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,
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:
CONVICT’S DARING ESCAPE
A NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION THAT WAS KEPT.
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!
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.