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The London Ilustrated News, December 1895

“I dressed, shaved, fussed to no avail with my remaining hair, and made my final preparations for the two-hour journey to Eastbourne…. I had reduced my office hours in the past two years and watched as my patients cooperated to an unflattering extent, transferring their loyalties to my young partner and nephew, Ronald Ellison.” Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable, coming soon from Propertius Press.

So How Old is Old?

When Watson received Holmes’ summons to Eastbourne, he was 68 and the year was 1920, just a hundred years ago. Stanford University’s research, based on likelihood of death, suggests that for men the transition beyond middle age in 1920 was 44. After 44 you qualified as “old,” at least in terms of likelihood of death. In 2020, that age is 60.

But that’s not all. Stanford included another transition. The transition for men from “old” to really “elderly” in 1920 was 55 in 1920. In 2020, it is 76. from John Stoven: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/what-age-is-considered-old-nowadays/

“Diggings” in Baker Street, Watson smokes, too–and the landlady’s mourning jewelry brings back a macabre memory

“By Jove! If he really wants someone to share the rooms and expense, I am the very man for him.” J. Watson, M.D.

In 1881, Holmes and Watson move in to 221b. Holmes is 27; Watson 29 years old.

“Holmes was delighted. ‘I have my eye on a suite in Baker Street,‘ he said. … You don’t mind the smell of strong tobacco, I hope?’

‘I always smoke ‘ship’s’ myself,”Watson answered.

‘That’s good enough. I generally have chemicals about, and occasionally, do experiments. Would that annoy you? … Let me see, what are my other shortcomings? I get in the dumps at times, and don’t open my mouth for days.’

That very evening Watson moved his things from the hotel in the Strand where he had been living a comfortless and meaningless existence.” Excerpted from: Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, by William S. Baring Gould, WING BOOKS.

When they met Mrs. Hudson, the landlady, Holmes saw immediately a mourning pin at her collar, not more than half an inch long, set with a zigzag design of what was surely human hair.

Had she lost a child? Was she a widow? He did not mention it, initially, though he was personally familiar with the tradition of bereavement jewelry. His mother, Violet Sherrinford Holmes, b. 1824, treasured a ring crafted in the more macabre style of the Georgian era, a tiny skull and cross bones set in a circle of pearls.

Slamming Holmes

1399835759_9cd88121b1_s   I love the research. That’s why writing historical fiction is fun, but also more challenging. Research takes me down some grizzly paths. Last night I was enjoying the scrumptious butternut squash soup at a little cafe, using my lone dinnertime to look up both big and little story details on Google. I was immersed when an acquaintance called from across the room. I went over to say hello. When I returned I found I’d left Apple open to a page describing the technical aspects of “slamming” cocaine into a neck vein, including graphics. Do you aim up or down? What size needle? What difference does it make? As I reseated myself, I was greeted with a variety of looks, most on the quizzical side, fortunately. No one seemed concerned. I don’t present as addict material. Not that kind, anyway. In case you’re wondering, never ever aim down, towards the heart. That will be the last thing you aim anywhere. Soup for Dinner

Tragedy Averted

“Then, in the winter of 1867-68, the boy’s health worsened. He was growing fast, and thin … He was taken to London to see an eminent specialist.” ‘Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street’ Sir William S. Baring-Gould, Biographer.

Illustrated London News, Saturday, November 23, 1867

Perhaps if 13 year old Sherlock had not survived, the Holmes family at Mycroft, their farming estate in Yorkshire, would have turned to Peter Robinson’s Court and General Mourning Warehouse. Note that “goods” may be sent along with a dressmaker, if desired, to any part of England. Talk about convenience.

“Diggings” in Baker Street, Watson smokes, too–and the landlady’s mourning jewelry brings back a macabre memory

“By Jove! If he really wants someone to share the rooms and expense, I am the very man for him.” J. Watson, M.D.

In 1881, Holmes and Watson move in to 221b. Holmes is 27; Watson 29 years old.

“Holmes was delighted. ‘I have my eye on a suite in Baker Street,‘ he said. … You don’t mind the smell of strong tobacco, I hope?’

‘I always smoke ‘ship’s’ myself,”Watson answered.

‘That’s good enough. I generally have chemicals about, and occasionally, do experiments. Would that annoy you? … Let me see, what are my other shortcomings? I get in the dumps at times, and don’t open my mouth for days.’

That very evening Watson moved his things from the hotel in the Strand where he had been living a comfortless and meaningless existence.” Excerpted from: Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, by William S. Baring Gould, WING BOOKS.

