From The Surrey Shore . . .
The Newsletter of the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore Vol. 1, No. 3, June 2002
****A Scion Society for All Who Enjoy Sherlock Holmes in All His Manifestations!****
The Conner Prairie Living History Museum, that is. (And it’s more “at” than “on”—but you get the idea.) That’s the site of the next Hated Rivals meeting, on Saturday, July 6, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., as we enjoy an early picnic lunch, some great Sherlockian companionship, a short program, and, optionally, admission to Conner Prairie itself at discounted prices. The picnic will take place in the “free” areas of the grounds, outside the actual museum, so attendance costs you nothing, other than whatever you choose to dine on. (When you arrive, look for “Hated Rival” signs and people wearing deerstalkers and/or bowlers—and having way too much fun.) After lunch, our own Lady Molly will lead those who wish to tour Conner Prairie into the grounds, at special discounted group rates arranged just for the Hated Rivals. Activities within the museum grounds include a period baseball game at 1 p.m. (we tried to persuade them that cricket would be more appropriate, but alas, were overruled) and tours of the new 1880s Victorian village, as well as other regular features. Those who desire to save a few shillings, however, should still find plenty to entertain and amuse outside. So plan to go “pioneer” with us at the Hated Rivals’ summer gala. (See the “Coming Meetings” section at the end of the newsletter for details and directions.)
Yes, Holmes’ hated rival upon the Surrey Shore just never seems to tire of writing letters. And here’s No. 3 — as part of our third “From the Surrey Shore” newsletter! (And who are “we,” you may wonder, especially if this is the first newsletter you’ve received. Simply put, we’re the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore, Indianapolis’ newest—and only independent—scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars. Of course, you can read that on our banner, along with our slogan. And if you didn’t receive our first two newsletters, which go into depth about who we are and the philosophy behind our scion, drop us a line and request complimentary copies — we’ll send them to you by regular mail or electronically, via e-mail, if you give us your e-mail address. In the meantime, just know that we welcome you, however you like your Sherlock — straight up, wrapped in cellulose, graphically embellished, zapped into outer space or other unconventional setting — in any way, shape, or form. As long as it’s Sherlockian — or Victorian — it fits in right here on the Surrey Shore.) So let’s get the game afoot, shall we?
In case you’re unaware, our scion does have a Web site on the Internet. (It’s currently undergoing construction—and will continue to do so for a while, as we add new features — but you can still learn a bit about us therein, even as we work.) All our newsletters are posted online in HTML form, along with our contact info and a few other items. You can access the site at http://surrey-shore.freeservers.com — but don’t try to add a “www” to the address; our Internet host doesn’t use that prefix, and you’ll just get an error page if you include it. After you visit the first time, bookmark the site as one of your favorites and check back from time to time. We’ll be adding new information at least once every couple months. We also now have a Web page in the Communities section on the Indianapolis Star’s Web site. Check it out at www.IndyStar.com/community (scroll down and click Hobbies and Social Clubs and then scroll down and click the Hated Rivals link), or go directly to our page at http://community.IndyStar.com/928/ to skip the intermediate pages. (You can also see pictures and read short biographies of some of our members at www.sh-whoswho.com/index.php3?refsociety=423.) See you on the Web!
In case you didn’t notice, we included postage-paid cards with our last newsletter to some of you – all from whom we’ve not yet heard – asking you to return them to let us know whether or not you want to remain on our mailing list. I’m afraid that we still haven’t received some of those back. Please retrieve your copy of that newsletter (April 2002) and, if it included a postcard, take a minute to check off one of the boxes and jot down your name. Then please drop it in a mailbox. (If you’ve already contacted us by phone, e-mail, or otherwise, however, you don’t need to return the postcard unless you want to make additional comments. And if you contacted us at any time before the last newsletter, you didn’t get a postcard, so no need to wonder whether Moriarty or Colonel Moran stole yours if you didn’t find one.) Please let us know especially if you don’t want to receive our mailings—that way, it saves you from getting more of what you may consider “junk” mail and saves us postage. (And you needn’t even write a nasty note, as did one poor, disturbed fellow.) Thanks for your consideration!
