A timeline for Leroux's story

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A timeline for Leroux's story

Post  Countess of Rothes on Sat Oct 04, 2014 5:03 pm

Hi all,

I don't see a place to introduce ourselves on this forum, so I guess this is my introduction. I have been a phan for...oh, over fifteen years, I think. Got into it when I was in college; saw the ALW show first and then went to read the book, like many other people. I'm an opera lover, and therefore have no tolerance whatever for bad singers being cast in the roles in the stage show--so I'm sure you can imagine what I thought of the 2004 movie!

I'm a reenactor and a nut about historical accuracy, which can make writing fanfiction quite an arduous experience. I'm working with forum member MarySkater on assorted fanfictions, some of hers and some of mine. I may post a small thing or two on here from time to time. I'm working on a massive story that won't be finished for years, but have a few other shorter ones too. I love fanfiction, and have for years. And I'd like to thank the creators of this site for making a place for us all to hang out, now that the greatly lamented phantomoftheopera.com has died. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm still in mourning for it, and don't plan to come out anytime soon. It'd be great to see this site become anything even close to it, so I'm doing my part by trying to post something interesting.

I have here a proposed timeline for Leroux's story that I spent quite a lot of time working on last year, but never got round to posting on the old forum. So I'm putting it up here, in hopes of getting some feedback on it. I would love to discuss it with you guys. If anyone sees a problem with it or thinks I messed up somewhere, please do tell me. I would like to hear debate on it, and different opinions. And it's really long. Sorry. The quoted lines from the novel here are from the Wolf translation.

A Timeline for "The Phantom of the Opera"

The farewell gala for Debienne and Poligny happens on the 10th of January. As others have already commented, this can be deduced from the fact that one of Erik's notes mentions that the old managers paid him for the first ten days of the year, and says, "Their responsibilities ended on the tenth."

The new managers listen to the instructions from the old ones about "the Phantom," think Debienne and Poligny are playing a joke of questionable taste on them, laugh it off, and then proceed to spend two weeks learning the ropes (pun fully intended) of the Opera. We know that it is two weeks, in fact precisely fifteen days, because here, Leroux gives us one specific date; January 25th. It is from this date that I have worked out this timeline.

Erik sends his first note to the new managers on January 25th. They again think that Debienne and Poligny are trying to prank them, send the old managers tickets for Box 5, and forget about the whole thing.

On January 26th, "the following morning," Erik, apparently in a jovial mood (well, for him anyway) sends another note which compliments the previous evening's entertainment, makes snide remarks about the choruses and Carlotta, and explains that the new managers do not need to pay him for those first ten days, as the previous ones covered that. Debienne and Poligny, being experienced in dealing with the Phantom, send back the tickets with a note that they cannot possibly sit in that box. Box 5 rented out that night to someone else, occupants thought to be making noise and expelled. I expect Erik was enjoying himself.

On January 27th, (Leroux says "the next day") Richard and Moncharmin interview Monsieur Remy and Madame Giry, and go to look at Box 5. They decide to watch Faust from Box 5 "on Saturday." The day of the week of this particular "January 27th," is not given, but I assume that it must be no earlier than the Monday of the week containing the Saturday in question, or it would have been worded differently, such as "a week from this Saturday." Conversely, it can't be any later than Thursday; if the current day were Friday, they'd have said "tomorrow" instead of "Saturday." Anyone who can read the book in the original language is free to correct me here. So, this Saturday could be anywhere from January 29th to February 1st at the latest.

When that Saturday arrives, Erik, unamused, gives the managers a note asking "Then it's war?" (Or, "So, it is to be war between us!") A lot of things happen on this day; Cesar is stolen, Madame Giry insulted and fired, a new concierge hired. Carlotta gets a threatening note, the chandelier falls, and Christine is abducted for the first time.

Christine is then not seen for "two weeks." The end of this period would be somewhere between February 12th to February 15th. Then Erik takes her out in the brougham. Raoul is told about this the next day. He goes out to dinner and then goes to the Longchamps grandstands around ten pm.

