Wednesday, March 29, 2017

13 - Quarter Day Is at Hand

"quarter day is at hand" [WIST] 

There are at least two instances in the Sherlock Holmes stories when we come across a mention of quarter day. Just what is quarter day, and what is the significance with regard to these two stories?

We explore the origins and history of quarter days, cross-quarter days, and why the real estate market had such an impact on calendars and ultimately played into the plots of "Wisteria Lodge" and "The Resident Patient."

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Music credits

Performers: Uncredited violinist, US Marine Chamber Orchestra
Publisher Info.: Washington, DC: United States Marine Band.
Copyright: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

Image credit: Wisteria Lodge


Narrator: [00:00:03] Welcome to Trifles, a weekly podcast about the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Clive Merrison: [00:00:08] It is of course a trifle, but there is nothing so important as trifles.

Narrator: [00:00:14] Yes, the Box was Cardboard, the Detective was Dying and the Bridge was Thor. But there are so many other details to pick apart in the stories.

Jeremy Brett: [00:00:23] Pray, be precise as to details.

Narrator: [00:00:26] You know the plots, but what about the minutiae? Have you ever stopped to wonder why James Phillimore disappeared looking for his umbrella? Or just how parsley can manage to sink into the butter?

Dennis Quilley: [00:00:38] You are very inquisitive Mr. Holmes.

Jeremy Brett: [00:00:40] It is my business to know what other people don't know.

Narrator: [00:00:45] Scott Monty and Burt Wolder will have the answers to these questions and more in Trifles.

Clive Merrison: [00:00:53] The game is afoot.

Narrator: [00:00:57] Episode 13: Quarter Day is at Hand.

Scott Monty: [00:01:03] Well, welcome back to Trifles, the Sherlock Holmes podcast for fans that are interested in the details and the stories. I'm Scott Monty.

Burt Wolder: [00:01:13] And I'm Burt Wolder always interested.

Scott Monty: [00:01:16] Well, you're always interesting and see that's easy. The challenge is to try and do that week in week out show after show after show. How do you do it sir?

Burt Wolder: [00:01:26] I don't know. Actually you know I've discovered a little of me goes a long the way. [LAUGHTER] I could take me or leave me.

Scott Monty: [00:01:36] So you're like plastic man and we can see you're like silly putty.

Burt Wolder: [00:01:40] That's exactly right if you leave me sitting around long enough I just leech right into the couch. You'll never get me out of there.

Scott Monty: [00:01:49] Well here we are once again and we want to talk about quarter day since it seems to be a quarter day-ish over here. We are releasing this show on March 29th 2017. And when we when we try to look at the Sherlock Holmes stories, we try to look at what's going to inspire us on any given episode. And as you've heard if you've been following along here over the past few months, as we've been rolling out this show - and we are now in Episode 13 - that we've looked at things in the calendar that happened to inspire us. Things like the New Year or Valentine's Day or Ash Wednesday or St Patrick's Day. But then we also try to look at stories that occur during that particular time of the month during that during that month itself or a particular time within the month. And you've heard us speak about the Adventure of the Beryl Coronet for example and it was a snow-trodden February on Baker Street. And we also went through some of A Study in Scarlet references, knowing that Holmes and Watson had their meetings in in early January - or at least it was assumed that some things happened in early January. So here we come to March - late March - and there are two quotes from two stories that bring us to mind looking at quarter day.

Scott Monty: [00:03:28] In the Adventure of Wisteria Lodge, we of course had John Scott Eccles who was invited out to Wisteria lodge to stay with Mr. Garcia and when he got out there there was no one at home. And so he decided that he should go to the real estate office - the local real estate office - and he says "I called Allen Brothers, the chief land agents in the village and found that it was from this firm that the villa had been rented. It struck me that the whole proceeding could hardly be for the purpose of making a fool of me and that the main object must be to get out of the rent. It is late March. So quarter day is at hand. But this theory would not work." So here is our first reference to quarter day.

Burt Wolder: [00:04:29] Now quarter day goes back to the Middle Ages, I think. And it is sort of a marking point and a milestone in the calendar that comes at the end of a quarter. So the first quarter, January, February and March, ends in March. So the quarter day late typically called Lady Day in England is 25th of March. Then the next one around the same time in June - June 24th would be Midsummer Day, Michaelmass at the end of September, and of course Christmas at the end of December. And they tend to fall under religious festivals, they're roughly three months apart, close to the solstices in the equinoxes.

Burt Wolder: [00:05:10] And they used to be very important I think in the Middle Ages - they ensured that debts and unresolved lawsuits didn't linger on. You know there were milestones against which certain items like that needed to be resolved. And school terms. When I was when I was first in England I could never figure out - because I had a member having a pocket calendar that told me about the Michaelmas term and I had absolute that it meant absolutely nothing to me - but school terms are typically organized around that and other things.

Scott Monty: [00:05:46] That is true. That is true. Well, according to our good friends at Wikipedia- because that's the best we can do right now - [LAUGHTER] Lady Day, which which is March 25th - this would have been the quarter day that that Mr. Eccles was talking about. Lady Day was also the first day of the year in British Dominion's excluding Scotland until 1752 and that's when it was harmonised with the Scottish practice of January 1st being New Year's Day. So the British tax year still starts on Old Lady Day which is under the Gregorian calendar as April 6th, and it corresponded to March 25th under the Julian calendar. So that's that's where you get the the difference there. But and just for clarification it's not Old Lady Day. It's it's old Lady Day. And the dates of quarter days observed in northern England until the 18th century were actually the same as those in Scotland.

