They reeled me in with fat!Puss-in-Boots!

I was a little wary of this – how many times can Shrek be clever, after all? (And, frankly, if you ask me, the third one wasn’t – except for the princesses kicking ass at the castle part…) I was a little worried it would just be new celebrity-voiced characters and pop culture references, but I couldn’t resist fat!Puss-in-Boots. I mean, look at him!

But it turns out that it’s quite a sweet movie – there are still celebrity voices and pop culture references, but those do take a back seat to the plot and the characters in this one.

I feel like there was something else I wanted to say, but I went back to fix a typo and completely lost my train of thought, so…

Summer blockbuster tally = 4-0-0

“The Reigate Squires” Or, you show those uppity aristocrats, Holmes!

“The Reigate Squires” was published in June 1893 and takes place Thursday April 14 to Tuesday, April 26, 1887. According to Baring-Gould, something very shocking has happened here – all chronologists are in complete agreement with each other and, more importantly…with Watson!

The story opens with Holmes convalescing in a hotel in Lyons with Watson by his side for his recovery, though not for the preceding case. Watson states that when he arrives, Holmes’ hotel room is ‘literally ankle-deep with congratulatory telegrams’ (NA, 558). Frankly, I’m surprised only one Holmesian took up the gauntlet that had been thrown here. Carol P. Woods ‘calculates that to fill the average French hotel room to “ankle-deep” would require 10,741 crumpled telegrams; and she muses that Holmes’ illness was caused not entirely by the exertions put forth in the Netherlands-Sumatra case but also by the telegram-crumpling itself, which would have required slightly over 179 hours of opening, reading, crumpling, and tossing’ (NA, 558). And with those calculations, Carol moves into fourth place!

Watson indeed earns the nickname Mother Hen in this one – when discussing the recent robbery of Colonel Hayter’s home, Holmes begins to get intrigued:

“Oh, the fellows evidently grabbed hold of anything they could get.”

Holmes grunted from the sofa.

“The county police ought to make something of that,” said he. “Why, it is surely obvious that–”

But I held up a warning finger.

“You are here for a rest, my dear fellow. For heaven’s sake, don’t get started on a new problem when your nerves are all in shreds.”

Holmes shrugged his shoulders with a glance of comic resignation towards the Colonel, and the talk drifted away into less dangerous channels.

I can hear him tutting from here!

Much of the mystery is solved based on Holmes’ deductions from the scrap of the note they find clutched in William Kirwin’s hand – the fact that there are two writers, alternating words; that they are related; that one is older and one is younger; that one is in poor health; and that one is in charge while one is following. John Ball Jr. outlines the twenty-three deductions that Holmes makes but chooses not to reveal as they have less bearing on the case:

  1. The quality of the paper – costly, average, or cheap
  2. The rag content of the paper, if any
  3. The probably source of the paper (from the above)
  4. The quality of the ink
  5. The chemical nature of the ink
  6. The probable source of the ink (from the above)
  7. The age of the writing
  8. The presence, or absence, of folds in the paper
  9. Whether the fragment had been torn from the whole, or the whole from the fragment
  10. The direction of the tear–up or down
  11. Whether the first penman was right- or left-handed
  12. Whether the second penman was right- or left-handed
  13. The type of pen used
  14. Whether or not both penmen used the same writing point
  15. Whether the fragment came from a corner of a standard sheet, or was otherwise cut from a larger piece of paper
  16. The original use of the paper – notepaper, wrapping paper, or other
  17. The presence or absence of erasures
  18. The evidence, or lack of evidence, that the writing had been blotted after the first writing
  19. The evidence, or lack of evidence, that the writing had been blotted after the first writing
  20. Whether or not both penmen had used the identical ink supply
  21. The presence, or absence, of fingernail marks made by the hand which tore the paper
  22. Any evidence of a scent still clinging to the paper
  23. The presence, or absence, of extraneous marks or stains on the paper which would also include evidence of pocket-rubbing had the whole document been carried on anyone’s person for any length of time (BG, 343)

Apparently, the Victorians (who got the idea from the French) put a lot of stock into graphology. Winifred Christie isn’t buying some of Holmes’ deductions, saying that ‘By modern standards, Holmes was mistaken in thinking that you can tell the age of adult writers. But he concluded perfectly rightly that you can deduce the state of health. What he called the broken-backed appearance of the older man’s writing presents two symptoms: tremulousness shows debility, and the broken upstrokes heart disease. Heart weakness is confirmed by the presence of irrelevant dots’ (BG, 342). She also agrees with him that ‘there are family writings as there are family walk and voices’ (BG, 343). Which brings me to ask – what does form our handwriting? I really can’t think of anything other than it must have something to do with fine differences in muscles and tendons in the hand and wrist – things shifted tiny, tiny bits from person to person and ever so sightly stronger or weaker. Maybe? Theories? Any handwriting experts out there who want to enlighten me?

