What we knew by 1990 about the 1940 dinner was published in Irregular Memories of the ’Thirties. There is also extant a letter from Steele to Vincent Starrett about this drawing, quoted in the previously cited unpublished memoir by Steele’s son Robert: “I had an absurdly hard struggle with my Sherlock. The 1940 dinner might not have included every Irregular of that era with whom one would wish to dine, but it was a fine list nonetheless. Meanwhile, and with 221B still rolling off the presses, I am sending you a first very rough-and-ready copy of the Gazetteer which you have egged me on, from time to time, to write. Re the Gazetteer: I'm inclined to agree with you that it might be extended to advantage by a listing of the more important clubs and restaurants, etc.
I know of no other such study as the interesting one you suggest, although it is perhaps odd that the idea did not earlier explode in the skull of some devoted Sherlockian.
It seems to me more than likely that Doyle wrote that scene in His Last Bow quite deliberately, knowing it for what it was - a friendly para-phrase of the parting between Johnson and Boswell; although it may of course have been subconscious. You have chosen a delightful subject for your thesis; and you will pardon me if I hope that you will treat it not too seriously, but with a touch of humor.
A copy of Morley’s letter to Smith below went to Vincent Starrett in Chicago, with the handwritten note: “Merry Christmas, Vincenzio. You yourself would, I hope, perhaps feel inclined to present a proceeding of some sort; I mean a few remarks on the Obliquity of the Ecliptic, or whatever may be momently on your mind.
I hope I may assume that like Peterson the commissionaire, or No, it was Henry Baker, you are carrying a white goose and walking with a slight stagger. This was a 1940 collection of essays by Vincent Starrett, published by Random House, with an “Unconventional Index” by Christopher Morley. Meanwhile, Starrett was already building a new Sherlock Holmes collection, with a big start in August 1940 from Logan Clendening.
All this within your ear; but the circumstances being what they are, you will understand why I can't be any place but Reno on January 30. Now don't worry about anything but set your thews upon writing me a notable communique which can be read at the meeting. The errata slip in 221B, as by Jane Nightwork, reads: “In the unavoidable absence of the Editor, a volunteer hand must call attention to the curious incident of what the Proofreader did in the night-time.
Everybody is too pooped this morning to be able to give you any intelligible report but I must let you know at once that the evening was a grand success in every way. The only sadness is that I intended to have a copy signed for you by all those present, and in the general uproar this did not get done. Since you seem not to have heard the news, I am sending this by pony express so that you may know at once that the Irregulars met, feasted, d---k, and thought of you. Denis Conan Doyle made a neat little address in which he stuck to the tradition of the Irregulars and told us about his father's acquaintance with Holmes. BOOKS ALIVE: Man, oh man, WHAT a title, and doubly good for your book because none has a greater faculty for bringing books ALIVE than you. Since the first draft of the Gazetteer, I have added about 150 more names - still without resorting to bars or theatres - but more important, I have fallen in with Dr.
Who the members were of the Irene Adler Division with which Christopher Morley and other Irregulars convened immediately following the BSI dinner in New York is a mystery, however. For many years, it was believed that BSI dinner photographs commenced after World War II, with the one of the 1946 dinner. Bill Vande Water has picked up where Harry Hazard left off, and carried on with his typical valiant job of assigning names to faces, but a few remain unidentified. The photograph — I’ve been having enormous fun, showing my friends what I looked like nearly sixty years ago.
Christopher Morley announced that the meeting, which was held as usual on a date at variance with the constitutional specification, had been called to celebrate the publication by Macmillans of 221B - a compilation of the writings of various members of the Society.


