I’ve been meaning to make this cake for ages…

…because it is one of the few recipes I’ve come across that uses cocoa powder rather than actual chocolate and it is much easier to substitute carob powder for cocoa powder than it is for chocolate. (This is how long I’ve been meaning to make this cake – since before the continuing chocolate experiment.) But for some reason (probably because it yields an entire sheet cake), I’d kept putting it off and putting it off and forgotten entirely about it.

But I’ve recently had some extra time on my hands and used a lot of it to basically read the entirety of Pioneer Woman‘s posting history and stumbled across the familiar, yet untried, recipe for Texas sheet cake. It looked very easy and I had all the ingredients in my pantry, so I figured I would finally stop procrastinating and make it.

That is the sad remaining piece of this yummy, yummy cake (Again, apologies for the blurry photo – I got my lights back, but have managed to misplace the cord to connect my camera to my computer, so Edward has had to step up and do his best). I think I ate about a third of it myself before I finally said “Okay, I have to start sharing this or I will actually eat an entire sheet pan of cake all by myself. And I really shouldn’t do that, no matter how easy it would be.” It got rave reviews (even though it used carob powder rather than cocoa powder) from everybody – especially the frosting/icing which is sweet without being rich (despite having two sticks of butter in it – I also left out the pecans [surprise, surprise]).

So I highly recommend this recipe – it really is the best Texas sheet cake recipe (not that I would know, never having had any before, but I believe her). Just be sure you have lots of friends to share it with!

Nonfiction: Autobiography

American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot by Craig Ferguson

I never knew much about Craig Ferguson – I liked him well enough on The Drew Carey Show and every now and then someone would link to an episode of his show which I would watch – usually because he was interviewing someone I was interested in. But I found myself becoming intrigued by Craig instead. His show is on far too late for me to watch, though I sincerely wish I could get by on less sleep so I could stay up for it. Then somebody posted a review of his autobiography, recommending it as a good read.

Helpless to resist, I immediately went to the bookshop. But then I thought “Wait a minute. You know what would be better? Having the silver fox himself read it to me.” Instead of kidnapping Craig Ferguson, though, I did the next best thing. I bought the audiobook!

Now I think I’ve mentioned on here that I do sometimes have trouble with audiobooks. I love my Jerome K. Jerome audiobooks (particularly the one read by Hugh Laurie – shame that it’s edited – and the one read by some guy that I don’t know but features Charles Hubert Hastings Parry’s [whose parents were a bit greedy in the name department I feel] “Frolic” but I will even listen to the one read by Marvin Jarvis even though he makes J and George and Harris sound very snooty and superior with one another and not at all how they do in my head [which is usually the main problem I have with audiobooks in general]) and my Harry Potter ones (don’t make me choose between Jim Dale and Stephen Fry, I just can’t!) and Jon Stewart’s America the Audiobook always makes me laugh. But there are others that I’m not so fond of – The Know-It-All whose author/reader, A.J. Jacobs, who sounds super-scripted which, yes, I know he is, but the others don’t make it sound that way and A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson who has the most passive voice ever (I love you, Bill, but I can’t listen to you!). But also I find them hard to pay attention to – reading is too much a visual activity for me, I guess, and if my eyes aren’t occupied in snatching up the words from the page for me (I know that’s a disturbing visual, but it’s the best way I can think of to describe it), I find myself drifting off and thinking about other things.

Fortunately, not so with Craig. Not only did I get to listen to his lovely, lovely Scottish accent for seven hours, it really felt like he was telling me his autobiography rather than reading it. But all of that could have not made up for poor writing. Not that it had to. On the contrary, his writing! Oh, his writing! He is thoughtful and articulate and thoughtful and funny and thoughtful and honest.

And thoughtful.

Now, I don’t mean thoughtful like kind or generous or whatever – I mean, I like to think that he is, but obviously I have no way of knowing. I mean thoughtful like he has obviously thought a lot about his life and the things that he’s done and the things that he is doing and why he did them and why he thought he was doing them at the time. I don’t know if this is a result of writing your autobiography or just his personality or even a habit he picked up during his time in rehab, but I really, really like it (and he comes across this way on his show, too, so I’m going with it’s just how he thinks). Because instead of just listing off the things that have made his life amazing (and it is – I find him amazing) and adventurous, he obviously is aware of just how lucky he is to have experienced not just life but his life in particular.

And his honesty! Again, I don’t actually know whether or not he’s being honest – the whole thing could be made up for all I know – but I think one of the reasons that I find his writing literally beautiful is that it is truthful (OMG, Keats was right!). I think he has an earnest way with words, whether he’s talking about growing up in Glasgow, his difficulties with drugs and alcohol, his attempts to find his niche, his relationships, or his decision to become an American citizen, I feel like he’s deliberately outlining his experiences and thoughts for the reader which creates a deep and trusting connection between himself and us.

My rating: A

I’m going to have to see if there’s an audiobook version of Stephen Fry’s autobiography, Moab Is My Washpot, because if there’s one thing that I think I might enjoy even more than listening to Craig Ferguson tell me about his life is Stephen Fry telling me about his.

Also, note to Eddie Izzard: I hope you’re working on your autobiography because you are in spot number 3 on this list.

I’m not usually with the random linky-linky…

…but this combines two men that I absolutely adore – Stephen Fry (who I have long admired) and Craig Ferguson (who is newly in my affections). Craig Ferguson is the host of the Late, Late Show on CBS and recently did an experiment with just interviewing one guest and having no audience. It sounds like a bit of a gimmick, but he has very thoughtful reasons for it that he outlines at the beginning of the show.

I think it went off very well – of course, that could be because they’re both such interesting and intelligent guys (honestly, I could listen to them talk – alone or to each other – for hours and hours).

Anyway, I think you should watch it.

A bit of redecorating…

I decided I was tired of the way my blog looked, so I decided to change things up a bit. Do you know how hard it is to figure out a visually interesting way to demonstrate the idea of a blank page?! A blank page is really a very boring thing! So that is Mary up there (I didn’t remember her taking up three notebooks – quite a feat considering I write very small, you know) underneath the blank page of what I’m trying to work on at the moment. Apologies for it being such a dark picture, but since I live in a cave here at Fascist Towers and my new, nifty photo-taking lights are out on loan at the moment, that’s all I have to offer.

I like it. Seems a bit cleaner around here now. What do you think?

“A Scandal in Bohemia” Or, Let the shipping wars begin!

