8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: The Finale

And here we are at the end. Or, rather, the beginning, because, while it’s the end of this year’s 12th Night Giveaway, it’s the beginning of the 167th year for Mr. Sherlock Holmes, wherever he might be celebrating his 166th birthday this year–London, the Sussex Downs–or in the hearts of those who love him.

And how will the Great Detective be marking the occasion this year? Possibly at Simpson’s.  A good seat at the opera. Maybe with a quiet day on the Downs. Hopefully with a magnificently outré murder. Always with Watson.

As for me, I am going to post this entry, do a bunch of drawings, get dinner ready, and go to work. I’ll be taking birthday cake to work, and bringing one home to the family.

It doesn’t seem like “birthday cake” was a thing in Britain until the latter part of the 19th century, and even then, Mrs. Beeton, while she has a zillion mentions of “cake,” doesn’t have even one for “birthday”–and that’s as late as 1891. While I am sure that Mrs. Hudson made Holmes his favorite meals for his birthday (assuming he wasn’t forgoing food for the benefit of a case), I am guessing that, for tea or dessert, she just made something simple, like one of these:

Pound Cake.–Ingredients for large cake.–1 lb of butter, 1 1/4 lb of flour, 1 lb of pounded loaf sugar, 1 lb of currants, 9 eggs, 2 oz of candied peel, 1/2 oz of citron, 1/2 oz of sweet almonds; when liked, a little pounded mace. Average Cost, 3s 6d.

Work the butter to a cream; dredge in the flour; add the sugar, currants, candied peel, which should be cut into neat slices, and the almonds, which should be blanched and chopped, and mix all these well together; whisk the eggs, and let them be thoroughly blende with the dry ingredients. Beat the cake well for 20 minutes, and put it into a round tin, lined at the bottom and sides with a strip of white buttered paper. Bake it from 1 1/2 to 2 hours and let the oven be well heated when the cake is first put in, as, if this is not the case, the currants will all sink to the bottom of it. To make this preparation light, the yolks and whites of the eggs should be beaten separately, and added separately to the other ingredients. A glass of wine is sometimes added to the mixture; but this is scarcely necessary, as the cake will be found quite rich enough without it.

Time.– 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Seasonable  at any time.

Mrs. Beeton’s  Every-day Cookery and Housekeeping Book. London: Ward, Lock, 1891

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Hopefully, yours won’t look exactly like the picture.

Or, perhaps, given the time of year and her own Scots heritage, she made something like this:

Snow Cake:(a genuine Scotch Recipe.)Ingredients for a cake of moderate size.–1 lb of arrowroot, 1/3 lb of pounded white sugar, 1/2 lb of butter, the whites of 6 eggs; flavouring to taste of almonds, or vanilla or lemon. Average Cost, 2s 3d.

Beat the butter to a cream; stir in the sugar and arrowroot gradually, at the same time beating the mixture. Whisk the whites of the eggs to a stiff froth, add them to the other ingredients, and beat well for 20 minutes. Put in whichever of the above flavourings may be preferred; pour the cake into a buttered mould or tin, and bake it in a moderate oven from 1 to 1 1/2 hour.

Time.–1 to 1 1/2 hour.

Seasonable at any time.

And now for the final Giveaway question…..

Watson seems like a person who likes to give gifts. What do you think he might give Holmes for his birthday, and why?

And his love of betting notwithstanding, Watson could likely afford to give Holmes some nice presents, particularly once he inked the publishing deal which got him this:


The only collecting I do anymore is for the Giveaway, but I did go through the requisite Sherlockian collecting mania at first. I don’t have deep pockets, so I learned very quickly that, if you are patient, you can find lovely things just a tad cheaper, simply due to condition. As you can see, this Collier’s has a stain on the bottom, which took it out of the three-figure price-range, into this Giveaway, and possibly into your house. I will be sending it in its original packaging, but if you are the winner, please consider storing it in a flat archival box, which you can find for very reasonable prices online.

And, as always….send in your answers via blog comment or FB message (the Well-Read Sherlockian page, or my own). Happy Epiphany, Merry Christmas (for you who celebrate today), and Happy Returns of the Day to Sherlock Holmes!

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8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 13

Tomorrow, the kids start back to school. Christmas Break is over. One kid thinks it went too fast; another thinks it went way too slow. And one doesn’t really care, ’cause she’s a senior.

Now that all three are out of elementary school, they have a later start time. I was really looking forward to that. I had great plans for our “easy morning” before the buses came. Instead of dragging sleepy kids out of bed at 6 o’something and putting them on the bus in the dark for months, I envisioned getting up at a decent hour, making them a lovely breakfast, and everything basically looking like this:

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I’m sorry, but this much joy in the morning is indecent.


Of course, no one wants to get up, even at the new and improved time, and two of them have inherited their father’s aversion to food in the morning. Unless it’s doughnuts. So much for dreams….

Mrs. Hudson didn’t have that problem. Mrs. Hudson’s lodgers evidently adored the breakfasts she brought up to them. We find Holmes and Watson at breakfast quite a few times in the Canon, and they are never grouchy, picky (except that time Holmes griped about his eggs), or leave most of it sitting there because THERE’S THE BUS!!!!!!!!! Unlike the “full English” we often hear about, breakfast at 221B seems to have been a relatively simple affair. Eggs are mentioned most, followed by toast. They are accompanied by rashers of bacon once, and by ham twice–one occasion of which includes curried fowl. They are scrambled at least once, and soft-boiled (requiring an eggs-spoon) another time. Then there was the morning I alluded to above, in which Holmes deduced that their new cook had been distracted by the latest issue of the Family Herald, and thus kept them in the water overlong, making the hard-boiled instead.

