7th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Final

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Hearty congratulations to Jim McArthur, who is our Grand Prize Winner! Here is his answer to the question: What do you think was Sherlock Holmes’s favorite case?

I believe that A Scandal In Bohemia was Holmes’s favorite case: for several reasons.

He had the opportunity to indulge himself in his love of disguise, theatrics, technical devices, and the utilization of agents. . . to deal with Royalty, while demonstrating to His Majesty that he, Holmes, was the smarter man. . . he received a jeweled, gold snuffbox as his reward: and more importantly, his treasured photograph of Irene Adler.

He met the woman he most came to admire, and (most important of all to him, since he loved a genuine contest of wits), he had one of his few experiences of being bested by an opponent.

Also, since much of his professional life was lived amidst gore and murder, he would have appreciated the fact where no real crime was committed in this case: other than by himself and Watson.

And with that, the 7th Annual 12th Night Giveaway comes to an end.  I want to thank you all for sticking with me this year, which has not been my best blogging year ever. I hope to make it up to you in 2019. Now to ship off the prizes, and start gathering more for next year…time flies when you’re having fun!

Wishing all the best in 2019. May it be your best year yet–but not your best year ever!

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7th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 14

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January 6, 1895


It seems a bit magical that we would end up here, in the “memorable” year Watson declared “I have never known my friend to be in better form, both mental and physical, than in the year ’95.” Of course, on this, his 41st birthday, Sherlock Holmes had no idea of what awaited him. Perhaps he was even on a case, and the day went wholly unnoticed. But I like to imagine him in the sitting room of 221B, looking out on a cold winter’s night (the weather report for that day shows 30 degrees and yellow fog), warm and glad to be back for his first full year in London since 1890. Perhaps there was sherry. Perhaps Mrs. Hudson had made a Victoria sponge to celebrate to occasion. Maybe Watson treated him to a birthday dinner at Simpson’s, and Mycroft popped ’round for cake and chess.

Hopefully, it was happy.

It seems fitting, then, in a year that is a calendar twin to that remarkable anno 1895, to close out this year’s Giveaway and open a New Year of blogging with a poem that takes us up to the lamplit window of 221B, and lets us stand in the glow of goodness it cast over the darkest corners of London, and of our hearts.


Here dwell together two men of note

Who never lived and so can never die:

How very near they seem, yet how remote

That age before the world went all awry.

But still the game’s afoot for those with ears

Attuned to catch the distant view-halloo;

England is England yet, for all our fears–

Only those things the heart believes are true.


A yellow fog swirls past the window-pane

As night descends upon this fabled street;

A lonely hansom splashes through the rain,

The ghostly gas lamps fail at twenty feet.

Here, though the world explode, these two survive,

And it is always eighteen ninety-five.

Vincent Starrett


And, of course, as it is The Birthday, it’s time for the Grand Prize. Remember, everyone is allowed to participate, even if they’ve won twice this time around. As for the question? Since I’m feeling reflective at the moment, how about…

What case do you think was Sherlock Holmes’s favorite? Why? You can choose from one written in the Canon, or one of the “unsolved” cases with which Watson delights in teasing us.

Send in your answer via blog post or FB message. If your name is chosen in the drawing, you’ll receive…



You know you need this on your wall, right next to your portrait of General Gordon. I haven’t torn open the matte, but while the photo seems like a high-quality print, while the autograph is genuine, from well-known and reputable dealers Markus Brandes. I will include the COA (certificate of authentication) with the autograph. The winner will be drawn on Monday evening, after 9:00 pm EST (which is when I get off work). Best wishes for a wonderful Birthday!


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Congratulations to Claudia, who won the Birthday Eve Book Club prize! The answer was, of course, Hatherly from “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb.”

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7th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 13

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Christmas, 1894


It may not have been the happiest Christmas of John Watson’s life, but it was certainly the happiest in recent memory. His Mary would always be a ghost of Christmas past, but at least there was only one ghost, now. 221B reeked of shag again, papers all over the floor–and his own medical magazines and writing things. He was back in the flat with “the best and wisest man,” and if he only wrote of two of their cases that year, it wasn’t because they’d been idle. Work was the best antidote for sorrow–but it was nice to not have two deaths to mourn anymore.

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I’ve shared a lot of murder with you this Giveaway (and those were not the worst cases I found) but crime wasn’t always grim in Victorian London. Sometimes it was just…ridiculous. Here are some cases that never made it to 221B:



Some little excitement was occasioned at several of the Government offices by the delivery of suspicious-looking parcels addressed to the Secretary of the Duchy of Cornwall, Colonel Sir Nigel Kingscote, Chief Commissioner of Woods and Forests, and three or four other officials. In one case the parcel contained a box, with mechanism attached; and fears being entertained as to the possibly dangerous character of the parcels sent to Scotland-yard for examination. They were, however, found to contain nothing more dangerous than paper torn up, and it was evident that some person had perpetrated a stupid practical joke. The parcel addressed to the Chief Commissioner of Woods and Forests was sent from Tamworth, Staffordshire, and was delivered at the offices in Whitehall by a Midland Railway porter. It was handed to a messenger, who cautiously untied the string and, noting the appearance of the enclosed box, immediately gave information to the police.


