“A Case of Identity” was published in the September issue of the Strand Magazine and takes place from Tuesday, October 18, to Wednesday, October 19 of 1887. Baring-Gould has come to his conclusion based on clothing. And the weather, of course. When Mary Sutherland comes to visit, he notes that she is wearing a large, heavy fur boa around her neck with a broad-brimmed straw hat (with a large, curling feather), with button gloves, and with a jacket and that Mr. Windibank is wearing a top hat with gloves though there is no mention of an overcoat or an umbrella. From these descriptions, Baring-Gold decides that “we must therefore look for two warm, clear days [though I would have said that Miss Sutherland sounds fairly well bundled up for a warm day] in the period Monday, October 17, through Thursday, October 20, 1887: 1) Monday, October 17th was ‘fair but cold and hazy.’ 2) On Tuesday, October 28th, the ‘weather was milder generally than of late’ and ‘except in the North and Northwest’ the weather was dry. 3) On Wednesday, October 19th, the weather was ‘fair on the whole.’ There were ‘light breezes from the west, with a clear or partially clear sky in many places.’ 4) On Thursday, October 20th, however, colder weather settled in ‘over the whole United Kingdom.’ It was foggy in the Southeast of England, with no sunshine whatever registered at Westminster.” (BG, 414-415). I guess I’m obsessed with Baring-Gould’s obsession with the weather as he was…with the weather. I don’t know why – I just like the idea of him poring over old newspapers and almanacks, trying desperately to match up Watson’s descriptions of weather and people’s clothing with the actual weather records.
And now that that’s out of the way, I will come out and say it – I think this must be the most obvious case that Holmes ever took on. In fact, I think he must have taken it, not because it interested him but because he felt sympathy for Mary Sutherland and wanted a chance to confront her horrible stepfather. Or maybe Watson was feeling a bit down in the dumps and Holmes thought that, surely this time Watson would be able to figure things out and that would give his ego a bit of a needed boost. Alas, Holmes, your plan didn’t work (though I’m as dumbfounded as you are at everyone’s thickheadedness here!). I even marked the spot where I thought ‘I see what you did there’ just in case I was right – and I was! It was on page 84 of the New Annotated, when Miss Sutherland says ‘I met him that night, and he called next day to ask if we had got home all safe, and after that we met him – that is to say, Mr. Holmes, I met him twice for walks, but after that father came back again, and Mr. Hosmer Angel could not come to the house any more.’ [Is Hosmer Angel the stepfather?] Matching the wonky typewriter keys is just details – if I knew then, I bet Holmes knew before she even came into their study! This not being one of his subtler cases, I even figured out that the mother was helping the stepfather! On NA page 85, Miss Sutherland tells Holmes that ‘Mother was all in his favour from the first and was even fonder of him than I was. Then, when they talked of marrying within the week, I began to ask about father; but they both said never to mind about father, but just to tell him afterwards, and mother said she would make it all right with him’ [And the mom must be in on it.]
On the same page, Leslie makes a note of Hosmer Angel’s insistence that Mary hand write her letters, claiming that he felt the typewriter put distance between them, saying “Mary does not seem to have objected to his typewritten letters. Why did Angel insist that Mary handwrite hers?” (NA, 85). And he makes a good point – it’s not as though they would have both been typing on the same typewriter – he was using the one at his office. And it’s not like anyone would recognize her hand writing and suddenly be all ‘Dude, why is your stepdaughter sending you love letters? That’s not right.’ It’s an odd detail that ACD seems to have left – maybe it originally had something to do with the plot, but he veered off-course and didn’t bother to change it?
And I’m afraid that’s it! I have no miscellaneous thoughts for you, so I’ll just show you a couple of lovely Paget!Holmes (who thankfully seems to have grown out of his Nicolas Cage phase) that I particularly like:
Stop by next Tuesday when I’ll be in Hawaii (I’ll be winging my way there later today), but through the magic of teh intarwebz I’ll also still be discussing “The Boscombe Valley Mystery.” See you then!
*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.