Regular emails from your friend Dr John Watson about the adventures of his eccentric detective roommate.
Inspired by Mark Kirkland’s excellent Dracula Daily, Letters from Watson will let you read through the entirety of the Sherlock Holmes short stories over the course of one year via bitesize emails.
Keeping with the precedent set by Daily Dracula of reading classic literature in an unusual order, it will be following the chronological order of Holmes’ cases (…vaguely), rather than their publication order. This means we’ll start with stories about a young pre-detective Holmes in the 1870s, and end with an elderly ‘retired’ Holmes getting up to shenanigans in WW1.
Emails will begin January 1st 2023. I’ve chosen this date to avoid conflicting with other ‘daily email literature’ projects, and because it is the date when all Sherlock Holmes stories will be in the public domain in the US for the first time!
How have you decided on the chronology of the cases?
The Canon of Sherlock Holmes is notoriously tricky and inconsistent. I’ve decided to go with the chronology devised by William S. Baring-Gould in The Annotated Sherlock Holmes (1967). I know it’s not everyone’s cuppa tea (including mine!) but I wanted to avoid using this project as a vehicle for forcing my own thoughts on the matter on other people.
I felt that using a chronology which has been critiqued to pieces over the past 60 years has a kind of neutrality to it. Anyone who cares likely already has an opinion, while for newbies (most people!) it serves the purpose of getting the major events in order and shuffling the stories so you're not reading them in publication order, making it a different experience to just picking up the books.
Just be aware that in reality many of these stories don’t have actual dates associated with them and many of them actively contradict each other, so all attempts to put them in order is guesswork. Your mileage may (and probably will!) vary.
Are you including the novels?
Not generally, sorry! I’ve decided to stick to just the short stories to keep things manageable. The only exception will be the first few chapters of A Study in Scarlet as a bit of an extra, because it felt weird not to include Holmes and Watson meeting. The novels are public domain, though, so feel free to do some extra-curricular reading!
Will you be including content warnings?
Yes! Critically engaging with literature from the past can be a rewarding experience - and a lot of fun, too. Sometimes, however, it’s easier to engage with content you find difficult and challenging when you are prepared and informed. This document is being created as guide during the project so you know what’s coming and can make informed decisions.
It is intended as a jointly-created living document, so please feel free to contribute!
How often will I get emails? How long will the emails be?
Three a week… ish. As a fallible and busy human being, Dr Watson may not always be entirely consistent in his schedule. Which is what makes getting emails from someone fun, right?
Each email is under 4000 words, the majority are between 1000 - 3000. They’re designed to take 10-15 minutes each to read.
Is there a place I can chat to other people on the mailing list?
Yes! Join the community discord! The ‘letters from watson’ tag on tumblr is also seeing some use.
What if I join late?
That’s ok! You can catch up in the archive, and because the stories are episodic you can join any time throughout the year without being too lost.
What happens if I reply to one of Watson’s emails?
You are highly unlikely to get a reply, but as his secretary I will certainly read it and pass it on :D