Discovering Sherlock Holmes

Screenshot 2014-10-31 13.10.08Stanford University is located between San Francisco and San Jose in California and is one of the world’s leading teaching and research universities. Its Victorian Reading Project has produced facsimiles of serialized 19th-century novels and stories from Stanford University Library’s Special Collections including some of my stories about Holmes as published in The Strand.

Fifteen short stories and The Hound of the Baskervilles (in nine parts) have been produced each with accompanying notes plus a general introduction and bibliography. These were produced in 2006 and 2007 and no more have been produced since.


Introduction (these link to the Stanford University website)

Short Stories (these have been downloaded from the Stanford University website)

  1. A Scandal In Bohemia
  2. The Speckled Band
  3. The Final Problem
  4. The Empty House
  5. Silver Blaze
  6. The Musgrave Ritual
  7. The Reigate Squire
  8. The Greek Interpreter
  9. Charles Augustus Milverton
  10. The Abbey Grange
  11. The Second Stain
  12. The Bruce-Partington Plans
  13. The Devil’s Foot
  14. The Dying Detective
  15. His Last Bow

The Hound of the Baskervilles (these have been downloaded from the Stanford University website)

 “Stanford” is not to be confused with “Stamford”, who had been a dresser under me at Barts, and was responsible for introducing me to Sherlock Holmes . . .




56 Stories in 56 Days

As part of the lead up to the Great Sherlock Holmes Debate, Charlotte Anne Walters, author of Barefoot on Baker Streethas reviewed each of the 56 short stories.

The reviews are quite short but neatly sum up each story and Walters gives each one a score out of ten. It is interesting to compare these scores with dear Arthur’s own twelve of the best.

According to Walters, Charles Augustus Milverton and The Six Napoleons come out tops followed by Silver Blaze, The Mugrave Ritual, The Norwood Builder, The Dancing Men, The Bruce-Partington Plans, The Dying Detective, The Illustrious Client, The Three Garridebs, The Problem of Thor Bridge, Shoscombe Old Place and The Retired Colourman. That’s thirteen against Arthur’s twelve and there are quite a few differences.

Here are the links to each one of her reviews with her scores.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (average 6.7 out of 10)

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (average 6.8 out of 10)

The Return of Sherlock Holmes (average 7.5 out of 10)

His Last Bow (average 7.4 out of 10)

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (average 7.7 out of 10)

10 out of 10

  • RETU: Charles Augustus Milverton, The Six Napoleons

9 out of 10

  • MEMO: Silver Blaze, The Mugrave Ritual
  • RETU: The Norwood Builder, The Dancing Men
  • LAST: The Bruce-Partington Plans, The Dying Detective
  • CASE: The Illustrious Client, The Three Garridebs, The Problem of Thor Bridge, Shoscombe Old Place, The Retired Colourman

8.5 out of 10

  • MEMO: The Final Problem

8 out of 10

  • ADVE: The Man with the Twisted Lip, The Blue Carbuncle, The Noble Bachelor
  • MEMO: The Yellow Face, The Crooked Man, The Resident Patient, The Greek Interpreter
  • RETU: The Second Stain
  • LAST: The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax, The Devil’s Foot
  • CASE: The Creeping Man, The Lion’s Mane

7 out of 10

  • ADVE: The Red-Headed League, The Boscombe Valley Mystery, The Engineer’s Thumb, The Beryl Coronet
  • RETU: The Empty House, The Priory School, Black Peter, The Missing Three-Quarter, The Abbey Grange
  • LAST: The Cardboard Box, The Red Circle, His Last Bow
  • CASE: The Blanched Soldier, The Three Gables

6 out of 10

  • ADVE: A Case of Identity, The Speckled Band, The Copper Beeches
  • MEMO: The Stockbroker’s Clerk, The Reigate Squire
  • RETU: The Solitary Cyclist, The Three Students, The Golden Pince-Nez
  • CASE: The Mazarin Stone, The Sussex Vampire

5 out of 10

  • ADVE: A Scandal in Bohemia, The Five Orange Pips
  • MEMO: The Gloria Scott, The Naval Treaty
  • CASE: The Veiled Lodger

4 out of 10

  • LAST: Wisteria Lodge


Eliminate the Impossible

Eliminate the Impossible” is the first of two books by Alistair Duncan on Holmes. His second Holmes book, “Close to Holmes” in which he looks at the historical connections between London, Holmes and my literary agent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, will be the subject of another review at a later date.

