Saturday, December 17, 2016

Bigelow on SIlver Blaze

    For the first subject concerning the many writings concerning the 60 original adventures of Sherlock Holmes, we begin with Canadian scholar Judge S. Tupper Bigelow. As he begins his article on Silver Blaze  explaining the many facets of Sherlockian/Holmesian scholarship.

        In The Writings upon the Writings over the years, there have appeared countless scholarly and erudite articles by the same or roughly the same number of authors—equally scholarly and erudite—vilifying the Master for his activities in Silver Blaze, some going to the length of accusing Sherlock Holmes of criminal activities, while others have stated with some assumed certainty, that he should have been warned off the turf, or whatever language they happened to use to mean that for his nefarious activities, he should never have been permitted to go upon a race track again.

He continues by reviewing all the points raised by the giants of chronology, and there are several. It is rare when any two agree. They seldom trust Watson’s dates for the case, and base their findings on obscure clues provided in the narrative of Watson. It could be the weather, or a reference to an historical event, etc.

    40 years ago January 2017, a little scion society was formed in Southern Illinois. We decided at the first meeting to scrutinize and study one of the narratives each month. Someone would volunteer to lead the discussion. We never believed it would last 40 years. We have followed the chronology of William S. Baring-Gould because he introduced two novice Sherlockians to the idea that there were Sherlockian societies. Thus, we have added over 500 entries to what Bigelow refers to as “The Writings upon the Writings.” But I digress . . .

    We did not know at the time that several scholars would attack Baring-Gould’s chronology, and his annotations, etc. This is a ready vehicle for “Ssherlockian experts.” The fun part is, sometimes your vilified hero, Baring-Gould in this case, finds support from one noted scholar or another, Such is the case with S. Tupper Bigelow who discover

        I have reread the comments of chronologists Baring-Gould, Bell, Blakeney, Brend, Christ, Smith and Zeisler, all Sherlockian scholars of the highest rank, as to the year of Silver Blaze, and indeed the day and month of the events related in that excellent story, and I am convinced that of them all, Baring-Gould makes out the best case, stating that the events of the story ran from Thursday, September 25 to Tuesday, September 30, 1890[my italics].

This does not mean that Judge Bigelow confirms all of Baring-Gould’s chronology, but it is a start.

    He continues by giving examples of how these same critics condemned Watson for his careless documentation of the exact date for each narrative. In my early sojourns into scholarship I sidestepped the issue of chronology, because I did not believe chronology was important. However, I learned that placing these narratives in the proper order could reveal a chain of clues leading to important revelations about Sherlock Holmes. And then Bigelow won my undying devotion when he said “In any event, Baring-Gould has satisfied me, with his almost diabolically ingenious reasoning, that he is the chronologist whose theories we must accept as fact. Therefore, the race was run in 1890.” Observe his usage of the plural noun “theories.” Does he mean all of Baring-Gould’s chronologies are correct? Probably not, since even Baring-Gould changed his mind from time to time. In short, whenever one studies Sherlock Holmes there are few definitive answers. And there dear reader is the fun of the “grand game.”

    I greatly admire Judge Bigelow for his exceptional views on Canonical legal problems. However, I personally enjoyed his comments on an icon who is responsible for introducing countless thousands to the world of Sherlock Holmes and scion societies.

        In any event, Baring-Gould has satisfied me, with his almost diabolically ingenious reasoning, that he is the chronologist whose theories we must accept as fact. Therefore, the race was run in 1890. Baring-Gould’s chronology? Possibly not. Baring-Gould had written many chronologies by the time The Annotated Sherlock Holmes was published in 1967, a few months after he passed beyond the Reichenbach.

In case you have only read and did not observe, we are able to know about Judge Bigelow’s thoughts because It was recorder and published in a readily available periodical [The Baker Street Journal, 15, No. 2 (June 1965), 79-82]. It can also be found in Baker Street Briefs from the Silicone Dispatch Box online. An inter=library search can assist you in acquiring a copy to read. All one need do is possess a valid library card and ask the librarian. Good hunting.

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