The Hounds of God

Publication date: 1928

There is an immense problem with determining accurate dates for this novel, namely that extremely precise dating is given in the text!

In the first several chapters there is ample information to work out a good chronology, in part because of the close connection between the story and that of the Spanish Armada.  We know exactly when Sir Gervase was knighted, when he returned home, when Don Pedro arrived (though this could be subject to dispute), when he abducted Margaret, and when they arrived in Spain.

Then, from the blue, an event that must have happened in early November is explicitly declared to have occurred on Thursday, October 5!  [Chapter XVII]

Moreover, this isn't a one-time mistake.  Days and dates in October are frequently and consistently mentioned from this point to the end of the novel, specifically dating the climax to Thursday, October 26.

So we sigh with exasperation, discard our reasoning, and work backward to the beginning, where we are forced to the conclusion that Don Pedro arrived in Cornwall before Sir Gervase returned with his knighthood, an obvious impossibility.

And this isn't the end of our troubles.  For there was, in fact, no date Thursday October 5 in 1588—October 5 was a Saturday.  Nor was it Thursday in the Gregorian calendar, had that calendar been in use.  I would even be willing to read "November" everywhere that Sabatini has "October"—this would solve everything—except that November 5 was not a Thursday either, in either calendar.

What to do?

Reasonable people can differ on an acceptable resolution.  My own take is this:  The events of the defeat of the Armada are too well-documented to ignore, and the reported passages of time are those we'd expect.  Further, the October dates in the last several chapters are suspicious because of the day-of-the-week discrepancies.   So I am, with some reluctance, setting aside these dates.  They undoubtedly came from the records of the Inquisition anyway, not exactly my favorite institution.  Or maybe Frey Juan had had a few too many pulls from the sacramental goatskin.

Although I'm discarding the dates, I've retained day-of-week information on the ground that it's quite likely to be accurate.  Even the shift from Julian to Gregorian calendars didn't disturb the regular progress of weekdays.

So here we go.  Chapter I tells us that Crosby first made love (in the Sabatini sense, of course) to Margaret just before Killigrew took him to London in 1584.  We learn in Chapter II that they took a week to reach London, and that Crosby then travelled back to Plymouth, accepting employment from Sir Francis Drake on September 10.  Hence the opening is certainly late in August, though the exact date can't be established.

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Copyright © 2007 Larry Denenberg