“A Scandal in Bohemia” was first published in July of 1891 and takes place, according to Baring-Gould, between Friday, May 20 and Sunday, May 22 of 1887, despite the fact that Watson explicitly states it as being March 20 of 1888. What nerve, Baring-Gould! As his proof, and in spite of the fact that it is dusk when Watson and the disguised Holmes arrive at Briony Lodge at 6:50 pm which rings true to Watson’s March date, he claims that, were it March, this would mean that Irene and Norton were married during Lent, something that is frowned upon except in certain “emergencies, a subject upon which speculation is perilous” (BG, 363). Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. He also cites, surprise, surprise, the weather, stating that Watson must have gone on his walk on Thursday, May 19, 1887 because according to a weather report in the Times, that day the wind “had increased ‘to a gale in almost all parts of our island…The weather is fine in Sweden and Germany, but squally and unsettled elsewhere…Since yesterday morning, rain has fallen generally…Thunderstorms occurred…over the east of England. Temperature has fallen several degrees…'” (BG, 355) which would have resulted in Watson returning in the dreadful mess that Holmes notes.

This first short story contains Holmes’ memorable quote that he is “lost without his Boswell.” I think it’s interesting that Baring-Gould reads sarcasm here, saying that Holmes is “of course being sarcastic at Watson’s expense” citing Holmes’ complaint to Watson in “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” that he has “degraded what should have been a course of lectures into a series of tales” (BG, 351) while Leslie, on the other hands, reads affection, choosing to contrast the two statements as unrelated (NA, 13). (Is that perhaps the longest sentence ever written? To also contain the most quotation marks?)

Someone is also a bit forgetful and refers to Mrs. Hudson as Mrs. Turner, leading to great speculation as to the identity of this story’s landlady. One theory, which Baring-Gould seems to subscribe to, is that this is a Mrs. Turner who happened to be filling in for an absent Mrs. Hudson and is in fact the Mrs. Turner who “met Jack the Ripper on the night of August 7, 1888 in front of George Yard Buildings, a group of squalid tenements just off High Street in Whitechapel” (BG, 361). My favorite belongs to Russell McLauchlin who posits that Mrs. Hudson was the landlady of Gloucester Place (only one street west of Baker Street) where Holmes and Watson actually resided and that the address on Baker Street, landladied by Mrs. Turner, was one of Holmes’ “accommodation addresses” (BG, 361).

Watson refers to Irene as the “late Irene Adler” which is often assumed to mean, not that she is dead at the time of Watson’s writing, but in the sense of Irene nee Adler. However, there is some speculation that Watson does actually mean dead and that the King of Bohemia had her murdered, using Holmes as an alibi (NA, 7). He goes on to support his idea by pointing out Holmes’ “apparent relish when he speaks of the late King of Bohemia” in “His Last Bow” (NA, 7). However, he does point out that at thirty-one, there is no real reason for Irene to have retired from the stage – instead, she should have been at the peak of her abilities – and suggests that this hints at a “long-standing complaint” that may have lead to an early, but natural, death (NA, 7).

Holmes’ complex infiltration of Irene’s household – making use of a crowd of people including a group of shabbily dressed men, two guardsmen, a nurse-girl, several well-dressed young men, a carriage and driver, and a lady passenger – leads Leslie to wonder at Holmes’ pool of accomplices (NA, 33). Baring-Gould returns to theories of Holmes’ past upon the stage, believing that “he may have recruited his troupe from persons known to him from his early days as an actor” (NA, 33). As much as I love actor!Holmes, I prefer Harald Curjel’s idea of a “‘grown-up wing’ of the Baker Street Irregulars, with Wiggins, the head of the Irregulars, acting as booking-agent” (NA, 33). I would totally join the grown-up Irregulars in a heartbeat!

Neither Baring-Gould nor Leslie make any mention of the supposed secret marriage theory (that Holmes and Irene were married instead of Irene and Norton) – and certainly nobody mentions Watson and Irene having any sort of relationship (because I was totally right – they never actually met; that Sherlockian was obviously on as much crack as Holmes was in The Sign of Four) – which surprised me because I know people like it (there’s a whole book about that). I guess neither Leslie nor Baring-Gould ship Holmes/Irene (well done, old chaps!).

There is, however, one theory so silly that I can’t not share it with you. Kenneth Lanza, in “Scandal in Bensonhurst,” makes “the whimsical suggestion that Irene had three sons: William Kramden (baptized Wilhelm von Kramm), the issue of the king of Bohemia; Edward Norton, the son of Godfrey Norton [Can you see where he’s going?]; and Nero Wolfe, Sherlock Holmes’ son.  Lanza goes on to speculate that the two eldest sons, “Willie” and Edward, each produced one son – Ralph Kramden and Edward Norton, Junior, half-cousins and stars of the television series The Honeymooners” (NA, 40). Honestly, my love for the Holmes fandom knows no bounds.

And now, a few miscellaneous thoughts [These are my thoughts. There aren’t many of them this week, I’m afraid…]:

  • Holmes Continental Gazetteer, which he picks up to debrief Watson about Bohemia’s particulars, leads him astray again. According to Leslie, “German Bohemians were actually then a minority; the balance of the population was Slavonic, speaking Czech.” (NA, 12) [Moriarty’s erroneous gazetteer strikes again! So far, he’s three for three!]
  • There is a theory that Irene’s Norton is actually none other than Colonel Moran, though Baring-Gould does not give any of Page Heldenbrand’s supporting evidence. [Irene is thus cast in a rather sinister light, imagining her married to Moriarty’s right-hand man!]
  • In response to Watson’s assertion that his marriage has led to his “complete happiness,” Leslie points out that his “conduct in this case, in which he spends two nights at Baker Street with no mention of communication with his wife is hardly consistent with his declaration of marital bliss” (NA, 7). [Oh, Watson regrets The Homewrecker already!]

I think I forgot to mention last week that “A Scandal in Bohemia” means that we’re in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, but if you hadn’t figured it out yet, we are. So pick up your copy of The Adventures again next week to discuss “The Red-Headed League.” (I have to say that the Holmes fandom easily has claim to the most confusing abbreviation system I’ve ever seen – it really is a puzzle to work some of them out! This was SCAN – we’ve already made our way through STUD [appropriately enough] and SIGN. Up next is REDH.)

*Most of my notes, I think, come from the New Annotated simply because I find its format easier to work through and it is, therefore, the version that I’m reading first (I’m only reading the notes in the Baring-Gould). Much of the information is doubled up, but there is some that is unique to either volume, so if you see NA, that’s the Baring-Gould edition and BG is the New Annotated. No, I’m totally kidding – it’s the other way (the logical way) round.