The next day, Raoul receives a letter from Christine ("his servant found him in the morning"). The masquerade ball is the day after that ("masked ball at the Opera tomorrow"). So, the ball happens three days after Christine is first sighted in the Bois.

If it is indeed two weeks between the kidnapping and the first time Christine is spotted in the carriage, the Masquerade ball then happens 17-18 days after the chandelier falls and Christine is kidnapped for the first time. Christine is therefore with Erik for more than two weeks, off and on; remember, she goes back to him the night of the ball, when Raoul sees her disappear through the mirror.

Now, Leroux says the ball was "given just before Shrovetide." Shrovetide is the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday before Lent, which always begins on a Wednesday. Opinions will vary as to what constitutes "just before," but I would think it would be no more than a few days, and maybe even only the day before. So I imagine that the ball happens somewhere from the Thursday to the Saturday before Shrove Sunday. This would be between February 15th to the 18th.

Christine returns to Erik, but is released and back with Mama Valerius the very next day after the ball. Erik must have either returned her in the middle of the night or in the morning. Raoul goes to see her and demands to know why she is wearing a wedding ring; Christine essentially tells him to get lost (cue the cheering of the phans).

The next day, they make the plans for their play engagement. Christine seems to be having a little trouble staying consistent!

Eight days later, Raoul announces he's not going to the North Pole ("Raoul, whose heart was aching, stopped the game on the eighth day") and they have an argument.

Christine is then gone for two days. ("Two days out of their all too short happiness.")

If you work everything out, it is twelve days between the ball and when she reappears this time. It was two days between the ball and the play engagement, at which point Raoul stated that he would be leaving France "in a month at the latest." This was ten days ago; the eight before Raoul threw his little temper tantrum, and the two when Christine was gone. So when she comes back after this latest visit to Erik, Raoul now has, at most, twenty days before he has to leave, given that a month is about thirty days. The date of this reappearance must then be between February 27th and March 3rd, allowing for leap years.

They spend an unspecified number of days together going through the Garnier. Leroux says only that "the precious days flowed away." It can't be too much more than a week, because Raoul has less than three weeks until he is supposed to be on his ship. So it is now getting to be the middle of March.

The rooftop scene happens on a "dazzling springtime evening." I checked, and it appears that March is indeed early spring in Paris. Perhaps "dazzling" is pushing it a bit, but maybe Leroux was just using artistic license there. It wouldn't be the first occurrence of that in the story, by any stretch. It is apparently warm enough that they can sit outside for quite some time, and there is no mention of stopping to grab coats before they run up there--though I suppose, Christine is quite anxious to get away from Erik at that point. But, as we all know, he follows them up there and overhears their conversation, and everything rather goes to pot after that.

Now, the point of all this? Well, you can't put an exact date on the later events of the novel, but as I've shown here, I think you can pretty justifiably narrow it down to a range of dates, which only have a margin of error of about a week. And now we come to the really interesting--in my opinion, anyway--point; because of the way in which the events progress in the novel, and the fact that the masquerade ball happens not more than about a week before Lent at most, and possibly as little as three days before, if you work it out…

This story must happen on a year in which Lent fell somewhere between February 19th, at the earliest, and February 24th, at the latest.


So, let's look at which years work. The Garnier wasn't even open until 1875. I know some people like the idea that the story happens in 1896, the year of the real accident with a counterweight to the chandelier's reflector, and I think it's tough to argue that the story happened any later than that. So, I've worked out the dates on which Lent fell, for the span of years 1876 to 1896:

1876: March 1st.
1877: February 14th.
1878: March 6th.
1879: February 26th.
1880: February 11th.
1881: March 2nd.
1882: February 22nd.
1883: February 7th.
1884: February 27th.
1885: February 18th.
1886: March 10th.
1887: February 23rd.
1888: February 15th.
1889: March 6th.
1890: February 19th.
1891: February 11th.
1892: March 2nd.
1893: February 15th.
1894: February 7th.
1895: February 27th.
1896: February 19th.

