The Stalking Horse

Publication date: 1933

Except for the last month of action, it seems that almost nothing in this novel can be dated precisely.  I've done the best I can.

The events of the final month, starting with Claybourne's rout (a party, not a defeat) in Chapter XII, can be dated by working backward from the climactic meeting.  However, there's a problem:  Chapter XX places that meeting explicitly on "Sunday, the eighth of June".  But this is impossible, since June 8 in 1698 was not a Sunday—unless you're using the Gregorian calendar, which England was not.  How do we explain this?

One possibility is that the date was in fact June 8 and that the narrator simply erred in declaring it a Sunday, probably by looking it up on some "perpetual calendar" that displayed a Gregorian calendar regardless of the year (a so-called "proleptic" Gregorian calendar). 

But other evidence places the final meeting on a Sunday, since at that meeting Walton speaks of the preceding meeting, five days earlier, as on "Tuesday last".  Furthermore, Walton's first meeting with the conspirators in Chapter XV was on "a day of that week which had opened with his interview [on Monday] with the Earl of Portland".  This description strongly suggests that the first meeting was not itself on a Monday.  Yet if the final meeting was Wednesday June 8 then the first meeting took place on Monday May 30.

Given that the final meeting was on Sunday, which Sunday was it?  Here's an appealing possibility:  Perhaps the meeting was recorded as being on ``the second Sunday in June".  The narrator, again looking at a proleptic Gregorian calendar, interpreted this as June 8, rather than looking at the correct calendar and finding June 12.  Unfortunatly, it won't wash to ascribe such egregious calendrical ignorance to the narrator, since the days of the week mentioned in Chapter VI in connection with the assassination plot are properly in accord with the Julian calendar.

The best explanation seems to be this:  The meeting was in fact on Sunday June 8 by the Gregorian calendar, and for reasons unknown the narrator used that calendar in his report.  The participants, however, would have told you that the meeting took place on the corresponding Julian date, Sunday May 29, and that's the date we use.

Back to the Sabatini Timeline
Copyright © 2007 Larry Denenberg