Re: Olympic figure skating

Two Three things:

  1. Why does all their music SUCK?! Seriously! In order to watch the figure skating without actually ripping my ears off of my head, I have to turn the sound down, put on my headphones, and pretend they’re skating to whatever I’m listening to (admittedly, anything sounds better when done to a soundtrack of Adam Lambert [and I’m only half-embarrassed to admit that because, although he was an American Idol contestant (which I most assuredly do not watch), he is actually made of awesome (and now I’m lost in a maze of parentheses and brackets, let’s see if I can close them accurately…)]). I think I got it right. ETA: Okay, to be fair, there is a guy skating to a song from the Amelie soundtrack (no, I lied, he is mixing Amelie with something painfully painful), but mostly I am SO OVER the face paint. NO MORE SAD CLOWNS, PLZKTHNXBAI! ETA2: OMG, a Phantom of the Opera medley?! What is this, 1992?! DO NOT WANT!
  2. WHY DOES NO ONE DO DELAYED AXELS ANYMORE?!?!?! This makes me SO FRUSTRATED! Honestly, I want someone to do a delayed quad (and since when does everybody do quads – I remember when Kurt Browning was attemping to do one and all the commentators were like ‘OH MY GOD, HE’S ATTEMPTING A QUAD!’ in the same tone of voice which would be appropriate for someone attempting to…okay, it’s late and I can’t actually think of something ridiculously, literally, awesomely amazing with which to compare figure skating so please to be inserting your own hyperbole here [yes, I make you work at my blog and, yes, I did have to just go look up the word hyperbole to make sure I’d used it correctly (I did)]) and blow everyone’s minds! (Again with the maze of asides – hope you kept up with me all right…) Now that would be awesome.
  3. Also, and this is not related to figure skating, why did they just hand Shaun White (who I adore) a cabbage on the podium? Okay, to be honest, it is not actually a cabbage, but it is a very sad victory bouquet which really does rather strongly resemble a cabbage. Perhaps cabbage bouquets are more manly? I don’t know.

It’s not all Holmes all the time around here, you know…

…just mostly Holmes most of the time. But this last weekend, I went to see a movie with my friend Liz from work. What did we see?

The Wolfman was…a little problematic. I think overall, we both had fun seeing it, but there were things that can only be described as, yeah, problematic. First of all, I can’t quite decide what this movie was trying to be. I felt like it was sort of aware of what it was doing, especially with the hyper-violence (there is a lot of disemboweling in this movie – A LOT) and kind of over-the-top atmosphere (more on that in a moment), but I’m not sure it knew that we knew that it knew what it was doing. Are you lost? Yeah, so am I. See? Problematic!

We could actually put our fingers on one problem – the pacing. There are three big set pieces of chasing and gore: 1) in the gypsy camp, 2) the rampage in London, and 3) the final showdown. But in between that – and with the film clocking in at only 1 hour and 42 minutes (rather short for a period horror/drama film, I thought) – things seem to fly past. Especially the interactions between Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro (who is strangely appealing in this role – at least so long as he keeps his mouth shut!).

And just two silly things now. First, after his rampage in London, there is a moment where Wolfie takes refuge under a bridge near the Thames and creeps down to the river for a drink. My immediate thought was ‘Well, forget silver bullets, I think that should take care of things rather quickly for us.’ I mean, Victorian Thames water is probably the worst thing you could ever dream of drinking! But I suppose his wolf constitution is rather stronger than a man’s so perhaps he can be forgiven for surviving a bit longer.

Then, as he makes his way (SLOWLY!) back to the more suitably eerie moors of the beginning of the film, he and Emily Blunt basically make their separate ways through this painting:

Seriously. Indulge me for a moment and just stare at that picture for a while. Now imagine a man staggering through it. Now imagine a woman riding a horse through it. And now some staggering while a tree is being cut down (no, I’m not kidding – DO IT!). And maybe a little more staggering. All set? You have now experienced the third quarter of The Wolfman.

Even though it sounds like I’m pretty down on this movie it was pretty fun – Anthony Hopkins is suitably creepy, Emily Blunt suitably heroic, Hugo Weaving suitably cynical (but awesome), and Benicio del Toro (so long as he remains silent) suitably dashing and tragic.

My rating: Perfectly fun, but I wasn’t kidding about the disemboweling, so be sure your constitution is suitably sturdy (maybe practice by drinking out of the Thames first and see how you go).

Chapters 7-12 of The Sign of Four, Or, I still love you, Holmes, even if Watson has forsaken you!

When last we left our intrepid duo, Holmes was still poking around Pondicherry Lodge and Watson was off to escort the Homewrecker, well, home and then to collect Toby on his way back. Conveniently enough, Toby leads us to our first discrepancy between the two annotateds! According to Baring-Gould, Toby is a spaniel and a lurcher (a cross between a collie and a greyhound), noting that lurchers are ‘usually classified with the sporting group of dogs, whose forte is to lie in wait for and seize game, and not with the hounds, whose forte is tracking’ (BG, 644). Leslie, on the other hand, uses Donald Girard Jewell’s definition of a lurcher as a cross between a German shepherd and a greyhound. Jewell also notes that a lurcher would offer ‘the added advantage of being able to hung by both sight and scent’ (NA, 286). How exciting! Our first disagreement! Except that it’s not a topic on which I can weigh in at all! But I do sort of see how easy it is to let the madness take you – I will no longer mock Baring-Gould’s fascination with the correlation between dates and the weather (except I totally will) nor will I wonder at the people who go to extraordinary lengths to discover the location of Pondicherry Lodge or Lauristen Garden[s]. Except I totally will. But with great affection!

The scholars, and I agree with them, seem to like to search out hints of Moriarty as frequently as they can. Here, Leslie points to the gazeteer from which Holmes gets his information about Tonga as being “so wholly inaccurate that one must question how Holmes obtained it” (NA, 307). Julia Carlson Rosenblatt “suggests that ‘the little affair of Jonathan Small was part of a more elaborate conspiracy, one sufficiently thorough as to have assured the infiltration into Holmes’ library of a deliberately misleading work…” and her suspicions “come to rest, not surprisingly, on the involvement of Moriarty” (NA, 307). Later, they will point to Moriarty again as an accomplice (though I don’t think Moriarty would have stooped so low – he would have considered Small a pawn instead) to Joseph Small. Robert R. Pattrick writes that “Queer strangers do not hire fast steam launches and have them stand in readiness for a day or two, on the basis of a promise. Something more tangible is required, and Small as yet had nothing to prove his story of ‘a big sum'” and concludes that Moriarty must have “assisted Small with planning, advances of funds for expenses, and a hideout…all for a fee” (NA, 372).

