Category Archives: Foreign Languages

Not the right time of day for pictures

Well I went down to the dock this afternoon, and clicked a couple of pictures into the western sun, but I tried to take them in the shade, and thus I ended up with a certain blue tint. I post them here anyway, and will try and replace them with the sun in the east tomorrow.

Left: looking north from the front lawn of the cottage.
Right: Looking east from the dock showing the three sections, with no windows in the basement of the rear two sections.

While I was walking down to the dock to take these snapshots, I was thinking of reprinting Ritualia Musgraviensia a latin translation of “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual” by Arthur Conan Doyle which first appeared in The Strand Magazine in May 1893. This translation was completed by Paul Churchill and Dale K. Fewell and was first published in 1998. Paul Churchill passed away last year and he will be missed my all who knew him. The reprint of this monograph will be distributed at the annual dinner of The Speckled Band of Boston at The Tavern Club in Boston on May 8th, 2009 as my token “In Memoriam.” I will append a cover illustration of “Sherlock in Toga” and the Preface below:


Preface by Paul Churchill

The sixty Sherlock Holmes stories – four novels and fifty-six short adventures – written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle from 1887 to 1927 have captured the hearts of generations of young people the world over. They have never been out-of-print and continue to entertain and inspire new readers. Countless pastiches have been written by other authors using the characters brought to life by Doyle, and the characters in turn have continued to live even as we hover at the verge of the 21st Century. The stories have been translated into French, Spanish, Latvian, Russian, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, Japanese, and dozens of modern languages, but never into Latin. This little work marks the first appearance of a complete Sherlock Holmes story in Latin. Why Latin? Why not Latin? There is a precedent in the rendering of other literature into that ancient tongue, notably Winnie Ille Pooh, Alicia In Terra Mirabili, and Tela Charlott√¶ since the 1960’s. There has been a resurgence of interest in the Classics since the 1980’s with Latin enrollment having doubled and even tripled in school districts from California to Texas to Washington D.C. Within the past few years, books like Latin For All Occasions and its sequel, More Latin For All Occasions, have proven to be very popular. It is past time for a rendering of a classic work into a Classic language, a work which has an appeal to adults as well as students.
The story chosen is “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual.” It is one of the most recognized stores and is the only published tale which shows Sherlock Holmes at work as a professional before he met his friend and biographer, Dr. John H. Watson. It has all the ingredients of a fine mystery: an old manuscript whose secrets must be extracted by a practiced reasoner, a missing young woman with a fiery temperament, a centuries old relic, an old English manor house, and (read no farther if you wish to be surprised) The butler did it!

In translating this story into Latin certain compromises had to be made. First, the name “Sherlock” contains two letter combinations which did not exist in Classical Latin, namely the “sh” and the “ck.” The translators have rendered the “sh” as “sc” to fit the convention in Church Lain of pronouncing “sc” as “sh.” For “ck” they have chosen the more common letter combination “ch.” Sherlock therefore becomes Scerlochius, a second declension noun. Holmes is pronounced as two syllables, the “e” being short and the word becoming a third declension noun. For “Watson” another compromise had to be made since the letter “w” is a recent addition to our alphabet and did not exist in Classical Latin. Here we enter an area of linguistics that will be of interest only to linguists and the reader may feel quite comfortable in skipping to the story. For those of you who have decided to remain with the Preface, an explanation is due. Rather than rendering the name as “son of Wat” the translators have decided to treat the whole name. There are several English words starting with “w” which have corresponding equivalents in English, French, or Latin using the letter “g” or the letters “gu.” As examples consider the words “ward” and the protector of a ward, the “guardian,” the person in authority in a prison, the “warden” or the “guards,” the “warranty” or “guarantee” one gets with a purchase, the name “William” which is “Guillaume” in French or “Guglielmo” in Italian, or “Gulielmus” in Late Latin, and the seemingly unrelated words “war” in English and “guerre” in French. There being a pattern, the translators have rendered “Watson” as “Guatsonus,” a second declension noun. In addition to the conventions noted above, the translators were faced with the difficulty of translating words like “hair-trigger” and “bullet” and “sleeve” where no exact equivalent existed in Classical Latin. Rather than making a “bullet” into a “glans,” the word for the stone used in a slingshot, or “pistol” into the word for “catapult,” the translators have chosen the Neo-Latin equivalents found in other works published in this century by modern scholars. The word order is, for the most part, what would have sounded natural to a Cicero or a C√¶sar. The punctuation is completely modern. The reader will find it most comfortable to have at hand any of the modern English versions to help make it through the tough spots. Enjoy the process as well as the result. Remember, this is not baby-Latin, this is the stuff you might not have gotten to in Latin II in high school. But for the steadfast, there are all the ablatives absolute, indirect discourse, gerundives, ut clauses and jussive subjunctives you came to know and love at school. Bona fortuna.