At last, the grand finale! Over the course of several previous installments (all linked below), diligent effort and careful reasoning have allowed us to structure a timeline of all 60 cases in the Sherlock Holmes canon, to a degree of precision of at least a month or season and a likely year even for the most ambiguous of them. I have endeavored throughout to honor (rather than contradict) whatever chronological information Watson gave us to work with, and in only one instance (WIST’s reference to 1892) was this flatly impossible. The results illuminate a number of fascinating relationships among the cases as they progress over time.

However, there is more to Watson’s writings than just the chronicled cases (and for that matter, there is more to the life of Holmes and his biographer than just the writings). Watson alludes from time to time to other cases he had recorded in his notes but which for various reasons he never chose to put in print—many of which are mentioned with enough chronological information to allow one to place them in the timeline. (These tantalizing untold tales have inspired many a latter-day author, some of whom claim to have discovered lost notes or manuscripts in Watson’s own hand, and some of whose works ring with a sense of authenticity… but there is no way to prove them authentic, and it would be foolhardy to accept them as legitimate. The Canon is what Dr. Watson allowed to have published under the auspices of his agent, Dr. Conan Doyle, no more and no less. And the sad fact is that the vaults of Cox & Co. Bank at Charing Cross, wherein Watson in his later years preserved the “battered tin dispatch box” that held his papers (as he described in THOR), was destroyed by the London Blitz during World War II. No further reminiscences from Watson’s pen shall ever be forthcoming, so as to unrevealed details all we can do is speculate… which can, however, be fun in its own right.)

This, then, is the entire chronology of the career of Sherlock Holmes, as worked out in earlier installments, supplemented here with additional notes and observations on unchronicled cases and other pertinent matters of historical context:

Title Abbr. Date Notes Pub. Book
1852 John H. Watson is born (date derived from STUD)
1854 Sherlock Holmes is born (date derived from LAST)
The Gloria Scott GLOR Sep, 1874 Holmes’s first case, during the vacation after his second year of college 4/93 Memoirs
The Musgrave Ritual MUSG Jul, 1879 Holmes’s third case in London (living in Montague Street) 5/93 Memoirs
(pre-1881) Other cases Holmes recalls from “before my biographer had come to glorify me” (per MUSG) include:
• the Tarleton murders
• the case of Vamberry, the wine merchant
• the adventure of the old Russian woman
• the singular affair of the aluminum crutch
• Ricoletti of the club-foot, and his abominable wife
• …as well as the case of Mrs. Farintosh, concerning an opal tiara (mentioned in SPEC)
A Study in Scarlet STUD Jul, 1880 Watson is injured in Afghanistan 12/87 Study
Win, 1881 Watson meets Holmes; they take rooms at 221B Baker Street
Mar 4, 1881 Watson’s first case with Holmes begins (the Jefferson Hope case); 1st app. Inspector Lestrade
Resident Patient RESI Oct, 1881 8/93 Memoirs
Cardboard Box CARD Aug, 1882? 1/93 Memoirs
Yellow Face YELL early Spr, 1883? 2/93 Memoirs
Speckled Band SPEC e. Apr, 1883 The infamous case of Helen Stoner, Dr. Grimesby Roylott, and the Indian swamp adder 2/92 Adventures
Charles Augustus Milverton CHAS Jan, 1886? 4/04 Return
Beryl Coronet BERY Feb, 1886? 5/92 Adventures
Second Stain SECO Aut, 1886 Holmes is retained by the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary to avert a diplomatic crisis 12/04 Return
Reigate Squires REIG Apr, 1887 Leading into this case’s country vacation, Holmes’s health has suffered “from the strain caused by his immense exertions in the spring of ’87,” namely  “The whole question of the Netherland-Sumatra Company and of the colossal schemes of Baron Maupertuis… an investigation which had extended over two months,” in which he “outmanoeuvred at every point the most accomplished swindler in Europe.” 6/93 Memoirs
Greek Interpreter GREE Jun, 1887? First appearance of Sherlock’s older brother Mycroft Holmes (b. circa 1847) 9/93 Memoirs
Sign of the Four SIGN Sep, 1887 Holmes and Watson solve the mystery of the Agra treasure for Mary Morstan, and Watson proposes to her 2/90 Sign
Five Orange Pips FIVE l. Sep, 1887 In addition to this (and others fully chronicled), “The year ’87 furnished us with a long series of cases,” including:
• the adventure of the Paradol Chamber
• the Amateur Mendicant Society, who held a luxurious club in the lower vault of a furniture warehouse
• the loss of the British barque Sophy Anderson
• the singular adventures of the Grice Pattersons in the island of Uffa
• the Camberwell poisoning case, which Holmes solved “by winding up the dead man’s watch”
•… and undated but apparently recent is the case of “Major Prendergast [and] the Tankerville Club scandal,” in which “He was wrongfully accused of cheating at cards.”