The sequel to the receipt of the mysterious packages at the various Government offices in London yesterday followed at Tamworth to-day, when Detective Fisher arrested Charles Joseph Bent, master plumber and decorator, and Frank Cannock, mechanic, of Tamworth, on a charge of sending parcels containing twenty-four bombs to the Government offices at Whitehall. The police believe the action of the accused was a ruse for securing the prize for advertizing a certain periodical, copies of which were enclosed in the packages. It is stated that the bombs were provided with a cap which would explode with a loud noise, but were otherwise harmless.–Pall Mall Gazette,  December 1, 1894.

I don’t know what the “periodical” was–but I can’t imagine he won the prize, can you?


BOW-STREET.–A Striking Christmas Box.–One of the prisoners who was stated to have been fighting said to the magistrate: “It was like this, your worship. A man comes up to me, and says, says he, ‘Here’s a Christmas box for you.’ With that he gave me a box. I accepts it because I couldn’t help it, and returns the compliment.” –Sir John Bridge: What sort of Christmas box was it?–Prisoner: One behind the ear-hole, your worship, and a good ‘un it was. (Laughter).–It was stated the prisoner was a hard-working man, and he was discharged.–Another man charged with being drunk and fighting urged as an excuse that he had been to a music-hall.–Sir John Bridge: It is said that music charms the savage breast. It seems to have aroused your fighting instincts. (Laughter.) Go away.–The Daily News,  December 28, 1894

Now for today’s question, in which, astoundingly, Canon and real life may well collide…..

Do you ever wonder what happened to Holmes’s clients after their cases were concluded? I found this interesting little article in Reynolds’s Newspaper of December 16, 1894:

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Allowing for the (reasonable) possibilities that Watson changed the name of the client in order to protect his identity, and that Baring Gould was wrong on the date he assigned this particular case, which story would this article be a fitting coda for?

If your entry is selected in the drawing, you’ll win the final “book club” prize of the year, this time including books that examine the history of Sherlock Holmes and his creator:



As always, to enter, send your answer in via blog comment or FB message. Now to get caught up on the drawings! We’ve got one more day!!!

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Noreen Pazderski is the winner of the Strand subscription!  Here is what she thinks Holmes did after pitching over the edge in “The Adventure of the Final Problem.”

I think that Holmes needed some time to recover from injuries sustained trying to escape from Reichenbach so he did spend time in Tibet and traveling Europe in disguise. Then he cleaned up the remainder of Moriarty ‘s network before coming home to London to defeat Moran.


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7th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 12

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From hyperallergic.com*


Christmas, 1891-1893


I think it’s safe to say that Dr. Watson was not in the Christmas spirit during this time. Nor, I assume did Scotland Yard. Everywhere they looked, they saw reminders that Sherlock Holmes was no longer with them.

With Watson, of course, it was more personal. No more cryptic telegrams. No more middle-of-the-night summonses or crazy hansom rides through London streets. No more brilliant deductions, no more violin, no more strange smells, no more reason to happen by Baker-street.  When the paper reported a “mysterious explosion” near Regent’s Park, he nearly wept because this time, he could be certain it had nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes.**

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While British law enforcement likely “moved on” more quickly, there were no doubt many times that they, and the public they served, wished that Sherlock Holmes was still among the living. Here are a few “Christmas time” cases which may well have gone unsolved thanks to the tragedy at Reichenbach Falls.***




On Tuesday evening, shortly before 7 o’clock, a singular discovery was made by the railway-station officials at Hereford, shortly after the arrival of the 3.35 pm train from Manchester to Bristol. From statements made by the engine driver, the guard proceeded to examine the various compartments of the train and found the door of one of the third-class carriages swinging on its hinges. Inside the carriage he found a man’s black felt hat and a dark blue overcoat, but the owner was nowhere to be found. This circumstance in itself would have excited but little curiosity had it not been for an incident which had previously occurred during the journey, and which would seem to involve the discovery with dark significance. Shortly after the train left Shrewsbury the passengers were somewhat alarmed to find the train coming to a dead stop though many miles away from any of the stations en route. Immediately afterwards the voice of the guard was heard shouting, “Who is it that keeps ringing that bell?” The question was repeated by someone who walked along the metals the entire length of the train. Receiving no answer, and imagining someone had been signalling the train to stop out of pure mischief, the man muttered something to the effect that whoever it was he deserved “a good hiding,” and went back seemingly in the direction of the engine. A fresh start was made, and during the rest of the journey to Hereford, the passengers in the next carriage to the one in which the hat and coat were found repeatedly heard something banging in the next carriage. Being very dark, showery, and cold, however, none of them felt inclined to open the window and ascertain if there was anything wrong. There were no cries or sounds of disturbance, and so the matter was not given a second thought until their arrival at Hereford. So far as we can learn, there was nothing in the coat pockets to indicate who was the owner, but inside the hat were the name and address of a firm of hatters in North Shields. It was thought that the things may have belonged to some seafaring man journeying from North Shields to Cardiff or Bristol, whose disappearance from the train, coupled with the mysterious twitching of the alarum bell, has created a considerable sensation. The carriage in which the articles of clothing were discovered bore no traces of any struggle or disturbance. The right hand door fronting the engine was locked, but it was evident that an attempt had been made to open it, as the handle had been twisted round. Whether the carriage contained one or more passengers on leaving Shrewsbury is also unknown. In fact, the whole affair seems shrouded in mystery.–South Wales Daily News,  December 2, 1891.