Mrs. Beeton’s  1891 edition contains 21 egg recipes, as well as advice on choosing eggs, handling them, and their nutritional value. There are egg balls, egg sauce, Alpine eggs (eggs baked over cheese), egg wine (egg with sherry, sugar and nutmeg, heated (never boiled) and stirred until thick; scotch eggs, savoury eggs (featuring anchovies and cayenne pepper), the fancy-sounding “eggs à la maître d’hotel” and  “eggs au miroir,” and the not-so-fancy sounding “eggs à la tripe”–which, I was relieved to learn, does not actually contain tripe, but is something with hardboiled eggs, béchamel sauce, and croutons.

Mrs. Hudson’s scrambled eggs–which, unfortunately for Stanley Hopkins, were cold by the time “The Adventure of Black Peter” was concluded–may have been made like this:

Eggs, Scrambled.–Ingredients for dish for 4 persons.–6 eggs, 1 oz. of butter, pepper, salt, 4 slices of buttered toast. Average cost, 9d.

Put the butter in a saucepan, and break into it the eggs, and season well with pepper and salt. Beat the mixture while cooking with a fork, but do not thoroughly amalgamate the yolks and whites. After about 2 minutes, remove the pan to the side of the  fire to finish cooking. The eggs should be set. Have ready some slices of toast hot and buttered, spread on them the egg and serve immediately,

Time.— 5 minutes.

Seasonable at any time.

Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Every-day Cookery and Housekeeping. London: Ward, Lock, 1891.

I was actually pretty amazed when I saw how simple this was. I am not a fan of eggs at all, but everyone else in my family likes them, so I make scrambled eggs a lot–mixed with milk or cream, shredded cheese, salt, pepper (occasionally chorizo), and definitely “amalgamating” the whites and the yolk.

The WRS nerdy part of me wants to go on and tell you about the ham and poached eggs recipe, as well as the one for “curried fowl.” The responsible adult in me says that I have messed up the posting timeline quite enough already, and it’s time to get this post out of the way before tomorrow’s Birthday Post and Grand Prize. So….


It’s vintage Canon this time. Return (1895, McClure, Phillips, New York) and Memoirs (1893, Harper & Brothers, New York) are both illustrated and in decent shape. The Valley of Fear is somewhat fragile; it’s undated (the flyleaf is missing) and unillustrated, but it is a Newnes printing from London, which is pretty cool. To enter the drawing for this trio, just answer the following question:

What research detail did Holmes tell Hopkins that he had missed in his pursuit of Black Peter’s murderer? 

As always, send your answer via blog comment, or FB message at the Well-read Sherlockian FB page.

I think the kids are getting cereal tomorrow.

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Annnnd, Jim Bennett is another double winner. Percy Phelps was the poor, sleepy guy whose need for caffeine and impatience for his coffee led him to leave classified documents unattended in “The Adventure of the Naval Treaty”


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8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 12

Ok, here, for a few more hours, it really is Day 12 (Saturday). Real life makes its demands. I really need to write these up months in advance, and I will, this year, I swear.

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“It’s July! I have plenty of time!”

As I promised, today is about coffee. Again, I don’t like coffee, and apparently I cannot make it without the help of the Keurig. I tried. When Brett and I first started dating, and I realized that he didn’t get his morning caffeine from Diet Coke (or regular Coke. Or Pepsi. Or Mountain Dew. Or Dr. Pepper. Or…you get the picture), I went out and bought a coffee maker and some kind of fancy-sounding coffee (because I knew he was a coffee snob). Hazelnut-vanilla-dark french roast-whatever. Pre-ground. And then I made it. He liked it, and I was proud and it was so romantic. I continued to make his coffee for all the time we dated, and after we got married (only then, I ground the beans, because he had a coffee grinder. Snob, remember?)

It wasn’t until a few years into our marriage that he let me know that my coffee was so strong it could grow chest hair–that it was actually pretty terrible. He just didn’t want to hurt my feelings. That’s love, right there. After that, I let him make his own coffee–and now we have a Keurig.

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“Darling, I can’t play while you’re kissing me! I thought you loved my playing!”

I am sure that Mrs. Hudson made wonderful coffee. And while she didn’t have a Keurig, I have to think that her chemist lodger may have ensured that she had the most sophisticated coffee-making equipment–which in the 1890’s was the Loysel Hydrostatic Urn. Of course, she could have made it in a simple pot, much the way she made tea (only with the grounds in a muslin bag)–but where would be the fun in that?

To Make Coffee:

Ingredients:–Allow 1/2 oz., or 1 tablespoonful, or ground coffee to each person; to ever  oz. of coffee allow 1/2 pint of water.