We told you last time that this issue would contain some information about Barker, Holmes’ hated rival upon the Surrey Shore, as described in “The Retired Colourman” in The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. (Assuming, of course, that you haven’t already read up on him yourself by now.) Unfortunately, we’re running a bit long on the newsletter this time so must postpone our planned feature on our scion’s namesake until next time. So look for a Barker bio right here, two months from now. (And this time we promise that you won’t be bark(er)ing up the wrong tree.)
Our first—and inaugural—meeting this year was held on January 5, the day before what most Sherlockians consider Holmes’ birthday. A typo slipped through in our first press release, however, and stated that January 5 was Holmes’ birthday, and not the generally accepted date of January 6. Regrettably, some of the baser elements in the hobby chose to mock us for the error (although most Sherlockians also celebrated the Great Detective’s birthday on Saturday, the 5th, and not Sunday, the 6th). I started wondering, however, as to how January 6 actually became the “accepted” date of Holmes’ birth. (After all, many things that are “generally accepted” by even a majority of people aren’t necessarily correct. Six hundred years ago, many people thought that the earth was flat, but that didn’t make it so. And although millions celebrate Christ’s birthday on December 25, that date wasn’t chosen until several hundreds years later—and almost certainly was not the date of his birth.) Doyle certainly never specified a date for his creation’s birth in any of his stories. I recalled, however, having read once, many years ago, that the date for Holmes’ birthday was based on the fact that the Shakespearean play most quoted in the Canon (as most Sherlockians dub the original Holmes stories) was Twelfth Night. Ah, an ingenious deduction, if true. But one problem remains: According to every source that I checked on the Internet, as well as in my pocket calendar, Twelfth Night is January 5—and not January 6. That latter date, per all my sources, is actually Twelfth Day. So how did we get from Twelfth Night to January 6?
As my research library is currently in much the same condition that Watson found Holmes’ many newspapers—scattered around the room—rather than try to dig through the Sherlockian tomes that I’ve accumulated over the years, I chose a more direct approach: I first queried Peter Blau, former editor of The Baker Street Journal and Sherlockian extraordinaire. His answer to my query was somewhat surprising. Apparently, according to Peter, the January 6 date was simply chosen by decree by the late Christopher Morely, cornerstone of the original Baker Street Irregulars, who saw no need to justify his choice. The Twelfth Night rationale, it seems, as well as others, came later—and from different sources, some of whom sought a Canonical justification for the date. Peter couldn’t recall the originator of that particular theory, but Sherlockian expert Paul Herbert provided me with the following information: William S. Baring-Gould, in his landmark The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, identified Twelfth Night with the January 6 date, noting that Holmes had mentioned that play twice in the Canon. And that, of course, jogged my memory enough to recall that to be where I’d picked up the idea.
Now, Mr. Morely was unquestionably a pillar of the Sherlockian community and one whose decisions are not to be taken lightly. And Baring-Gould? Well, his work is almost required reading for any serious Sherlockian (if you can locate it today). And yet, if no actual Canonical foundation exists for designating January 6 as the date for Holmes’ birthday, other than through tradition in honor of one of the greats of the hobby (and a curiously mistaken identification of Twelfth Night as January 6 by another), may we not be justified in wondering whether following lockstep in such a tradition is really necessary? After all, if Doyle thought it not important enough to date Holmes’ birth, does a specific date really matter? And WWHT? (What Would Holmes Think?) Probably that it’s an unimportant trifle—and Holmes declared in A Study in Scarlet that he had “no time for trifles.” (Of course, in “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” he also said that “there is nothing so important as trifles,” but we somehow doubt he was referring to birthdays.) And yet, I find that I really kind of like the idea of even the tenuous Canonical association with Twelfth Night (as opposed to the arbitrary nature of the traditional date) — providing, of course, that we are to go with the correct date for that holiday. So what’s the solution?