One more (noted years later in NORW) is the case of “that terrible murderer, Bert Stevens, who wanted us to get him off in ’87.”

Moreover, at this point in his career, Holmes admits to having “been beaten four times–three times by men, and once by a woman.” (Given the date, that cannot be a reference to Irene Adler.)

11/91 Adventures
Silver Blaze SILV Aut, 1887? 12/92 Memoirs
Noble Bachelor NOBL Oct, 1887 Besides this case:
• “the little problem of the Grosvenor Square furniture van” was recently on hand but “is quite cleared up now”
• Holmes’s “last client of the [romantic] sort” was “The King of Scandinavia”
4/92 Adventures
Valley of Fear VALL Jan, 1888 Holmes and Watson come to the aid of John Douglas, formerly a Pinkerton agent in America, hunted by old enemies from the “Scowrers” (a thinly disguised version of the Molly Maguires)… who have tracked him with assistance from Prof. Moriarty (in the chronologically earliest reference to same) 9/14 Valley
Win, 1888 Dr. Watson married Mary Morstan, and soon purchases a medical practice in the Paddington district (per STOC)
Win, 1888 Watson reads (in the press) or hears (from Holmes) about, but does not participate in, several cases, including (per SCAN):
• the Trepoff murder in Odessa
• the singular tragedy of the Atkinson brothers at Trincomalee (in Ceylon)
• a delicate mission for the reigning family of Holland
• the Darlington substitution scandal
• the Arnsworth castle business
A Scandal in Bohemia SCAN Mar 20, 1888 Holmes meets (and is outsmarted by) former opera singer Irene Adler, thereafter known to him as “the woman” 7/91 Adventures
Stockbroker’s Clerk STOC Jun, 1888 3/93 Memoirs
Naval Treaty NAVA Jul, 1888 In addition to this case, the month includes two others that remain unchronicled:
• the Adventure of the Tired Captain
• the Adventure of the Second Stain (apparently different from the published case of that title, as it implicates “many of the first families in the kingdom,” and involves Holmes with both French and Polish authorities)
10/93 Memoirs
Crooked Man CROO Sum, 1888 7/93 Memoirs
A Case of Identity IDEN Sep, 1888 Holmes tracks down a wayward suitor for Miss Mary Sutherland. He has also recently been consulted on:
• the Dundas separation case
…and has “some ten or twelve” other cases on hand, including:
• an intricate matter referred to him from Marseilles
9/91 Adventures
Oct, 1888 Jack the Ripper. Although two earlier killings attributed to this notorious serial killer occurred on Aug 31 and Sep 8, the case exploded in the London press after a double killing on Sep 30, with a letter and postcard sent to the Central News Agency around that same time claiming credit and coining the name. There can be no serious doubt that Sherlock Holmes would have been consulted on so infamous a case, and we may presume he succeeded in solving it, as after one more brutal killing on Nov 9 the Ripper was not heard from again. For reasons of his own, however, Watson chose never to record or even mention this investigation… although we may note that he records no other cases during this time period. Later writers have offered more than one fictionalized account of Holmes’s pursuit of the Ripper, but we shall likely never know the true details.
Boscombe Valley Mystery BOSC e. Jun, 1889 10/91 Adventures
Man with the Twisted Lip TWIS late Jun, 1889 12/91 Adventures
Engineer’s Thumb ENGR Jul, 1889 One of only two cases introduced to Holmes’s attention by Watson himself (pre-Hiatus, at least), the other being:
• the case of Colonel Warburton’s madness
3/92 Adventures
Hound of the Baskervilles HOUN Oct, 1889 Holmes solves the centuries-old legend of a spectral hound haunting the moors around Baskerville Hall 10/01 Hound
Dying Detective DYIN Nov, 1889 Holmes’s practice has prospered such that his rent paid to the beleaguered Mrs. Hudson is “princely” at this point 12/13 Last Bow
Blue Carbuncle BLUE Dec 27, 1889 1/92 Adventures
Copper Beeches COPP Apr, 1890 6/92 Adventures
Red-Headed League REDH Oct, 1890 “I find that in the year 1890 there were only three cases of which I retain any record,” says Watson in FINA. Two are chronicled; the third remains unknown. Another case (technically undated, but unknown to Watson when Holmes mentions it in 1901 (in SUSS), thus quite probably datable to this year) is that of:
Matilda Briggs, “a ship which is associated with the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared”
8/91 Adventures
Win, 1890-’91 Per FINA:
• “During the winter … and the early spring of 1891, I saw in the papers that [Holmes] had been engaged by the French government upon a matter of supreme importance”
• Holmes mentions to Watson a recent case in which he has “been of assistance to the royal family of Scandinavia”
The Final Problem FINA Apr 24 – May 4, 1891 Holmes secures evidence to convict Prof. Moriarty’s criminal gang, but the mastermind tracks Holmes and Watson to Switzerland. In a confrontation with his nemesis at the Reichenbach Falls, Holmes seemingly perishes. 12/93 Memoirs

