"you could not celebrate him without being known yourself" [HOUN]
Today is January 6th — and that marks the date on which we traditionally celebrate Sherlock Holmes's birthday.
We say "traditionally," because there is no definitive statement of his actual date of birth in the Canon, but beginning with Christopher Morley, the date of January 6th has become the de facto accepted date for Holmes' birthday. Why? Well, there are a couple of reasons.
Of all of the quotes in the Canon, William Shakespeare was the most oft-quoted author. There is but one Shakespearean play that Holmes quotes twice: Twelfth Night. In The Sign of the Four, Holmes concludes, "All is well that ends well." This is from from Act IV, Scene 4. And in "The Empty House," Holmes states "'Journeys end in lovers meetings,' as the old play says," from Act II, Scene 3.
The reason the date was chosen is that in Christianity, January 6th is the Feast of the Epiphany, or officially the twelfth day of Christmas. I suppose if we were being truly technical about it, the twelfth night of Christmas would fall on January 5th...
In addition, William S. Baring-Gould in his The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, posited that because Holmes was a little cranky on the morning of January 7th — the date on which The Valley of Fear began — he had a hangover, induced by birthday celebrations the evening prior.
And why 169? Scholars have fixed the year of Sherlock Holmes's birth to 1854 by virtue of a line in "His Last Bow" when he was described as "a tall gaunt man of sixty."
Additional ThoughtsIn an episode of Trifles, our weekly show where we discuss some of the minutiae in the Sherlock Holmes stories, we cover this in greater detail, and with some additional research material. Do check it out on the podcast streaming service of your choice, the embedded file below, or at ihose.co/trifles210.
And by all means, share the news that today is Sherlock Holmes's birthday. But whatever you do, don't try to throw him a surprise party. It's an exercise in futility.
We hope you'll take a moment and wish Sherlock Holmes a happy birthday in your own way. If you'd like to join in here, please feel free to leave a birthday comment below.