Scott Monty: [00:07:03] And then there are also things known as cross-quarter days which are four holidays that fall in-between quarter days. You've got Candlemas on February 2nd, May Day of course May 1st, Lammas on August 1st and All Hallows on November 1st.

Burt Wolder: [00:07:26] Now typically associated with Halloween.

Scott Monty: [00:07:29] Yes. Yes exactly. So there's there's a mnemonic for remembering which day of the month the first three quarter days fall. Since Christmas is obviously pretty easy to figure out every quarter day is 20-something. Okay? And the second digit of the day of the month is the same number of letters in the month name. and some march the word March has five letters in it.

Burt Wolder: [00:07:59] Huh?

Scott Monty: [00:07:59] So quarter day is March 25th.

Burt Wolder: [00:08:03] Oh, I see.

Scott Monty: [00:08:04] And June has four letters in it so quarter day and June is June 24th. And then September 9 so it's September 29th. So there you go.

Burt Wolder: [00:08:19] Well now you tell me. When did the calendars align? I mean the new year the new year began on January 1 rather than March 1. It wasn't in the 18th - it wasn't there earlier than the 18th century?

Scott Monty: [00:08:37] Well. I know the it says here Lady Day was the first day of the year in British dominions until 1752.

Burt Wolder: [00:08:48] Yeah, but weren't the calendars aligned...?

Scott Monty: [00:08:50] Well, the Gregorian calendar was was put into place in 1582. And that's when there were 11 days. There was a gap of 11 days that was made up for. Boy, that would have been a calendar-maker's nightmare that year. But that's that's interesting in terms of the harmonization of Scottish and British calendars. That's all I've got here from from Wikipedia is 1752 is when they were harmonized.

Scott Monty: [00:09:39] We'll see. So anyway.

[00:09:40] I guess I guess - you know just poking around - I guess it was late in the 19th century and early even in the 20th century, Russia apparently changed its calendar in February of 1918.

Scott Monty: [00:09:51] Wow, that late?

Burt Wolder: [00:09:57] Interesting.

Scott Monty: [00:09:58] Well as as we mentioned in the in the St. Patrick's Day episode - in Episode 11 - it wasn't until the late 1950s that tax day was was changed from March 15th to April 15th in the United States. So a lot of lot of modernization going on. But what was interesting here is when we go back to that quote of quarter day and Scott Eccles and he said, "it struck me that the whole proceeding could hardly be for the purpose of making a fool of me. And the main object must be to get out of the rent." And he just to make himself look knowledgeable, you know it's late March, "quarter day is at hand." That's the day that rent was due to the landowners. And we're given to find that for all of his respectability that he's familiar with the "moonlit flit," something that Conan Doyle and his his Edinburgh origins would have been very familiar with. The moonlit flit - you know what that is?

Burt Wolder: [00:11:08] I guess you decant the day before rent is due.

Scott Monty: [00:11:12] Exactly! Get out of town by moonlight. Just clear the house out and you know, avoid your rent.

Burt Wolder: [00:11:20] Well I guess in those days. Yeah I mean you were you were harder to find if you hit the road in the middle of the night.

Scott Monty: [00:11:25] Yeah. Yeah. So you know clearly Eccles did not want to be caught up in anything as unsavory as that during quarter day. And then of course we have another reference to a very specific quarter day in "The Resident Patient." Of course you have Dr. Percy Trevelyan, who was looking for a place to practice medicine. And along came Mr. Blessington with an offer to take up residence in Brook Street. And he - they worked out terms where Trevelyan was to give Blessington some percentage of the proceedings some percentage of money that he collected from patients. They negotiated on that and Trevelyan said "it ended in my moving into into the house the next Lady Day." So Lady Day would have been March 25th. You can - if you look at the potential for dating that story - it narrows things down considerably for the chronologist. But again, interesting that you know even a high end doctor would have had to have been beholden to landlords and payment of rent and such circumstances.

Scott Monty: [00:12:48] It's amazing isn't it how these constructs once defined so carefully and broadly and with such broad strokes. People's lives and actions that today you can rent for a year, you could rent for three years, different terms on a lease, this, that and the other, 36 months... But in those days, you know, we're good for the next quarter, and we're good for a series of quarters. So I've got this place until. Michaelmas.

Scott Monty: [00:13:20] And even with even with the royal family - I mean they're all if not outright landowners, they're hereditary landlords. I wonder how the collection of rent goes there, if that's still something that's practiced on a quarterly basis or if it's annual or what have you?

Burt Wolder: [00:13:43] Oh that's a good question. I mean I know that you know most of Westminster obviously is still - not all of Westminster - is still owned by the Duke of Westminster. But it's not unusual to have lease holds that that would last 50 years, 100 years - maybe it's different today. I mean I've never been close to it but I remember reading about those characteristics.

Scott Monty: [00:14:08] And you know this is again this is just one of those little phrases that if you're reading the story - even whether you're reading it in detail - you may gloss over it. And to just step back here and think about it for a little bit, and what the implications were, and what the practice was at the time. Just fascinating to think of these traditions and customs.

Clive Merrison: [00:14:30] Is of course a trifle but there is nothing so important as trifles.

Narrator: [00:14:35] Please join us again next week for another installment of Trifles show notes are available on Subscribe to us on iTunes and be sure to check out our longer show. I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere where we interview notable Sherlockians, share news, and go into even more depth on certain topics.

Peter Barkworth: [00:14:57] You take my breath away, Mr. Holmes.

Jeremy Brett: [00:15:01] You know my method. It is founded on the observance of trifles.

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Scott Monty and Burt Wolder are both members of the Baker Street Irregulars, the literary society dedicated to Sherlock Holmes. They have co-hosted the popular show I Hear of Everywhere since June 2007.

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