Vincent Starrett, whose unfortunate absence from the meeting can be compared only with the intolerable absence of Mrs. Smith, eager for the BSI to convene again for what would be his first annual dinner, had suggested the Murray Hill Hotel as an appropriate place.
The full text now seen indicates that Steele was referring not to the drawing for the 1940 menu, but to the later one done for the 1943 BSI dinner, from “The ‘Gloria Scott’,” which the BSI History series uses for its covers now.The full quotation is “I had an absurdly hard struggle with my Sherlock (who was supposed to be producing the missing story, worse luck). He said that his father had known Holmes very intimately, and he even went so far as to say that Holmes's mental processes had influenced his father's thinking.
Julian Wolff, who made a couple of neat little maps of spots in the stories about a year ago (I asked him at the time to send copies to you), and he is doing a bang-up job with London, England, the Continent and the world - creations that will be well worth framing and hanging.
Yet one man there — the man with the dapper mustache, raising a wine-glass in salute — is still in the ranks. It was a publication party for the first BSI anthology of Writings About the Writings, Vincent Starrett’s 221B: Studies in Sherlock Holmes, with most of its contributors present that night.
Our dearly beloved public won't know Staphonse from Staphouse (if that's not in the eight pages) and even if they do find ground for pinning us down, the controversy might actually be profitable. A copy of the book, presented with the compliments of the publishers, was put at each place.
Cecil For(r)rester, who expressed his sympathy and pledged his assistance in the Society's research in the matter of his ancestral relations with a certain governess.
I propose that you and I appoint ourselves a committee, perhaps together with Harold Latham of the Macmillan Company, to arrange this matter. We are thinking of putting out the Gazetteer together about June 1st, as a private effort, illustrated with reductions of these maps, which would really touch it off. I remember an animated discussion with him once about a book on Horace we had published at Cambridge University Press.
And we can get a glimpse of the magical evening of January 30, 1940, in a BSI dinner photograph — apparently the first ever taken — which in 1990 we did not know had ever existed. Anyway, let me know what you think of it, and how it might be improved, and perhaps for Christmas or some time before I can get my bargain-price printer to put it in type. Starrett’s journey began in the Orient and ended in Europe, with his first visit to London in some years. Smith as Buttons communicated with the membership through memoranda to the BSI, sometimes enclosing whatever membership list was current at the time. Stolper and Howard Swiggett, respectively a professor of English at Columbia University who scandalized his colleagues by contending that literature should be taught by writers, and a novelist well-known in his day, with links to the New York Police Commissioner, and later to certain cryptic wartime British missions in New York. Leavitt, and Gene Tunney, plus at least one other, non-fiction and mystery writer Hulbert Footner, whose only known connection with the BSI is his name on this 1940 list. Hence the membership of people like Don Marquis, Frank Henry, Bucky Fuller and other friends of Chris Morley’s who couldn’t be annoyed with studying the Sacred Writings. It was, I tell you, an ornamental piece of furniture, and when the fire needed replenishing, the bell-pull at the end of the mantel-piece brought the servant lassie from the kitchen with a cannily measured “scuttle” of coal, from which the fire was fed with great daintiness and dexterity.
To do so, he and Starrett produced a catalogue still highly desirable for its own sake, both for the many splendid items at what today seem sheer giveaway prices, and for the rich canonical fantasy which Starrett and Randall wrote into it.
We will try to keep the actual dinner within the blood royal, but as soon as it has taken place Macmillan can make good boblicity out of it to help the book.
How well he managed to associate names with faces that evening, when high spirits and hard spirits were the order of the day, is unclear. A few of them, Irregulars active today were able to know in person before they fell from the ranks. It was clear that he had made quite an impression; at one hotel they asked me whether I wanted whisky for breakfast. Incidentally, I think you did us all a service by naming Mycroft Holmes as the detective who solved his problems without ever visiting the scene of the crime or seeing the evidence.


After the Woollcott condescension most of us were content to go on without any Stated Meetings . As a matter of fact, by God, I doubt like hell if Bill Hall could ever have passed a really probing quiz in those early days.
I have in my possession a coal box which to my knowledge is nearly fifty years old, but which, until it fell into the hands of the philistines in this country had never held so much as a spoonful of coal. He arrived in New York with a letter of introduction to Christopher Morley in his pocket; and, with no less a Holmesian than S. Cambridge University Press had published Shakespeare’s Imagery and What It Tells Us by Caroline Spurgeon, and I wanted to get publicity for it. He was the BSI’s food-and-drink expert, and worked with me on the annual Oxford and Cambridge dinners in New York too. According to Smith, Denis listened with bewilderment to the various toasts offered to Holmes and his entourage, and to the scholarly reports on various aspects of the investigator’s career.
Keddie sent me a jolly letter about it, which, with yours, goes into the permanent records.
His defense, when threatened with inquiry, was to roar (and I use the word deliberately — ROAR), “Don’t put me to the question!” As him and dare him, for me, to deny it.
Elmer Davis was perhaps the best known national celebrity in the BSI at the time, from his work as a CBS radio newsman. We played a game to see who would be the first to telephone the other each year on December 16th, with the words “O Sapienta,” which we always found on that day in our Cambridge Pocket Diaries. I don’t remember his attendance at any of the BSI dinners; but I recall vividly that when we would meet him at dinner at the St. These are delightful ‘studies,’ brought to us with a captivating gravity and an irresistible elan.” Whether or not the first public notice of Professor Altick’s scholarship, 221B brought him an early one in what proved to be a long and distinguished academic career. Bell was there at the time, and when Bell died in 1947, Starrett recalled in his “Books Alive” column in the Tribune walking up and down Baker Street with Bell, arguing about which house had been Sherlock Holmes’s. If we are met with hostility, the case will have to be argued, and I've no way of knowing how long it might take. Smith is down the table on the opposite side, not yet at its head where he soon will be for the rest of his life. Spurgeon showed the kind of man Shakespeare must have been by tabulating all the metaphors and similes he used, showing him to be familiar with the countryside, gardens, and domestic animals. Regis Hotel with that most generous host, Howard Goodhart, Rosenbach always had a full bottle of whisky at his place at the table, while the rest of us drank wine.
Recently (within a year) I had the same problem on my hands - and found no American editor whatever for a Sherlockian essay which has since found place in an English Symposium or anthology issued as a book. I don’t suppose that any society of Amateur Mendicants has ever had a more agreeable or competent fugleman.
He could be serious, but never solemn; the lighter side of letters and life appealed to him, and he became prominent in the affairs of both Sherlock Holmes Societies (pre-war and post-war) in England. He ended up with two-thirds of a column in Who’s Who, and many honors: Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge, Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, and finally Sir Sydney.
Across the table, Charlie Goodman and his brother Jack beam at the camera, while Mitchell Kennerley the bookman, who will take his own life ten years hence, studies the back of his hand somberly. Further down, Harvey Officer, soon to be the BSI’s first songster with his Irregular anthem “The Road to Baker Street,” smiles shyly at the camera. The owlish bespectacled man at the bottom of the picture may or may not be Elmer Davis; across from him, Earle Walbridge makes another appearance in what will long stand as the record for unbroken attendance at the annual dinners.



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