MYSTEROUS DISAPPEARANCE.–The disappearance of a young married woman named Spurgeon from Braintree is occupying the close attraction of the Essex police. The missing woman, who had been married about two years, left her husband on December 13 without any apparent reason, except that her mind was unhinged by religious mania, was seen crossing the fields in the direction of the River Blackwater, and nothing has been seen or heard of her since. The river has been dragged, and the woods and ponds in the neighbourhood have been searched. As yet not the slightest clue to the mystery has been found.–The Morning Post, December 23, 1892



Great excitement prevailed on Saturday in the neighbourhood of Henley-on-Thames on its becoming known that a mysterious murder had been committed on the preceding evening at Lambridge, a lonely wood situated not far from the town. Lambridge House is occupied by Mr. Mash, who carried on the business of a fruiterer in Glasshouse-street, Piccadilly-circus, and is one and a half mile from Henley by the footpath. It stands quite alone, no other house being within a mile. The only adult occupant of the mansion was Mr. Mash was away (as he is during the greater part of the week) was the housekeeper, Miss Kate Dungey, who was 30 years of age, and who had held the position of governess to Mr. Mash’s children. It is a fortnight since Mr. Mash was last at Lambridge House. About five o’clock on Friday evening George Dawson, who was left in charge of the small model farm, left the house, and about eight o’clock two lads who sleep there when the family are away went up to the house as usual. They were, however, unable to gain admittance, although they noticed that lights were burning in the front room. They stayed about endeavouring to gain entrance until nearly ten o’clock, when they returned home and found Dawson. The latter went back, and entering the house by a window noticed that there were signs of a struggle having taken place. The boys having told him that they had heard, on going to the house, a sound like scuffling in the wood, he instituted a search, and shortly afterwards, within a few hundred yards of the house, came upon the body of Miss Dungey with her head and face terribly injured. Close by was a broken hedge-stick and a poker. Dawson immediately communicated with the police, and Superintendent Keel and a constable were promptly on the scene. The police have thoroughly scoured the neighbourhood, but up to last evening had not succeeded in obtaining a clue to the perpetrators of the crime. Four or five sovereigns were found in a handbag belonging to Miss Dungey, and nothing had been touched in the house, not even the watch on the sitting-room chair. The lady’s pocket had, however, been rifled, and this, it is suggested, would go to show that the murderer wanted something which Miss Dungey possessed.–Morning Post, December 11, 1893.

Murder doesn’t stop for the holidays. And if you win today’s drawing, you can expect new murders every three months. Fictional ones. That get solved. By detectives created by today’s best-known and upcoming authors–with an occasional classic thrown in! The Strand still exists–in title, if not in form, and today’s prize will be a one-year subscription.

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Now, of course, there is no Holmes case for 1892 or 1893, and only one for 1891 (“The Final Problem”), so I thought I would do something more open-ended for the “hiatus years.”

What do you think Holmes did during The Great Hiatus? Did he travel around, visiting Tibet and France, gaining knowledge and doing experiments, as he told Watson? Did he hunt down and capture (or kill) the rest of Moriarty’s network (as BBC Sherlock surmises), did he spy for Mycroft? Hang out with Irene Adler Norton in Montenegro? Or do something else entirely?

Send your ideas in via blog comment or FB message–and don’t be afraid to let your imagination run!




*Why a dead bird on a Christmas card? Follow this link: hyperallergic.com/344920/why-are-there-dead-birds-on-victorian-xmas-cards/

**There really was one, reported in the St. James’s Gazette of December 29, 1892.

***Note: They may well now be solved; I haven’t had time to check. But when they first made the news, it wasn’t looking good.

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7th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 11

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Christmas, 1890


Well, we have looked a good deal at Christmas matters involving Sherlock Holmes, or Holmes and Watson together but, come the holiday season 1890, we know for certain that Dr. Watson had someone else to buy gifts for. Yes, while I could be missing someone, I think that, no matter whose chronology you look at, and how many wives we’re talking about,Mary Morstan had become Mary Watson by December of 1890, and I have to imagine that her husband wanted it to be a special Christmas for them both.

So. What would their Christmas look like?

Ok, let’s be honest. John H. Watson, M.D., no doubt spent the entire time looking after patients with cattarh and flu,  kids with earaches, measles, mumps, and various coughs; babies which decided to come at very inconvenient times, people with various injuries caused by slipping on ice, uneven pavement or heaven knows what, gout and lumbago flares, and indigestion–so that by the time he surfaced for New Year’s, even the leftover goose was gone and Mary had given up and was spending the rest of the winter with friends, none of whom actually understood what her husband’s professional life was like, and privately speculated that he had another flat (complete with music hall tart) in St. James’s Wood.

But let’s pretend that London remained miraculously healthy that year.  If so, John and Mary might have gone to some sort of classical music performance with John’s erstwhile flatmate, but it’s more likely that they went to see a special Christmas pantomime:


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The Stage, December 5, 1890


We know Mary was a kind and generous soul, so she likely devoted some of her time to charitable ventures like this one. I can see her knitting cuffs, can’t you?

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South London Press, December 20, 1890

And while I think we can be sure the Watsons were charitable this season, the mention of “cheques” in the article makes me wonder if Dr Watson didn’t give himself a little Christmas joy at the turf….


