Archive for February, 2015

A long lost Sherlock Holmes story?

Whilst the arguments rage over who wrote this (it certainly wasn’t me which could account for the style and typographical and other errors) here is the text gleaned from the pamphlet for you to ponder over . . .

To me it seems that it was written either by Doyle or someone else but that the character describes here as me (Watson) is, in fact Doyle who is thinking about his future political stance at the Border Burghs.

“Sherlock Holmes.”

DISCOVERING THE BORDER BURGHS,
and, BY DEDUCTION, the BRIG BAZAAR

‘We’ve had enough of the old romancists and men of travel’, said the Editor. As he blue-pencilled his copy, and made arrangements for the great Saturday edition of the Bazaar Book. ‘We want something up-to-date. Why not have a word from “Sherlock Holmes”?’

Editors have only to speak and it is done, at least, they think so. ‘Sherlock Holmes!’ As well talk of interviewing the Man in the Moon. But it does not do to tell Editors all that you think. I had no objections whatever, I assured the Editor, to buttonhole ‘Sherlock Holmes,’ but to do so I should have to go to London.

‘London!’ scornfully sniffed the Great Man. ‘And you profess to be a journalist? Have you never heard of the telegraph, the telephone, or the phonograph? Go to London! And are you not aware that all journalists are supposed to be qualified members of the Institute of Fiction, and to be qualified to make use of the Faculty of Imagination? By the use of the latter men have been interviewed, who were hundreds of miles away; some have been “interviewed” without either knowledge or consent. See that you have a topical article ready for the press for Saturday. Good-day.’

I was dismissed and had to find copy by hook or by crook. Well, the Faculty of Imagination might be worth a trial.

. . .

The familiar house in Sloan Street met my bewildered gaze. The door shut, the blinds drawn. I entered; doors are no barrier to one who uses the Faculty of Imagination. The soft light from an electric bulb flooded the room. ‘Sherlock Holmes’ sits by the side of the table; Dr Watson is on his feet about to leave for the night. Sherlock Holmes, as has lately been shown by a prominent journal, is a pronounced Free Trader. Dr Watson is a mild Protectionist, who would take his gruelling behind a Martello tower, as Lord Goschen wittily put it, but not ‘lying down!’ The twain had just finished a stiff argument on Fiscal policy. Holmes loq.–

‘And when shall I see you again, Watson? The inquiry into the “mysteries of the Secret Cabinet” will be continued in Edinburgh on Saturday. Do you mind a run down to Scotland? You would get some capital data which you might turn to good account later.’

‘I am very sorry,’ replied Dr Watson. ‘I should have liked to have gone with you, but a prior engagement prevents me. I will, however, have the pleasure of being in kindly Scottish company that day. I, also, am going to Scotland.’

‘Ah! then you are going to the Border country at that time?’

‘How do you know that?’

‘My dear Watson, it’s all a matter of deduction.’

‘Will you explain?’

‘Well, when a man becomes absorbed in a certain theme, the murder will out some day. In many discussions you and I have on the fiscal question from time to time I have not failed to notice that you have taken up an attitude antagonistic to a certain school of thought, and on several occasions you have commented on the passing of “so-called’ reforms, as you describe them, which you say were not the result of a spontaneous movement from or by the people, but solely due to the pressure of the Manchester School of politicians appealing to the mob. One of these allusions you made a peculiar reference to “Huz an’ Mainchester” who had “turned the world upside down.” The word “Huz” stuck to me, but after consulting many authors without learning anything as to the source of the word, I one day in reading a provincial paper noticed the same expression, which the writer said was descriptive of the way Hawick people looked at the progress of Reform. “Huz an’ Mainchester’ led the way. So, thought I, Watson has a knowledge of Hawick. I was still further confirmed in this idea by hearing you in several absent moments crooning a weird song of the Norwegian God Thor. Again I made enquires, and writing to a friend in the Sounth country I procured a copy of “Teribus.” So, I reasoned, so – there’s something in the air! What attraction has Hawick for Watson?’

‘Wonderful,’ Watson said, ‘and—‘

‘Yes, and when you characterised the action of the German Government in seeking to hamper Canadian trade by raising her tariff wall against her, as a case of “Sour Plums,” and again in a drawing room asked a mutual lady friend to sing you that fine old song, “Braw, braw lads,” I was curious enough to look up the old ballad, and finding it had reference to a small town near to Hawick, I began to see a ray of daylight. Hawick had a place in your mind; likewise so had Galashiels – so much was apparent. The question to be decided was why?’

‘So far so good. And—‘

‘Later still the plot deepened. Why, when I was retailing to you the steps that led up to the arrest of the Norwood builder by the impression of his thumb, I found a very great surprise that you were not listening at all to my reasoning, but were lilting a very sweet–a very sweet tune Watson–“The Flowers of the Forest;” then I in turn consulted an authority on the subject, and found that that lovely if tragic song had a special reference to Selkirk. And you remember, Watson, how very enthusiastic you grew all of a sudden on the subject of Common-Ridings, and how much you studied the history of James IV., with special reference to Flodden Field. All these things speak, Watson, to the orderly brain of a thinker. Hawick, Galashiels, and Selkirk. What did the combination mean? I felt I must sold the problem, Watson; so that night when you left me, after we had discussed the “Tragedy of a Divided House,” I ordered in a tin of tobacco, wrapped my cloak about me, and spent the night in thought. When you came round in the morning the problem was solved. I could not on the accumulative evidence but come to the conclusion that you contemplated another Parliamentary contest. Watson, you have the Border Burghs in your eye!’

‘In my heart, Holmes,’ said Watson.