May, 1891 – Apr, 1894 • THE GREAT HIATUS

Having faked his own death to elude pursuit, Holmes travels the world incognito. For two years he explores Tibet as a Norwegian named Sigerson, visiting Lhassa and spending some days with the “head lama.” He passes through Persia, “looks in” at Mecca (difficult though this must have been, if Richard Burton could manage it in disguise then surely Holmes could), and pays a brief visit to the Khalifa at Khartoum (in Sudan), information about which he passes home to the Foreign Office (presumably through his brother Mycroft, who is in on the secret). He then spends some months in Montpellier, France, researching coal-tar derivatives, before returning to London. (Some Sherlockians have speculated that Holmes’s father may have been named Siger, given his choice of pseudonym.)

Meanwhile, even while mourning and memorializing “the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known” (FINA), Watson suffers an additional sad bereavement—presumably the premature death of his wife, Mary, for reasons unknown—and relocates to a small Kensington practice. (Kensington per NORW; all other details per EMPT.) (Some speculate that Mary’s death may have lay beneath Watson’s decision to relate the tale of Holmes’s death and write no more.)

Title Abbr. Date
Notes Pub. Book
The Empty House EMPT e. Apr, 1894 Holmes returns from his self-imposed exile and reintroduces himself to Watson, promptly solving the murder of young Ronald Adair and capturing the killer, Col. Sebastian Moran, the last of Moriarty’s old gang. Watson (per NORW) soon sells his practice and returns to the shared rooms in Baker Street. 10/03 Return
Golden Pince-Nez GOLD l. Nov, 1894 Watson decribes “three massive manuscript volumes which contain our work for the year 1894,” most of which sadly remain unchronicled, including:
• the repulsive story of the red leech and the terrible death of Crosby, the banker
• the Addleton tragedy, and the singular contents of the ancient British barrow
• The famous Smith-Mortimer succession case
• the tracking and arrest of Huret, the Boulevard assassin—an exploit which won for Holmes an autograph letter of thanks from the French President and the Order of the Legion of Honour
2/04 Return
Wisteria Lodge WIST l. Mar, 1895 Before commencing this case (in which he identifies the notorious ex-President Murillo, an exiled Central American despot), Holmes remarks on “how bored I have been since we locked up Colonel Carruthers.” 9/08 Last Bow
Solitary Cyclist SOLI Apr, 1895 1/04 Return
Three Students 3STU May, 1895 Leading up to this case, “a combination of events, into which I need not enter, caused Mr. Sherlock Holmes and myself to spend some weeks in one of our great university towns” (i.e., either Oxford or Cambridge) 6/04 Return
Black Peter BLAC e. Jul, 1895 Watson reports that he had “never known my friend to be in better form, both mental and physical, than in the year ’95. His increasing fame had brought with it an immense practice.” Shortly before this particular mystery, “a curious and incongruous succession of cases had engaged his attention,” including:
• his famous investigation of the sudden death of Cardinal Tosca—an inquiry which was carried out by him at the express desire of His Holiness the Pope
• his arrest of Wilson, the notorious canary-trainer, which removed a plague-spot from the East End of London
3/04 Return
Norwood Builder NORW Aug, 1895 Other cases mentioned in the “months” since the Return include that of Murillo (WIST, above), and:
• the shocking affair of the Dutch steamship Friesland
11/03 Return
Bruce-Partington Plans BRUC l. Nov, 1895 At the request of his brother Mycroft (making his second and last published appearance), Holmes once again comes to the aid of the government. At this stage in his career, he can refer casually to “Brooks or Woodhouse, or any of the fifty men who have good reason for taking my life.” 12/08 Last Bow
Veiled Lodger VEIL Oct, 1896 2/27 Case-Book
Missing Three-Quarter MISS Feb, 1897 Watson remarks that things had been “very slow” preceding this case, and that “For years I had gradually weaned [Holmes] from that drug mania which had threatened once to check his remarkable career, [and] I knew that under ordinary conditions he no longer craved for this artificial stimulus.” (In fact, no cocaine or other drug use is ever chronicled post-Return.) 8/04 Return
Abbey Grange ABBE l. Win, 1897 Holmes willingly subverts the law (not the only time, but one of the most brazen) to excuse the death of an abusive husband and reunite his wife, Lady Brackenstall, with her lost love Captain Crocker 9/04 Return
Devil’s Foot DEVI l. Mar, 1897 Watson: “in the spring of the year 1897… Holmes’s iron constitution showed some symptoms of giving way in the face of constant hard work,” requiring a rest-vacation in Cornwall at the instruction of “Dr. Moore Agar, of Harley Street, whose dramatic introduction to Holmes I may some day recount.” It is there that this case arises. 12/10 Last Bow