To offset this little indulgence, I am guessing he and Mary attended church services, either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day–perhaps one of these:


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Daily Telegraph December 24, 1890

There would, of course, be a goose for Christmas dinner, and if Mary, like many new brides, had received a copy of Mrs. Beeton’s Guide to Household Management at her wedding, she may have made this Christmas cake for her beloved–and whatever detective may have come over for company….
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Then, of course, there were the presents. Mary would have put a great deal of thought into John’s gift. Perhaps one of these:

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Or one of William Clark Russell’s sea stories. A Voyage at Anchor  and My Shipmate Louise were both published in 1890.

And for Mary? Sweets, of course.

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Some nice perfume….
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And some jewelry that was–hopefully–not tainted by thievery, treachery, and death.

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Maybe there was a little something for Holmes as well….

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Or perhaps they looked out at the weather, thought about all of the aches and runny noses, criminals (and detectives) out there, and decided to chuck it all and spend Christmas in Italy–just the two of them.

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That would be my choice.


Whatever they did, let’s hope they had a marvelous time, because next year, Christmas 1891, would be much, much different.

Although Watson was married and “back in harness,” he still apparently had time to accompany Holmes on at least 3 cases in 1890, and today’s question comes from one of those adventures.

How did Sherlock Holmes know that the sender of a telegram was a woman? 


Send your entry in via blog comment or FB post, and include your choice of prize–yes, there are two again this time, and yes, they are both records. Again, please note that I have not played them, and so cannot guarantee they don’t skip.

Prize 1:






Prize 2:



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7th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 10

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“Watson, if you eat that popsicle, I swear upon what little life I have in me, you had better  go out to the shops and get me some more.”

Christmas, 1889


Ah, Christmas-time illness–the gift that keeps on giving, and giving, and giving….. How many times have I attended holiday family reunions, listening to people hack up bits of lung, complain of being feverish, or, heaven forbid, saying things like “well, I don’t think it’s stomach ‘flu”–and known that we would be bringing home more than presents from Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

Oddly enough, this leads to the discussion of yet another holiday horror–first linked, I believe, in this article from The London Evening Standard:


(From our Correspondent.)

VIENNA, Wednesday Night.

There is hardly a family in Vienna whose customary gathering on Christmas-eve has not been marred this year by the absence of some member on account of an attack of the influenza. Homes where the children have all remained well count themselves exceptionally fortunate. Princess Stephanie, who has been suffering from the malady, recovered sufficiently to enable her personally to superintend the preparation of the beautifully-adorned and splendidly-lighted Christmas-tree of her little daughter, the Princess Elizabeth, now six years old. Among the numerous presents received from the various members of the Imperial House and others for the young Archduchess is a speaking doll, fitted with a phonograph cylinder, which is calculated to create no small astonishment. Among other things, the doll will be able to recite a poe, composed by the Archduchess Marie Valerie in honour of Christmas-eve.

I know, your first thought upon reading this is: “How remarkable! I had no idea talking dolls were around so long ago!” But just think a little bit longer…..

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They’ll wait.

Yup. That’s right. That very special present in 1889 was just an early version of over a century’s worth of toys that would eventually lead to horrors like this:

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Yes, my kids had one. No, we didn’t buy it. Thanks, brother and sister-in-law.

One has to wonder how many days it took before Princess Stephanie was so sick of hearing that poem over and over and over again, that she arranged to have the Archduchess’s governess “accidentally” drop the doll in a snowbank. Or a fountain. Or under the wheels of a carriage. None of us could blame her.*

In 1889, the phonograph was 12 years old, but still very much a novelty, even when it wasn’t inside a doll’s head. People didn’t usually have one at home, but it was shown off at exhibitions, used in business and for legal purposes, and was, thanks to the prescience of Thomas Edison, his sound engineer Theo Wangemann,  and his UK representative Colonel George Gouroud,** fast becoming a means of documenting history through the voices of the famous. For example, the poet Robert Browning died on December 12, 1889, but thanks to the phonograph, his voice was recorded in May of that year, an event mentioned in the Pall Mall Gazette:

The most unique, and in some ways the most precious, memorial of the dead poet now existing is one which is preserved in Edison House, Northumberland-avenue. This is a phonogram of his voice. Mr. Browning once spoke into a phonograph for Colonel Gouraud, who has carefully treasured his words. Science has few greater marvels to record than its power of thus preserving “the sound of a voice that is still.”–December 21, 1889

Would you like to hear it? It’s wonderful (credit to transformingArt on Youtube):



And here is an 1888 recording of none other than Queen Victoria, recorded by Sydney Morse (credit to Twiddlybobby on Youtube). Somehow, her voice sounds like I thought it would….***


The only mention of the phonograph–or gramophone, as Holmes called it–occurs in “The Mazarin Stone,” which takes place in 1903, and which some of you no doubt find more horrific than a dancing, squawking Elmo. But phonographs–or rather, phonograph records–can do more than save the Great Detective from Count Negretto Sylvius. They can, and have, preserved the voices of great Sherlockian performers for posterity–and for you, should you win this drawing. All you need to do to enter is to answer the following question:

Why didn’t Percy Phelps just copy the treaty in his uncle’s private room?????


How did Holmes take notes when he interviewed Percy “Tadpole” Phelps? And why would Mrs. Hudson (or, rather, her laundress) not mind at all?

Note that this time, there are two prizes, as each record will be drawn for separately. If you have a preference, please note it in your answer. Otherwise, it will literally be the “luck of the draw.” Be aware–I don’t have a record player, so I have never played these. I bought them at an Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis auction and stored them well, but I have no idea what condition they are in. Good luck, and happy listening!