To quote somewhat loosely from the Bible, “let no man judge you according to your observation of days and holidays.” Let those who thrive on tradition observe Holmes’ birthday on January 6, as in the past. As for the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore, we hereby designate the true Twelfth Night, January 5, as the Canonical date of the birth of the Supreme Sleuth of Baker Street. And by what authority do we do so? Why, none whatsoever. Other than, of course, that we choose to, just as Mr. Morely chose, for his own reasons, January 6. (And of course it could never have anything to do with that cursed typo in our first news release . . .) So let any “purists” who want go ahead and rail at us (although if they’re truly purists and not just traditionalists, you’d think that they’d insist only on a date that derives from some Canonical evidence, however slight). But we tend to think that anyone who’d take us to task for our decision has really lost the whole point of our hobby: Sherlock Holmes is supposed to be fun! Reading his adventures and discussing the finer—and often contradictory—points of the stories is fun! (And if you really disagree with that idea — the fun part, that is — well, you may want to consider whether perhaps you’ve taken up the wrong hobby.) And so, next year, the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore will be celebrating Sherlock Holmes’ birthday as Twelfth Night — using the correct date of January 5. And you’re welcome to join us — unless, of course, you decide to designate an entirely different date. (Watson’s birthday, anyone?)
On that note, I’ll close, although I remain, as always, your humble servant . . .
--C. Barker, Esq.
Some 30 aficionados of the Victorian era gathered at the Indiana Medical History Museum on Sunday afternoon, May 5, for the third meeting of the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore, featuring David Heighway’s talk on “Grim Necessity: Grave Robbing and Medical Education in Central Indiana” (focusing on the late 19th and early 20th centuries). David, who currently serves as Indiana Room Historian for the Noblesville-Southeastern Library and is past director of the Hamilton Co. Historical Society, gave a lively and fascinating talk. He included a brief history of Resurrectionists (as body snatchers and grave robbers were known in the 19th century) such as England’s Burke and Hare; touched on the “Harrison Horror” of 1878, involving the abduction and discovery in a medical school of the body of Benjamin Harrison’s father; and spotlighted the tale (and trial) of three locals involved in a body-snatching scandal in Central Indiana at the turn of the century (a Dr. Alexander, Rufus Cantrell, and Hamp West). David’s talk even managed to touch on Sherlock Holmes’ treatment of cadavers in A Study in Scarlet. One especially interesting aspect was the use throughout the country (but mainly in the Midwest) between 1878 and 1903 of black-powder “grave torpedoes” that families often attached to coffins to discourage (or, failing that, to maim or kill) any grave robbers. After David’s talk and a Q&A session, the museum’s director and other volunteers led small groups on a tour throughout the Victorian-era facility, which opened in 1896 as the most modern hospital in the country studying mental illness. A “ghoulishly” good time was had by all.
In this and past newsletters, we’ve noted that our scion takes its name from a phrase in one of the original Holmes stories, “The Retired Colourman” (from The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes). We’ve since had a few people ask, “What’s a ‘colourman’ anyway—and why’s it spelled with a u?” To handle the last part first, many terms that end in “-or” in American English end in “-our” in British English. Among those terms is the word color—or colour in British English. As to what a “colourman” is, let us turn to the late Jack Tracy’s excellent Encyclopaedia Sherlockiana for the answer: “A colourman is one who sells colours, or paints, and other artistic materials.” Simple enough – and something that you may even have guessed from reading the story. (Not that we’re trying to give you the “brush” off in this issue’s offering.)
I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere!
Channel 59 in Indianapolis, the local Fox affiliate, is running on Saturday mornings at 11 a.m. the half-hour cartoon show “Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century.” The premise of the show is that, before his death, Holmes was cryogenically frozen. He is then revived and rejuvenated in the 22nd century by that era’s Lestrade to battle a resurrected Moriarty, along with other futuristic threats that only Holmes’ abilities as a detective can counter. (Seems the police of the future have so come to rely on computers that they’ve lost the capability to make the kinds of observations and deductions that Holmes can.) Watson, in the show, is a robot that downloaded the original doctor’s memories—and actually thinks and reacts as Holmes’ human companion. And the Baker Street Irregulars are a trio of cyberpunks. Yes, the premise is far-fetched and even a little silly, but for a cartoon, it’s not half-bad, if you don’t mind mixing your genres.