Retired Colourman RETI Sum, 1898 Simultaneous with this case, Holmes is “preoccupied with [the] case of the two Coptic Patriarchs” 1/27 Case-Book
Dancing Men DANC l. Jul, 1898 12/03 Return
Problem of Thor Bridge THOR e. Oct, 1899 Watson mentions notes of several unsolved cases, which although undatable are worth mentioning for their curiosity value, namely those of:
• Mr. James Phillimore, who, stepping back into his own house to get his umbrella, was never more seen in this world
• the cutter Alicia, which sailed one spring morning into a small patch of mist from where she never again emerged
• Isadora Persano, the well-known journalist and duellist, who was found stark staring mad with a match box in front of him which contained a remarkable worm said to be unknown to science
2/22 Case-Book
Six Napoleons SIXN Jun, 1900 In May of the previous year, Holmes was consulted about the missing Black Pearl of the Borgias, which he recovers herein. By the time of this case, he has won the unreserved respect of Lestrade and the rest of Scotland Yard, as demonstrated herein. Immediately following these events, Holmes turns to studying “the Conk-Singleton forgery case.” 5/04 Return
Priory School PRIO May, 1901 Holmes receives a remarkably large award of £12,000 from Lord Holdernesse at the conclusion of this case 2/04 Return
Lady Frances Carfax LADY Sum, 1901 There is a simultaneous case, since Holmes notes, “I cannot possibly leave London while old Abrahams is in such mortal terror of his life.” 12/11 Last Bow
Sussex Vampire SUSS Nov, 1901 1/24 Case-Book
Red Circle REDC Win, 1902 Holmes’s client in this case mentions that he “arranged an affair for a lodger of mine last year… Mr. Fairdale Hobbs.” 3/11 Last Bow
Shoscombe Old Place SHOS May, 1902 As this case opens, Holmes is examining evidence from an ongoing one:
• “the St. Pancras case [in which] you may remember that a cap was found beside the dead policeman. The accused man denies that it is his. But he is a picture-frame maker who habitually handles glue.”
He also mentions to Watson another recent case, in which he:
• “ran down that coiner by the zinc and copper filings in the seam of his cuff,” since which Scotland Yard has “begun to realize the importance of the microscope.”
3/27 Case-Book
Three Garridebs 3GAR l. Jun, 1902 It is in this same month, Watson tells us, “that Holmes refused a knighthood for services which may perhaps some day be described” 10/24 Case-Book
Sum, 1902 Watson leaves Baker Street for rooms in Queen Anne Street (per ILLU; a prestigious address for doctors in this period), and soon marries again (per BLAN). The details of these events remain unknown.
Illustrious Client ILLU Sep 3, 1902 11/24 Case-Book
Blanched Soldier BLAN Jan, 1903 Holmes reports that as this case arose, he:
• “was clearing up the case which my friend Watson has described as that of the Abbey School, in which the Duke of Greyminster was so deeply involved” (this would appear to be a veiled reference to PRIO, as nothing else comes close; that was almost two years earlier, but perhaps some follow-up work was required)
• “had also a commission from the Sultan of Turkey which called for immediate action, as political consequences of the gravest kind might arise from its neglect”
11/26 Case-Book
Three Gables 3GAB Spr, 1903 10/26 Case-Book
Mazarin Stone MAZA Sum, 1903 10/21 Case-Book
Creeping Man CREE Sep 6, 1903 “…one of the very last cases handled by Holmes before his retirement from practice.” 3/23 Case-Book
Aut, 1903 Sherlock Holmes retires. He moves from London to the Sussex Downs, where he takes up the study of beekeeping (as first revealed in SECO in late 1904). His farm is located “five miles from Eastbourne,” according to Watson’s introduction to His Last Bow.
Lion’s Mane LION l. Jul, 1907 12/26 Case-Book
His Last Bow LAST Aug 2, 1914 9/17 Last Bow

As in past posts, an underscore indicates a case published post-Hiatus yet set in the earlier period, and a question mark signals that the year assigned to a case cannot be certain. While I have alluded to the highlights of some of the more famous adventures, I have endeavored as much as possible to avoid spoiling the details of these tales, to preserve the enjoyment of those who may not yet have read them. (The notes therefore relate primarily to other interpolated cases and noteworthy life events.)

Some final observations. Much attention has been paid over the years to Watson’s statement in the opening of VEIL that “Mr. Sherlock Holmes was in active practice for twenty-three years, and… during seventeen of these I was allowed to cooperate with him and to keep notes of his doings.” If Holmes began his practice in 1877 and retired in 1903, then excluding the three years of the Hiatus that makes 23 years of “active practice,” so that fits. However, if Watson joined him in 1881 and worked with him until his retirement, then (again subtracting the Hiatus) that would be 19 years, not 17… which leaves us wondering how to account for two years in which Watson was apparently not “cooperat[ing] with him and… keep[ing] notes of his doings.”

