Wednesday, July 16, 2014

STUD - Brad's summer reading list - #12a - a look at the date - Once more this hallowed path we walk.

I am looking forward to Sherlock Peoria's take on STUD and I hope we get it today.
Brad is very involved with some other topics at the moment so I am not sure if that will happen or not.

When Brad several weeks ago posted his reading list he suggested that he believed the case, or at least the part concerning the meeting of Holmes and Watson,  to have taken place the weekend of July 16th, 1881.

But on further reading I can't say I agree with that. But I am looking forward to his explanation.

I noticed Baring-Gould placed the date for the case of STUD in March of 1881, probably because Watson says March 4th.. I have not read his reasons yet, nor have I looked at any other chronologies.

But let's look at what we know.
We know Watson took his degree in 1878.
Which left him plenty of time to get trained by the army and arrive in In Candahar (his spelling) in time for the Battle of Maiwand.
The Battle of Maiwand took place on the 27th of July 1881.
So, after the great effort by Murray, Watson was sent to Peshawar, where he 'rallied' to the point of being able to get around and do some walking.
At this point he contracted 'enteric' fever.

Watson only states that 'for months'  he despaired for his life, giving no actually length of time for his recovery.
That 'for months' can be taken several ways.

The easiest way out would to be to argue that what Watson actually meant was 'four' months, and the 'for' was just a mis-print. But like I said, that's the easy way out.

But let's look at a possible time for his recovery. I am not a doctor nor have I played one on TV, so most of this is just speculation.

After his shoulder injury he would probably be up walking long before the actual wound hailed.
So let's say about a month after being shoot Watson contracted that dreaded "curse of our Indian possessions".

At which point he was sent back to England.

So I guess at this point we have to decide what for us would be a reasonable time for "for months"
One modern estimation of how long typhoid fever will last without treatment is " a month or more".

Another states about two to four weeks.

We do however have to accept that Watson was in a somewhat debilitated state and was therefore weakened in constitution.

But given that, even if we give this period of time five months before he was finally sent home, that makes his arrival, after a month of travel,  December when he returns to Portsmouth.

He was obviously well on his way to recovery once he arrived for he than "gravitated" to London, and no mention of time spent in hospital once in London is mentioned.

He next states that he then spends some time in a private hotel in the Strand.

Again we have to decide what Watson means by his description of "some time". Do we assume "some time" is longer or shorter than "for months".

We know he had nine months to make a decision on his situation, but we also know he didn't wait that long.

However, if he did indeed wait almost nine months and we are using our earlier argument of his recovery and travel taking about six months, that wold place him meeting Holmes in August or September.

But it is Watson's statement "It was upon the 4th of March, as I have good reason to remember. . ." that throws, for me, off the argument that this first chapter took place in July. Unless you want to argue that the relationship took more that a few months to develop to the point of this narration, and that would take us into March of 1882.

Watson also states that it was only for the week or so that they had no callers, and not for several months.

So if we are to accept that this first chapter of STUD took place in July of 1881 or we accept that it took until March of 1882 for Watson to write "It was upon the 4th of March. . .", which means it took them almost a year to get to the point were Watson would know of Holmes' occupation.

And I don't accept that.
If we lengthen the time of Watson's recovery and assume that he took almost all of his allotted nine months before he realized he needed new 'digs' then we must put the line "It was upon the 4th or March. .. " in 1882. And I don't accept that either. That would mean Watson's recovery took almost two years or it took Holmes and Watson a very long time to get to know each others habits.

Watson is very specific on two important dates, three if you need to count the year he got his degree.
First the Battle of Maiwand, which we know took place in July of 1880.
Second is the line "4th of March".

Remember we are only arguing when the first chapter takes place, the meeting of Holmes and Watson.
If we accept Brad's Holmes and Watson meetings in July of 1881 we have to place the line "4th of March" in 1882, unless you believe Watson did  not mean the 4th of March.
Baring-Gould argues that STUD, the actual case took place in March of 1881, from Friday the 4th to Monday the 7th. He does not argue that they met in March.

If we except that the case took place in March of 1881 we have to also accept that they met a few weeks or so before March 4th, which would be late January or early February.

If you except July of 1881 as the date for the first chapter, one year after Watson's injury, you have to accept March of 1882 as the date of STUD. And neither Brad nor Baring-Gould place any cases in their chronologies of the Canon in 1882.

If you also accept July of 81 as the year and month of their meeting and you accept 1881 as the year of STUD than the date March 4th means nothing.
And I don't buy that.

Where Watson is for the most part specific, and he is three times in this story, we should accept that.
Later in chapter two we have a discussion between Holmes and Watson that could only take place between two individuals that do not yet know each other very well, which also helps place the first chapter before 1882.

The conversation is the one where Holmes finally explains his occupation to Watson and also Watson gets his first real education in Holmes' method. And at one point in this discourse Watson, to himself, states ' "This fellow is very clever, " I said to myself, "but he is certainly very conceited."

The only way I see that you could accept that this first chapter took place in July is to discard the 4th or March completely.

I am, however, going to take Watson at his word.


  1. In 1959, Percy Medcalfe wrote an article "The Date of the Study in Scarlet" (you can find it in "The Grand Game Vol. 1, BSI) that tracked down the movements of the troopship Orontes. It left Bombay on 31 October and "and landed a month later on Portsmouth Jetty" on 26 November 1880. He tracked other movements of the ship, but only that one fit Watson's description and travel from India to England.

    The link to Brad's chronology on STUD is

    I don't think it explains why he picked 16 July 1881 for The Meeting. There were, in the early days of Sherlockiana two schools, the 1881 and 1882 schools of the year for STUD. The 1882 seems to have faded over time, but check out Ian McQueen's "Sherlock Holmes Detected" (1972) for a succinct case for 1882, where he notes some of the issues you did.

    1. I will check out both of your suggestions. Thanks!