“The Adventure of the Dancing Men” Or, Get your acts together, Holmesians!

“The Adventure of the Dancing Men” was first published in December 1903 and, according to Baring-Gould who is up to his old tricks here, takes place Wednesday, July 27 to Wednesday, August 10 and Saturday, August 13, 1898 (I’m not sure why he didn’t just call it July 27-August 13, but that’s what he says…). I think he probably has one of those logic puzzle setups for each short story where he’s like ‘It was raining on this day, but it can’t have been a Monday; the moon had to be out for Hilton to see the note on the sundial, but it was overcast on that day.’

I also think we are probably soulmates.

But! I am shocked to see that Baring-Gould let a typographical error through! The title of the short story is correct, but in his running heads, it’s ‘The Adventure of the Dancing Man’! *gasp* I guess that’s what happens when you devote so much time to logic puzzles…

Frankly, I think the Holmesians are in a bit of withdrawal after the excitement of “The Final Problem” and “The Empty House” – the theories are less than sparkling and aren’t nearly as numerous as they were. I’m sure we’ll recover, it’s just making for a bit of a Holmesian doldrum at the moment.

I think this is usually one of the short stories that has the main citation of Watson’s gambling problem  – it’s certainly not the only one; there are hints of it in “Shoscombe Old Place” and I think there are also hints of it in “Silver Blaze,” too – Holmes mentions that he keeps Watson’s chequebook locked up in his desk for him. Most Holmesians think this is a sign of Holmes looking after Watson and keeping him from gambling away everything. Good old D. Martin Dakin, though, ‘suggests instead that the doctor may have temporarily broken the lock or mislaid his own desk key, or that his desk simply wasn’t the kind that locked’ (NA, 866). It makes sense, but I’m going to have to go with Watson’s a gambler – there’s too much evidence to the contrary, Martin.

Though he solves it, the question is whether or not it, like “The Five Orange Pips” counts as a success since he does lose his client. The Holmesians seem rather at a loss as to why Holmes didn’t hightail it out to Ridling Thorpe when Hilton Cubbitt first turned up at his door. He did it for what’s-her-name – not “The Crooked Man,” the one where she thinks her husband’s dead, but he just works as a beggar instead” – and that seemed to be a much less pressing issue. No one really seems to have an explanation for Holmes’ lackadaisical approach to this case – not even a crazy one, like I don’t know, that Holmes had travelled from the future and was busy trying to fix his time machine so he could go back in time to actually save Cubbitt. Or, you know, something like that.

I don’t even have any miscellaneous thoughts! See? The doldrums!

Oh, one last thing – ACD agrees with everyone else who loves this one – he ranked it #3 on his list of favorites! We’ve passed all my favorites, so I’m looking forward to see what he ranks as #1.

Tune in next week for “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist” when hopefully the Holmesians will be back in form (and hopefully so will I – I’m SO hungry right now and not thinking straight!).

*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.


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