Alistair has also written a book about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Norwood Author“, which I have already reviewed. Currently, he is writing another Doylean book about Undershaw, the house that Sir Arthur had built at Hindhead which remains under threat from developers. This book is not due to be published until next year, by which time the fate of Undershaw will almost certainly have been decided.

Eliminate the Impossible” runs to 244 pages of which the first three-quarters cover Holmes on the page and the last quarter looks at Holmes on the screen.

I note that he prefers to the term “Sherlockian” which is usually reserved for Holmes fans abroad whilst “Holmesian” is supposedly the term used in the UK. I have always found “Holmesian” a bit cumbersome – “Sherlockian” leaves no-one in doubt who you’re talking about and in the BBC Sherlock series we’re on first name terms with the main protagonists for the first time!

May I also raise a point about our address. It was 221B Baker Street – note the capital “B” after 221. Flats are designated with a capital letter not a lower case letter. So where “221b” has been used “221B” should be used instead.  Even the Dummies Guide gets this wrong! But congratulations to the BBC Sherlock props department for getting this right and commiserations to the Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street for getting it wrong on their unofficial blue plaque.

Part One – Holmes on the page

This covers the origins of the stories, Holmes’s influence on crime fiction, his appearance and character before dealing with the “Heroes  and Villains” as Alistair calls them, beginning with me (I assume I am a hero?) His selection is interesting. It includes two women and I will leave you to guess who they are!

Following this is a short discussion about the “timeline” of the stories which has always, and continues to be, a subject of much discussion (and many books)! Alistair picks out D Martin Dakin’s and Leslie Klinger’s chronologies and sets them against the dates found on the Internet. The order of the stories as listed here puts the last three stories from The Case-Book in the order in which they are now usually published (VEIL, SHOS, RETI) rather than the order in which they originally appeared in The Case-Book (RETI, VEIL, SHOS).

For each of the sixty stories, he then gives the date of publication (in The Strand except for the first two stories which were first published elsewhere), the date the story was set in (just the year) and the identity of the client. Following a brief synopsis he then presents some notes about the story, usually about the dates involved, but sometimes about the real identities of the people involved, and some of the puzzles and inconsistencies.

His own inconsistencies are that he leaves “The Adventure of” off all the stories in The Memoirs and again changes the order of the last three stories – this time to SHOS, RETI and VEIL. I think he has the date of publication of SHOS in The Strand incorrectly as January 1927 when it should be April 1927 making it the last to be published.

In the general introduction to the stories he sensibly suggests that you read the story first before reading his notes and doing it the other way round is likely to confuse matters.

Part Two – Holmes on the screen

This looks at Holmes portrayal in film and on television by looking at a selection of actors who have portrayed my good friend. Alistair attempts to classify them as either “good” or “bad” and “remembered” or “forgotten” making the point that some portrayals (“good” or “bad”) might only be remembered by Sherlockians rather than the general public.

He has left out all the comic portrayals presumably on the grounds that they are universally viewed as “bad” and “best forgotten”.

Rathbone and Brett come out best in this analysis with perhaps Douglas Wilmer coming in third. Alistair puts Brett just out in front and probably the favourite for those who would see the Rathbone films as largely set in their own time rather than the time of the original stories.

Alistair recommends David Stuart Davies book, “Starring Sherlock Holmes“, for more detail about Holmes on film and television (and stage and radio for that matter!)

As Alistair’s book was written in 2008, it predates the Robert Downey Jr film “Sherlock Holmes” and more importantly the BBC Sherlock series. It will be interesting to speculate where these two very different portrayals would be in the “good”, “bad”, “remembered” and “forgotten” categories. Cumberbatch’s Holmes has a good chance of being in the category “good and remembered” if they can maintain the standard of the first series (mostly ignoring The Blind Banker) whereas Robert Downey Jr may end up in “bad but remembered” if they cannot raise their game!

