Posts Tagged ‘Annotated Sherlock Holmes’

The Official Papers Into The Matter Known As – “The Hound of the Baskervilles”

Over Christmas I amassed a pile of books to review and one of these is this set of official documents, published by MX Publishing on behalf of Detective Inspector Kieron Freeburn (retd.) of New Scotland Yard. Freeburn discovered a dusty folio at an auction in Exeter. As a result of his examination of the contents he believes that they are the original police case files that detail the investigation by Scotland Yard  represented by our good friend, Inspector Lestrade and various members of the Devon County Constabulary into the story that I recalled under the title “The Hound of the Baskervilles”.

This is the first time I have seen the witness statements, medical files and original police reports that chronicle the police view of the case covering the death of Sir Charles Baskerville, the killing of the hound and the tragic aftermath.

At the outset, I must state that I have not seen the original documents although I understand that the publishers have received a request from the USA to purchase the originals. The set I have been provided with (which you can obtain for yourselves here) are facsimilies of the originals which are said to be in a delicate condition. The author, possibly on the advice of the publisher, has decided to type up many of the documents in a copperplate script to make them easier to reproduce and read than the original handwritten and typed versions.

However, there do appear to be some discrepancies between these documents and my own records of the case. I am, in this repect, grateful to Roger Johnson of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, pointing out to me that the post mortem report on Sir Charles gives Sir Henry’s name; Selden’s name changes from Arthur to Albert; Mrs Lyons is referred to as Miss Lyons, and Barrymore once refers to his wife as his sister! Some of these errors may have occurred in the transcription from the orginals. In the original publication of my version of the events in the Strand, the death of Sir Charles were stated as occurring at the beginning of May. This was later changed to June when the account was published in book form but the police records still refer to these events as occurring in May rather than June. The “tone” of some of the police reports has, I think, something to do with the resentment that the police felt about Holmes becoming involved in the investigation.

The Annotated Sherlock Holmes and the volume on The Hound of the Baskervilles from the Sherlock Holmes Reference Library are useful aids in checking the validity of these documents. My own view is that whilst they do not shed any further light on the events they do provide a useful background to Holmes’ investigation and an insight into the official police view at the time.

The letters were still legible [GLOR]

With one of the Baker Street Irregulars pointing out to me that my literary agent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, has been honoured by appearing on a set of Royal Mail stamps issued this week to celebrate Eminent Britons, I thought it a good idea to mention the set of Sherlock Holmes stamps issued by the Royal Mail in 1993.

This set of five stamps depicted five stories from the Canon: The Reigate Squire, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Six Napoleons, The Greek Interpreter and The Final Problem.

There is a little puzzle hidden within these stamps – my literary agent’s last name “DOYLE” is hidden, one letter on each stamp. Can you find them? To make it easier go to the Philatelic Sherlock Holmes where you’ll find a much larger set of images if you go to the detailed page.

What also may puzzle some people familiar with the stories is that the title of the story on the first stamp is given as “The Reigate Squire” (singular) when “The Reigate Squires” (plural) appears in some collections. The original title I gave it in the Strand was singular but some later collections changed it to the plural, which does make more sense I concede. In the United States, when it was first published, the title was changed to “The Reigate Puzzle”, possibly fearful that the term “squires” might offend (as William S Baring-Gould suggests in the Annotated Sherlock Holmes)

You will also find at the above website many other stamps relating to my good friends Holmes and Doyle.

Annotated Sherlock Holmes


When you’ve read the 60 stories in the Canon a few times, or maybe on the very first reading, you may start to wonder about some of the terms used, some of the places mentioned, some of the people involved and some of the quotations given.

For example, would you know what a “gasogene” [MAZA, SCAN] was, where the Grimpen Mire [HOUN] is, and who our landlady was (Mrs Hudson or was it Mrs Turner [SCAN]?)

Over the years several authors have studied the Canon in an attempt to explain, or unearth, the real meaning and the real people behind the stories and to explain some of the paraphenalia of Victorian England. They produced what are referred to as the “Annotated Sherlock Holmes”.

First of note was William Sabine Baring-Gould’s Annotated Sherlock Holmes. Originally in two volumes and later combined into a single volume, Baring-Gould organised the stories according to the dates during which the cases appeared to have taken place. As I have noted elsewhere, this isn’t always clear (sometimes for good reason) and Baring-Gould’s deductions are not always in agreement with other chronologies. Nevertheless he provides useful extra detail about each case.