In this context it seems particularly relevant that not a single case in this chronology falls during the years 1884 or ’85. Other solutions have been proposed, but I believe this is the most plausible location for our “missing years.” Watson’s words in SPEC regarding “notes of the seventy odd cases in which I have during the last eight years studied the methods of my friend Sherlock Holmes”—written in ’91, in a passage referring to Holmes in past tense—offer additional corroboration that the missing years must be early in the Partnership, thereby helping make sense of what should otherwise be a description of ten years’ worth of notes, not eight.

Where Watson was during this period remains a matter for speculation. Some commentators point to a long-unpublished early play by Dr. Conan Doyle, Angels of Darkness, which purports to be an account of Dr. John Watson’s adventures in San Francisco in the mid-’80s, during which he woos a young woman named Lucy Ferrier; advocates of an additional marriage seem particularly fond of this solution. However, the general consensus (which seems to me far more likely) is that this was a complete fiction on Doyle’s part, using the name of his friend as a protagonist. Alternatively and more plausibly, it’s possible that Watson (having recovered from his 1880 wound) returned to complete his term of service as an Army surgeon. It’s even possible that he was wounded a second time, thereby explaining later reference to his injured leg (per SIGN, rather than his shoulder, as described in STUD).

At any rate, if Watson had notes of some 70 cases by 1891, he had far more by the end of the Partnership:  in 1904’s SOLI he informs us that “From the years 1894 to 1901 inclusive, Mr. Sherlock Holmes was a very busy man. It is safe to say that there was no public case of any difficulty in which he was not consulted during those eight years, and there were hundreds of private cases”… and later that same year, in SECO, he refers to “notes of many hundreds of cases to which I have never alluded.” We may therefore conclude without doubt that the sixty chronicled cases of the Canon, and even the others mentioned along the way as noted above, merely scratch the surface of Holmes’s career; but they are all we have. (We can also infer from the first passage that after 1901—and the huge payday in PRIO—Holmes began to wind down his practice in preparation for retirement.)

We may sadly surmise that Watson passed on in early 1927, as the last published case (SHOS) appeared that year in the March issue of The Strand, and the collected Case-Book published later that spring bore a prefatory note from Dr. Conan Doyle, rather than from Watson himself (as in 1917’s Last Bow). Conan Doyle himself likewise passed on in July of 1930. As to Holmes, matters are less clear. William Baring-Gould appears to have been the first to suggest that Holmes’s chemical research into bees’ royal jelly allowed him to distill a serum to slow his aging, a speculation now entertained by many, suggesting that he lived well beyond a typical span and may survive even today (at the robust age of 156). Certainly it is a curious fact that the Times of London has never published an obituary for Holmes, as one would surely expect in the event of the death of so famous a figure.

Confident as I am about the reasoning behind this chronology, and its validity as a framework and reading-order for the known history of Holmes and Watson, there always remain points of ambiguity about which legitimate debate may swirl, and which may never be settled with absolute authority. I welcome comments and input from readers interested in exploring such ambiguities! Surely close analysis and discussion of the available clues, after all, is a worthy tribute to the methods of the Great Detective.

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40 Responses to “Sherlock Holmes: a complete chronology”
  1. Alan says:

    Clearly, Watson is taking certain liberties in The Sign of the Four. He says that he meets his wife-to-be, Mary Morstan, in late 1889. Yet, in the following story “A Scandal in Bohemia” he has been married for a while –in 1888. Also, the conversation between Holmes and Watson at the beginning of of Sign implies that Watson is still a relative newcomer to Holmes detective practice, which seems very strange if they have been rooming together for eight years. Watson must be framing the events from the reader’s perspective, which would know of no other cases besides the Study in Scarlet. Is it possible that Watson deliberately plays fast and loose with date (and probably names as well) so as to protect the identities of some of the people involved? If this is so, we probably should not put too much stock in any of the years given.

  2. rob says:


  3. Steve bale says:

    quote: “No canonical hints of Moriarty’s age seem to exist, but I’ve seen fan speculation range from 1836 to anywhere in the 1840s.”

    Yes I read just yesterday, sorry can’t find site now, Moriarty was born 1837.

  4. Have you ever considered writing an e-book or guest authoring on other sites?
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  6. Andi says:

    I’m not sure if this is still a live site, but just wanted to say that I’ve enjoyed your work. I am dragging-out the last few pages of Casebook in an omnibus edition that I bought around about 1981 – my first time through; and it’s only as I read some of the odder stories that it occured to me that they might be published out of order (I did wonder about Moriarty’s presence in Valley following after Final Problem, and the existance of the Mazarin Stone story sent me scooting to Google). A happy few hours today have filled me with the horror of Watson’s 6 wives and a strange feeling that I’d quite like to ignore chronology all together and have everything occur by gaslight. THanks and regards. Andi

  7. It’s going to be finish of mine day, except
    before ending I am reading this enormous paragraph to increase my know-how.

  8. Peter Liddell says:

    An excellent Chronology, but with some detail, and some fundamental, problems.