Now I would like nothing more than to agree with them – I think you all know that I have a soft spot for Moriarty which definitely extends to wishing to see more of him around the Canon – but I have some reservations or at least the need for more information here. Mostly, my main question is what would Moriarty be gaining my helping these petty criminals (he is suspected of also having helped Jefferson Hope in A Study in Scarlet – also odd since he’s actually sort of the good guy, relatively speaking)? What does he have to gain? Is he just in it for the money to fund a more nefarious crime? Or is it just for the satisfaction of thwarting Holmes (which he hasn’t gotten so far since both of his pawns have been caught)? There must be a grander scheme in motion, but why does Holmes, who at least seems to suspect his presence in A Study in Scarlet if not his ultimate game, never mention it to Watson? I’m just not sure why Moriarty would waste his time this way. Perhaps all will become clear upon moving into our reread of the short stories, but for now, I’m not buying it (although I’d like to).

Richard Gutschmidt is creeping ever closer to overtaking Paget as my favorite of Holmes’ illustrators – though there seems to be a distinct lack of Paget to compare him with and I don’t know if this is due to permissions issues or if Paget simply didn’t do illustrations for these particular stories. I like this one of Holmes and Watson with Toby:

And I really, really like this one of Holmes in his dodgy sailor getup, but I have one question for you, Richard:

Why has he got on a tam o’shanter? I think you were thinking of golfers for a moment there instead of sailors.

And speaking of his sailor getup, when he returns as the old man and fools Watson and Jones, D. Martin Dakin points out that “it is astonishing that Watson, as on other occasions, failed to recognise at close range a man whom he knew so well, especially as he had actually seen him start out in the same seafaring garb a short while before” (NA, 320). He goes on to suggest that “Watson did in fact see through Holmes’ isguises, but pretended to be taken in, in order to spare his feelings” (NA, 320) which is a very sweet thing to do. I have to admit that I’m imagining Watson’s reaction here to be like Lucille Bluth’s to Gene Parmesan’s disguises in Arrested Development.

When discussing the meal that Holmes prepares (or at least picks up, seeing as he spent the whole day out disguised as a sailor) for Watson and Jones, Fletcher Pratt “points out that one brace of grouse would be insufficient for three men, one of whom was Watson, ‘who did nothing to preserve his figure'” (NA, 323). This is unbearably cruel! And completely unfounded as far as I can tell, seeing as Watson was recently quite fit enough to go an a six-mile trek with a bad leg! How could you say such a thing, Fletcher?! On a lighter note (no pun intended at all, my dear Watson), Baring-Gould presents us with three recipes for the meal (which he also attempts to use to prove the date, oysters only being available September-April and not in July [idiots]: Oyster Special, Grouse a la Holmes, and an apricot pie (Holmes bakes? I am swooning.). According to Poul Ib Liebe, it is “out of modesty–or possibly because of sheer forgetfulness–Holmes omits to inform us of the dessert, which might well have been apricot pie, a favorite Victorian sweet” (BG, 661).

There is an intriguing theory put forth about Watson later, when Small is telling his story. According to Leslie, “several commentators note that, with the exception of ‘Singh,’ none of [the names of Small’s conspirators] are Sikh names. Dr. Andrew Boyd, who observes that ‘no educated man with years of service in the Indian Army could possibly have recorded them, even if he was recording another man’s garbled narrative, without comment,’ concludes that Watson’s Indian Army record is fradulent and that he had a dark and sinister past, as well as a criminal career” (NA, 357). Others are a little more lenient with his mistakes, but I really like this idea. I mean, Watson is our narrator, so we have no one’s word but his own as to his past – and, though all his inaccuracies would point to him being a fairly poor liar, the effort is there to perhaps support criminal!Watson (which, strangely enough, I find at least as appealing as criminal!Holmes…if not more).

And, of course, I hate to bring her back up, but it is at the end of this story that Holmes loses Watson to the Homewrecker’s charms. I only mention her again because apparently Mary is one of the main stumbling blocks to accurate dating of the Canon. Leslie says that “Watson’s marriage to Mary Morstan has created nightmares for those attempting to reconcile the date of the events recorded in this case (likely summer 1888) with the date of the events recorded in “The Five Orange Pips.” In the latter case, explicitly dated by Watson in September 1887, Watson states that ‘my wife was on a visit to her mother’s'” (NA, 377). Obviously if he married Mary Morstan in 1888, who is the mysterious wife in 1887? It cannot be just a confusion of dates because Mary tells us herself that her mother died in 1878 – so even if it were Mary Morstan to whom he refers, who was she really visiting? Ian McQueen blames ACD’s poor editing skills, suggesting that he “was misled by Watson’s notes into assuming that Watson was already married in September 1887 and invented the visit to Mary’s mother as the more plausible [but entirely unnecessary] explanation for his absence from home” (NA, 377). Leslie believes, and Baring-Gould seems to agree with him based on his timeline outlined for the stories, that there was in fact a wife who preceded Mary Morstan and died before 1888 (NA, 377). But then shouldn’t there be many more references explaining why he has come to be at Baker Street once again during the stories that take place between A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four? Surely this mysterious first wife would have been concerned as to her husband’s whereabouts…

Which brings us to poor Holmes who, when hearing Watson’s plans to marry Mary, gives “a dismal groan. ‘I feared as much,’ said he. ‘I really cannot congratulate you'” (NA, 376). There are SO MANY thoughts on what he really means here. The obvious is suggested by Ebbe Curtis Hoff who says that “Holmes could not congratulate Watson because (1) he lost a potential colleague in Mary [Say what, now?!]; (2) he lost his Boswell [Sniff!]; and (3) he saw ahead a tragic bereavement for his friend” (NA, 377). This last speculation is based on “Holmes’ early observations of Mary Morstan’s fatal illness. (Hoff suggests that this was likely clubbing of the fingertips, not mentioned in Watson’s narrative, obscured by his romantic visions of Mary.)” (NA, 377). There is another, more outlandish (in my opinion) theory which is J.N. Williamson’s idea that Holmes’ remark stems from his “knowledge of Watson’s ‘on-again-off-again relationship with Irene Adler, which resulted, after the death of Godfrey Norton, in the divorce of John and Mary and the marriage of John and Irene'” (NA, 377) to which I say I know we haven’t gotten to “A Scandal in Bohemia” (next week!), but I’m pretty sure Watson and Irene never met (though I may be remembering incorrectly and will find myself quite embarrassed at this time next week for saying it).

