Saturday, August 28, 2010

New at the Website

More new material at the website, both at the Editor's Gas-Bag department, including a delightful discovery about Christopher Morley by Sonia Fetherston,,
and an associated new page about Vincent Starrett's own "Mermaid Tavern" in Chicago, Schlogl's (long-closed) restaurant on Wells Street beneath the El in the Loop:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ask Thucydides!

For questions about the BSI Archival History website or BSI history in general, a new department has been set up at the website, with the first two questions (and answers) already, from Bob Katz ("Dr. Ainstree") and Julie McKuras ("The Duchess of Devonshire"), at Questions or comments on the answers to questions should be sent to

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A BSI Archival History sampler

Each book published in the series has its own page at the BSI Archival History website, with notes, table of contents, introduction or preface, and acknowledgments (and occasionally other material as well).  I've now added to each a sample of text from the book which seems to me emblematic of the slice of history it covers. To go directly to the Books page of the website, click on

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ahead of Ronald Knox by Nine Years

At the Sherlock Holmes Collections' weekend at the University of Minnesota two weeks ago, I pointed out, in debating Dr. Richard Sveum, that S. C. Roberts, not Ronald Knox, was the foundation of Holmesian scholarship -- but also that Knox had been preceded in Canonical exegesis by nine years by a Cambridge Review article by one Frank Sidgwick in 1902. Since then, Steven Rothman, editor of the Baker Street Journal, has asked me why I wasn't "giving all credit to poor almost forgotten Frank? Instead of knighted and well-laureled SCR?" A fair question, so (though this may not be what Steve had in mind) I've added first Frank Sidgwick's 1939 obituary at and his groundbreaking 1902 article at

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A sort of Saturday Review of Literature

We won't stick to Saturdays in the future, but a Reviews department has been added to the website, starting with a review of the brand-new Sherlock Alive: Sherlockian Excerpts from Vincent Starrett’s “Books Alive” Column in The Chicago Tribune 1942–1967, compiled and annotated by Karen Murdock, with an Introduction by Susan Rice.  The reviewer this time is the redoubtable J. Randolph Cox ("The Conk-Singleton Forgery Case," BSI).  Go directly to it at

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Disputation, Confrontation, and Dialectical Hullabaloo! -- a new department

Inaugurating a new department in pursuit of Old Irregular Robert G. Harris's description of the spirit of the early BSI annual dinners, we shall post occasional items to enliven the discussion. First on the docket is the recent debate about "Ronald Knox: Fact or Fiction?" conducted at the University of Minnesota Libraries' Sherlock Holmes Collections two weekends ago, between me and Dr. Richard Sveum of Minnetonka, Minn. The department can be accessed from the website's Welcome page, and new content will be announced both there and here. Comments on the debate posted here will be added to its text at the website as well. A direct link to this stirring debate is below.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Several years ago, contemplating things that keep the Manhattan of the BSI's golden age from disappearing altogether, I was struck by a New York Times article about a band of New York women, unconnected to the BSI and possibly with no interest to speak of in Sherlock Holmes, who nonetheless seem to be kinsprits of a real sort. Susan Dahlinger retrieved the article, and I've posted it on the website's Links page as a "Retro Link of the Week."  (I hope to have more in the future, because an interest in the BSI's history must include a history of its setting and times.)  For those interested in seeing what I'm talking about, go to

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Original Series Baker Street Journal

Philip Shreffler's award-winning chapter in Irregular Crises of the Late 'Forties, "The Original Series BSJ: Quintessence of Irregular," may now be read at the BSI Archival History website by clicking on its title in that volume's table of contents at, or directly from here by going to His essay, written over ten years ago, prompts the reader to think about not only the traditions of the Baker Street Journal, but about the heartbeat and health of the BSI itself.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Correction to the Mid 'Forties page (Books)

My good friend Donald K. Pollock has instructed me to add the word "formerly" to his (one-time) BSI investiture of "The Anthropological Journal," it being his firm position that he has formally resigned from the Baker Street Irregulars, and I have complied at

More New Material at the Website

I have also added what I hope are cogent excerpts from Irregular Proceedings of the Mid 'Forties and Irregular Crises of the Late 'Forties at those pages of the website, the first about a mystery regarding the Early and Mid 'Forties venue of the Murray Hill Hotel, the second about the turning point in the late-1947 crisis over whether the BSI would ever hold an annual dinner again, after Christopher Morley had become highly discontented with the previous one in January '47.  Go respectively to and

New Material at the Website

At the BSI Archival History website, on the Books page for Irregular Crises of the 'Late Forties, I have added the 1951 annual dinner photograph taken at the Racquet & Tennis Club, 370 Park Avenue, and my notes from my research tour of the club in 1996.  Go to