Prize 1 (front):


Prize 1 (back):






Prize 2 (back):


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And we have another two-time winner!  Jim McArthur wrote in:

” I caught glimpses of . . . what seemed to be a suit of Japanese armour at one side of it.”

The armor flanked a high white marble mantlepiece in a house a half mile from the Beckenham train station, where the criminals had taken Mr. Melas in The Greek Interpreter.


*And it didn’t take long to get to the phenomenon of the Creepy Talking Doll. This article also appeared in 1889, in the Globe, December 14th. I have no way of knowing whether or not any of it is true.

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**Col. Gouraud was a Civil War veteran

***Here is the story of how it was recorded, along with other information and links to historically fascinating recordings: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/in-search-of-queen-victorias-voice-98809025/


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7th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 9

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Christmas, 1888


Well, it was no 1887, but 1888 was also an important Christmas for Sherlockians, for that was the first Christmas when someone could wake up, check under their tree, or in their stocking, and find….


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Now in handy book form!

In an effort to help his father, a talented artist who struggled with alcoholism and mental illness, Conan Doyle was able to get Charles Altamont Doyle the job of providing the illustrations. They are not, perhaps, the most beloved renderings of The Great Detective and his Boswell, but knowing who the artist is and why lends a sweet sentimentality to them all the same.

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The book itself was released in July of 1888 to less fanfare than it deserved. The columnist for “The Study Table,” in The Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle, naturally paid attention to something from a Portsmouth author:

Dr. Conan Doyle’s clever and popular story, A Study in Scarlet, which all readers of Warne’s [sic] Christmas number will remember, has now made its appearance in separate form. The exciting adventures of Mr. Sherlock Holmes and his associates in fiction are now illustrated by the author’s father, Mr. Charles Doyle, a younger brother of the late Richard Doyle, the eminent colleague of John Leech in the pages of Punch, and son of the famous caricaturist “H.B.” The book is published by Messrs. Ward, Lock, and Co.–14 July, 1888

Unfortunately, I cannot offer a 1st edition UK 1888 STUD. I checked, just to be sure:

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The shipping is a bargain, though! And I’d get 2.5% back with ebates!

So, as about….49th best, I present these–which may well have been Christmas gifts several decades ago:


Conan Doyle’s Stories for Boys was published in New York by Cupples and Leon, in 1938, and contains one black and white frontispiece illustration. If it ever had a jacket, it’s long gone. The stories included are: A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, A Case of Identity, The Red-Headed League, A Scandal in Bohemia, and The Boscombe Valley Mystery. Aside from REDH, SCAN and the novels, I have no idea why those stories were included–and no clue what makes any of them specially interesting or appropriate for boys. The Hound of the Baskervilles was published in 1968 by the Western Publishing Company (U.S.) and contains several black and white illustrations.  There was no jacket. It’s obviously intended as a juvenile classic. Conan Doyle Stories, which still has the jacket (with tears and fading on the spine). It was published in New York by Platt and Munk as part of their “Great Writers Collection.” This edition is dated 1960, and there are no illustrations.

If you love collecting editions of the Canon and want to have these for your shelf, you can enter the drawing by answering this question:

Every time I read a story in the Canon, I notice something new. Where (which story, and the location) can you find a suit of Japanese armor? To narrow it down, it’s in an adventure which, according to Baring-Gould, happened in 1888.

As always, send you answers for the drawing in via blog comment or FB message!  And please accept our family’s wishes for a wonderful new year in 2019!

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Well, we have our first two-time winner! Resa Haile joined, well, everyone, in writing that the “Flower of Utah,” Lucy Ferrier, was saved by silver prospector/ranchman/scout/trapper/pioneer Jefferson Hope by helping her lead her terrified, rearing horse out of a drove of longhorn cattle. In the universe of “How I Met Your Mother” stories, it would have a true star–but, unfortunately for everyone but Holmes, Watson–and us–it was not to be.



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7th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 8


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Christmas, 1887–AGAIN.


To all of you with sharp eyes and sharper minds, it may seem that with yesterday’s entry, I made a mistake.  AND YOU WOULD BE RIGHT!!!!!  I have no idea where my head has been lately (and no, you are not permitted to guess), but after reminding myself for weeks, I completely forgot to devote yesterday’s entry to what may arguably be the Most Important Sherlockian Event Ever. After all, Christmas 1887  was the season (if not the actual date) which saw the publication of

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Imagine finding this under your tree!

The truth is, I did search for news about the Annual, but my search terms were off, so I missed the (very) few articles mentioning this Miracle of Literature. Then I found the coded agony ad, and it was all over.

Tonight, however, I decided to search again, using different terms, and lo and behold…..