‘And where do you travel to on Saturday, Watson?’

‘I am going to Selkirk; I have an engagement there to open a Bazaar.’

‘Is it in aid of a Bridge, Watson?’

‘Yes,’ replied Watson in surprise; ‘but how do you know? I have never mentioned the matter to you.’

‘By word, no; but by your action you have revealed the bent of your mind.’

‘Impossible!’

‘Let me explain. A week ago you came round to my rooms and asked for a look at “Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome.” (You know I admire Macaulay’s works, and have a full set.) That volume, after a casual look at, you took with you. When you returned it a day or two later I noticed it was marked with a slip of paper at the “Lay of Horatius,” and I detected a faint pencil mark on the slip noting that the closing stanza was very appropriate. As you know, Watson, the lay is all descriptive of the keeping of a bridge. Let me remind you how nicely you would perorate –

When the goodman mends his armour
And trims his helmet’s plume,
When the goodwife’s shuttle merrily
Goes flashing through the loom,
With weeping and with laughter.
Still the story told —
How well Horatius kept the bridge,
In the brave days of old.

Could I, being mortal, help thinking you were bent on such exploit yourself?’

‘Very true!’

‘Well, goodbye, Watson; shall be glad of your company after Saturday. Remember Horatius’ words when you go to Border Burghs :- “How can man die better than facing fearful odds.” But there, these words are only illustrations. Safe journey, and success to the Brig!’

The Holmes Service 1929-1939

When I wrote the series of articles covering my great friend and colleague on the British Radio (Part 1, Part 2) I had not appreciated that the BBC had been broadcasting programmes concerning Holmes from as early as 1929 – almost from the start of their broadcasting.

This new series of articles will trace programmes about Holmes from the early days of radio broadcasting by the BBC through to when Holmes first appeared on BBC television to the latest Sherlock series.

1929

In fact, the first programme that I can trace was on the BBC’s 5XX Daventry radio service. This service began broadcasting on 15 December 1924 and ended on 8 March.

NPG 5024; Sir Desmond MacCarthy by Duncan Grant

Desmond MacCarthy

On December 4th, 1929 at 9.20pm BBC 5 XX Daventry and BBC London 2LO broadcast one of a series of “Miniature Biographies” (there appear to have been seven in total) in which Desmond MacCarthy presented a biography of yours truly in which he refers to me as “the obtuse and innocent Watson . . . of the intermittent practice and brown moustache, with his never-failing bewilderment and his misdirected zeal . . . the homeliest character in the literature of crime”.

MacCarthy was a well-known literary critic of his time and was also well-known for analysing what he saw as chronological problems in the cases of Holmes that I have documented. In my own defence, I must state that that I was sometimes careless in recording the actual dates of events in these cases, sometimes to help protect the privacy of the persons involved, but often simply because I thought it more important to record the problems themselves, and Holmes use of deduction in resolving them, than worrying about what day or date it was.

James Edward Holroyd, in his Seventeen Steps to 221B, included MacCarthy’s essay entitled “Dr Watson” that may well have been the basis of this biography which he states is “forthcoming and profusely illustrated”. However, I can find no trace of such a book.

Also included in Holroyd’s collection is Bernard Davies attempt to resolve the mystery of the true location of 221b which comes very close to the truth!

But, back to the radio!

1934

The next programme was on September 24th, 1934 at 8pm when the BBC Regional Programme broadcast a “Scrapbook for 1910” which it describes as “a microphone medley”.

15784-6766

Norman Shelley

Included is an item entitled “Sherlock Holmes and the Speckled Band”  and Norman Shelley was one of ‘those heard in this programme’ (he was, in the future to play me alongside Carleton Hobbs’ Holmes). Arthur Conan Doyle is also included in the programme in an item entitled ‘Sherlock Holmes: a record by the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle”.

imagesBert Coules (see comments below) has suggested that the item in may have been about the celebrated stage version of “The Speckled Band” that opened at the Adelphi Theatre in London on June 4th 1910 with H. A. Saintsbury as Sherlock Holmes. Coincidentally, the same play is due to be staged this month (February 2015) in Houston.

1935

The following year on February 20th, 1935 at 9.25pm the BBC Regional Programme broadcast “The Speckled Hatband’ said to be “not by Sherlock Holmes”  but included a character called “Pureluck Jones” played by Bobbie Comber with a Dr Watson played by Claude Hulbert.

1936

In 1936 there was a broadcast of ‘Sherlock Holmes stories’ as part of a “For the Schools” programme at 2pm on September 28th, 1936. This was the start of a series of broadcasts of the stories that eventually gave rise to the Carleton Hobbs and Norman Shelley series in the 1950s.

1938

In 1938 there was a series broadcast on the BBC National Programme called “Detectives In Fiction” in which each programme dealt with a different detective whose exploits made them famous.

Holmes was the first of these and the story presented was “Silver Blaze” at 12.15pm on April 12th, 1938. This half-hour play presented Frank Wyndham Goldie as Holmes and Hugh Harben as me and was adapted from my story by Pascoe Thornton.

1939

In 1939, Bransby Williams at 7.30pm on June 20th, ‘brings to life Detectives in Fiction’ with impersonations of Father Brown, the Scarlet Pimpernel, Mr Reeder, Charlie Chan and as Sherlock Holmes he ‘will make his final bow’.

Next time, I will look at the 1940s when I get another biographer, Arthur Wontner and Carleton Hobbs appear in The Boscombe Valley Mystery, Sir Cedric Harwicke and Finlay Currie appear in The Speckled Band, and Sherlock Holmes continues in the ‘For The Schools’ programmes and as ‘The Book At Bedtime’.

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