To make coffee good, it should never be boiled, but the boiling water merely poured on it, the same as for tea. The coffee should always be purchased in the berry–if possible, freshly roasted [Mrs. Beeton believed that the French made much better coffee, and discusses how to roast it the French way in the next section]; and it should never be ground long before it is wanted for use. There are many very new kinds of coffee-pots, but the method of making the coffee is nearly always the same, namely, pouring the boiling water on the powder, and allowing it to filter through. Our illustration shows one of Loysel’s Hydrostatic Urns, which are admirably adapted for making good and clear coffee, which should be made in the following manner:–Warm the urn with boiling water, remove the lid and movable filter, and place the ground coffee at the bottom of the urn. Put the movable filter over this, and screw the lid, inverted, tightly on the end of the centre pipe. Pour into the inverted lid the above proportion of boiling water, and when all the water so poured has disappeared from the funnel, and made its way down the centre pipe and up again through the ground coffee by hydrostatic pressure, unscrew the lid and cover the urn. Pour back direct into the urn, not through the funnel, one, two or three cups according to the size of the percolator, in order to make the infusion of uniform strength; the contents will then be ready for use, and should run from the tap strong, hot and clear. The coffee made in these urns generally turns out very good, and there is but one objection to them–the coffee runs rather slowly from the tap; this is of no consequence where there is a small party, but tedious where there are many persons to provide for. A remedy for this objection may be suggested, namely, to make the coffee very strong, so that not more than one third of a cup would be required, as the rest would be filed up with milk. Making coffee in filters or percolaters does away with the necessity of using isinglass, white of egg, and various other preparations, to clear it. Coffee should always be served very hot, and if possible, in the same vessel in which it is made, as pouring it from one pot to another cools, and consequently spoils it. Many persons may think that the proportion of water we have given for each ounce of coffee is rather small; it is so, and the coffee produced from it will be very strong; one third of a cup will be found quite sufficient, which should be filled with nice hot milk, or milk and cream mixed. This is the café au lait for which our neighbours over the Channel are so justly celebrated. Should the ordinary method of making coffee be preferred, use double the quantity of water, and, in pouring it into the cups, put in more coffee and less milk.–Mrs. Beeton’s Every-day Cookery and Housekeeping Book. London: Ward, Lock, 1891.



This is just a magazine ad, but it’s been professionally framed–and features Basil Rathbone in his greatest role. I have to wonder if the combination of tobaccos celebrated in the ad copy were included in Holmes’s monograph.

If you would like to hang this, in its lovely color-coordinated frame, next to your portrait of General Gordon, just send in your answer to this question:

In which story did the need for caffeine leave a young man open to a dreadful crime?

As always, send your answers via blog comment, or message the Well-read Sherlockian FB page.

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Congratulations to Jim Bennett, winner of the trio of books by Bonnie McBird! When I wrote the question, the answer I had in mind was that Amontillado sherry would remind Holmes and Watson of Poe’s story, “The Cask of Amontillado.” However, several of you, including Mr. Bennett, also pointed out that they would have appreciated its notes of tobacco-like flavor as well. Given Holmes’s feelings regarding Dupin, whom he considered “a very inferior fellow,” I think the latter answer is in fact the best one!

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8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 11

Obviously today’s entry is posted a day late. But it was for a good reason. Today, you see, was the last weekday of my kids’ Christmas Break. I was off work, and decided we needed to have some fun. Real fun; not my mom kind of fun, which involves a lot of laundry and Getting Stuff Done.

So we drove to a neighboring town and did a lot of second-hand store shopping. My kids love this and they each look for different things: games, shoes, miniature dishes, books on their passions, art–it’s hard to keep them on a budget.

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Let’s face it. Most of us need to have someone lock our cheque-books in a drawer.

But we were (mostly) good, and finished up at one of our favorite spots for ice cream and “craft soda.” Wonder of wonders, they had my all-time favorite drink: Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola, which tastes like autumn in a bottle; I bought the four they had left, and I felt no shame. After all, it’s been three years since I’ve had any!


Best. Stuff. Ever.

At this point, sad to say, I was still trying to figure out a topic for this post–and optimistically believed I’d get it done in time. I finally settled on beverages. What did Sherlock Holmes drink?

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Someone wrote a book on the subject.

I decided to do a word search through the Canon. Tea, I figured, would be the winner, hands-down. I was kind of hoping that I would find specific types of tea, would share them with you, and then have a question that had something to do with lapsang souchong. It would be quick. I was wrong.

First of all, it wasn’t quick. I used a really great “searchable Canon” site–but unfortunately, “tea” appears in many, many Canonical words. Tons.  So does “gin.” And “port.” So that took some time. Second of all, I had to make sure the word was used in a “beverage” sense. For example, “spirits” showed up in “The Adventure of Silver Blaze” as a cleanser. Was the water in the carafe that Watson threw on Baron von Gruner considered drinking water, even if it was used in a medicinal sense (I decided it was)?* And finally, tea was not the runaway winner. Here, in fact, is the break-down:

Water (in a drinking context): 41

Coffee: 33

Tea (in a drinking context): 32 mentions (with no special varieties given)

Wine: 32 mentions (31 of the word, and one of “Tokay” in VALL)

Brandy: 29 mentions

Milk: 15 mentions

Whisky: 7 mentions

Liquor: 7 mentions

Rum: 5 mentions

Beer: 4 mentions

Claret: 4 mentions

Sherry: 4 mentions

Gin: 3 mentions

Port: 3 mentions

Spirits (in a drinking context): 3 mentions

Ale: 1 mention.

I didn’t find stout or porter. Madeira only shows up as the city, and not the wine. There may have been other drinks that appear that I just didn’t think of. If you know of any, please share!

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And here I have a confession to make. I don’t like tea. Nor do I like coffee. Hot drinks are really not my thing. So when it came to researching them, I was starting at the beginning. Victorian tea, it seems, was a lot more complicated than simply buying a box of some pre-made and pre-named blend off the shelf. Nor does Mrs. Beeton, normally so helpful, give you a primer on which leaves or beans to choose. Apparently, like the solar system, Victorian Britons considered this “primary school.” I did learn, however, that when you went to a tea shop, you could customize your blend to your liking. English Breakfast tea was available, and Earl Grey was relatively new–although it may have been around up to 50 years prior, advertisements for it first appear in the 1880’s. White and green teas were used, although black teas were most popular (for caffeine reasons, I expect). Tea was more popular (in general) in Britain than coffee, for the simple reason that you could drink it watered down, making it more economical. Although we don’t know for sure, it’s possible that Captain Watson of the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers drank “gunfire tea,” or tea with a shot of rum. Hmmm….perhaps he still had it on occasion at 221B.