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First, from The Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle:



The publishers of Beeton’s Christmas Annual (Messrs. Ward, Lock, and Co.) have been fortunate to secure the services of our townsman, Dr. A. Conan Doyle, who is now well-known in literary circles as a rising writer of fiction. Dr. Conan Doyle has prepared for Beeton’s Christmas fare A Study in Scarlet, which for exciting incidents, clever construction, and artistic development of plot, will compare with any of the Christmas annuals with which the bookstalls are now deluged. This student in scarlet is one Sherlock Holmes, a consulting detective of most amusing eccentricities and strangely balanced powers. For instance, in a curious table which a young medical man who shares rooms with Sherlock Holmes draws up for his own amusement we learn that this strange creation knows nothing of literature, philosophy, astronomy, or politics; that his knowledge of botany was confined to poisons; that his geological information was summed up in being able to tell different soils from each other at a glance, and to know by looking at the mud splashes on his trousers in what part of London he had received them; that his knowledge of chemistry was profound; and that he appeared to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century. As he said himself, “A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out. or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he had difficulty in laying hands on it.” This was his excuse for knowing nothing of the solar system. Sherlock Holmes carried out his theory to its extreme limits, and by training his powers of observation to an extraordinary degree became a master of the science of deduction and an unrecognised Prince among the detectives of London. The story proper tells how the “Lauriston Garden Mystery” was solved by this strange being. We will not let the public into the secret of the mystery here. They must go to the book itself for that and we promise them that their shillings will be well expended. It is sufficient to say that the mystery is mixed up with love and Mormonism; that it presents weird pictures of the terrible autocracy of Brigham Young; exciting passages of escape through the lines of his relentless sentinels; the merciless pursuit of a revengeful purpose from the home of the chosen people to the busy streets of London; and the triumphant application of the science of deduction in the person of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Dr. Conan Doyle’s reputation as a man of letters will be greatly enhanced by this remarkable tale, which is bound to be popular, and which our readers will do well not to overlook.  —December 3, 1887


The Graphic’s reviewer was not as enthusiastic–and definitely not very observant:

THE LAST CHRISTMAS NUMBERS.–“A Study in Scarlet” is the name of the anonymous story which is the chief attraction in Beeton’s Christmas Annual. It is not at all a bad imitation; but it would never have been written but for Poe, Gaboriau, and Mr. R.L. Stevenson. The hero of the tale is simply the hero of “The Murder in the Rue Morgue.” Those who like detective stories, and have not read the great originals, will find the tale full of interest. It hangs together well, and finishes ingeniously.–December 10, 1887


The Morning Post writer, tasked with reviewing a pile of holiday annuals may not have even read the story….

Beeton’s Christmas Annual has a realistic novel by A. C. Doyle, called “A Study in Scarlet,” and two drawing-room plays, the first being “Food for Powder,” by R. Andre, and the second “The Four-Leaved Shamrock,” by C.J. Hamilton. The illustrations are, on the whole, excellent.–December 19, 1887

The Bristol Mercury  reviewer is more concerned with medical than historical accuracy. Also, it’s the “Four-Leaved Shamrock”:

A Study in Scarlet,  By A.C. Doyle (London: Ward, Lock, and Co.)

This is the title of the modern representative of a valued friend of a quarter century ago, “Beeton’s Christmas Annual.” Mr. Doyle has written a story which brings in the vengeful deeds by which the Mormons used to maintain their institution, polygamy, and tells how one of their crimes was avenged in London, and how the mystery thereof was traced out by an amateur detective, who regards Edgar Allan Poe’s Dupin as a very inferior fellow, and Lecoq as a miserable bungler. The story is very exciting and well told after the first start, and as the narrator is a doctor we presume his pathology of aneurism is correct. Two drawing-room plays are appended, the less weak of which is “The Two-Leaved Shamrock,” by C.J. Hamilton.–December 21, 1887

This reviewer at The Sheffield Independent is my favorite–and probably one of the very first to enjoy “a long evening with Holmes…”

BEETON’S CHRISTMAS ANNUAL. A Study in Scarlet, being a reprint from the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D., late of the Army Medical Department. Ward, Lock, and Co., London and New York.

A snowy night, a good fire, and this annual will make a man comfortable if anything can.–December 15, 1887.

So there they are–the first public glimpses of The Great Detective. Just think–none of these reviewers (or the author who finally settled for £25 just to get that story sold) had any idea how famous “this strange creation” was going to be, even a year hence. We’ll soon see how things changed in 1888.

And since you’re now all thinking about A Study in Scarlet, let’s test your memories….

How did Jefferson Hope and Lucy Ferrier meet?

Send you answers in for the drawing via blog comment or FB Message, and you’ll be the recipient of another Sherlock Holmes “book club.” You’ll receive one book in January, one in February, and one in March–and this time the focus is on recent pastiche or Holmes-related fiction–

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Good luck, and have a wonderful New Year’s Eve!


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Emily Todd is the winner of the knitted dolls! Her answer:

In “The Reigate Squires,” Father and Son Cunningham pretended their home was the target of a burglary to shift blame of the murder of their coachman [another popular answer–Holmes faking a “spell”].  In “A Scandal in Bohemia,” The King of Bohemia pretended to be Count von Kramm, an intermediary for the king [other answers–Irene Adler in men’s clothing, or Holmes pretending to be a clergyman]. In “The Twisted Lip, Neville St. Clair pretended to be Hugo Boone, the beggar. In “A Case of Identity,” Mr. Windibank pretended to be Hosmer Angel, his stepdaughter’s fiancee. In “The Red-Headed League, John Clay pretended to be Vincent Spaulding’s pawn assistant [and his assistant, Archie, pretending to be Duncan Ross].  In “The Dying Detective,” Holmes pretended to be ill. In “The Five Orange Pips,” The Klan staged their attacks on the Openshaws as accidents [another possible answer–Col. Openshaw hiding his history in the Klan]. In “The Blue Carbuncle,” Holmes pretended to have a bet with Watson over geese.