Looks like the qualifying years are 1882, 1887, 1890, and 1896. And it looks like those who want to tie in with the actual chandelier accident are in luck! Now, I may have miscalculated something somewhere, so if you wanted to push things a bit and assume that Leroux, or I, could have been off by a few days, you could fudge it and increase the number of usable years to include 1879, 1884, 1885, or 1895. And which year can we NOT use, class?

1881. The one Andrew Lloyd Webber picked. I find this to be hilarious. Luckily for him, he's made the masquerade ball a New Year's Eve ball in his version, so he doesn't have to abide by when Lent happened in a given year. But Leroux is pretty clear that his ball happened a few days before Lent, and he does give us that one date of January 25th. So you really can't combine both versions, which is something I see done a lot in fan fiction, and still get to use 1881. I know it's the generally accepted year for the story, because of the popularity of ALW's musical, but it just doesn’t work for Leroux-based stories.

I hope this is useful to somebody, and starts a little debate here on the forum. It was fun working it out, even if it did take a while.

The Countess

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Re: A timeline for Leroux's story

Post  LadyCDaae on Sat Oct 04, 2014 5:31 pm

Welcome, welcome! I think there's a new member thread in the general conversation board, but since you've introduced yourself, glad to have you!

Someone else around here (Raphael?) has been working on a similar timeline--I'd like to see you guys compare notes.

The popular choice of 1881 seems based mostly on simple math.  Leroux says "not more than thirty years" have passed since the events he relates in his book.  Phantom was published in 1911, so 1911-30=1881.  

However, as you point out, the calendar dates in 1881 don't line up.  So let's say "thirty years" is a rough estimate and Leroux was rounding up, meaning the real date range is somewhere between 25-30 years ago.  You could probably even argue that, allowing for writing time, it was actually 31-32 years ago.  This narrows the probable date range to 1879-1886.  In order to fit the specific time frame detailed, the only probable years are then 1882 or 1885.  I like the former myself as it more closely fits the "thirty year" window, but 1885 is a nice round number to work with....

In the end, of course, it's all just a story.  But it's fun to speculate about these things, isn't it?

~LCD

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Re: A timeline for Leroux's story

Post  Countess of Rothes on Sat Oct 04, 2014 5:53 pm

Hi, and thank you for the welcome!  Yes, I'd love to chat with anyone else who's working on something like this.  

The book was actually not published in 1911.  That's the date of the first English translation, not the date of original publication.  The first installment of Leroux's story, in its original French, was published on Thursday, September 23rd, 1909, and the last on Saturday, January 8, 1910, according to translationist Caitlin Freeman.  The story was published as an entire novel, again in its original language, later in 1910.  This was pretty common for serialized novels, as it was a way of making a little more money from it.  Several of Dickens' novels were first published in serialized form.  This seems weird to modern folks, but it was nothing out of the ordinary in the nineteenth century.

So, "not more than thirty years back" in 1909, would have meant "not before 1879," which was one of the years that works with my timeline.  But it's been pointed out by others that "not more than" could also mean "a little less than," and so the story could well be taking place sometime in the eighties.  Christine, at one point, makes a reference to the waxworks in the Musee Grevin; said museum did not open until 1883.  So if you want to go by that sentence, that would mean that the story must be happening after that; however, I've also heard that that museum didn't actually have waxworks until after the turn of the century, which is way too late!  

And different translationists translate that sentence about the thirty years differently.  I think Leonard Wolf wrote it as "not much more than" which would seem to mean the late 70s.  But Leroux just isn't consistent, and trying to make all the little notations in his writing all fit into one coherent story line is, I find, an excellent way of making oneself madder than Erik.  I think fanfiction authors should pick the bits they want to use out of his story, and ditch the rest.  Pick a year for your story, keep it consistent, do your historical research, and everything will be fine.

I've personally chosen 1887 for the year in which the original story takes place, for my own fanfiction.  This is partly because some interesting things happened in Paris in that year that I want to use, but also because I'm running my story into the beginning years of the twentieth century, and otherwise Erik's age gets to be problematic.  But others could pick other years if they like.