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Recommended Reading

Just finished reading Daniel Okrent’s marvelous 2003 book Great Fortune about  Rockefeller Center’s creation in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and quite unexpectedly came across two points resonant of BSI history.
            One has to do with Rockefeller Center’s principal architectural genius, the free-spirited Raymond Hood. At the same time that Christopher Morley and his friends were meeting in speakeasies in his literature-oriented Three Hours for Lunch Club, Hood and his architectural kinsprits were exceeding them at their own game: “[Hood’s] office in the Radiator Building vibrated with his rocketing success. He made a constantly shifting (yet always congenial) series of partnerships with collaborators, gave the young men on his staff free rein to proceed however they wished on the projects they were responsible for, and on Friday afternoons he’d confidently leave it all behind for a visit to the ‘Four-Hour Lunch Club,’ the all-talking, all-drinking weekly revel he shared with architect buddies like Ely Jacques Kahn, Ralph Walker, and Joseph Urban. Dream buildings scribbled in soft pencil competed for space with gin stains on the tablecloths at Mori’s or their other hangouts.” (Placido Mori, the Four-Hour Lunch Club’s Christ Cella, proprietor of a speakeasy restaurant on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village.)
            In short, very much the spirit of Morley’s Three Hours for Lunch Club, save for architecture instead of literature as the excuse. The other point is a parallel, perhaps even the inspiration, for the late John Bennett Shaw’s famous (notorious?) advice about how to create a BSI scion society, “All you need are two people and a bottle. In a pinch, you can dispense with one of the people.” It is a point of doctrine by one-time New York City police chief Grover Whalen, subsequently Mayor Fiorello La Guardia’s city greeter: “All you need is two bottles and a room and you have a speakeasy.” The BSI was gestated (marinated?) in a speakeasy, and in some of its better attributes bear the mark to this day.
            Great Fortune is a splendid book depicting not only the history of Rockefeller Center, but the spirit and sociocultural background of the times that gave birth to the BSI as well during the same years.  Highly recommended.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

"The Spirits of Sherlock Holmes"

Every three years the Sherlock Holmes Collections at the University of Minnesota Libraries and The Norwegian Explorers of Minneapolis/St. Paul sponsor a weekend conference at the University's Andersen Library, this year dubbed "The Spirits of Sherlock Holmes." As the last day dawns, the entire weekend has been a delight, with Friday afternoon an especially good day for BSI history. Ray Betzner ("The Agony Column," BSI) opened the weekend's program with "221B": A Study in Starrett, a superb examination of Vincent Starrett's famous sonnet of 1942 -- its origins, significance as a wartime expression of the abiding nature of Sherlock Holmes, and emergence as a lasting anthem for the Baker Street Irregulars. And Baker Street Journal editor Steven Rothman ("The Valley of Fear," BSI) presented a splendid illustrated account of the BSI's first journal of record in Stranded on the Shelves: A Leaf Through the Saturday Review. Yesterday the audience was subjected to a debate between me and Dr. Richard Sveum ("Dr. Hill Barton," BSI) of The Norwegian Explorers on the irrelevance of Ronald Knox and his "Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes" paper of 1911 -- he defending the faith that Knox is the fountainhead of Holmesian scholarship and movement, I re-examining this dogma in terms of the curious incident of the dog in the night-time: the near complete absence of any attention given to Msgr. Knox and his paper in the early scholarship and stirrings of the men and women who suddenly plunged into Holmesian studies in the early 1930s and then founded both the BSI and England's first Sherlock Holmes Society in 1934. The final word on this subject has not been spoken yet!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


For those interested in the Baker Street Irregulars and our colorful history, welcome for the first time to my BSI Archival History blog and its website, accessible at I have posted there information about my BSI Archival History series (click on “History Detective” at the Welcome page), the tables of contents and introductions to the seven volumes since 1989, other Archival History papers, a page about my forthcoming historical novel Baker Street Irregular, and more— with much more to come.

This blog's sub-title of "Disputation, Confrontation, and Dialectical Hullabaloo" borrows from the late Robert G. Harris of Detroit ("The Creeping Man," BSI):  his striking description of the spirit of the BSI and their annual dinners at the Murray Hill Hotel and Cavanagh's during the 1940s and '50s.  I hope this blog will capture that spirit of exchange.  The medium here might have been eyed quite skeptically by Bob Harris, one of the BSI's great curmudgeons — yet the father of cybernetics himself, Norbert Wiener of MIT, was a member of the BSI's Boston scion society, The Speckled Band.  "These are deep waters. . . ."

Comments and suggestions are welcome!  Over the coming weekend I will be in Minneapolis attending "The Spirits of Sherlock Holmes"  —the always splendid triennial conference sponsored by The Norwegian Explorers and the University of Minnesota Libraries' Sherlock Holmes Collections, and will report on it next week.  For information about it, go to