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7th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 7

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“Holmes, I seriously doubt that Moriarty is going to contact you via ‘Missed Connections.'”

Christmas, 1887


If Baring-Gould’s chronology is correct, eight of Holmes’s recorded adventures took place in 1887. These were:

  • “The Reigate Squires” (itself taking place as Holmes was recovering from an arduous case on the Continent)
  • “A Scandal in Bohemia”
  • “The Man with the Twisted Lip”
  • “The Five Orange Pips”
  • “A Case of Identity”
  • “The Red-Headed League”
  • “The Dying Detective”
  • “The Blue Carbuncle”


The last case, BLUE, took only a day in December (the 27th) 1887; DYIN, before it–and obviously a stressful affair–concluded on November 19th. Did Holmes have other work during that time? Or had he learned the lesson of REIG and given himself some time off for the holiday season? Whatever he got up to in the waning days of that year, it’s certain that at least a few times a week, he read through the newspaper “agony” columns–or, as he calls them in “The Adventure of the Red Circle”:

“… a chorus of groans, cries, and bleatings! A rag-bag of singular happening! But surely the most valuable hunting ground that was ever given to a student of the unusual.”

So, what are some of the more interesting “bleats” Holmes might have read during December, 1887? I found these possibilities….


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Ah, the Victorian “Missed Connection”!  (London Standard, December 7, 1887)

Honestly, I would advise her not to show up.  And then there’s this one–and I assume the writer means an actual carrier pigeon–


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London Standard, December 2, 1887

Honestly, this one sounds creepier than the “Red Lamp” message. I really hope she didn’t send her address….

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London Standard, December 3, 1887

Here is someone who seems to be having a Trelawney Hope moment. Do we seriously believe that the papers of Mr. Atkinson, M(ember) [of] P(arliament) would be only of interest to himself?

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London Standard, December 23, 1887

In this one, I have to wonder if they are really talking about a medical operation, or something else less…straightforward:

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London Standard, December 28, 1887

I could go on all day, honestly, because they really are as fascinating, and sometimes intriguing, as Sherlock Holmes declared them to be. But before we get to today’s question, here’s one more. I have not had time to see if I could decode it, but I may try my hand at it later today. If you can figure out the message (and tell us how you did it), let us know!!

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London Standard December 22, 1887

If you think about it, today’s little venture into history and the stories which Baring-Gould places in 1887 have a theme in common–pretending to be something (or someone) one is not. Personal ads lend themselves to dissembling and mystery, whether it be not knowing the true intentions of those “missed connections” advertisements, or messages which appear to be coded–or leave no doubt of it.  So, for today’s question–

For each of the stories listed above, tell me the name of the person who is pretending, and what/who they are pretending to be. Note: not every example will be malicious, and there could be more than one example in some of the stories–you need only give one.

Please send your entries to me via blog post or FB message. If your answer is selected, you will receive–Holmes and Watson in three of their “disguises”: The Canon pair, BBC Sherlock’s version, and the duo from Elementary–all finely knitted by a gifted friend of mine.


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Congratulations to Resa Haile, winner of the DeWaal bibliography! She knew (as did you all) that “Colonel Blessington” of “The Resident Patient,” was actually the bank robber, Sutton; Hatty Doran, of “The Noble Bachelor,” was already married when she married Lord St. Simon; and that Lady Hilda Trelawney Hope was hiding a relationship she had had prior to her marriage that had inspired some “sprightly” letters in “The Second Stain.”





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7th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 6

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Berkeley Square, London, c. 1880

Christmas, 1886


Well, as I am sure you’ve been able to tell, I’ve been following Christmas year-by-year, beginning the year Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson met. I was thinking of doing a recipe this time, or maybe a look at Christmas cards. Maybe something about blackmail. And then I found…this. This very strange story, in the 23 December, 1886 issue of the St. James Gazette. If Sherlock Holmes had read it–and we do know he kept up with the London papers–how would he see it? As a piece of black humour? Satire? A holiday homage to DeQuincey? As a creepy story? Or perhaps as a…confession? See what you think.



At rest by my good sea-coal fire, my pipe at hand, the curtains of my room  pinned together with pen-nibs, I dream back to a Christmas Eve of the long-ago. The sleet flings itself at the windows, to fall back exhausted like–like–like salmon trying to mount a caul. Far below, the waits are singing in the street. It will be precisely–yers on Friday night since I throttled the waits and buried them in Berkeley-square. I have made allowances for the waits ever since; fearing too often that I have a crime on my conscience. Did I do right? After all, may not these men have had their feelings?

It is so long ago that I cannot be expected to remember all the details. Indeed, I am never quite sure whether there were two of them or three. There wee certainly two, and I remember that I took the man with the beard first. The incident would have made more impression on me had there been any talk about it. So far as I could discover, it never got into the papers. The police did not seem to think it any affair of theirs, though one of them must have guessed wha I invited the waits upstairs. He saw me open the door to them; he was aware that this was their third visit in a week; and only the night before he had heard me shout a warning to them from my study-window. But of course the police must allow themselves a certain amount o discretion in the performance of their duties. Then there was the gentleman of the next door but two, who ran against me just as I was toppling the second body over the railing. We were not acquainted, but I knew him as a man who had flunga flower-pot at the waits the night before. He stopped short when he saw the body (it had rolled out of the sofa-rug), and looked at me suspiciously. “He is one of the waits,” I said. “I beg your pardon,” he replied, “I did not understand.” When he had passed a few yards he turned round. “Better cover him up,” he said, or people will talk.” Then he strolled away, an air from “The Grand Duchess” lightly trolling from his lips. We still meet occasionally, and nod if no one is looking.