My miscellaneous thoughts, let me show you them [These are my thoughts.]:

  • When Watson goes to collect Toby, Deborah Laubach comments: ‘”Watson, a total stranger, walks admist the scrutiny of every animal in Pinchin Lane without an uprorar: what was that the Master once said about a dog in the nighttime?”‘ (NA, 286) [It’s that he did nothing, isn’t it? The dog in the nighttime? I feel like I’m on the verge of drawing a conclusion here, but I can’t quite tell where I’m being led…]
  • When Holmes is presenting Toby with the creosote handkerchief, he says “Here you are, doggy! Good old Toby! Smell it, toby, smell it!” (NA, 288) [Holmes addressing Toby as ‘doggy’ is mind-bogglingly adorable. I can only imagine the rest of the sentence spoken in pet/baby talk.]
  • As Holmes and Watson are beginning their six-mile trek after the wooden-legged man, Holmes points out ‘one little cloud [that] floats like a pink feather from some gigantic flamingo’ (NA, 293). Leslie says: ‘This from the man who has the nerve to admonish Watson, in describing a “high sun-baked wall mottled with lichens and topped with moss” (“The Retired Colourman”) to “cut out the poetry”?’ (NA, 293). [I laughed at this. Hard. For a long time. Honestly, it still makes me laugh. Leslie, you have taken the lead in the snarky!editor contest.]
  • Upon their return to Baker Street after a long, fruitless, and doubtlessly tiring trek, Holmes tells Watson that he “look[s] regularly done. Lie down there on the sofa, and see if I can put you to sleep.” He took up his violin from the corner, and as I stretched myself out he began to play some low, dreamy, melodious air–his own, no doubt, for he had a remarkable gift for improvisation. I have a vague remembrance of his gaunt limbs, his earnest face, and the rise and fall of his bow.” [How uncharacteristically sweet of Holmes.]
  • Upon Toby leading them to a barrel of creosote, ‘Sherlock Holmes and I looked blankly at each other and then burst simultaneously into an uncontrollable fit of laughter’ (NA, 295). [One of my favorite moments in the Canon.]
  • While they are lying in wait for the Aurora, Holmes mentions that, in an effort to clear and refocus his mind, he spent some time “dissolving the hydrocarbon.” In response to this lofty undertaking, Remsen Ten Eyck Schenck (whose name is quite the handful!), says that “it is inconceivable that dissolving a hydrocarbon should be a problem, even momentarily to a chemist. Holmes might as well have said ‘when I had succeeded in tying my boot-lace,’ with the air of having triumphed over great obstacles after days of heroic effort” (NA, 326). [It sounded very complex to me and my feeble brain, but Schenck’s snarky comment made me laugh.]
  • S.E. Dahlinger “has no doubts that Holmes, Watson, and Athelney Jones conspired to keep the treasure for themselves” (NA, 346). [What?! Why?! What is the evidence?! ELABORATE!]
  • There is some actual Goethe quoted for us by Holmes at the end here which may be translated as “Nature, alas, made only one being out of you although there was material enough for a good man and a rogue.” C. Alan Bradley and William A.S. Sarjeant “offer a fresh interpretation: Holmes is not speaking of himself but instead ‘lamenting the fact there there were not two Watsons, one to marry Miss Morstan and the other to stay with him in Baker Street'” (NA, 379). [Word, yo.]
  • “The division seems rather unfair,” I remarked. “You have done all the work in thsi business. I get a wife out of it, Jones gets the credit; pray what remains for you?” (NA, 379) [How can you say such a cruel and heartless thing, Watson?!]
  • To the above question, “For me,” said Sherlock Holmes, “there still remains the cocaine-botte.” And he stretched his long, white hand up for it (NA, 379). [This may be the saddest, loneliest moment in the Canon.] Bradley and Sarjeant think that “the latter’s reaching for the drug was less the response of a man in shock than ‘a gesture of defiance–defiance of the doctor who had been striving to wean his friend from cocaine, but who had now signified that his personal priorities had switched elsewhere'” (NA, 379). [While I don’t doubt it for a moment, I still desperately want to give Holmes a hug.]

It has been suggested that reading only one short story per week may be rather too slow of a schedule, but seeing as I am reading them twice and then typing up these posts and would like to have time to be reading other things, I’m going to maintain that schedule for now. If we find ourselves desperate for more Holmes (which I’m not saying is unforeseeable by any means), I may adjust things accordingly. So stop by next Tuesday for the first of the short stories, “A Scandal in Bohemia.”

*Most of my notes, I think, come from the New Annotated simply because I find its format easier to work through and it is, therefore, the version that I’m reading first (I’m only reading the notes in the Baring-Gould). Much of the information is doubled up, but there is some that is unique to either volume, so if you see NA, that’s the Baring-Gould edition and BG is the New Annotated. No, I’m totally kidding – it’s the other way (the logical way) round.

Chapters 1-6 of The Sign of Four, Or, Enter the Homewrecker!

Because this is where we meet Mary Morstan, that shameless hussy who lures Watson away from his Holmes!

But we will come back to her because Baring-Gould has trained me well and nothing is more important than getting our dates right. Except I lied. The first thing we’re going to talk about is the discrepancies between the titles. If you remember, last week, Baring-Gould referred to The Sign of Four as The Sign of the Four. According to Leslie, The Sign of Four originally appeared in Lippincott’s Magazine under the title “The Sign of the Four; or, The Problem of the Sholtos.” When it appeared in book form in October of the same year, it was as The Sign of Four. There is no further explanation, I’m afraid, and no conclusive decision as to which is correct – Leslie states, cryptically, that the original manuscript is in private hands and unavailable (NA, 209). So I guess we’ll never know and, therefore, you are free to call it whatever you like!

And back to your regularly scheduled date discussion. There is a faction of scholars who believe that it actually takes place in July, but there are many, many, maaaaaaaannnnyyyy details that Baring-Gould claims support the September camp (seriously, I think it is all he talks about in his notes – as I was reading BG, I’d come up to a place where NA had pointed out something particularly interesting and instead, BG would be desperately trying to use the fact that there was fog or a light breeze or that the weather was uncommonly warm for the time of year to prove that it was, in fact, September and not July as certain idiots [my interpretation, not his actual words] would have us believe). And so, according to Baring-Gould, the action of The Sign of Four takes place from Tuesday, September 18, 1888 to September 21, 1888 (BG, 610; okay, as much as I tease him, I adore him for being SO pedantic) and was first published in Lippincott’s in February of 1890.

This is a bit of a melancholy introduction by Leslie: ‘Holmes occupies centre-stage for virtually the full length of this supremely satisfying tale of deduction, while Watson, not to be outpaced, comes into full flower as a human being in a case that sadly shows Holmes steeped in his drugs and ends with the breakup of the shared lodgings of the two men in Baker Street’ (NA, 213). It is very true. Actually, Holmes spends the first couple of pages being exceedingly cruel to Watson in regards to his publication of A Study in Scarlet, saying ‘I glanced over it…Honestly, I cannot congratulate you upon it. Detection is, or ought to be, an exact sience, and should be treated in the same cold and unemotional manner. You have atempted to tinge it with romanticism…’ (BG, 611) to which Baring-Gould adds ‘It was probably the interlude with the Mormons that Holmes found tiresome’ (BG, 611). To which I must say that snarky!Baring-Gould is snarky (but also ‘Word’). But did I mention he’s all coked up for the first couple of pages, too? Poor Watson. No wonder he’s turned to drink at lunchtime.