Nevertheless, Alistair Duncan succeeds, as he sets out in his introduction, “to bring a fresh perspective” to some of the puzzles concerning “the anomalies in the stories and the films”. Whilst he “conceived it as an introduction to the canon” it does, as he hoped, “appeal to long-standing fans as well as novice Sherlockians”.

This book, like its successor “Close to Holmes“, is available on the Kindle although Amazon have not linked the two versions properly on their website so you will need to go to the Kindle store to find it.

I hear of Sherlock everywhere [GREE] – American Radio Part 2

At the end of Part 1, I said the heyday of Holmes on the radio in the USA was coming to an end with the series of 39 shows with Ben Wright as Holmes and Eric Snowden taking my part. This series lasted until June 1950.

Then, after a gap of five years, in 1955 the shows with the Gielgud and Richardson pairing mentioned in British Radio Part 1 were broadcast in the USA in a different order and with four extra shows. These were repeated in 1956.

In 1959, 36 of the Carleton Hobbs and Norman Shelley shows were aired for the first time in the USA.

Then after what appears to be a very long gap, in 1977 the CBS Mystery Theatre broadcast eleven shows with Kevin McCarthy as Holmes and Cort Benson as Watson. These shows are all from the Canon and include HOUN, SIGN, STUD, REDH, BOSC, SPEC, SCAN, BLUE, BERY, IDEN and GLOR.

I can then find details of three more CBS Mystery Theatre shows, all with Gordon Gould as Holmes but with a different Watson in each case – MUSG with Lloyd Batesta in 1981, NAVA with Bernard Grant in 1982, and NAVA again later in 1982 with William Griffiths.

Nine years later in 1991, Edward Petherbridge appeared as Holmes with David Peart as Watson in STUD followed by VALL, FIVE, TWIS, SILV, GREE, SCAN, BLUE, SPEC, BRUC, NOBL, SIXN and HOUN stretching into 1993.

I also have a note of a production of HOUN with Nicol Williamson and George Rose but I have no date for this and I cannot tell whether this is a radio broadcast or not.

There are two more series, both of which are still running and produced by Jim French for the Imagination Theatre. The first of these, The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes are all pastiches with Lawrence Albert as Watson but with a succession of different actors playing Holmes. These include John Gilbert, John Patrick Lowrie and Denis Bateman. In one episode, Watson (played by Lawrence Albert) impersonates Holmes and works with Mycroft in that episode and the previous one. Over 90 episodes have been produced (at the end of 2009) and scripts and recordings are available.

Following on from this, Jim French started another series in 2005 called The Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with John Patrick Lowrie as Holmes and Lawrence Albert again as Watson. This time they are all stories from the Canon and, as of March 2010, 23 shows have been produced.

So this brings this series itself to an end. The previous parts were:

  1. Sherlock Holmes on British Radio – Part 1
  2. Sherlock Holmes on British Radio – Part 2
  3. Sherlock Holmes on American Radio – Part 1

But, before I go I must acknowledge the following sources without whom this series could not have been produced:

There are still some broadcasts that I am trying to track down but if anyone  knows about any that I have missed then please drop me a line care of 221B Baker Street.

Everything is in order [CHAS]

When I heard recently that someone had set themselves a summer reading project to read the entire Canon of sixty stories including all the short stories and the four novels, I suggested an unusual approach to this would be to read the stories in the chronological order according to when the cases occurred rather than the more usual order of publication.

Using Vincent Delay‘s as the the most recent attempt to order the stories, despite my legendary problem with dates, this would be the order in which they should be read.

Before Holmes and I met:

  1. The Gloria Scott
  2. The Musgrave Ritual

Our meeting and the first case together, up to the Great Hiatus:

  1. A Study In Scarlet
  2. Shoscombe Old Place
  3. The Resident Patient
  4. The Beryl Coronet
  5. The Speckled Band
  6. Thor Bridge
  7. The Cardboard Box
  8. The Yellow Face
  9. The Greek Interpreter
  10. Charles Augustus Milverton
  11. The Valley of Fear
  12. The Reigate Squires
  13. Silver Blaze
  14. The Sign of the Four
  15. The Five Orange Pips
  16. The Noble Bachelor
  17. A Scandal In Bohemia
  18. The Stockbroker’s Clerk
  19. The Crooked Man
  20. The Second Stain
  21. The Naval Treaty
  22. The Dying Detective
  23. The Blue Carbuncle
  24. The Boscome Valley Mystery
  25. The Man with the Twisted Lip
  26. The Engineer’s Thumb
  27. The Hound of the Baskervilles
  28. A Case of Identity
  29. The Copper Beeches
  30. The Red-Headed League
  31. The Final Problem

