「A Miscellany of Literary Criticism, Grande Cuisine and Other Silly Things」
The exordium of Desmond MacCarthy’s columns in the New Statesman (1927):
I have been re-reading those books in which are recorded all we know of the adventures and achievements of Sherlock Holmes. As I read, I thought that by noticing certain details, which the idle reader passes over, I might possibly clear up some difficulties which I divined to be lurking in the chronology of those records. The modest concentration of this aim appealed to me. If successful in such a task, might I not go on to peg out a small and apparently barren claim among the mountains of history? Alas, my efforts have not increased my confidence in myself as a researcher. Almost at once I found myself involved in perplexities. These may seem elementary to such ripe Sherlock Holmes scholars as Father Ronald Knox, his brother “Evoe,” Mr. Frank Sidgwick, Mr. Maurice Baring, Lady Kirkwhelpington and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but nevertheless I will air them.
These three pieces of the New Statesman from 1927 are valuable for numerous reasons: 1) They underline the central part played by chronological researches in the early years of the history of our game; 2) They propose some of the canonical (and perduring) methods for dating the stories through inferences from explicit and implicit data found within the Watsonian corpus; 3) they expose some major questions and problems that will be discussed for decades and thus illustrate the, at the time, future and constant disagreement among Sherlockian scholars. Furthermore, the core of these columns, which is the dating of the events reported in The Sign of Four, seems to be the starting-point to a cascade of rival theories published the following years and all taking into account, for better or worse, the arguments of Desmond MacCarthy and the hypotheses of their immediate predecessors.
[The last paragraph is from “Desmond MacCarthy and the Chronological Problem”]