With readers aware of the care that Q habitually exercised in historical accuracy, the slightly confused nature of Troy Town will come as a surprise, and possibly reflects the state of his mind at the time of writing. The plot is open to variable datings although 1881 is almost certainly correct. The other possibility is 1864.
According to Paul Dearlove, the events take place during a Leap Year. This is a Leap Year following the Great Exhibition of 1851. Mr. Fogo arrives in Troy on ‘April Fools’ Day’, the 1st of April. This is a Friday because two days later there is a Sunday morning service at St. Symphorian’s Church in Troy. The novel opens therefore on Thursday the 31st of March and closes in the following September. The only Leap Year to have the 1st of April falling on a Friday is 1864.
1864 was the last full year of the American Civil War, when military hardware was beginning to seep into the international market, much to the benefit of the ‘Fenians’. Many of the ‘Fenians’ had emigrated to the U.S.A. during the famine years of the 1840s and by 1864 were a well-organised body, although their shipments of material to Ireland did not really get going until 1865. The Maryland, with its cargo of dynamite, appears to have come from America.
However, Admiral Buzza makes the discovery from ‘Burke’ that Frederic Goodwyn-Sandys had married Geraldine in 1876, twelve years after 1864. The next Leap Year with the 1st of April falling on a Friday is 1892, four years after the publication of the novel. 1881 has the 1st of April falling on a Friday and is correct in all other details, although it is not a Leap Year.
The historical context of 1881 is even more appropriate than 1864. Q makes an unambiguous connection between the novel and ‘Home Rule’ for Ireland. The reader is informed that the discovery of dynamite in a portmanteau, belonging to the Goodwyn-Sandys, in Paddington Station, influenced three politicians to change their minds on ‘Home Rule’. In 1864 ‘Home Rule’ was not the major issue for Ireland, but it was in 1881. Gladstone’s ‘Home Rule’ bill came before the Commons in April 1886 and led to the fall of the government in July. Troy Town was written at a time when Ireland, terrorism and ‘Home Rule’ were the major political concerns.
Confusion over the dating of the plot is not the only problem. The opening sentence of Chapter XVI in the first edition, that of 1888, gives Mr. Moggridge going to work at 2 am and meeting Geraldine who had left ‘The Bower’ after Frederic’s breakfast. The Duchy edition corrects this to 10 am. Then, in Chapter XXIV Caleb calls the day Thursday although Mr. Fogo writes Wednesday in a letter. Such slips will rarely occur again in Q’s writings.