Part of the mystery remains unsolved, though! Who in the world is Annie Morrison?! Seems like rather an important thread to leave untied after all this! According to Leslie, ‘the connection of Annie Morrison, if any, to Miss Morrison of “The Crooked Man” or to Morrison, Morrison & Dodd of “The Sussex Vampire” is unknown (NA, 581). I find it hard to believe that none of the Holmesians have any theories as to our mystery woman – surely someone out there thinks she was married to Holmes or secretly Watson’s sister or something!

An interesting tidbit about the title just before I sign off – when it was published in Harper’s Weekly in the States, the editors changed the title to “The Reigate Puzzle” ‘evidently fearful that the term “squires” might affront the robust American democracy of those days’ (BG, 345). Also, ACD ranked this 12th on his list of favorites.

Tune in next week for “The Crooked Man”!

*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.

“The Musgrave Ritual” Or, Holmes, the story about the yeti is the one you tell!

“The Musgrave Ritual” was published in May of 1893 and, according to Baring-Gould, takes place Thursday, October 2, 1879.

And we have VR! As Leslie puts it, this short story ‘reveals Holmes the decorator, as he draws a large “V.R.” on the apartment wall with gunshots!’ (NA, 528). There is some discussion, however, given Watson’s description of the bullets as Boxer cartridges, whether or not they were too powerful for the fine detail work Holmes put them to. According to Mr. Leavitt, ‘Long before Holmes had finished, the room–and the entire house–would have been filled with gritty, white plaster-dust, and the end result after all hundred cartridges had been expended, would have been a vast area chipped away in a shallow concave and glowering out redly over a room littered ankle-deep in chunks of plaster an dgreat ugly shards of what had once been good English brick’ (BG, 123). Frankly, if this is the result, I think I have to agree with Watson that probably ‘neither the atmosphere nor the appearance of [their] room was improved by it’ (NA, 529).

I’m not going to retype the whole thing, but this entire opening paragraph strikes me as being very JKJ-esque, showing off Watson’s dry, understated humor to great advantage. They were writing around the same time – I wonder if Watson had ever picked up a copy of Three Men in a Boat… I’m going to add that to my personal canon, I think.

Once again D. Martin Dakin brings the crazy (and this week’s subtitle)! (I think he’s done it before, hasn’t it? Anyone remember?) When Holmes lists off some of his old cases in an attempt to tantalize Watson, one of them is the ‘full account of Ricoletti of the club foot, and his abominable wife.’ D. Martin Dakin ‘points out that the native name for the Abominable Snowman is “yeti” and suggests that what Holmes really said was “the wrinkled yeti of the club foot and his abominable life”‘ (NA, 530). I…don’t even know where to begin except to say that D. Martin Dakin is starting to give Manly Wade a run for his money as my favorite Holmesian.

The Holmesians also think that he may have been completely making up some of these lists of previous cases to tease Watson – frankly, I think he does it here to get out of tidying up. Watson is easily distracted, after all. Despite having suggested that ‘as he had finished pasting extracts into his commonplace book, he might employ the next two hours in making our room a little more habitable’ (NA, 529), tempted by old cases, Watson immediately asks for an account of The Musgrave Ritual. Holmes has so successfully ensnared Watson’s interest, that he even teases him saying ‘And leave the litter as it is? Your tidiness won’t bear much strain, after all, Watson.’

Watson is fond of his hoarder.

Holmes’ rooms at Montague Street would have been very close to the British Museum and there is speculation that he spent much of those early years, when clients would be few and far between, ensconced in the Reading Room, filling up his brain attic and gathering information for his monographs. Leslie, rogue that he is, says that ‘on a visit to the Reading room in the mid-1970s, [he] obtained a brochure from the Reading Room listing famous readers, including Karl Marx but not including Holmes. When a guard who appeared quite ancient was questioned about this omission, he curtly stated that he had “never seen Holmes here” (NA, 532). How mischievous of you, Leslie! (Also, how ancient must the guard have looked?!)

So it turns out that, according to Nathan Bengis (who, for reasons that will become apparent a few stories from now has rocketed to third place in my list of favorites), the artifact that had been locked in the box in the cellar was the Crown of St. Edward, worn by James I and Charles I at their coronations. But I think Leslie is holding out on me. That’s the only explanation he gives, despite starting out by saying that the ‘identification of the artifact rescued by Holmes is the subject of some controversy’ (NA, 552). There’s got to be at least one Holmesian (D. Martin Dakin, I’m looking at you!) who thinks that what Holmes found was, I don’t know, an alien spaceship or something. Come on, Leslie, where my crazies at?!