I am going too fast, however. What I meant to say was that the murder was premeditated. In the case of a reprehensible murder, I know this would be considered an aggravation of the offence. Of course it is an open question whether all murders are not reprehensible; but let that pass. To my own mind I should have been indeed deserving of punishment had I rushed out and slain the waits in a moment of fury. If one were to give way to his passion every time he is interrupted in his work or his sleep by bawlers–be they waits or Socialists or what not–our thoroughfares would soon be choked with the dead. No one values human life or understands its sacredness more than I do. I merely say that  there may be times when  man, having stood a great deal and thought it over calmly, is justified in taking the law into his own hands–always supposing he can do it decently, quietly, and without scandal. I am a physician with a practice which keeps me hard at work until late in the evening. What repose I get is late at night, after my household have retired to rest; and it is my custom to sit up into the small hours, thinking over my more dangerous cases. Often I have been rung up just as I had got into bed and had to go off to see a patient. I never grudged that. But the epidemic of waits was another matter. It broke out early in December, and every other night or so these torments came in the stillest hours and burst into song beneath my windows. They made me nervous. I was more wretched on the nights they did not come than on the nights they did; for I had taken to listening for them, and was never sure they had gone into another locality before four o’clock in the morning. As for their songs, they were more like music-hall ditties than Christmas carols. So one morning–it was, I think, the 23rd of December–I warned them fairly, fully, and with particulars, of what would happen if they disturbed me again. Having given them this warning, can it be said that I was to blame–at least, to any considerable extent? Surely not; especially at this time of year, when charity is in the very air and we are all expected to be lenient one to another. I do not pretend to be faultless.

Christmas Eve had worn into Christmas morning, before the waits  arrived on that fateful occasion. I opened the window–if my memory does not deceive me–at once, and looked down at them. I could not swear to their being the persons whom I had warned the night before. Perhaps I should have made sure of this. But in any case these were practised waits. Their whine rushed in at my open window with a vigour that proved them no tyros. Besides, the night was a cold one for lingering long at an open casement. I nodded pleasantly to them, and pointed to my door. Then I ran downstairs and let them in. They came up to the study with me.As I have said, the lapse of time prevents me remembering how many of them there were; three, I fancy. At all events, I took them into my ante room and strangled them one by one. They went  off quite peaceably; the only difficulty was in the disposal of the bodies. I thought of laying them on the kerbstone or in different passages; but I was afraid the  police might not see that they were waits, in which case I might be put to inconvenience. So I took a spade, and, climbing into the gardens of Berkeley-square, dug two (or three) large holes. Then I carried the bodies to the place in my rug one at a time, shoved them in, and covered them up. A close observer might have noticed in that part of the garden, for some time after, a small mound, such as might be made by an elbow under the bedclothes. Nobody, however, seems to have descried it, and yet I see it often even now in my dreams.

The worst of the affair’s attracting no attention is that it does not serve as a warning to other waits. They were never harder at it than they have been this year. However, I have done what I could, and I have no intention of making an annual thing of it. I may have been wrong, but I acted for the best; and, after all, motive is everything in these cases.




Of course the murderer wouldn’t actually be a physician living in Berkeley Square. But the bones of the story–could they have been true? It’s interesting to think about the “what if’s.”

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I was perfectly sane before those blasted waits….

Every story in the Canon involves people with secrets–and secrets have a way of coming out, particularly when Sherlock Holmes gets involved. The 3 adventures Baring-Gould says take place in 1886–“The Resident Patient,” “The Noble Bachelor,” and “The Second Stain” all feature people trying to hide their pasts. Who are they–and what are they trying to hide?

Like our hero, Sherlockians are all about “what really happened,” and have been for well over a century now. Today’s prize is a classic in that field:


Ronald Burt DeWaal, BSI (“The Wigmore Street Post”) who died this past July, was a librarian, exhibit curator, and professor whose most famous Sherlockian achievement is his bibliography of all known material relating to Sherlock Holmes–as of 1974. He followed it with 1980’s The Universal Sherlock Holmes, and, ultimately, with 1994’s multi-volume or electronic Universal Sherlock Holmes, edited by George Vanderburgh.* To enter the drawing to add this volume to your Sherlockian shelf, just send your answer in via blog comment or FB message!

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Kristen Franseen is the winner of the bag of Holmesian goodies! For her “bad gifts,” she chose the box of salted ears sent by Jim Browner to Susan Cushing (“The Cardboard Box”), and the ivory box of tropical disease Culverton Smith sent to Sherlock Holmes (“The Dying Detective”). Others of you mentioned the 5 orange pips Elias Openshaw received from Capt. James Calhoun (“The Five Orange Pips”) and the “bequest” Jonas Oldacre made to the unhappy John Hector McFarlane (“The Norwood Builder”).


*If you are interested in this work, contact Mr. Vanderburgh at:

George A. Vanderburgh, M.D.
The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box
P.O. Box 50, R.R. #4
Eugenia, Ontario
Canada N0C 1E0

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