Friday, July 18, 2014

The perils of Sherlockian chronology.

Being a Sherlock Holmes fan is not for the faint at heart.

Decisions have to be made at some point in your Sherlockian development. Like last Wednesday, the 133rd anniversary of the day Holmes and Watson met. Well, at least the day that I decided Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson first met.

How dare I be so bold as to make that decision to place a critical date in the lives of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on July 16, 1881?

Because you have to. At some point in your career as a Sherlockian, you may want to celebrate that moment in time, and when you do, you have a decision to make. Watson never told us the specific day he and Holmes met, so you're going to have to figure it out for yourself.

There's the easy route of course. Just pick up a book like The Annotated Sherlock Holmes by William S. Baring-Gould, see what he has decided the date is, and go with that. It's easy, and no one will disrespect you for it . . . except for maybe the five or six actual Sherlockian chronologists alive at any given moment, and they won't do it to your face. (*COUGH* Wimp! *COUGH*) But the fact of the matter is, you're still making a decision even if you just agree with someone who has already thought it through.

But if you're going to make the choice for yourself, like I did, and come up with a date that is quite different from other chronologers, like I did, here's a tip:

Remember why you decided to put the event on that particular date!

After Wednesday's blog about Holmes and Watson's first meeting, I started to wonder why I had chosen July 16, 1881, and then quickly discovered it wasn't written up where I thought it was written up. And panic set in.

What if someone called me on it? What if someone asked why I was celebrating it in July instead of March, like Baring-Gould? I could be declared a fraud and a sham and paraded through the streets of Sherlockville on a rail . . . well, luckily Holmes fans aren't usually given to mob mentality . . . but suddenly discovering I had nothing at my back was just a wee bit disconcerting.

So I set out on a quest to validate the work of an earlier version of me whose memory I apparently did not choose to put in a handy place in my mind palace. (A good sign I will never start just flicking your face like Charles Augustus Magnussen, as arrogant as this blog might occasionally mistakenly convey me to be.)

It plainly wasn't with my story-by-story chronology notes. And Google sure wasn't going to help.

I found bits of a discussion I was having on the Hounds of the Internet when I first developing my chronology where I had gotten their meeting to summer of 1881  . . . but that date? Why July 16th in particular? Nothing in my "Seventeen Steps" notes on the tale at that time.

As much as I hate to leave this story without a tidy resolution, it seems that for the moment, I still can't supply an answer to the question of why July 16, 1881. Trusting in one's self is a handy faith to have, and I will swear to you that the fellow who came up with that date was not the sort who would do it with no reason at all, however whimsical.

But the mystery remains, along with the words . . . to be continued.