    In Part 1 of your analysis you write;

    “and moreover it violates our watchword: trust Watson.”

    but then you proceed to ignore him! (See my notes in comment to your Part 1.)

    If you really “trust Watson”, then might I suggest that you revisit the events leading up to the first meeting between Watson and Holmes and evaluate for yourself when this most probably occurred – please do not simply accept the entrenched ‘Winter of 1880/1881 view”. As well as covering all aspects of Watson’s history before he left India, please also consider his progress through southern England after landing at Portsmouth – note he ‘gravitated’ to London, he did not set off in a headlong rush to get there from Portsmouth! Remember he lived ‘for some time’ at an hotel in the Strand before his finances were ‘reduced to an alarming state’.

    My own view is that Watson met ‘young Stamford’ at the Criterion Bar in the late summer of 1882 and was taken to meet Holmes in the laboratory at St Batholomew’s Hospital. Why was the lab so quiet when the meeting took place? Presumably because it was towards the end of the summer vacation and students would have been thin on the ground.

    When Morley suggested the Jan 1st 1881 meeting, he used the Christmas vacation to explain the lack of students ‘supporting’ his preferred date. However, even if we accept that Watson arrived in Portsmouth on November 26th (which I have shown elsewhere would have been impossible) then all his described events subsequent to that arrival would have to be compressed into only 35 days if this date were to be correct!! Quite unreasonable – “trust Watson”!

    Once you set the meeting, correctly in my view, in September 1882 a number of chronological problems disappear.

    For example, you correctly base the timing of RESI on the original text and not the substituted text ‘lifted’ from CARD, but you gloss over the major chronological difficulty afforded by the release of the Worthingdon Bank gang. Dating this case, correctly, to late 1883 and not 1881 greatly eases this difficulty.

    A good building depends on a firm foundation!

  9. John Trumbull says:

    Yes, The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter states explicitly that Mycroft is seven years older than Sherlock.

  10. No birthrate for Mycroft? Certainly his age difference for Holmes must be implied somewhere?

    Colonel Sebastian Moran was born in London in 1840.

    No canonical hints of Moriarty’s age seem to exist, but I’ve seen fan speculation range from 1836 to anywhere in the 1840s.

  11. JP Ayers says:

    You might add (though I suppose it is not terribly important) the “unsolved” murder of Mrs. Stewart in 1887 by Moran (EMPT).

  12. JP Ayers says:

    This timeline has been incredibly helpful. Like many, I am working on a Sherlock project and this chronology has proved invaluable. IF the story is ever published, in any form, I will certainly mention you. This work deserves all the credit it can get.

  13. […] of my favorite suggestions from all of these chronologies appears on this one, wherein the author suggests that an unexplained gap in recorded cases in 1888 points to the fact […]

  14. Missal says:

    Sorry to nitpick, but didn’t Watson meet Mary Morstan in 1888? There are two date references in chapter 2 of “The Sign of Four.” In the first, she says her father disappeared in December 1878, “nearly ten years ago.” Only a few paragraphs later, she says, “About six years ago — to be exact, upon the fourth of May, 1882…”

    Carping aside, this is a terrific project. Well done!

  15. Dhruv says:

    Vow! Great to know that Holmes is ALIVE! He was and still continues to be a person who instils a sense of mystery and adventure without much gruesome violence in India, too. It is a MUST reading for the teens – for learning English and Deductive Logic. Keep it up! I wish for one more visit to London and UK just to ‘see’ them. Come Watson, come! The game’s afoot! is the message which attracts me.

  16. elephantsmemry says:

    Is it possible the Watson may have deliberately misled on some of the dates and years? After all, some of the cases dealt with sensitive information that he may not have wanted easily connected with living persons. If this is the case, it may be that we can do little more than note that Holmes went into practice about twenty six years prior to his retirement at the end of 1903, and for seventeen of those years Watson could observe his work. Apart from that, nothing is very reliable in terms of chronology. Even the very specific dates given for the Gloria Scott incident (1855) seem impossible to reconcile with Holmes’ involvement “30 years later” in 1885, clearly long after he would have been at college.

  17. cjnwriter says:

    Very similar to what I have, but I disagree with your SECO philosophy, and DYIN was during Watson’s SECOND year of marriage, not the first.

    Overall, good job though.

  18. I think Sherlock Holmes is the greatest detective series of all times and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is simply a genius. I have read almost all the stories from the chronology and each one makes me appreciate the wit of the detective even more.

  19. Kelly says:

    Thank you so much for this chronology!!! I was working on one myself and I couldn’t quite work out where some of the undated stories were. This is helping me so much in a story I’m working on. I have actually put most of the information in a small notebook that I carry with me everywhere, so I can check it to see if an idea I have will work.