When they met Mrs. Hudson, the landlady, Holmes saw immediately a mourning pin at her collar, not more than half an inch long, set with a zigzag design of what was surely human hair.

Had she lost a child? Was she a widow? He did not mention it, initially, though he was personally familiar with the tradition of bereavement jewelry. His mother, Violet Sherrinford Holmes, b. 1824, treasured a ring crafted in the more macabre style of the Georgian era, a tiny skull and cross bones set in a circle of pearls.

Electropathic Belts and Gizmos to Doom Covid 19

HOLMES’ 1895 Newspaper:

If Electricity Prevents Cholera and Restores Health (at once!)

Advertisement London Illustrated New December 1895

… then why couldn’t the Society for Psychical Research, with members such as Sir Oliver Lodge, writers Jane Barlow and Arthur Conan Doyle, MP Arthur Balfour, and William James, introduce you to your long ago buried great, great grandmother? After all, this was a scientific breakthrough and these late Victorians thought of themselves as citizens of a brave new world.

Are we so different? I heard on a normally sound podcast report that a pint of apple cider vinegar a day will prevent Covid 19. Why suffer unnecessarily, as the the ad says? Good ol’ aspirin has been another claimant. Or you may simply purchase the handy dandy (glowing!) electrical device that sizzles those invisible virus baddies from your door knobs and cells phones. Forget the sprays and wipes. Belt this gizmo to your wrist and have at it!

Holmes’ 1895 newspaper: a nutritious tea

Mrs. Hudson’s first thought when she observed Holmes’ ghastly deterioration in “The Dying Detective,” was to summon Watson. Her second thought was Bovril. Bovril was invented to feed French troops in 1886. A like recipe, Oxo, was a popular addition to WWI rations and a sponsor on the 1908 London Olympics.

According the to modern day Epicurious site:

“It’s a dish that goes back in time to the days when the British were trying to find the essence of what gave beef its nutritional value. Since this was before vitamins and protein were known, they weren’t sure what they were looking for. Along the way, somebody noticed that this very mild liquid was soothing and comforting. Give it a try when you’re feeling under the weather, but don’t go looking for a scientific reason for its effectiveness.”

Don’t overlook the worthy directors of the 1895 Bovril Company, noted in the lower right hand corner, nor the perhaps equally extreme representation of the waistline of the woman who weighs in on the drink and its weight in gold.

Don’t overlook the fact that Bovril is still available!

Dead of Night: backstory

London Illustrated News, December 1895 Advertisement

“I’m a light sleeper,” Watson says, “but Holmes is a hardly a sleeper at all. So it happened often enough at 221B that I’d hear a sharp rap on my bedroom door. Three raps, usually. In the early days, I’d grope in the dark for a match and, like as not, knock the candlestick to the floor before I managed to light it. Candle wax on the carpet. Complaints from Mrs. Hudson. The day I noted the advertisement for Pyramid Night Light and Watch Holder I purchased one. If I’m going to rouse at some devil’s hour, I want to know which one.”

A Good Dose of Winslow’s Child Preservative

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“Till Midnight the child kept moaning and tossing in his bed.” London Illustrated News, December 1895

Le Dieppe Clinic and Sanatorium, Normandy (Clinical Note)

25 Aug 1920 – M. Holmes believes he was first introduced to cocaine as a teething infant by his nursery maid. As was common practice, she applied wool pads, imbued with a tea made from coca leaves, to his sore gums. M. Holmes and his two older brothers were also regularly dosed with Godfrey’s Cordial (opium and treacle), as well as Mrs. Winslow’s Child Preservative (morphine). Pierre Jourbert, Director

—“Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable”  by Susanne M. Dutton, coming soon from Propertius Press                        

Meanwhile, at a (somewhat rundown) clinic, the detective meets with his shrink…

December 1893 London Illustrated News Advertisement

From Sherlock Holmes’ Initial Session, Le Dieppe Clinic, Normandy 25/August/1920 “With little thought, M. Holmes continued to self-medicate, not daily, but frequently, ‘as necessary,’ throughout his youth, especially aged thirteen to sixteen. He recalls his ever-ready Toothache Drops (cocaine) as a favourite. Even then, he perceived these products as medicines that one used to ‘get through’ what one must. He is unsure when ‘getting through’ began to apply to daily life.”       P. Joubert, Medical Director

—“Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable”  by Susanne Dutton, coming soon from Propertius Press