Which brings us to Mary’s entrance. There are lots of theories afoot regarding Miss Morstan, so I’ll do my best to summarize here. The first theory brought up is that Mary visits Holmes intending to marry him in an effort to move up in the world but upon meeting him and Watson, soon turns her attentions to the latter (NA, 225). I may be biased, but I find this laughable. What lady in her right mind would choose Watson over Holmes (I’m sorry, Watson, I love you, too, but I can’t resist Holmes)?! Okay, I’m being a little facetious here – mostly I find this an odd theory because what would possess her to choose Holmes as a prospective husband out of all her choices? Is he really famous enough that marriageable young women are throwing themselves upon his feet? To quote the lovely Eddie, it makes no sense. Then there is a theory that, like Watson, she has had her identity stolen, this time by the daughter of Mrs. Cecil Forrester who answered the Times advertisement in her stead (NA, 228). Apparently, the Forresters were rather a dodgy sort – Ruth Douglass  ‘advances the speculation that the “little domestic complication” in Mrs. Forrester’s household was the Camberwell Poisoning mentioned in “The Five Orange Pips”; that the poisoner was Mrs. Forrester; that she escaped justice and used Mary first as bait (for Watson) and then as a tool (in order to obtain poson, through Mary, from Watson’s medical cabinet [and] finally killed Mary’ (NA, 228).

Again, as relates to Miss Morstan, The Sign of Four gives us Watson’s boastful statement that he has ‘an eperience of women which extends over many nations and three separate continents’ (NA, 225; to which I reply ‘Oh, Watson, don’t make me laugh’ and apparently Dorothy Sayers agrees with me [NA, 227])). If you were wondering, there is discussion about which continents he means here. Usually, it is assumed to be Europe, Asia, and Australia (later Watson likens the grounds of Pondicherry Lodge to Ballarat during its goldrush), though Baring-Gould ‘posits a stay in America, prior to Watson’s relationship with Holmes, and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Angels of Darkness, first published in 2002 [What is this?! I must find out.], seems to bear this out’ (NA, 227). John Hall, however, suggests that ‘Watson added the reference to Ballarat as a result of Holmes’ mention of it as recorded in “The Boscombe Valley Mystery,” during the events of which Watson may have been writing up his notes of the events of The Sign of Four’ (NA, 265). This gets sort of complicated because it means that, since Watson is writing after the fact, he may be changing things that have happened to suit things that will happen. Oh, I’m sorry – did I just blow your mind? DID I?!

And one more! Based on her reaction when describing her father’s disappearance (‘put[ting] her hand to ther throat, and [allowing] a choking sob [to] cut short the sentence’ [NA, 232]), T.B. Hunt and H. W. Starr ‘conclude that Mary suffered mental illness and that Watson cared for her throughout her long decline into insanity and referred to this as his “sad bereavement” in “The Empty House”‘ (NA, 232). So poor Mary! Most scholars have her coming to some sort of unfortunate end (though one has a fun theory I’ll save for a little later) – I can only assume they are fantasizing what unfortunate circumstances might befall Watson and Holmes’ Yoko.

There will be a note on a hilarious illustration later, but right now I have to say that Richard Gutschmidt is closing in fast on Paget and both of them are easily eclipsed by F.H. Townsend:

Aren’t they gorgeous?! I love how dapper Holmes is and how not-pudgy Watson is and how lush the backgrounds are (they must be something different than the pen-and-ink illustrations we’re used to seeing for Holmes – does anybody know for sure?)!

MY MISCELLANEOUS THOUGHTS, LET ME SHOW YOU THEM [These are my thoughts.]!

  • Holmes has driven Watson to drink. Watson sort of takes Holmes to task about his cocaine use, saying ‘Yet upon that afternoon, whether it was the Beaune which I had taken with my lunch or the additional exasperation produced by the extreme deliberation of his manner (Holmes is about to insolently offer Watson a crack [no pun intended] at his morocco case), I suddenly felt that I could hold out no longer’ (NA, 214). [Watson is buzzed and Holmes has driven him to it!]
  • In a related note discussing Watson’s aforementioned Beaune with lunch, Leslie says that ‘it is no more “potent” than any other non-fortified wine, and this editor wishes it to be known that he is available for experimentation on the suitability of the wine for lunch’ (NA, 215). [Uh-oh, Baring-Gould, Leslie is catching up on the likability points. If only I could afford it, Leslie, if only I could afford it.]
  • There is an illustration that I desperately wish I could show you, but since the author is unknown, my Google-fu has failed me and my scanner is still in its box in my closet. It is an illustration of Holmes, bent double, inspecting something on the floor. Nothing else. No other characters, no background, it is not even clear what exactly he is looking at. Oh, and did I forget to mention that his bum is on prominent display? I laughed out loud as soon as I turned the page to it. My apologies, but my baser instincts got the better of me, I’m afraid and my note on the subject says [Yeah, baby, work that moneymaker! (What an odd illustration…)]
  • There is also a theory that Mary was employed as a ‘”governess” in the sense of a dominatrix in the Forrester brothel. [Yikes! The hidden talents layers of Mary Morstan! I wonder if Watson knew what he was getting into…]
  • There is (yet another) ACD slip-up about details [Did the man not have an editor?! THIS IS WHAT WE ARE FOR!]. Leslie’s note quotes ACD’s letter to the editor of Lippincott’s: ‘By the way there is one very obvious mistake which must be corrected in book form – in the second chapter the letter is headed July 7th, and n almost the same page I [sic] talk of its being a September evening.’ (NA, 234) [Leslie’s ‘[sic]’ made me LOL.]
  • Upon finishing her first interview with Holmes and Watson, Mary bids them goodbye and ‘with a bright, kindly glance from one to the other of us, she replace[s] her pearl-box in her bosom and hurrie[s] away’ (NA, 235). [Her bosom? Really?! Women really carried things around in their bosoms?! I think the evidence for Mary working as a “governess” is mounting.]
  • While Thaddeus Sholto is taking Holmes, Watson, and Mary to Pondicherry Lodge, Watson is preoccupied by Mary’s presence and Holmes ‘declares that he overheard [him] caution [Sholto] against the great danger of taking more than two drops of castor-oil, while [he] recommended strychnine in large doses as a sedative’ (NA, 259). According to Leslie, Dr. Maurice Campbell remarks that ‘Watson could almost have been forgiven if he actually had given the injection to Thaddeus Sholto who must have been very trying in the cab on that journey’ (NA, 259). [I have to say that I’m imagining Gilbert Godfried and it’s hard to disagree with Campbell.]
  • Standing in the dark at Pondicherry Lodge, Watson and Mary clasp hands to comfort themselves. ‘A wondrous subtle thing is love, for here were we two, who had never seen each otehr before that day, between whom no word or even look of affection had ever passed, and yet now in an hour of trouble our hands instinctively sought for each other. [Barf.]
  • As Holmes is investigating the attic of Pondicherry Lodge, Watson remarks that ‘So swift, silent, and furtive were his movements…that I could not but think what a terrible criminal he woul dhave made had he turned his energy and sagacity against the law instead of exerting them in its defence’ (NA, 277). [Once again…GUH! The only thing hotter than Holmes? Criminal!Holmes.]