And my husband just said "That phrase means that somebody can't remember.  It means 'it must have been about thirty years, but I can't remember exactly.' "  So there you go!  (He likes the music of the ALW show, but thinks that my level of obsession is ridiculous.)

The Countess


Last edited by Countess of Rothes on Sat Oct 04, 2014 6:01 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : incorrect grammar)

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Re: A timeline for Leroux's story

Post  Countess of Rothes on Sat Oct 04, 2014 5:59 pm

Ahhhhh! I typed "it's" when I meant "its"! Oh, the shame. That's what I get for trying to type something sensible and talk to the husband at the same time.

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Re: A timeline for Leroux's story

Post  Countess of Rothes on Sat Oct 04, 2014 6:00 pm

Okay, found the edit button. Fixed. Whew.

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Re: A timeline for Leroux's story

Post  NightRachel on Sat Oct 04, 2014 6:59 pm

Hi Countess! Welcome to the forum!
Thanks for posting and sharing this very interesting Leroux timeline -- I love this stuff! Smile
I think perhaps FdelOpera also has done similar work/research on this?

As for me, I prefer the 1881 to 1885 range of years. Smile

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Re: A timeline for Leroux's story

Post  Countess of Rothes on Sat Oct 04, 2014 7:14 pm

Hi NightRachel,

Thanks for reading! May I ask, what is it you like about using the years 1881-1885? I'm not complaining, just curious.

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Re: A timeline for Leroux's story

Post  NightRachel on Sat Oct 04, 2014 7:29 pm

Countess of Rothes wrote:Hi NightRachel,

Thanks for reading!  May I ask, what is it you like about using the years 1881-1885?  I'm not complaining, just curious.

The Countess

Hi again!

Well, I admit I like 1881 due to not just ALW's POTO, but also due to Susan Kay's Phantom, so there's that. Smile
But given what I've just read in your writings on the subject (and research by others here: Raphael? Caitlin?), I would accept 1882-1885 to be appropriate years to use for fanfiction. And since you just mentioned that you're using 1887 for your story, I would accept that year too. Smile
Basically, I like the 1880s decade for Leroux's story, but preferably the early to mid 1880s rather than the late 1880s. But that's just me. Smile

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Re: A timeline for Leroux's story

Post  Countess of Rothes on Sat Oct 04, 2014 7:41 pm

I like the 80s too (although the dresses are frankly rather ugly, and not at all like the costumes in the show, which are 1870s styles). I would be, however, very interested to read a well-done fanfiction set in the 1890s. I think you could do some neat things with that. But overall I like using the eighties better. May I ask, is there any particular thing you like better about using the early to mid-eighties, versus the late ones? If it's a sort of generalized feeling that the later eighties are "closer to modern," I can understand that. There were a lot of inventions happening by that point that are getting us much closer to the modern era. For my story, I needed to push the timeline of the original story as late as possible, because otherwise Erik is getting too old for some things I want him doing in the early years of the twentieth century. But I still have bouts of agonizing over whether that was the right choice. However, it does allow for him to be aware of those scientific developments that were happening. I think he'd be fascinated by them, and quite possibly doing his own experiments, so there's that.

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Re: A timeline for Leroux's story

Post  NightRachel on Mon Oct 06, 2014 10:51 pm

Countess of Rothes wrote:May I ask, is there any particular thing you like better about using the early to mid-eighties, versus the late ones?  If it's a sort of generalized feeling that the later eighties are "closer to modern," I can understand that.

The Countess

Yeah, that's about it. Smile

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Re: A timeline for Leroux's story

Post  Jennie on Tue Oct 07, 2014 7:18 am

Countess of Rothes wrote:Hi all,

So, let's look at which years work.  The Garnier wasn't even open until 1875.  I know some people like the idea that the story happens in 1896, the year of the real accident with a counterweight to the chandelier's reflector, and I think it's tough to argue that the story happened any later than that.  So, I've worked out the dates on which Lent fell, for the span of years 1876 to 1896:

[...]

The Countess

Fascinating thread, Countess, I love to see people get all pointy-headed about the details in and around Phantom!  Surprised You've spent a lot of time over this....