Also, many tea bloggers apparently don’t like the smoky flavour of lapsang souchong.

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Well, that’s helpful.

So–how would Mrs. Hudson have made tea for her lodgers? Mrs. Beeton was fairly sanguine about this:

There is very little art in making good tea; if the water is boiling, and thee  is no sparing of the fragrant leaf, the beverage will almost invariably be good. The old-fashioned plan of allowing a teaspoonful to each person and one over, is still practised. Warm the teapot with boiling water; let it remain for two or three minutes for the vessel to become thoroughly hot, then pour it away. Put in the tea, pour in from 1/2 to 3/4 pint of boiling water, close the lid, and let it stand for the tea to draw from 5 to 10 minutes for the tea to draw; then fill up the pot with water. The tea will be quite spoiled unless made with water that is actually boiling, as the leaves will not open, and the flavour not be extracted from them; the beverage will consequently be colourless and tasteless–in fact, nothing but tepid water. Where there is a large party to make tea for, it is a good plan to have two teapots, instead of putting a large quantity of tea into one pot; the tea, besides, will go farther. When the infusion has been once completed, the addition of fresh tea adds very little to the strength; so, when more is required, have the pot emptied of the old leaves, scalded, and fresh tea made in the usual manner. Economists say that a few grains of bicarbonate of soda, added before the boiling water is poured on the tea, assist to draw out the goodness; if the water is very hard, perhaps it is a good plan, as the soda softens it; but care must be taken to use this ingredient sparingly, as it is liable to give the tea a soapy taste if added in too large a quantity. For mixed tea, the usual proportion is four spoonfuls of black to one of green; more of the latter when the flavour is very much liked; but strong green tea is highly pernicious, and should never be partaken of too freely. Time: 2 minutes to warm the teapot, 5 to 10 minutes to draw the strength from the tea. Sufficient.–Allow 1 teaspoonful to each person. —Mrs. Beeton’s Every-day Cookery and Housekeeping Book; London: Ward & Lock, 1891.

Tomorrow: Coffee!

I won’t be discussing alcohol in this series, but this prize does–at least, in the middle book. Today’s prize is a “book club” prize, featuring Bonnie McBird’s three Sherlock Holmes novels–I’ve read them all, and they are wonderful. I adore the murders in her latest, The Devil’s Due,  but my favorite is still Unquiet Spirits, because it’s creepy and–well, I’ll tell you more later….

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From Mcbird.com

Normally, with a book club prize, I send the books out one per month, but this time, I will be sending them all at once. It will be up to you to pace yourself.

To enter the drawing for this prize, send your answer to the following question to me via blog comment or FB post at the Well-read Sherlockian Facebook page:

One type of sherry is known as “Amontillado.” Why might we assume that this was Holmes and Watson’s sherry of choice?


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Congratulations to Elise Marchand, winner of the Basil of Baker Street books! As you all knew, while exploring the hut on the moor, Watson found Holmes’s pantry of “a loaf of bread, a tinned tongue, and two tins of preserved peaches.” To drink, there was water, and a half a bottle of spirits of some kind. There was also a “litter of empty tins,” and Ms. Marchand pointed out that, as Holmes knew a dangerous predator was lurking about, we can deduce that those cans had not contained beans.








*Note: If you are ever assailed by someone with oil of vitriol, do not pour water on the burn–it makes things even worse. Seriously, Conan Doyle and Watson should have known that.


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8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 10

Well, it’s been 2020 here for nearly 15 hours. I’m…reorganizing, so as much fun as that is (really!), everything is a bit chaotic. If reorganizing or downsizing or clutter-busting is part of your New Year’s resolutions, I think it’s best to realize that it’s one of those “goals” that is really more of a process. There’s no “done” when it comes to housekeeping. There’s just doing and re-doing,

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This room, for example, is in the “re-doing” stage.

If you check back in old British newspapers, you’ll find someone else who set himself some “re-doing for the new year. According to the Middlesex Gazette of Saturday, 8 January 1898:



The New Year resolution of convict John Morgan, F.M.U. 240, was to leave his present residence in Dartmoor Prison and help us for a time to carry on the benefits of civilisation outside; and he succeeded to an extent which was worthy of a better motive. On Sunday night Morgan managed to smuggle a hammer into his cell, and with this he  smashed the ventilator, and with the aid of knotted blankets lowered himself into the yard below, a distance of about 20 ft. A serious obstacle had still to be overcome in the shape of a massive outer wall, 20 ft high and bending inwards. This, however, he scaled with the aid of a scaffold pole, and, dropping down on the other side, he found himself in the open. The escape was effected at 8:40,and by 9:30 an alarm had been raised, the night watchman having noticed the blanket hanging from the window, and every available officer was sent out fully armed to scour the moors. Some when on horseback to Plymouth, Tavistock, and Totnes, while others searched nearer home, The night, however, passed by without sign of the fugitive, and it was not until Monday afternoon that any trace of him was found. Then he was captured at Chagford, a place about 12 miles from the prison, and halfway to Exeter. He was pounced upon by a working man while lurking in the grounds of Mr. Budd. Quite fatigued, he allowed himself without much resistance to be detained in safe- keeping until the arrival of Police-constable Mortimer, of the Devon Constabulary, who, having handcuffed him and otherwise made him secure, chartered a vehicle, and drove him directly back to prison.

