Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The December one. And why it's just one.

Welcome to December, the month with one Sherlock Holmes story.

While we all know that "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" is the story for the season in the days ahead, the thing we don't often stop to think about -- much like the dog who did nothing in the night-time -- are the stories that aren't taking place during December. Like every other one of them.

With a Sherlockian Canon of sixty stories taking place in a twelve-month calendar year, one would expect an average of five cases in a given month, and that is what the average is. August and September meet that standard, going by my personal chronology, having five cases starting in them. The rest of the year varies from nine cases per month down to three cases per month.

Except for December.

December, by my reckoning, only sees the start of one case in the chronicles of Sherlock Holmes.

That case, "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle," is so perfectly holiday-ish that it must have begged to be told, but without it's existence, well, it's almost like Dr. Watson had a moratorium on publishing cases that began in December. Every other month has at least three published cases starting in it. December is a blue carbuncle away from zero.

It could be coincidence, sure. But sometimes things are the way they are for a reason, even if it isn't obvious at first. Sherlock Holmes has taught us that above all else.

So why might Watson have avoiding December stories? Well, it doesn't take much of a search on mentions of the month of December in the Canon to see one potential reason.

On December 3, 1878, Dr. Watson's one-day wife lost her father in one of the most traumatizing ways imaginable: he vanished, taking nothing with him, and leaving no trace of whether he was alive or dead.

The one other time outside of "Blue Carbuncle" that Watson mentions the month of December is in an 1895 case that was published in 1903, well after the time when most biographers consider Mary Morstan Watson to have died. And "Blue Carbuncle" itself, with its comic elements and non-violent themes, is the one case that Watson might have even presented to a troubled spouse to try to cheer her during a holiday season that had to be a major source of sorrow to her every year. It's no wonder that Watson doesn't call upon Holmes in that case until the second day after Christmas -- the good doctor would never leave his wife behind during such a troubled time. Especially after she'd had one loved one go missing during that chilly month.

Fortunately for her, Mary Watson didn't have to suffer through a holiday season alone filled with downer Muzak like "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" (didn't come along until 1944) and "Blue Christmas" (1948). She didn't get called "Grinch" or "Scrooge" for not showing the requisite cheeriness to the holiday police. She just got the company of good old Watson in front of a cozy fire, until the month was almost over, and she could happily look forward to the promise of New Year's.

And so, as we enter December and anticipate the latest coming of Mary Morstan this January on the BBC, let's honor December for the month it truly was in the lives of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: the month where the domestic partnership of ex-army doctor and ex-governess took precedence over the partnership of the biographer and the detective.

It's Dr. and Mrs. Watson's month. And if you want to throw a goose into that, feel free.


  1. Watson was a doctor - he probably took the month off (with the Mrs.) and went to the south of France (to gamble?) A Mrs. Watson tidbit ... In that Russian series you mentioned ( I looked up the first eight episodes) During the Great Hiatus the good doctor marries Mrs. Hudson! (It's o.k. though, she's a real hottie)

  2. I see that Watson did not wish him a "Merry Christmas." Instead , he offered "the compliments of the season." Do you think he was waging a "war on Christmas" with that milquetoast sort of greeting? Why, that's no better than "Happy Holidays," and we all know how nefarious THAT greeting is!

    1. I dunno, Bill, Watson mentions Christmas by name a whole lot of times in "Blue Carbuncle" for a guy who was at war with it! (Unless his was suddenly cut short by a mysterious wound and a case of typhoid, as Watson's wars usually go.)