posited by Henry
Folsom, John Hall, Gavin Brend, D. Martin Dakin, or any others of the
ever-growing legion of students in the field. Heck, you yourself could
place a set of dates on Watsons works with just as much validity
of any of these gentlemen of the past, for past a certain line in Watsonian
chronology, its all interpretation. (And what you can sell other
people on. Simply because he plopped his own dates right in the center
of his landmark The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, William S. Baring-Gould
became the most consulted chronologer of all, despite some questionable
choices along the way.)
As Sherlockian fun moves into the new century, you can bet were
going to be seeing some brand new variations on the Grand Old Game of
Sherlock Holmes scholarship. Things like role-playing, virtual reality,
and alternate history Holmeses all have great potential for pushing the
borders of the real estate at 221B Baker Street out to entirely new expanses.
We can define the world of Sherlock Holmes in entirely new mediums, and
fill out the gray areas with research and imagination like never before.
And as we map out the three dimensional world of Sherlock Holmess
Victorian Earth, the fourth dimension time will also need
its reference points flagged as well.
So whether youre headed this way for your own entertainment or
in building the structure for some greater project, what follows are notes
from my own expedition into the chronology of Sherlock Holmes and Dr.
Watson. Take what you can use, and dont hold the rest against me.
"The Birlstone Railway Smash"