Morgan, whose alias is Henry Harley, has seved three terms of penal servitude, ad is known both at Parkhurst and Dartmoor as one of the most resourceful rogues to be found anywhere. In 1894 he was sentenced to 10 years’ penal servitude, and was sent to Parkhurst, which he managed to leave by deftly removing some bricks from his cell. There he entered a clergyman’s house, stole a change of clothing of clerical cut, and made his way to Cowes, where he appropriated a waterman’s boat. After he entered this craft he discovered that there were no oars on the boat, and while he was drifting about with the tide, the Custom House men sighted him and bore down upon him, and took him in tow as being a suspicious character. After this bold bid for freedom, it was thought Parkhurst was hardly secure enough for him, and he was transferred to Princetown. He was not a stranger there, being notorious for his tactics and daring. Morgan belongs to Poplar. He is a short thick-set young fellow, with blue eyes, brown hair, and fresh complexion. He was –so the warders say–“up to every conceiveable kind of dodge.” If he wanted a rest from his usual work in No. 38 party for a time he knew how to simulate some fanciful ailment. Until quite recently his cell was on the third floor, and was classed among those who are thoroughly searched twice daily.  Upon his own request, and having regard to his excelllent behaviour for some months past, he was removed from this storey to the one lower down, and was allowed certain other privileges. But all the while, however, he was known to be “a regular dodger,” and he would sometimes jocularly promise the warders a chase some day or other. Latterly he was employed along with the notorious Goodwin, who made such a sensational escape about a year ago and it is supposed that he and Goodwin have had some secret consultation as to the best route to follow when once beyond he prison walls. Goodwin could speak from painful experience on this point, for it will be remembered that when he escaped he wandered about in mist for some hours, and when the moon came out found himself immediately under the prison walls. It is also stated that Morgan is one of half a dozen convicts who some years ago made a bold dash for liberty at Dartmoor while working in the harvest field close to the prison. On that occasion all of the culprits were arrested within an few hours.


Of course, this story reminded me of another escaped convict (this one escaped from Princetown)–one who was not recaptured, but met a sorry end on those same moors about 10 years prior. Poor Selden, the criminal! It’s as well for John Morgan (could he have been “Morgan, the poisoner” Holmes references in “The Empty House”?) that the Great Detective had solved the mystery of the hellhound of the Baskervilles by the time he made yet another attempt at escape.

Never a man to shy away from physical challenges, Holmes spent part of The Hound of the Baskervilles roughing it on the moors. As Mrs. Hudson was not willing to come out and cook for him, he hired a boy to bring him foodstuffs as he worked the case. Granada treats this with some hilarity:


But you all will no doubt recognize that whatever concoction that is, does not match the food supplies mentioned in the Canon. So, today’s question is…..

What did Holmes eat while roughing it in a hut out on the moor?

Today’s prize celebrates another Holmesian adventurer–and a character who beguiled many young Sherlockians before they went on to HOUN and the rest of the Canon:



These are used copies in decent shape; perfect for reading, or for giving to a young friend. As always, to enter, send your answer to the above question in via blog comment,  or message the Well-Read Sherlockian Facebook page (or me, if we’re FB friends). I hope your first day of 2020 has been a pleasant one! It’s back to work tomorrow!

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Congratulations to Claudia, winner of the bound Strand magazines! This was probably one of the harder questions I’ve ever given you–there were a couple of dots to connect. The Strand–where Conan Doyle published so many of his Holmes stories–was founded by George Newnes. Newnes’ first magazine–which helped to fund, and also promoted features in the Strand–was Tit-Bits. Newnes earned the money to start that first magazine by opening and running a successful vegetarian restaurant.


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8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 9

It’s still New Year’s Eve while I write this, but in a few short hours…new day, new year, new decade, new YOU?

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(Country Living Magazine)

Well, perhaps not–you’re fine just as you are! But we all like to do a little tweaking now and again, and New Year’s has brought out the human desire to turn over a new leaf in life as well as in the calendar for quite a long while.

Did the inhabitants of 221 Baker Street make New Years’ resolutions, I wonder? No doubt early on in his career, Sherlock Holmes might have resolved to find ways to get more (and more interesting) cases. Perhaps he had books he planned to read. No doubt, Watson hoped he would resolve to be neater about the flat…but I don’t think he got his wish.

Watson, being a writer, definitely made resolutions regarding his productivity, markets he wanted to crack, perhaps the amount he wanted to earn. As a physician, he would need to set some financial goals in order to keep his practice afloat. Then there was his predilection for billiards and horse racing–he’d need to do a lot less of those if he hoped to be able to marry and support a family one day.

Mrs. Hudson? I can’t imagine she has much to improve on, really. But busy, hardworking women rarely take enough time for themselves–perhaps she might have resolved to indulge a little more in her own interests–take up painting? Read more books? Do a bit of gardening? Perhaps take a holiday–or several. It might even help her tenants learn not to take her for granted!

One resolution no one at Baker Street (or in a certain chair at the Diogenes Club) seems to have made was to become a vegetarian. It would not have been unusual, as the vegetarian movement gained quite a few followers in the late 19th century. People cut meat from their diets for health reasons, to cut costs, to avoid harming animals (preventing animal cruelty and anti-vivisectionism were popular causes during this time), and for religious reasons. I hope to do a more in-depth article on Victorian vegetarianism in the future, but if you would like to check out two contemporary sources on the topic, follow these links:

Anna Bonus Kingsford, The Perfect Way in Diet

(Ms. Kingsford was the second British woman to become a physician. She studied medicine in Paris, where she made a point of never using vivisection in her training).

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Anna Bonus Kingsford (wikipedia)


Howard Williams, The Ethics of Diet


This popular book–basically an anthology of famous peoples’ writings on vegetarian diets–is an easier read than Ms. Kingsford’s more scientific approach. I can imagine who would have read which in Baker Street.

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I couldn’t find a photo of Mr. Williams, but his book is pretty.

