“Silver Blaze” was published in December of 1892 and takes place Thursday, September 25 to Tuesday, September 30 of 1890. To work this out, Baring-Gould turns to the foliage to determine the date. No, I’m serious, he totally does. Based on a line from Watson describing ‘the faded ferns and brambles’ which catch the evening light, Baring-Gould decides this must be ‘an autumnal case’ since ‘ferns on Dartmoor do not fade until the latter part of September or the first part of October’ (BG, 271). Never fear, he hasn’t completely abandoned his weather reports! Once determining that Tuesday, September 30, 1890 must be the day of the race, he works backwards and double-checks Watson’s descriptions of their traveling day against the Times weather reports. And joy of joys, the weather ‘was fine and bright in the east and south of England’ (BG, 277).
The thing the Holmesians spend the most time arguing about is whether or not Holmes placed a bet on Silver Blaze’s race. Some of them go so far as to think that he actually rigged the whole race and that this was something he did on a regular basis. Mr. Red Smith points out that ‘in 1891, Holmes said that his earnings from recent cases had left him free to live as he wished; yet Holmes in ‘The Adventure of the Priory School’ had to confess, “I am a poor man,” and although Holmes received princely fees for his services, he was practically always broke–“obviously because the bookies took everything he didn’t have to lay out for happy dust” (BG, 279). He goes so far as to say that ‘”when you bear in mind his first-hand knowledge of the use and effect of cocaine, he probably had his syringe in the veins of more than one thoroughbred”‘ (BG, 280). That seems going a bit far, but none of the Holmesians seem to take issue with him – they seem to like to think the worst of him for some reason… And only Leslie asks if we are to believe that ‘Dr. Watson, who by the time of “Shoscombe Old Place” was spending half his income on turf speculation, did not have a little something wagered on the race?’ (NA, 421)
Oh, this is exhausting! You know what? I’m feeling a bit of Holmesian ennui and it’s my blog, so I’m going to stop here. I don’t mean the whole book club, of course, I just mean “Silver Blaze.” Hopefully next week will be a bit more intriguing – the Holmesians seem to universally like this short story, but I guess there just wasn’t that much to discuss. So stop by next week and cross your fingers that “The Cardboard Box” will lead to some more scintillating discussions than this story did.
*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.