You mention the chandelier reflector counterweight accident in 1896, that killed a concierge (just like in Leroux!)... there was actually an accident in a theatre, in November 1888, where a chandelier fell down and killed just one person. It was at the Théâtre-Lyrique, though, not the Garnier. Since I've always been skeptical that a chandelier could fall down and kill just the one person, I was surprised to find a real-life example of it. The young man killed in that accident had relatives in the Rue Rochechouart, and the concierge killed in the 1896 accident lived just off it... so if you live near/in Rue Rochechouart, wear a helmet if you go to the opera!

Perhaps Leroux combined these two incidents...

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Re: A timeline for Leroux's story

Post  Countess of Rothes on Wed Oct 15, 2014 12:49 am

Hi Jennie,

Thank you so much for the interest! Yes, it did take me a bit of time to work this out, but I had to do it for my fanfiction anyway. So then I thought I'd post it and see what other people thought.

Those pieces of info you've posted about the real chandelier incident at the Theatre-Lyrique are great. I'm always looking for interesting tidbits about the era. Thanks for putting them up! I agree with you that Leroux likely combined the two. That's how writers work.

November 1888...hmmm. Has anyone ever used that in their fanfiction? It's not that long after the events of Leroux's story...

The Countess

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Re: A timeline for Leroux's story

Post  Jennie on Tue Oct 21, 2014 3:23 pm

Hi Countess,

Isn't it fun to create your own world when you write, and to set out the plot and timelines... I never cease to wonder at the creativity sparked off by the story of the Phantom of the Opera - it's inspired so many people in different ways over the last century...

How do you publish your fan fiction?

Please let me know if you need any more information about the different accidents, I sketched out the chandelier accident in 1888, but there are more details if anyone is interested.

Also, if you want to add some "period detail" or refer to current events, then the online archive of the BnF is a goldmine of information. Well, if you know French, that is. By eyeing through the newspapers of the time you may find more inspiration or "period colour" to add to your writing.

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Re: A timeline for Leroux's story

Post  Countess of Rothes on Fri Oct 24, 2014 10:53 am

Hi Jennie,

Yes, it's wonderful to create one's own version of this story, especially after being exasperated in recent years by certain films, sequels, and revamped tours which shall not be named...

My fanfiction is not currently published anywhere, because none of it is finished. I don't believe in putting up each chapter as you finish it, though I know most fanfic authors do things that way. My writing tends to go through several iterations before being finished, and I'm not going to lock myself into a story's beginning that ends up not working with later chapters. I've never been able to understand why anyone would do that. But I'm also very much a non-linear writer; I work on bits and pieces from many different places in the story, as the inspiration strikes, instead of starting at the beginning and working my way through, and the plot and theme develop as I go. I've never in my life been able to work with an outline, even though we get taught in school that that's how to write, and I usually write the beginning of essays last! But everyone is different. I suppose if you tended to start with a very clear idea of what you wanted to do with a story, and stick to it, it might make more sense to consider early chapters ready for publication before the later ones were done--and of course that's how Leroux himself wrote, isn't it?

I did post a few little snippets on the late and lamented old forum before it died. I don't know if you read them, but one was on the topic of the made-up disease "hysteria." I also have one short story that could be edited and put up in fairly short order. If you're interested in seeing them, I could put them up on this site.

Yes, I would love as many details as you've got about the chandelier accidents! I'm a nut about tiny historical details, and am looking for as many as I can get. I have looked at the BnF website, but had some trouble navigating it. I can read a little French, but not much. I did study it in college, but that was over a decade ago and I haven't kept my skills up. I recall that on poto.com, someone had put up a link to a specific newspaper that had a lot of society-type information in it; was that you? If so, by any chance would you still have the link? I of course did not save it!

The Countess

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Re: A timeline for Leroux's story

Post  Jennie on Sun Oct 26, 2014 9:41 pm

Hi Countess, your method of writing resembles mine. I can't write according to a fixed outline, but tend to write "scenes" and jump between them, tying them together in the end. When I do write, haven't had much time lately for fiction. I take my hat off to anyone who dares write serials for magazines, for example! They must have the story completed before starting to publish, I guess!