Vegetarianism was enough of a “thing” in the 1880’s that Mrs. Beeton’s included a vegetarian menu–very useful when you having the new vicar to dinner and all of a sudden your usual Sunday roast wouldn’t suit. Instead, you could serve:

January’s menu is not all that thrilling….

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It’s better in August…although I’m thinking that “cheese straws” should be a year-round thing….

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“New Year’s resolution” isn’t found in the Canon; “vegetarian” appears once, with the mention of a vegetarian restaurant in “The Adventure of the Red-Headed League.” Which leads us to today’s question:

How did a vegetarian restaurant play into the popularity of the Sherlock Holmes stories? (Hint: Think of where the short stories were published)

The prize kind of works as a hint as well. This, unfortunately, does not have the lovely blue color, and it is showing a bit of its age, but inside it has some wonderful stories….





As always, to enter the drawing, send your answer in via blog comment or message the Well-Read Sherlockian FB page (or my personal page if we are FB friends).

There are now 20 minutes left in 2019. Here’s hoping that every one of you have a wonderful year in 2020!

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New Year’s Eve at the Savoy, 1906


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Jim McArthur is the winner of the Sherlock Holmes comics–and also the first two-time winner of Giveaway 8! This was by far the most popular question of the entire event. This leads me to believe that I need to search for more comics for Giveaway 9. Also–I learned that all of you are cynics who believed that Lord St Simon would miss Hattie Doran’s money more than her love. So unromantic!

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8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 8

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It doesn’t bode well  for your marriage when some guy in the pews hands your new bride a bouquet.


As I not so slyly hinted yesterday, today’s entry is all about weddings. Or rather, wedding breakfasts, such as the one mentioned in “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor.” According to William Baring-Gould, this case took place in the fall of 1886–the first year in which weddings after 12 noon became legal in Britain. If you go by Jay Finley Christ’s chronology, and believe the events occurred in 1888, it’s still very likely that a traditional noble family would follow that centuries’ old custom.

According to The Habits of Good Society: A Handbook for Ladies and Gentlemen (published in both Boston and London in 1875):

In London, for a great wedding breakfast, it is customary to send out printed cards from the parents or guardians from whose house the young lady is to be married.


The breakfast is arranged on one or more tables, and is generally provided by a confectioner when expense is not an object.

Flowers skillfully arranged in fine Bohemian glass or in épergnes composed of silver, with glass-dishes, are very ornamental on each side of the wedding-cake, which stands in the center. When the breakfast is sent from a confectioner’s or is arranged in the house by a professed cook,  the wedding-cake is richly ornamented with flowers, in sugar, and a knot of orange-flowers at the top. At each end of the table are tea and coffee. Soup is sometimes handed. Generally the viands are cold, consisting of poultry or game, lobster-salads, chicken or fish à la Mayonnaisses, hams, tongues, potted-meats, prawns, and  game-pies; raisins, savory jellies sweets of every description–all cold. Ice is afterwards handed, and, before the healths are drunk, the wedding-cake is cut by the nearest gentleman and handed round.


Mrs. Beeton’s 1880 edition includes a wedding menu for both English and French-style weddings, as well as a diagram of how one’s table might be laid:

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This makes the cake, nuts, and mints we had at my wedding seem….paltry. Oh,and a caveat to any of you planning a wedding–get twice as much punch as you think you will need. Trust me.

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This couple ran out of punch. They also chose a holiday weekend for their wedding, and the bride did her own nails. All were bad decisions.

So, going with today’s theme of invalid marriages, let’s have a prize with a fake one, shall we?


I have never taken these comics out of their plastic. They’ve been read, but seem to be in decent shape. They are larger than usual–hence the $1.00 price tag. To enter the drawing for them, just  answer to this question:

What would Lord St. Simon miss the most about his erstwhile bride, Hatty Doran?

Send your answer in via blog comment, or by Facebook message (the Well-Read Sherlockian page or my personal FB page). Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve–stay safe, and have a designated driver!!!!!!!!!!


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Congratulations to David Marcum, winner of the shorthand version of The Return of Sherlock Holmes! Shorthand is mentioned in STUD and CARD; Lestrade, Gregson, and “our shorthand man” all use it. As Pitman shorthand was and is the most popular method used in England, we may deduce that this was the form they were using.

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8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 7

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If you know me well, you will know that I am not…organized. Like Holmes, I drove my (college) roommate mad with my inability to put things away…right away, and to create an entire office on my bed. I mean seriously, who needs a desk when you can just spread it all out–and keep it that way. This is not a trait that has changed in the last 30+ years, either. I have a desk/bookshelf area in the living room, and I love it, but I also have my side of the bed, with its nest of books and papers. And the occasional dog.


I will be the first to admit that disorganization can be a costly trait. Bills are forgotten, appointments are missed, permission slips go unsigned, oil doesn’t get changed, and you end up with about 30 pairs of scissors. I therefore make a valiant effort, with the help of my faithful bullet journal, to stay on top of things. One section of each month, for example, is devoted to menu planning. If I know what I am going to cook each week, I don’t end up at the store (or on the Instacart website) buying a bunch of “whatever-looks-good” at random. It takes a little effort, but it has probably saved me at least $50 per week, and we have a lot less waste (although the cucumbers still melt in the bottom of the refrigerator drawer on occasion).

It’s not likely that either Holmes or Watson did much meal planning. How nice for them.

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I’m not sure they would be good at it, anyway.


But you can be sure that Mrs. Hudson was not the sort to run out to the shops or various markets without a strategy–and a list–in mind. Seriously, no matter which Mrs. Hudson is “your” Mrs. Hudson, I doubt that she wastes either time or money.

