William S. Baring-Gould at the 1950 Baker Street Irregulars
dinner. Photo by Standard Studios, as reproduced in Irregular Crises of
the Late 40's, courtesy of Bill Vande Water.
Bill Baring-Gould, 1913-1967
W. S. Baring-Gould was an executive of Time Inc. and a distinguished
though modest Sherlockian (invested in the Baker Street Irregulars
as "The Gloria Scott", 1952). On his death, Julian Wolff wrote in the
Baker Street Journal that
he was one of our most knowledgeable Sherlockians and a scholarly,
prolific writer. When one adds to this that he was a close personal
friend of everyone in our far-flung group, it will easily be
understood why it is truly impossible to put into words just how much
he meant to us all and how great is our sorrow.
His major works:
- The Chronological Holmes, 1955 (with revisions from an earlier
edition that appeared in the Baker Street Journal in 1948)
- Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, 1962
- The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, 1967
- Nero Wolfe of West Thirty-Fifth Street, 1969
The chronology of Holmes's life
All of Baring-Gould's work is based on his reconstructed chronology of
Sherlock Holmes's life and work, as first expressed in his 1955 (privately
published) book. Among its key features:
- Holmes was born January 6, 1854, at "Mycroft" in the North Riding of Yorkshire.
- The Hound of the Baskervilles takes place in September-October
1888 -- which means that it overlaps the Jack the Ripper
murders, a matter of some importance to Baring-Gould. (Most
ther chronologists have set The Hound in either 1889 or 1900.)
- Watson was married three times.
- Holmes died January 6, 1957.
The Irene Adler affair
The idea that Holmes had an affair with
in Montenegro in 1892, and that their son was the detective
Wolfe, was first presented by John D. Clark in the
Baker Street Journal in 1956, but Baring-Gould seized on it with
enthusiasm, in Nero Wolfe of West Thirty-Fifth Street as
well as in his Sherlockian writings. According to his narrative, Holmes's
last words were "Irene. Irene."
Other novelties in Baring-Gould's narrative
Baring-Gould seems to have invented several features of Holmes's biography
that have been accepted by later writers and Sherlockians -- in some
cases, readers actually assume that the original Holmes stories somehow
"If that isn't pastiche, I don't know what is," Sherlockian scholar
Jon Lellenberg has commented.
- Holmes spent his childhood travelling through Europe with
a cultivated but unconventional family.
Moriarty, later his great antagonist, was his mathematics tutor.
- As a young man, he toured America as an actor.
- In addition to Mycroft Holmes, there was
a second older brother, Sherrinford. (The name comes from Arthur Conan
Doyle's earliest notes for A Study in Scarlet, which gave the
great detective's name as "Sherrinford Holmes" and that of his medical companion
as "Ormond Sacker".)
- Watson, meanwhile, spent some of his early years in San Francisco, and
married a girl named Constance Adams. (This plot point may be
based on events reported to be included in Arthur Conan
Doyle's unpublished play "Angels
of Darkness", which borrows some of the plot of A Study in Scarlet.)
- Someone close to him was Jack the Ripper.
- His brother Mycroft Holmes was head of British intelligence.
- Holmes lived to a great age by feeding on "royal jelly" or some other
product of the bees he raised at his Sussex farm.
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