The Strand magazine, first-run home for most of the original Holmes stories, is publishing again – only on this side of the Atlantic (in nearby Michigan). The magazine seems to be running a variety of stories, articles, and interviews, including a few Holmes pastiches. Several examples are posted on its Web site at www.strandmag.com — including “The Disappearance of Daniel Question,” a pastiche that solves the James Philimore mystery. A one-year subscription (four issues) is $24.95 and two years is $39.95. Most back issues are available, too, mostly at $10 each (although a couple are $12). Several Sherlockian and Victorian books are also for sale on the Web site. For information or to subscribe, contact The Strand Magazine, P.O. Box 1418, Birmingham, MI 48012-1418; 1-800-300-6652; email@example.com.
Paramount Pictures is reportedly gearing up for a new film version of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, the classic story of Martian invasion of Earth. No word yet as to whether this version, unlike the 1950s film, will actually take place where it belongs — in and around Victorian London. We can only hope so . . . (although Tom Cruise is said to be co-producing the film, which doesn’t bode well). We wonder, too, whether the film will cover the exploits of Holmes and Professor Challenger during the invasion, as documented in Manly Wade Wellman’s Sherlock Holmes’ War of the Worlds? (Naaaawwww.)
Speaking of War of the Worlds, this June marks the publication of the first issue of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. II, a six-issue miniseries written by Alan Moore and published by DC Comics’ America’s Best imprint. The first volume — now collected in a hardback edition, available at most specialty comic stores (as well as online sources such as Amazon.com) — featured such characters from Victorian fiction as Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll (and, of course, Mr. Hyde), Griffith (Wells’ Invisible Man), H.Rider Haggard’s Allan Quartermain (King Solomon’s Mines, She, and others), and Myna Harker (from Dracula). These intrepid souls joined forces at the behest of the British Secret Service’s mysterious “M” to stop an unnamed evil Oriental Devil Doctor (guess Fu?) from threatening the Empire with a great airship (ala Robur the Conqueror) powered by stolen Cavorite (the antigravity substance from Wells’ First Men in the Moon). Holmes (both Sherlock and Mycroft) made brief appearances, as did other 19th-century literary personas, such as Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin, and Moriarty played a pivotal role in the first series. The new series features the same characters facing the Martian invasion of London. A film version of the first series is currently in the works, with Sean Connery portraying Allan Quartermain. (No word as to whether Holmes may appear, although Tom Sawyer is said to have been added for the youngsters.)
If you happen to be vacationing in Connecticut between mid-June and October of this year, you may want to drop by the East Haddam Historical Society Museum, in East Haddam, CT. From June 15 to October 13, the museum is honoring actor William Gillette, the actor who played Holmes in the first stage production featuring the detective, in a special exhibit. For information, call the museum at 860-873-3944.
Finally, check out specialty comic book stores for the new four-issue miniseries Fort, Prophet of the Unknown, from Dark Horse Comics, starting this June. Set in New York City, 1899, it follows the fictionalized paranormal investigations of the very real Charles Fort, whose last name became a synonym for unusual occurrences — Fortean phenomena – and his young assistant, H.P. (as in Lovecraft).
Saturday, July 6, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Conner Prairie Living History Museum
13400 Allisonville Road, Fishers, IN
Directions and details: Take I-465 to the Allisonville Road exit on the Northeast side of Indianapolis. Follow Allisonville Road north through Fishers, past 131st St. Watch for the signs to Conner Prairie, which is on the left side of the road. We’ll be at the picnic area to the left as you turn into the grounds. Bring a picnic lunch (or you can purchase food at the site). If you’d like to bring a pitch-in dish to share, call Lady Molly at the phone number below to coordinate (so that we don’t end up with five Jello salads, etc.). Following a short program, you can purchase tickets to tour the museum grounds at a group rate of $8.50 per person. (For a map or additional directions, go to www.connerprairie.org/visit/map.html.)
For more information, contact us c/o Bill Barton, P.O. Box 26290, Indianapolis, IN 46226-0290; or Mimi DeMore, P.O. Box 482, Fishers, IN 46038, 317-774-9541. You can also contact us by e-mail, either at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. (And remember to check out our Web site at http://surrey-shore.freeservers.com or our Web page at http://community.indystar.com/928/ for the most recent information.) See you again back on the ol’ Surrey Shore, where the game’s perpetually afoot!