    Again, thank you so much!!! 🙂

  20. Vlad says:

    I want to buy some of this books to take with me to a sea-trip, till this summer isn’t completely over. To rent some cheap apartment at the sea shore, read and sleap most of the day – Crimea is perfect for such purpose)

  21. Vlad says:

    This books are amazingly popular in Ukraine. I have full gathering of Conan Doyle even in my small rent apartment)

  22. […] is not entirely clear, with their being a lot of argument over where certain stories fit. However:…te-chronology/ […]

  23. A. Miller says:

    Being an amateur Holmes fan for many years, I have often wondered about the cases that Holmes and/or Watson refer and have never been printed. Reading that other “authors” have interpreted the cases into their own rendition writings,
    I was wondering if you considered, Chris, which cases have been written and those that have not? And if plausible well-written, not a comical attempt to “solve” the issue at hand?

  24. Andrew says:

    Good job … Gathering all that data truly had to cost you some time.

  25. […] broad agreement on the year in which The Blue Carbuncle was set, with both Brad Keefauver and Chris Miller agreeing on 1889. In this, these modern Sherlockians differ slightly from past master Baring-Gould, […]

  26. John Trumbull says:

    On wr’s comment above, I think that you could definitely make a case that in the world of Sherlock Holmes, Watson’s accounts of Holmes’ cases in The Strand came out at different (and in most cases, earlier) times than Conan Doyle’s did in the real world. The cases contain quite a few references to the increasing fame that Watson’s coverage gives Holmes (“I hear of Sherlock everywhere since you became his chronicler”). It’s certainly possible that in the internal world of Sherlock Holmes, Watson’s accounts came at a more frequent & steady rate for his readers than Sir Arthur’s stories did for us.

  27. wr says:

    This is fascinating, and an excellent study.
    I have always been troubled by the following, and wonder if anyone else has an opinion.
    In The Final Problem, Watson makes a point of writing that two years have elapsed since the death of Holmes, and he has not yet given an account of it. However, in The Empty House, Holmes asserts that Watson’s account was published only months after the events.

  28. L.A. Fields says:

    This timeline is extremely helpful to me! I’m working on a Sherlock Holmes project that needs the internal chronology of the stories, and I’ve been searching for timelines all over, only to have to modify them later. It helps immensely to know that you didn’t change any of Watson’s dates (I have to muck with the dates for my purposes, but I still need to know what I’m altering and why), and that you’re working with a two-wife-Watson scenario. I had to abandon Baring-Gould based on number of wives, and for a while I was working on a timeline in the back of Jack Tracy’s Subcutaneously, My Dear Watson that I had to alter beyond recognition for my project. I was using Wikipedia in desperation before finding this timeline, which I think will be a much less confusing place to start from.

    I’ve already got a few stories out of line with you. Five Orange Pips I’ve had to move to 1889 and plead a typo on Watson’s part; it has to come after Scandal in Bohemia for me because I don’t believe there were ever two women who outwitted Holmes, and Charles Augustus Milverton I have happening well after Holmes returns from the dead. But I needed a timeline that kept as close to the internal dates as possible, and yet maintained that Watson was only married twice. Thanks for putting in all the work, this is definitely useful.

  29. N Clifford says:

    Thank you so much for your excellent chronology. The inclusion of book, untold tales, and publication dates is especially appreciated.

    I do make a few exceptions based on content.
    SECOND STAIN: Why two cases? Near the bottom of the first paragraph Watson states that he intended this to be the last case published and that he only talked Holmes into allowing him to publish this “most important international case which he has ever been called upon to handle” if he wrote “a carefully guarded account of the incident”. So it is the story of the merely “indiscreet” letters that is questionable.
    RED-HEADED LEAGUE: I really think that Holmes comment, “You will remember the other day, just before we went into the very simple problem presented by Miss Mary Sutherland, that for strange effects and extraordinary combinations we must go to life itself” is more telling than a given date. The idea that the disappointed Miss Sutherland would offer repeat business seems less likely than a misreading of 1890 for 1888 on the manuscript.
    NORWOOD BUILDER: the reference is to the “Murillo Papers” not the Murillo assassination attempt. It seems much more likely that Holmes would have two cases involving a disposed dictator than a nearsighted typist. So the “Murillo Papers” would be an untold tale.

    No one will ever produce a definitive chronology. The stories are too scrambled, altered and vague for that. I believe that most of us place some stories in context to our own tales. The famous Baring-Gould version being the epitome of that sort. Yours is the most straightforward, scholarly and best formatted version I have seen. It will be an invaluable aid as I progress with my own writing.

  30. I really enjoyed reading this post. Great material!

  31. guargum says:

    thanks for the share.

  32. Paul/Thomas…

    Okay, you’re not trying to link to anything, so I guess you’re not spamming. But you do seem to be perilously close to trolling. As the above discussion with John hopefully makes clear, I’m perfectly happy to discuss and debate particular details of canonical evidence. However, while the fact that you differ from me about one placement is something worth pointing out, it hardly merits saying that my efforts are “disgraceful,” “half-witted,” or have “lost all credibility.” Even Holmes at his most acerbic never insulted Watson’s reasoning in terms like those.