After the Great Hiatus:

  1. The Empty House
  2. The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax
  3. The Norwood Builder
  4. The Sussex Vampire
  5. The Golden Pince-Nez
  6. The Red Circle
  7. Wisteria Lodge
  8. The Three Students
  9. The Solitary Cyclist
  10. Black Peter
  11. The Bruce-Partington Plans
  12. The Veiled Lodger
  13. The Missing Three-Quarter
  14. The Devil’s Foot
  15. The Abbey Grange
  16. The Dancing Men
  17. The Retired Colourman
  18. The Six Napoleons
  19. The Priory School
  20. The Three Garridebs
  21. The Three Gables
  22. The Illustrious Client
  23. The Creeping Man
  24. The Blanched Soldier
  25. The Mazarin Stone
  26. The Lion’s Mane
  27. His Last Bow

Come at once if convenient – if inconvenient come all the same [CREE]

Having recently visited Prague, the singular facts concerning Professor Presbury that I layed before my readers in The Creeping Man naturally came to mind.

This story, in The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes, has occasionally been regarded as a work of pure fiction, that is, that it is not a story that I wrote. I do have to admit that I was not as careful in checking Arthur Conan Doyle’s version of my manuscript as maybe I should have been. We always tried to be careful in the final manuscript to be sure that details that needed to be disguised were made suitably obscure without affecting the telling of the story.

This was one of the very last cases handled by Holmes before his retirement to Sussex and by then I saw him but infrequently as I had moved out of Baker Street. I was summoned, in typical Holmes fashion, by one of his laconic messages – “Come at once if convenient – if inconvenient come all the same”!

The Professor, a man in his ealy sixties and a widower, had become engaged to a much younger woman. In an attempt to turn himself into a much younger man, he visited Prague and obtained a serum from a quack. As this serum came from a monkey, a langur monkey to be exact, it had caused the strange behaviour that had so alarmed family, friends, colleagues and in particular his dog, that had resulted in Holmes’ involvement.

As an aside, on this recent visit to Prague, I found a couple of examples of Holmes great influence, particularly it seems on drug related themes! The first is a tobacconist – the other is a bar!

Very sincerely yours, Sherlock Holmes [FINA]

After the tragic events of May 1891 it was a couple of years before I could publish the account in The Final Problem. I found even the mention of Switzerland, Meiringen, and especially the Reichenbach Falls deeply upsetting and any thought of returning to that fateful locale abhorrent.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to return and took the brave step of staying in a hotel in the town and exorcising my fears by looking upon that swirling torrent at the falls.

The Parkhotel du Sauvage in Meiringen in which I stayed on this visit has a plaque claiming that it was the Englischer Hof where we stayed in 1891, but this claim is false. The hotel is large and prominent and not the sort of place we wanted to stay for fear of attracting the attention of Moriarty or his henchmen. Most of the town was destroyed by a massive fire shortly after our visit (was this the work of Moriarty’s henchmen avenging the death of their master?) and therefore the town has changed a great deal.

It is now difficult to remember clearly our hotel, especially as many of the streets I remember have been rebuilt, but the Bellevue Hotel may have been where we stayed. It is in the classical Swiss chalet style and is still a small, family-run hotel with its ground floor now a cakeshop with large displays of Meiringen’s greatest invention – the meringue.

The town of Meiringen has many references to our visit and underneath the English church next to the Parkhotel du Sauvage is a museum containing a reconstruction of our rooms in Baker Street. In front of the church is a statue of someone you may recognise!

Back at the Falls, the many reenactements of Holmes’s fight with Moriarty have been carried out in entirely the wrong location because those staging these events have primarily been interested in the protagonists safety. They have generally not managed to climb the steep footpath which winds its way up the left-hand side of the falls when looking at them from below. This is the path that we followed, and Sidney Paget’s drawing, based on my sketches, is fairly accurate.

