Once upon a time, there was some debate over the date of Sherlock Holmes's birth. Six or seven potential years for that event have been argued, as well as a couple of different months. But at this point, unless one is truly obstinate, which I can respect, it's easiest just to accept January 6, 1854. The untasted breakfast in The Valley of Fear, the favoring of Twelfth Night quotes . . . not conclusive evidence, but the best we've seen.
So, January 6, 1854. A Friday. "Friday's child is loving and giving," as the old rhyme goes, and like reading a daily horoscope, we can certainly make that line fit our needs. Sherlock Holmes gave a lot, to his clients and the world, and his love for Watson cannot be denied, in whatever form you'd like that love to take.
This year, however, we're celebrating his birthday on a Saturday. Here in Peoria, we're breaking out the tea and cake from 3 to 5 in the afternoon at the North Branch Library, I'll be doing a talk, we'll have some little quizzes, some displays, and just a general celebration -- and we can't be the only ones taking advantage of January 6th falling on a Saturday this year.
While it's interesting we have come to accept William S. Baring-Gould's choice of birthdays, which he used in his classic biography of Holmes, Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, I have yet to run into anyone who accepts the death date that Baring-Gould put forth in that same biography: January 6, 1957. Personally, I have a certain love-hate relationship with that thought, since it has Sherlock Holmes dying the very year I was born. One loves to see things in one's birth year, but the thought of Sherlock Holmes almost being alive at the same time I was, but missing it by mere months? That's unthinkable!
Besides, Sherlock Holmes dying on the same day he was born is the biggest birthday buzzkill we could have. Not sure if Baring-Gould was just liking exact ages on people or was just lazy in his creative impulses with that one, but it's easy to ignore. Sherlock Holmes never died, he just vanished into the mists of time, after all.
But was he born of those same mists of time, strolling nearly-full grown into college, where we first hear of anything he did in life?
Well, only if he did it on January 6 of the appropriate year.
We have to have at least one date to have birthday parties for him, after all.