My own personal favourite is The Oxford Sherlock Holmes, edited by Owen Dudley Edwards, which produces the stories in their more usual order of publication and in nine volumes. This set I have used so much that some of the pages are coming loose. Each volume is a very handy pocket size that makes them ideal for travelling. A paperback version has been published and I may soon need to replace my hardback version with this. Both the hardback and paperback sets will appear in my library opposite (listing them here would take up too much space).

Finally amongst these extended works is Leslie S Klinger’s Annotated Sherlock Holmes. It’s a set of three very large books (the first two covering the short stories and the third the novels) and condenses what had been written in his The Sherlock Holmes Reference Library where, much like The Oxford Sherlock Holmes, each of the nine volumes of the Canon (four novels and five volumes of short stories) are analysed. Although expensive, this Annotated Sherlock Holmes, like the Oxford Sherlock Holmes, is still in print. The Baring-Gould volumes are only available second hand.

There are also several encyclopedias, including The Sherlock Holmes Encyclopedia by Matthew Bunson, The Sherlock Holmes Encyclopedia by Orlando Park and, my favourite, The Ultimate Sherlock Holmes Encyclopedia by Jack Tracy (you may be able to find a previous version as The Encyclopedia Sherlockiana).

If you have trouble finding these books at your local second-hand bookshop, try my friend’s book shop at The Omnivorous Reader.

By the way, a gasogene is a device for producing soda, the predecessor of the soda syphon. It consisted of two glass spheres, one above the other. The lower one contained water and the upper one containing carbonate and acid. When water is introduced into the upper chamber, gas is produced which aerates the water in the lower chamber. It can then be drawn off and added to a drink.

The Grimpen Mire is on Dartmoor and, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes and I walked carefully along the path amongst its green scummed pits and foul quagmires where rank reeds and lush, slimy water-plants sent an odour of decay and a heavy miasmatic vapour into our faces, while a false step plunged us more thigh-deep into the dark, quivering mire, which shook for yards in soft undulations around our feet. Its tenacious grip plucked at our heels as we walked, and when we sank into it it was as if some malignant hand was tugging us down into those obscene depths, so grim and purposeful was the clutch in which it held us. Some believe this to be the area around Fox Tor.

Mrs Hudson occasionally went away for a few days and one of her friends would attend to our needs. That was the case on a couple of occasions, during A Scandal in Bohemia and maybe in The Empty House when Mrs Turner stood in for Mrs Hudson.

Pray be precise as to details [SPEC]

Holmes and Watson: A New Chronology of their Adventures by Vincent Delay published by the Sherlock Holmes Society of London in 2008 and translated from the French by Margaret Owens is a new chronology that goes back to my own accounts of Holmes’ cases.

As such, it is probably closer to being accurate, in many of the cases, than some of the more complex analyses of the Canon. Nevertheless I find it hard to deal objectively with the instances where he says I had got the date “manifestly wrong”! It is true that I did not always give the dates concerned, mainly because I was trying to disguise as many of the details of the case as I could to protect those who were innocently involved.

As well as deducing the dates of the cases that were fully recounted in the Canon, Vincent Delay has also tried to date the unpublished cases that I mentioned in these stories. he has even provided a “Gregorian Calendar for the Canonical centuries” that make it easy to determine what day of the week a particular date falls. I spent a whole afternoon checking my diaries against this calendar and I am astonished to find I may have made a few errors!

In one of the appendices he lists several other chronologies, few of which appear to be readily available.

Notable amongst these are:

A Sherlock Holmes Commentary by D Martin Dakin. This is only available second hand but it well-worth acquiring as a guide to the Canon. My copy is signed by the author. He would have been shocked if he had known who was asking for it to be signed when he cheekly quoted me from The Red-Headed League in writing on the flyleaf “I have even contributed to the literature on the subject” although I was referring to Holmes work on tattoo marks!

Holmes and Watson by June Thomson. This has just been reissued and is certainly worth reading as in one of the appendices her deductions about the true location of 221B Baker Street and the real reason behind the existence (or otherwise!) of a bow window are pretty close to the mark.

He does not mention William S Baring-Gould’s The Annotated Sherlock Holmes which again is only available second-hand. This, annoyingly to some people, tells the adventures in what he believes to be their chronological order.

Nor does he mention Leslie S Klinger’s The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes (Volumes I and II) covering the short stories and Volume III covering the novels. There is a chronology entitled “The Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes at the end of Volume I and Volume III.

I will return to these annotated versions of the Canon at a later date when I consider them alongside the excellent Oxford Sherlock Holmes – now available in paperback.

RSS Feed