But not everyone is a natural planner, and even if it’s your forte, you need time and practice. That’s why Victorian housekeeping manuals often provided sample menus for the novice (or simply overwhelmed) housekeeper. In the 1880 version of Mrs. Beeton’s, for example, we have menus for picnics, menus for the servants, menus for large, formal dinners, for wedding breakfasts (we’ll be hearing more about that), menus based on household or income size, menus for specialty foods…the variety is marvelous. So I tried to imagine which Mrs. Hudson might have used for her lodgers in 1881. She would, of course, be more limited to seasonal foodstuffs than we are today. And she does seem to have indulged her boys a bit, so….perhaps something like this:

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If, however, she were economising, she might have prepared meals like this:

Screen Shot 2019-12-29 at 3.06.59 PMHonestly, that’s a tremendous amount of food. I’m thinking she may have saved leftovers for the Holmes’s “Irregulars.”

Today’s prize also has its roots in the desire for efficiency and organization–and it’s one of the more fun and unusual prizes I’ve found.



This is a 3-volume set of The Return of Sherlock Holmes, written in Pitman’s Shorthand and published by Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons in 1915. You can read more about the Pitman editions here: https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=Sir_Isaac_Pitman_%26_Sons.




This set is in good condition, although the covers show some fading due to the light; there have been at least 2 owners other than myself, and they’ve left their names behind. Someone has also put light pencil checks in the corner of each page–to mark what they read?  Whether you know shorthand or not, they are definitely a Sherlockian conversation piece, and I hope you enjoy them.

If you win, that is. To enter, you will need to answer the following question:

Give at least one example of shorthand being used in the Canon. Why do you think it might be the Pitman method?

As always, send your entry in via blog comment or FB message (either the Well-Read Sherlockian FB Page or my personal page.) Good luck!  And may your last few days of 2019 be wonderful!

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“A Study in Imagination” is the winner of the Thomas Crowell edition of A Study in Scarlet. There are several ways people approached this, but a general answer is that the Mormons followed their leader, Joseph Smith, to settle in Missouri, beginning in 1831. Over time, the increase in their population led to friction with other settlers, culminating in the Mormon War of 1838. 22 people (mostly Mormon) were killed, and others died of resulting hardships. In October of 1838, Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs issed Order 44, declaring that the Mormons should either be driven from the state or killed, as enemies.
In early 1839, Mormon leader Joseph Smith escaped from prison and fled to Commerce, Illinois, which they bought, and renamed Nauvoo. There, they were again subjected to animosity and violence, which culminated in the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage, Illinois, in 1844. After this event, the group divided, based on issues of succession. Those who chose Brigham Young followed him to Utah, beginning in 1847.




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8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 6

In today’s entry, we’ll look at another exotic food…exotic, that is, to Arthur Conan Doyle.

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It’s always struck me as fascinating that, to the young Conan Doyle, the American West was an exciting, far away land filled with dramatic exploits and larger-than-life characters. The adventure stories he read as a boy inevitably influenced his adult writing, and perhaps nowhere are they more evident than in A Study in Scarlet, with its (in)famous “Mormon Digression.”

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Lucy Ferrier and her grandfather await their fate on the Alkali Plain.

Ah, Utah! Spectacular landscape, foreign religion, polygamy, Indians, prospectors, scouts, silver explorers, ranchmen–the latter four of which undoubtedly made Jefferson Hope a dashing figure in the eyes of Lucy Ferrier–and reminded one literary agent of his youthful heroes. And the food of the pioneers? The heavenly meal a starving young Lucy anticipated as she prayed with her grandfather?

Buckwheat cakes.

Mrs. Beeton does not have a recipe for buckwheat cakes. Neither does J. Walsh’s Cookery. Going by the very few mentions they garner in the British Newspaper Archive for the 19th century–most of which deal with American content–they were not something that Holmes and Watson were familiar with (unless you agree with Baring-Gould that they each spent time in the States during their early years). They are, however, all over the American papers for the same time period, and one can find plenty of  19th-century recipes for them as well. Buckwheat, it seems, is not “wheat” at all, but a remarkably resilient plant related to sorrel and rhubarb. It has been cultivated for centuries throughout Asia and continental Europe. We’re most likely to encounter it now in noodles (buckwheat soba), or as kashi.  It’s gluten-free.

I thought buckwheat cakes were like pancakes, but going from modern and 19th century recipes, they seem to be a little thicker. You can find a current version here:


Lucy Ferrier’s mother likely made hers using a method like this:

Buckwheat Cakes.

One quart of buckwheat meal;

One pint of wheat flour;

Half a tea-cupful of yeast;

Salt to taste.

Mix the flour, buckwheat and salt with as much water moderately warm as will make it into a thin batter. Beat it well, then add the yeast; when well mixed, set it in a warm place to rise. A soon as they are very light, grease the griddle, and bake them a delicate brown. Butter them with good butter, and eat while hot.–Widdifield’s New Cook Book: or. Practical receipts for the house-wife. Philadelphia, 1856.

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Perhaps Mr. Ferrier didn’t give him the “good” butter.

Now for today’s question….

What other states does Lucy Ferrier mention? And why might they lead us to believe that her grandfather might not have found their Mormon rescuers as “exotic” as Conan Doyle’s British readers?


The winner of this day’s drawing will receive, perhaps inevitably…..


This is a Thomas Crowell printing of A Study in Scarlet, in pretty decent shape. There are no illustrations, unfortunately, but for a tissue-covered engraving of Arthur Conan Doyle as a frontispiece. According to the the invaluable Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia, it was printed in 1898 and retailed for seventy-five cents. I think it would make a lovely little addition to your vintage Holmes collection–or perhaps give you a start on one.

Just send your answer in (as usual) via blog comment, the Well-Read Sherlockian FB page, or my own FB page if we are FB friends.