So what did you think of The Sign of Four so far? Chime in and I’ll see you next week for chapters 7-12!

*Most of my notes, I think, come from the New Annotated simply because I find its format easier to work through and it is, therefore, the version that I’m reading first (I’m only reading the notes in the Baring-Gould). Much of the information is doubled up, but there is some that is unique to either volume, so if you see NA, that’s the Baring-Gould edition and BG is the New Annotated. No, I’m totally kidding – it’s the other way (the logical way) round.

Alas, it’s time to say goodbye…

My new furniture is supposed to arrive tomorrow which means it is time for the hideous comfy chair and I to part ways. We had a good nap last Sunday (though I did wake up with a bit of a crick in my neck) and tonight we’re staying up later than usual to watch a silly movie on TV (Music & Lyrics – cuter than I was expecting so far). Here’s Arthur doing some last communing:

Farewell, comfy friend – you have served me well!

In which I fail and succeed all at the same time!

I realised the other day that I’ve been quite lax in my cooking adventures – even baking has consisted only of the samoa bars and the cinnamon roll coffee cake for quite some time now! So I decided that I would try my hand at Indian food.

First, I made paneer – I know, right?! I assumed that paneer was full of exotic ingredients like sheep’s milk or…something like sheep’s milk. Turns out, it’s only milk and yoghurt! I think I may have actually squeezed out a little too much of its liquid – I mean, it’s perfectly fine, but it’s a little crumblier than I think it should be.

And what to do with my paneer? Dal! (Should that have two ‘a’s? It seems like it ought to be daal, but the website I got the recipe from just has the one…) Very easy, very yummy, not very pretty. Behold!

Obviously the recipe doesn’t call for paneer, but I love it, so I added it (after the onions had been sauteeing for a while, but before adding the lentils back in). I also added potatoes in with the lentils to boil a bit in the stock and turmeric. It made a ton! Thank goodness it turned out well because I’ll be eating it for quite some time.

And, to quote Martha (for no good reason), that’s a good thing.

ETA: Oh, right, I forgot the ‘fail’ part of this post! To go along with my Indian food, I attempted to make naan bread. Unfortunately, my yeast didn’t feel like starting (and I may have added a little too much flour, but I’m going to continue to blame the yeast for my failure) and it just turned into a boulder of dough. I will try again, though, because it looks fairly easy and who doesn’t love naan bread?!

I have to show you something!

So, I am fascinated with my basement – basically shared spaces, in general. For example, in my basement, there are two tables, four mismatched chairs, a set of cabinets from someone’s kitchen, and a rocking lawn-chair placed directly in front of the washer and dryer. Now that’s not particularly weird, but on the kitchen cabinets, there’s a pair of shoes. Small tennis shoes. Isn’t the owner of those shoes missing them?! And a sheet hanging on a laundry line that has been there since I moved in. Didn’t the owner think to themselves ‘Hey, where’d that sheet go that I washed and then hung on the laundry line to dry?’ How do people forget things like that?!

And then. There is this.

It hangs in the far corner of my basement, has since I moved in. And don’t try to adjust your computer screens, it hangs crookedly. For the longest time I assumed it was a painting, but then I took a closer look at it last night and you know what it is? You will never guess. Never in a million years.

What someone has done is taken faux-wood panelling and made a mosaic out of what appears to be aquarium gravel and gold string. I couldn’t get a very good picture of it, but hopefully this will give you the right idea:

So not only did someone make it in the first place, they thought ‘You know what would really liven up this basement? My aquarium gravel cello and keyboard art!’

I love it.

ETA: I thought of the question I’m trying to ask here: WHY GO TO THE OBVIOUS TROUBLE TO MAKE (AND FRAME) THIS…AND THEN HANG IT IN THE CORNER OF A BASEMENT?

Chapters 1-7 (or 8-14) of A Study in Scarlet, Or, Not the Alkali Flats!**

Plains! I mean plains!

Except it totally wasn’t as boring as I thought it was going to be (I must have been confusing this one with The Valley of Fear). I know later on, ACD was trying to get away from having to write Holmes which would explain the annoying interlude in VoF, but here it’s actually kind of necessary. I mean, sure, I miss Watson and Holmes, but apart from inserting some awkward soliloquies for exposition purposes, there really was no other way to get us this background information. Holmes may be able to deduce a lot (that it was an act of revenge and that a woman was involved in some way, to say nothing of the murderer’s identity), but even he would be hard pressed to ferret (no, Watson, that’s not a dig at you and your dog) out a lot of the details that are given here.

I’m afraid I don’t have very many notes for you – Baring-Gould is obviously as disappointed at Holmes and Watson’s absence as I am as there is a distinct lack of annotations (really only a handful!). The New Annotated is a little more forthcoming with historical information about the Mormons and some of the history of the American West, but nothing nearly as fun as can be found in Part I.

The main mystery that remains for Sherlock scholars is the identity of this portion’s author. Obviously, it can’t be Watson since he’s not there and it can’t be that he based his narrative on Lestrade’s notes taken from their interview with Jefferson Hope later on because it’s unlikely Hope would have details of the Ferriers’ early trials and tribulations. The best speculations are that Watson and his literary agent (ACD) allowed themselves some dramatic license based on Hope’s story.

It is never really revealed who, exactly, it was that helped Hope to recover Lucy’s ring by disguising himself as the little old lady. The NA points out that “Hope was a stranger to London. How could he know of Holmes or have a friend in London who would help him – and who, conveniently, was an expert female impersonator?” (NA, 194) When describing Hope earlier (immediately prior to apprehending him, I think), Holmes makes it sound as though he knows the identity of Hope’s accomplice, saying “We have a shrewd and desperate man to deal with, who is supported, as I have had occasion to prove, by another who is as clever as himself…I am bound to say that I consider these men to be more than a match for the official force.” (NA, 195). This has led many to conclude that the female impersonator was none other than good, old Professor Moriarty. I like the idea of it, but I don’t really think it makes sense. Would Moriarty be helping Hope just for the fun of it? How would Hope just happen to stumble across Moriarty in his search for someone to disguise himself as a woman? As NA points out, why would Hope be so wary of Holmes? This is the first published account of his work and would not yet have attained any sort of notoriety. Also, the scholars maintain that Moriarty would have charged Hope a considerable fee for his trouble, but Hope was barely scraping together an existence with his work as a cab driver and had been in dire financial straits prior to that, too – he says as much when talking about the difficulties he had trailing Drebber and Stangerson through Europe, so where did he get the cash that Moriarty no doubt would demand?