After visiting the Falls, we intended to visit the tiny hamlet of Rosenlaui where the Hotel Rosenlaui dominates the hamlet as it did in 1891. You can still obtain refreshments there before returning to Meiringen or continuing up the valley to the Grosse Sheidegge, where there are some spectacular views.

If Holmes did, in fact, follow this latter route after escaping Moriarty’s clutches, then he would have had no problems in either following the winding road, or in following the more direct footpath which leads through the woods, even in the dark, for it would have been dark soon after he set out. There are, however, other paths in the woods above the Reichenbach Falls which provide easier routes towards Italy.

I keep a bull pup [STUD]

The new Sherlock Holmes film has revived a minor controversy that has puzzled students of The Canon for quite a while. This is brought about by the existence in the film of Gladstone, a young bulldog.

In A Study In Scarlet when Holmes and I first meet at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London and we are discussing whether we could share lodgings, we each list our shortcomings. Amongst mine I mention that I kept a “bull pup”.

Many have pointed out that this “animal” is never mentioned again. The reason for that is that no such “animal” existed!

The bull pup I referred to was my army revolver. Such short-barrelled, high calibre revolver is often referred to colloquially as a “bull pup”.

As some others have realised, a domestic pet was impossible on Afghanistan, illegal on the Orontes, inappropriate for a private hotel, and invisible in Baker Street!

The Carleton Hobbs Sherlock Holmes Collection

The BBC has released a set of three volumes of cases from the Canon starring Carleton Hobbs as Holmes and Norman Shelley as my good self.

Carleton Hobbs portrayed Sherlock Holmes in 80 radio adaptations although he had played myself once with Arthur Wontner as Holmes in a wartime production of  The Boscombe Valley Mystery.

Each of the twelve stories, has a specially commissioned introduction by Nicholas Utechin, former Editor of The Sherlock Holmes Journal.

Volume 1:

  • A Scandal in Bohemia
  • The Red-Headed League
  • Charles Augustus Milverton
  • The Speckled Band

Volume 2:

  • The Blue Carbuncle
  • Silver Blaze
  • The Final Problem
  • The Empty House

Volume 3:

  • The Musgrave Ritual
  • The Blanched Soldier
  • The Bruce-Partington Plans
  • The Dancing Men

BBC 7 ran a competition to win this set of CDs autographed on the sleeve by Nicholas Utechin, plus an autographed hard back copy of “Stage Whispers“, actor Douglas Wilmer’s memoirs (Douglas played Holmes in the first BBC 1965 TV series). Three questions were posed:

  1. In which year did Carleton Hobbs and Norman Shelley start this series? (1952)
  2. What was the name of the radio slot that the programme featured in? (Children’s Hour)
  3. On which station was it broadcast? (The Home Service)

The competition is now closed and the winners have been announced.

Holmes Christmas List 2009

With the case of the Blue Carbuncle just chronologically around the corner and people beginning to think about gifts, here are ten possibilities for your Christmas list.

1. The Complete Sherlock Holmes – the Canon is an essential part of any Holmes libary and this edition is a real bargain.

2. Dust and Shadow – my own account of the Ripper killings.

3. The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – stories that I’m not sure are really true!

4. Sherlock Holmes Handbook– a new edition of this essential handbook.

5.Eliminate the Impossible: An Examination of the World of Sherlock Holmes on Page and Screen – a fascinating examination of Holmes’ world from the author soon to bring us a book about my literary agent’s time in Norwood.

6.The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Volume 1 and Volume 2 – Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce radio shows. Witty, fast-paced, and always surprising, these great radio plays are as fresh as when they first premiered and feature perfect sound.

7. Sherlock Holmes’s London – a recreation of the London Holmes and I know.

8. Sherlock Holmes Calendar 2010 – how could you manage without this?

9. Sherlock Holmes: The Unauthorized Biography – pure guesswork of course!

10.Sherlock Holmes Handbook: Methods and Mysteries of the World’s Greatest Detective – seems as though this gives the whole game away!

This is only the start of what promises to be a bumper year of Holmes books and other paraphernalia as the Sherlock Holmes film creates a renewed interest in the world’s first consulting detective. There’s even going to be a Sherlock Holmes for Dummies!

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