The Man Who “Bested” Sherlock Holmes

I am indebted to Matthias Bostrom, who, via his writings, drew my attention to the problem of an early pastiche of a Sherlock Holmes story.

Many have assumed that Sir Arthur’s close friend, J M Barrie, produced the first “parody” of a Holmes story, but Charles Press, in his book “Parodies and Pastiches Buzzing ‘Round Sir Arthur Conan Doyle” mentioned “The Man Who ‘Bested’ Sherlock Holmes” as having been first published in Tit Bits on October 27th 1894. The story is included in John Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green’s book “My Evening with Sherlock Holmes”.

Mr Bostrom had managed to find an earlier publication of the same story in a Northern provincial newspaper. That paper was the “Express and Advertiser” which is now known as the “Burnley Express”.Burnex

This itself is a remarkable coincidence, as my Literary Agent hails from the very same town! So I set him the task of tracking down the paper, published in December 1892, and obtaining a copy of the story for my library. It has taken him a while but I now have a copy of the story.

The newspaper boasts about “Our Almanac and Special Christmas Number”, saying that “Next Saturday every purchaser of the Express will be presented with a splendid local almanac, produced regardless of cost. It will be printed on excellent toned and specially-prepared paper, in two colours, and will be embellished with excellent portraits of Sir John and Lady Thursby with a capital view of Ormerod House.”

Sir John Thursby was well-known to people in Burnley and gives his name to a college in the town.

The paper goes on to say that “the almanac will contain a vast amount of useful local and district information, and will prove the best ever presented by any paper in North – East Lancashire. Next Saturday’s Express will contain, in addition to the fullest local and district news and the regular features, the following entertaining Christmas reading :—

“Owd Nick and Scotch Snuff,” a laughable Lancashire Sketch by the Editor of Ben Brierley’s Journal,

“A Pendle Forest Christmastide Story of the Forty-Five” by Henry Kerr.

and “The Man Who Bested Sherlock Holmes” by Joseph Baron.

The paper also says that “Dr. Conan Doyle has gone through the manuscript of this story, and emphatically pronounced it “good”.

Well, see what you think . . .The Man Who Bested Sherlock Holmes

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