    In point of fact, the closest NOBL comes to referencing SCAN is Holmes’s remark that “My last client of the sort was a king… The King of Scandinavia.” One could quite reasonably infer that this is not necessarily an allusion to his service to the king of Bohemia. When you add in the fact that Watson quite plainly describes NOBL as “a few weeks before my own marriage, during the days when I was still sharing rooms with Holmes in Baker Street,” while SCAN is just as plainly post-marriage, I think my placement stands up as perfectly reasonable.

    I’m open to contrary arguments. Further insults, however, will be deleted.

    (Oh, and do try to pick a single username and stick to it. I can see that both comments come from the exact same IP address, you know.)

  33. Thomas says:

    I agree with Paul! This is a disgraceful attempt!

  34. Paul W. says:

    This is downright wrong. It lost all credibility when it placed ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’ after ‘the Noble Bachelor’. Holmes refers to the former case in the latter. What a half-witted attempt this is.

  35. By all means! I’d love to see it.

  36. John Trumbull says:

    Honestly, I may be adjusting some of the dates in my chronology due to your reasoning.

    The WIST connection to NORW is one that I just recently became aware of, and may necessitate me shifting NORW to ’95 like you did. I’d probably have to reread both cases to be sure, though. Likewise, I could easily shift SILV to ’87, since Watson does seem to be living at Baker Street during that adventure.

    And, no I’ve never really subscribed to Baring-Gould’s December theory of MISS. Like you, I’d rather take Watson at his word then force the story to conform to traditional rugby season. My reasoning for MISS was largely determined by Watson’s “things had indeed been very slow with us” comment. Feb of ’96 seemed to fit that description better than Feb of ’97, since ABBE was in Jan of that year. “Seven or eight years ago” seems to imply that Watson was a bit unsure of the date to begin with. Personally, I’d probably still refer to Feb of 96 as “eight years ago” colloquially, even if it was technically 8 1/2 years.

    I’d love to send you my chronology for some feedback once I do some work on it.

  37. Interesting… and I can see that it’s basically the “usual suspects” among the undated cases where we differ. CHAS is a crapshoot; it needs to be late enough to have wall-mounted lightswitches exist (i.e., not before 1884), and early enough to account for Watson’s reaction you describe (as well as for Holmes to pass as a “young workman”), but it’s not as if my choice of ’86 is carved in stone.

    Otherwise… Jan ’87 could be perfectly workable for VALL; I was just pushing for as close as one could get to Watson’s “end of the ’80s” remark. SILV is a hard call, since Watson could have been disguising the race location (as he so often did) as easily as the horse’s name. NORW in Aug of ’94 seems superficially sensible, except that it would leave the problem of when to fit in WIST, to which it makes reference, since March of ’94 is just as impossible as ’92. 1900 is perfectly workable for THOR (I just didn’t like to see ’99 completely empty), but I’m curious about your reasoning for putting MISS in ’96, since (unless you accept the “December rugby match” adjustment) making 8-1/2 years out of Watson’s “seven or eight” seems a bit of a stretch.

    I have indeed read and enjoyed the Sherlock Peoria timeline, and he has some interesting reasoning… although indeed he occasionally goes off on an “offbeat” speculative limb, something I tried hard to avoid (though I can’t deny that all chronologists succumb to the temptation at some point or other).

  38. John Trumbull says:

    Let’s see… I have CHAS a lot earlier in my chronology (November 1882) . I read an arguement in one of the annotated editions that theorized that Watson objected so strongly to breaking into Milverton’s house because it was the first time he ever broke the law with Holmes (compare Watson’s protests in CHAS with his lack thereof at similliar lawbreaking in SCAN and SPEC). But I also REALLY like a (admitedly left-field) theory I came up with that it was WATSON’S marriage Holmes was working to save in that story… which would of course require a later date.

    Other than that, we only seem to be a year or two off on a few dates. I put VALL in 1887 (well before Watson meets Mary Morstan), SILV is in 1888 (The only time there was a race scheduled at Winchester between 1881 & 1903), NORW is in August 1894 (shortly after Holmes’ return), MISS is in 1896 instead of 1897, and THOR is in 1900 instead of 1899. I still have a couple case I haven’t definitively nailed down to my satisfaction, though.

    Ever looked at the Sherlock Peoria Timeline? He has some great offbeat reasoning in that one:

  39. Thanks! (Feel free to talk it up and spread the link around if you know anyone else who’s interested in this sort of thing!…)

    Any particular differences from your own interpretation that are worth mentioning?

  40. John Trumbull says:

    This is very close to what I’ve worked out for myself in my own Holmes Chronology, and I think it hangs together very well. I’ve never put too much stock in the “Watson was married 11,000 times” school. Great work, Chris!

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