Since we are so short on notes this week, I thought I’d take a moment to share some illustrations of our favorite detective in action. Both annotateds are very good about showing us a wide variety of artists who had turned there hand to interpreting the Master, but I think NA outnumbers BG in that way. Of course, perhaps the most famous illustrations are those done by Sidney Paget:

His drawings have become the iconic Holmes and Watson, I think (at least for me they are).  Compare to the three other most frequent artists and tell me what you think. Here we have D.H. Friston’s interpretation:

Not bad, though I wouldn’t say Holmes is particularly great – mostly I just love Lestrade’s sexy plaid trousers in this one. Then we have Richard Gutschmidt’s illustrations (from a German translation of the book):

They’re no Paget, but I actually quite like these. And then we have the illustrations done by Charles Doyle, ACD’s father, which I find hilarious. Just wait – compared to the Paget drawings, Holmes and Watson are really quite grotesque here:

The comment from James Montgomery (BG, 186) just makes me laugh: “…How one shudders at the figures of Holmes and Watson – the former now clean shaven  and smiling vapidly in an ill-fitting toupee – the latter bearded like a Saxon chieftain!” He says “the former now clean shaven” because in another Charles Doyle illustration, Holmes, always described as being taller than Watson is the one with the monstrous beard. It’s just so wrong, the two of them looking like this, isn’t it?! And I have searched and searched and searched to show you (alas, to no avail) because there is an illustration, also done by Charles Doyle, of the Ferriers asleep under an outcropping with three buzzards perched above them, waiting for them to die. But Doyle’s drawn the buzzards impossibly big – I mean, these birds don’t need to wait for the Ferriers to die to eat them! Frankly, with monsters like these terrorizing the American Midwest, it’s amazing that anybody made it across.

Baring-Gould tells us that the Observer conducted a poll of its readers in which they were asked to vote on their favorite Sherlock Holmes stories, including both the short stories and the novels. This first publication, A Study in Scarlet, came in fourth place behind “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Sign of the [?] Four (BG, 234). I agree mostly – it is one of my favorites because this is where we get our introductions, and I do remember the “Speckled Band” being very exciting. I’m a little surpried that Hound of the Baskervilles didn’t come in first place mostly because I don’t remember anything particularly outstanding about The Sign of Four. But I think that’s next on our list, so we’ll find out, won’t we?

And now, miscellaneous thoughts [These are my thoughts]:

  • There is once again much discussion of where the action is really taking place. The Mormons discover the Ferriers near Sierra Blanco, which can’t seem to be located on any map. Wayne Melander “carefully traces the path of the Mormons and identifies the peak in question as Oregon Buttes, near South Pass, Wyoming, chalking up the grammatically incorrect ‘Sierra Blanco’ to the travellers’ having misheard their guide.” (NA, 124) [Now, say those two with me – Oregon Buttes, Sierra Blanco. I think you see where I’m going with this.]
  • During Hope’s explanation/confession, he mentions that he managed to have a copy of the key to the house in Lauristen Garden[s] made. “Edwards suggests that if Holmes had looked at the lock when he first viewed the crime scene, he would have observed that it had not been forced. This would have led him…to question the ‘gentleman who had been engaged in looking over some houses in the Brixton Road’… This witness, in turn, would have reported that they key had been lost but returned by the cabman. In this way, Holmes might have quickly been introduced to the criminal.” (NA, 185) [It does seem like a fairly obvious thing for Holmes to have overlooked, but, as Edwards says “We can all do it, when it has been done.”]
  • During his confession, Hope states that when he was summoned by a Baker Street Irregular to Baker Street, he “went round, suspecting no harm” (NA, 194). “It is this naive statement that prompts C.B.H. Vaill to nominate Hope as ‘Number One Dolt.'” (NA, 194). [I’m inclined to agree – I mean, what was Hope thinking? “La, la, la, I’ve just committed two murders and now I’m being summoned by name to 221B Baker Street, surely nothing’s about to go wrong!”] And, as we saw in the discussion of the disguisee, it seems Hope must have (though no one’s sure how) been aware of Holmes’ occupation, so he should have, ironically, seen the writing on the wall. There is speculation that Hope’s willingness to go along to Baker Street was actually motivated by a desire to commit suicide (because of his aortic aneurism) which does kind of make sense, but we can’t be sure, of course.
  • When discussing the fact that Lestrade and Gregson will get credit for solving the case in the papers: “What you do in this world is a matter of no consequence,” returned my companion, bitterly. “The question is, what can you make people believe that you have done?…” (NA, 196). [Wow, bitter already? Got a ways more to go, Holmes.]
  • There is lots of discussion (surprise, surprise) in Baring-Gould of the number of days the case actually took to complete – 1, 2, or 3 days (Honestly, the man is obsessed with timelines!). One scholar, Dr. Zeisler, explains this away by chalking the confusion up to one of two errors “…first, due to the fact that when Watson wrote his chronicle some six years after the events he himself was confused by the rapidity with which they had occurred; it is not strange if they seemed in retrospect to have occupied most of three days instead of two days; secondly it is possible, of course, that Watson wrote ‘2’ in his manuscript, and that the typesetter read ‘3’ – for Watson’s calligraphy was not quite perfect.” (BG, 231) [Well, he is a doctor, after all…]

So I’ll leave you with those thoughts on A Study in Scarlet and we’ll be moving on to chapters 1-6 of The Sign of Four for next week!

*Most of my notes, I think, come from the New Annotated simply because I find its format easier to work through and it is, therefore, the version that I’m reading first (I’m only reading the notes in the Baring-Gould). Much of the information is doubled up, but there is some that is unique to either volume, so if you see NA, that’s the Baring-Gould edition and BG is the New Annotated. No, I’m totally kidding – it’s the other way (the logical way) round.

**Inspired by the diligence paid to dates by Baring-Gould, I have decided that I, too, should make an effort to help nail down the timeline. Therefore:

  • A Study in Scarlet was first published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887.
  • A Study in Scarlet, or at least Holmes and Watson’s role in it all, takes place in 1881 (early March, Baring-Gould would have us believe [based on the weather, to which I say *scoff*]).