Posts Tagged ‘Sherlock Holmes Society of London’

The Norwood Author

Alistair Duncan kindly sent me an advance copy of his third Holmesian book (or maybe this is really his first Doylean book) entitled “The Norwood Author” which covers the four years when my literary agent, Arthur Conan Doyle, lived in South Norwood, a suburb of London.

Alistair’s first book “Eliminate the Impossible” has been described as “a frank, fascinating and sometimes controversial review” of the Canon on page and screen. This was followed with one of the most popular books on Holmes “Close To Holmes” which reviews the places across London featured in the Sherlock Holmes stories and dear to Arthur Conan Doyle too. Anyone visiting London with a fascination for Holmes will find this book a valuable guide to the metropolis.

He has written on the flyleaf of the copy of his new book that he sent me an appropriate quotation from “The Empty House” to the effect that it “could fill that gap on the second shelf”. This quotation is appropriate for several reasons. Firstly, the story that immediately follows “The Empty House” in “The Return of Sherlock Holmesis “The Norwood Builder”.

Secondly, it was whilst Conan Doyle was living in South Norwood that the story of Holmes apparent demise came to the knowledge of the public in “The Final Problem” which is included in “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes“. Holmes returned in “The Empty House” to dramatic effect shortly after quoting those words above and causing me to faint with the shock!

Finally, the quotation is apposite to the book itself because it does fill a gap in our knowledge of the life of Conan Doyle. As Alistair points out, Arthur’s autobiography “Memories and Adventures” is often at odds with what we know from his letters (as can be seen in “Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters” and from other biographers (including Russell Miller and Andrew Lycett).

Taking each year in turn, Alistair chronicles Arthur’s activities, and paints a clear picture of the environs nicely supported by contemporary pictures. He brings Arthur’s life “to life”.

We read about Arthur’s membership of the Norwood Cricket Club and the turbulent proceedings of the Upper Norwood Literary and Scientific Society as he begins to develop his interest in psychic research.

During these years, Arthur and Louise’s first son was born, Arthur’s father died and Louise was diagnosed with tuberculosis. However it was a busy and successful time from a literary point of view. A third of Holmes’ cases were published around this time culminating in the sadness of  “The Final Problem”. Some of Arthur’s most interesting work was also published, including “The Stark Munro Letters” and “The Refugees“.

At the end of the book, Alistair points out some interesting “coincidences” in South Norwood. There is a Doyle Road, a Baskerville Court and a Priory School!

Finally we learn about Alistair’s own contribution to the literary heritage of South Norwood – a Conan Doyle display in the William Stanley public house. The next time I’m down that way I will call in for a half in memory of Arthur. Norwood, Upper Norwood in fact, has personal memories too of my first wife, Mary, as I recounted in “The Sign of Four“.

The Sherlock Holmes Society of London

The Sherlock Holmes Society of London was founded in 1951 as a result of the work to create a Sherlock Holmes exhibit for the Festival of Britain.

The Society is open to all comers – all that is required is an interest in Sherlock Holmes and his world.

The minimum age for full membership is 16 but associate membership is open to all. Full members receive the twice-yearly Journal and notices of Society meetings and other events, and have the right to attend these meetings. Associate membership would suit those unable to attend the meetings but who would still like to receive the Journal. Associate membership for the UK costs £13 a year and Full membership £16 – good value if you consider the Journal alone.

There is a free newsletter, available to members and non-members, published monthly called “The District Messenger“. The newletter principally covers media in Holmes’s world – film, television, audio and books.

Of course there’s a shop where you can buy all manner of useful items!

There’s a section covering films, television and radio with a set of downloadable plays by the Old Court Radio Theatre Company.

The Society, along with the Abbey National Building Society (as it was then called) commissioned the sculptor, John Doubleday, to create a bronze statue to stand at the entrance to Baker Street Tube Station. The statue, see the picture above, was unveiled on 23 September 1999.

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.

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