Can relate to the frustration of seeing less.... er.... how shall I put it.... adequate? interpretations of the theme of Phantom.... fixing the mythology is a strong motivator in fan fiction.

I did read the stories posted in the Compositions forum, but didn't comment much. I think I remember yours, was it related to the Victorian method for "treating" women with "hysteria"??? Embarassed Whether this is the case or not, why not put it up here anyway? In the right forum, of course.

I'll check out my notes and print-outs of the chandelier accidents, and add what I have to the relevant threads on this site. I've compiled contemporary newspaper accounts of the 1896 accident in my book, The Magic Envelope , don't want to repost the entire chapter, but will see what I can add to the existing thread. Not much has been published (as far as I have been able to find) in English about the 1888 accident, so I'll focus on that first. It will probable take a few days, need to find my notes, have been tidying up....

I don't remember linking to a particular newspaper with social events/society information - do you remember any details? Names of events/people or the paper??

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Re: A timeline for Leroux's story

Post  Countess of Rothes on Sat Nov 01, 2014 4:14 pm

Hi Jennie,

Yes, any details you can give would be wonderful. Your book is titled The Magic Envelope? I thought that was Caitlin Freeman's book? Am I just confused?

Yes, the "hysteria" story was mine. I'll go ahead and repost it here. We'll see what people think.

I'm afraid I don't recall specific details about the period newspaper I'm thinking of, other than that the poster said it had a lot of society information and things about performances at the Garnier and elsewhere. I've been putting off beginning newspaper research; I know I need to do it, but I haven't wanted to take the time. But you can't beat them for getting a glimpse into the past. Besides, maybe it'll make me brush up on my French, the current state of which is shameful. Smile

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Re: A timeline for Leroux's story

Post  Jennie on Sun Nov 02, 2014 1:07 pm

Countess of Rothes wrote:Hi Jennie,

Yes, any details you can give would be wonderful.  Your book is titled The Magic Envelope?  I thought that was Caitlin Freeman's book?  Am I just confused?

Will get back with details as soon as I can, but it won't be immediately, am currently translating from Swedish into English (in my meagre spare time) an article for a magazine, about the history of Scanian lace.

You're not the only one who is confused about "The Magic Envelope", Goodreads got our books mixed up, too .... But that should be sorted by now.

Caitlin's translation of "The Magic Envelope" is called "The Phantom of the Opera: The Lost Chapter". I've called my translation "The Phantom of the Opera - The Magic Envelope". Our translations differ - Caitlin is American, whereas I have a British English background. Caitlin published the first translation of the chapter into American English. I first came out with an annotated translation into Swedish, with some extra material. I then also translated from the French into British English, including the extra material. My book includes an introduction to Leroux's Phantom and the world of the fandom, is annotated with references to the original manuscript and contains a chapter about the "chandelier accidents". I've just revised it and added an appendix describing the history of the now lost fan site phantomoftheopera.com 1999-2014, as well as a comparison of the chapters in the MS, le Gaulois, and the book.



Yes, the "hysteria" story was mine.  I'll go ahead and repost it here.  We'll see what people think.

Very Happy


I'm afraid I don't recall specific details about the period newspaper I'm thinking of, other than that the poster said it had a lot of society information and things about performances at the Garnier and elsewhere.  I've been putting off beginning newspaper research; I know I need to do it, but I haven't wanted to take the time.  But you can't beat them for getting a glimpse into the past.  Besides, maybe it'll make me brush up on my French, the current state of which is shameful.  Smile  

The Countess

Most newspapers seem to have articles/columns dedicated to social events and theatrical performances...  Beware, if you start reading them, you can easily lose track of time and space!

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Re: A timeline for Leroux's story

Post  Riene on Mon Mar 14, 2016 3:17 am

Thank you for posting the timeline. I confess it never occurred to me to work out the exact sequence of events in terms of on which days they might have fallen, though I did try to work out the seasons for my own writing. I shall have to go back and re-read my Leroux with your timeline in mind.

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