Good old Bengis points out that the hardest thing to believe here is that the Musgraves were allowed to keep what is an ancient British relic. Surely it would have been quickly moved to the Tower of London with all the other national treasures!

Also, there is some disbelief that the crown remained hidden for so long, given the obviousness of its hiding place – a cellar still being used to store wood with a heavy iron ring in the middle of its floor. D. Martin Dakin ‘observes [that] surely someone over the course of two centuries would have noticed the cellar’s unusual ornamentation: “there in the middle of the floor was a flagstone with a ring in it, just shouting out to be lifted up”‘ (NA, 553). I agree – the Musgraves must have been very unimaginative to be able to resist such a temptation!

And now to discuss the ritual. Ah, the ritual! Despite being famous (T.S. Eliot cribbed from it for his play Murder in the Cathedral) and holding a special place in the hearts of the Irregulars (they recite it at their annual dinner), the ritual is…problematic at best. I’m not sure I completely understand all the problems here, but I’ll do my best to outline them:

  1. The problem of the month. The riddle is that the month is ‘the sixth from the first.’ But when the riddle was written, the legal year began in March, which would put the sixth from the first in September. If you take the sixth from January, that gives you July. But when the Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1752 (and the riddle was likely written in 1645, shortly after the defeat of Charles I), 11 days were lost which would shift it into the middle of July rather than the beginning.
  2. The problem of the trees. The riddle relies on the height of the elm and the length of its shadow. Musgrave tells Holmes that the tree is 64 feet tall…now. It wouldn’t have been 64 feet tall two centuries ago when the riddle was composed.
  3. The layout of the house. I’m…not even really going to get into this because I’m not sure I get it, but I think the Holmesians are arguing about the layout of the house and whether or not it being ‘L-shaped’ as Holmes describes would fit with the paces given and the location of the tree being out front. Both Leslie and Baring-Gould provide many, many diagrams of different layouts for the house which vary from distinctly L-shaped to definitely not L-shaped. The Holmesians are out in rare form again, as they dismiss some of the diagrams because they are unaesthetic or on grounds of personal preference.
  4. Where to stand. ‘Unclear from the instructions is the matter of where the observer was supposed to stand, ponders Jay Finley Christ in “Musgrave Mathematics.” While Holmes chose to do so on the former location of the elm, the compiler of the Ritual could not have stood there while the elm lived. Furthermore, why does Holmes refer to the shadow of the elm, when the Ritual refers to the shadow under the elm? “How did Holmes, or the butler who preceded him,” puzzles Christ, “know what shadow it was?”‘ (NA, 544)

In March 1927, before The Case-book was published, the Strand asked ACD to rank his favorite 12 short stories – “The Musgrave Ritual” lands at number 11 on his list.

That was an exciting one! Join me next week for “The Reigate Squires.”

*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.

Want to hear about my new obsession?

It’s wind farms. (Ill-photographed wind farms, but it’s the best Edward and I could do.)

I’ve seen the ones in California, but this is a field of them that’s only about an hour or so away from here. I didn’t know we had them in Illinois, but I guess it makes sense – it’s big and flat with nothing to stop the wind from howling across the countryside.

And I love them.

There’s something strangely…eerie about them. They all face the same direction, so it’s like they’re watching for something that hasn’t happened yet or waiting for something that’s about to happen. They’re big and spindly and post-apocalyptic and they all turn deliberately slowly.

And then, every once in a while there’s one that’s stopped and all I want to know is why.

AND THEN AT NIGHT, THEY ALL BLINK IN ALMOST-UNISON.

It’s fascinating.

Seriously, if I lived near one of these wind farms, I’d get nothing done. I’d just stare out of my window all day, trying to make sense of them all.

But, alas, one cannot subsist on cupcakes alone…

So I made pasta e fagioli.

Obviously I don’t have a grill (and my grill pan is the complete opposite of nonstick – seriously, even my utensils glue themselves to it), so I roasted my cherry tomatoes in the oven. I put them in at 400 degrees and then just checked on them every few minutes. It didn’t take very long  – maybe five minutes – until they were all burst and soft and juicy.

Very tasty, super easy, and mad quick to throw together!

There’s always room for cupcakes!

And maybe even two of these cupcakes! I…may or may not have eaten two at one go before I filled and frosted them (and maybe even once again since then). But that’s just between you and me, right?

It’s yellow in my kitchen again so I thought I’d play with Photobucket’s fun editing tools. Nifty, eh? Though it doesn’t really help you tell what kind of cupcake it is… I’ll tell you instead!

They’re Raspberry Lime Cloud cupcakes and they’re super-tasty! It’s a lime cupcake filled with a raspberry-lime curd and then topped with a raspberry-lime whipped cream frosting. It sounds pretty complicated, but I promise it’s not. And there’s just enough tartness in the lime and raspberry to balance out all the sugar in there.

Diabolically easy to eat.