And now I can’t stop thinking about pancakes.

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Oh my word. I had this book when I was a kid…..


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To Emily Todd, winner of Memoirs from Mrs. Hudson’s Kitchen. The “only modern thing” Watson observed in the Ferguson house was, indeed, “a smart maid.” At the time the case takes place, in 1896, Watson was again single, and probably cannot be faulted for noticing the woman and her style of dress (he really did have an eye for women’s fashion). However, as at least one commenter pointed out, calling her a “modern thing” was not really very kind or gentlemanly. Perhaps she spilt a little tea on him; he deserved it.

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8th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 5

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“I’m no doctor, Watson, but I deduce our lady has simply had too much Christmas.”


One thing an observant reader will gather from the Sherlock Holmes stories is that Victorian Britain was a cosmopolitan society. Not only does Watson mention, in an off-handed way, soldiers returned from abroad, his own service in Afghanistan, Lascars working the docks, Chinese tattoos,  and Japanese armor, many clients in the stories have international connections, or are from other countries themselves. When I planned these food-based Giveaway entries, I thought that it would be nice to look at what meals some of these clients might have prepared at home.

Take Mrs. Ferguson, for example–the Peruvian wife of Watson’s old rugby opponent, now tea merchant, Robert Ferguson–whose marriage and child Holmes saves in “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire.” Although no doubt their English cook served plenty of good, plain English fare, I would imagine that either Señora Ferguson or her maid Dolores taught her some of their own recipes, or even took a turn in the kitchen themselves. While my Spanish is…terrible…and so I was unable to find a 19th-century Peruvian cookbook, but the little research I was able to do revealed that if I had, I’d have found recipes with roots in the ancient Incan civilizations, Spain, Italy, China, and West Africa. As a merchant’s daughter, it’s possible that Señora Ferguson may have enjoyed chifa, or fried rice, introduced by Chinese immigrants who worked as contract laborers building railroads or working on sugar plantations. You can find a recipe for it here:



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Arroz chaufa (source; The Spruce Eats–see link above)

Upper-class Peruvians of the 19th century, however, tended to prefer meat-based Spanish-style cuisine. Aji de gallina, a creamy chicken dish, might have occasionally made it to the Ferguson table. Make your own using this recipe:

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Aji de gallina (source: The Spruce Eats–see link below)


However, do you know what else I thought of while re-reading “The Sussex Vampire”?


Because, well, Vampires.

And directly after blood, I thought of black pudding.

Given the amount of livestock roaming around in 19th century Britain, it might not have been too arduous to be a vampire while not attracting undue police attention. But if, say, you were stuck at a country house weekend, were female (no hunting) and couldn’t get away to the poultry pens or out for a solitary woodland walk, you might  have been able to get by on black pudding–seeing as that black color comes from blood. It’s not really a pudding, either–in the jello or the figgy sense. Black pudding is actually a sausage that puts economical use to pig’s blood. Variations of it show up all over Britain, but it is often considered a Scottish or Irish dish. As a Scotswoman, it’s likely that Mrs. Hudson knew how to make it–although being a Londoner, it’s far more probable that she just bought it. Sausage-making is messy business, and she had enough trouble with messes from her lodger upstairs.

Perhaps this is how Mrs. Hudson made her black puddings as a young wife in Scotland:

To Make Black Puddings.

The blood must be stirred with salt till cold. Put a quart of it, or rather more, to a quart of whole grits, to soak one night; and soak the crumb of a quartern loaf in rather more than two quarts of new milk made hot. In the mean time prepare the entrails by washing, turning and scraping with salt and water, and changing the water several times. Chop fine a little winter-savoury and thyme, a good quality of pennyroyal, pepper and salt, a few cloves, some allspice, ginger and nutmeg; mix these with three pounds of beef-suet and six eggs well beaten and strained; and then beat the bread, grits, &c., all  up with the seasoning; when well mixed, have ready some hog’s fat cut into large bits, and as you fill the skins put it in at proper distances. Tie in links only half filled, and boil in a large kettle, pricking them as they swell, or they will burst. When boiled, lay them between clean cloths till cold, and hang them up in the kitchen. When to be used, scaled them a few minutes in water; wipe, and put them into a Dutch oven. If there are not skins enough, put the stuffing into basins, and boil it covered with floured cloths; and slice and fry it when to be used.–J.H. Walsh, ed. The English Cookery Book, Receipts Collected by a Group of Ladies 1859.


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Um. Ew. (source: Wikipedia)


And now for today’s question. I thought about asking you to find the only refreshment/food item mentioned in “The Sussex Vampire,” but I think we all know it’s tea. So how about this one:

What does Watson consider “the only modern thing we’d seen in the house”?


We’ve talked a lot about what Mrs. Hudson would be cooking and how she would cook it, but let’s be honest: I am not the expert here. Therefore, the winner of the Day 5 drawing will receive:

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This is a wonderful book, with more than just recipes, to give you the true “flavour” of life at 221B Baker Street.

As always, to enter, just send your answer to me via blog comment or FB message (from the Well-Read Sherlockian FB page or my actual page, if we are FB friends).

And while I intend to try the Peruvian recipes, I will pass on the black pudding. My husband ate it once, and was not a fan. Since he will eat anything, I take that as a warning.

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Not my husband when young, but a reasonable likeness.


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….are due to Regina Stinson, winner of the BSI edition of “The Blue Carbuncle.” The answer, of course, was that disjecta membra referred to the unused portions of the goose: the “feathers, legs, and crop.” One respondent also pointed out that, as an academic, Henry Baker used a term that actually refers to manuscript fragments–quite a witty little allusion. One hopes that he and Mrs. Baker were able to get past their rough spot that Christmas.

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