The Hound of the Baskervilles
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Cover of the 1st edition
|Author||Arthur Conan Doyle|
|Cover artist||Alfred Garth Jones|
|Preceded by||The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes|
|Followed by||The Return of Sherlock Holmes|
The Hound of the Baskervilles is the third of the crime novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes. Originally serialised in The Strand Magazine from August 1901 to April 1902, it is set largely on Dartmoor in Devon in England's West Country and tells the story of an attempted murder inspired by the legend of a fearsome, diabolical hound of supernatural origin. Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr. Watson investigate the case. This was the first appearance of Holmes since his intended death in "The Final Problem", and the success of The Hound of the Baskervilles led to the character's eventual revival.
In 2003, the book was listed as number 128 of 200 on the BBC's The Big Read poll of the UK's "best-loved novel." In 1999, it was listed as the top Holmes novel, with a perfect rating from Sherlockian scholars of 100.
Dr. James Mortimer asks Sherlock Holmes to investigate the death of his friend, Sir Charles Baskerville. Sir Charles died at his Devonshire estate, Baskerville Hall, and Mortimer now fears for Sir Charles's nephew and sole heir, Sir Henry Baskerville. The death was attributed to a heart attack, but Mortimer is suspicious because Sir Charles died with an expression of horror on his face and Mortimer noticed "the footprints of a gigantic hound" nearby. The Baskerville family has supposedly been under a curse since the era of the English Civil War, when Hugo Baskerville offered his soul to the devil for help in abducting a woman and was reportedly killed by a giant spectral hound. Sir Charles believed in the curse and was apparently running away from something when he died.
Intrigued, Holmes meets with Sir Henry, newly arrived from Canada. Sir Henry has received an anonymous note warning him away from the moors, and one of his new boots is inexplicably missing from his London hotel room. The Baskerville family is discussed: Sir Charles was the eldest of three brothers; the youngest, black sheep Rodger, is believed to have died childless in South America, while Sir Henry is the only child of the middle brother. Sir Henry plans to go to Baskerville Hall, despite the note. Holmes and Dr. Watson follow him from Holmes's Baker Street apartment back to his hotel and notice a bearded man following him in a cab; they pursue the man, but he escapes. Mortimer tells them that Mr. Barrymore, the servant at Baskerville Hall, has a beard. Sir Henry's boot reappears, but an older one vanishes.
Holmes dispatches Watson to accompany Sir Henry to Baskerville Hall. They learn that an escaped murderer named Selden is believed to be in the area. Barrymore and his wife wish to leave the estate soon. Watson hears a woman crying in the night; it's obvious to him that it was Mrs. Barrymore, but her husband denies it. Watson has no proof that Barrymore was in Devon on the day of the chase in London. He meets a brother and sister who live nearby: Mr. Stapleton, a naturalist, and the beautiful Miss Stapleton. When an animalistic sound is heard, Stapleton is quick to dismiss it as unrelated to the legendary hound. When her brother is out of earshot, Miss Stapleton mistakes Watson for Sir Henry and warns him to leave. She and Sir Henry later meet and quickly fall in love, arousing Stapleton's anger; he later apologizes and invites Sir Henry to dine with him a few days later.
Barrymore arouses further suspicion when Watson and Sir Henry catch him at night with a candle in an empty room. Barrymore refuses to answer their questions, but Mrs. Barrymore confesses that Selden is her brother and her husband is signalling that they have left supplies for him. Watson and Sir Henry pursue Selden on the moor but he eludes them, while Watson notices another man on a nearby tor. After an agreement is reached to allow Selden to flee the country, Barrymore reveals the contents of an incompletely burnt letter asking Sir Charles to be at the gate at the time of his death. It was signed with the initials L.L.; on Mortimer's advice, Watson questions a Laura Lyons, who admits to writing the letter in hopes that Sir Charles would help finance her divorce, but says she didn't keep the appointment. Watson tracks the second man he saw in the area and discovers it to be Holmes, investigating independently in hopes of a faster resolution. Holmes reveals further information: Stapleton is actually married to the supposed Miss Stapleton, and he also promised marriage to Laura Lyons to get her cooperation. They hear a scream and discover the body of Selden, dead from a fall. They initially mistake him for Sir Henry, whose old clothes he was wearing.
At Baskerville Hall, Holmes notices a resemblance between Stapleton and a portrait of Hugo Baskerville. He realises that Stapleton could be an unknown Baskerville family member, seeking to claim the Baskerville wealth by eliminating his relatives. Accompanied by Inspector Lestrade, whom Holmes has summoned, Holmes and Watson travel to the Stapleton home, where Sir Henry is dining. They rescue him from a hound that Stapleton releases while Sir Henry is walking home across the moor. It had been painted with phosphorus to give it a hellish appearance. They find Mrs. Stapleton bound and gagged inside the house, while Stapleton apparently dies in an attempt to reach his hideout in a nearby mire. They also find Sir Henry's boot, used to give the hound his scent.
Weeks later, Holmes provides Watson with additional details about the case. Stapleton was in fact Rodger Baskerville's son, also named Rodger. His now-widow is a South American woman, the former Beryl Garcia. He supported himself through crime for many years, before learning that he could inherit a fortune by murdering his uncle and cousin. Stapleton had taken Sir Henry's old boot because the new and little-worn one lacked his scent; the hound had pursued Selden to his death because of the scent on Sir Henry's old clothes. Mrs. Stapleton had disavowed her husband's plot, so he imprisoned her to prevent her from interfering.
Origins and Background
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote this story shortly after returning to his home Undershaw from South Africa, where he had worked as a volunteer physician at the Langman Field Hospital in Bloemfontein at the time of the Second Boer War.
Conan Doyle had not written about Sherlock Holmes in eight years, having killed off the character in the 1893 story "The Final Problem". Although The Hound of the Baskervilles is set before the latter events, two years later Conan Doyle would bring Holmes back for good, explaining in "The Adventure of the Empty House" that Holmes had faked his own death.
He was assisted with the plot by a 30-year-old Daily Express journalist named Bertram Fletcher Robinson (1870–1907). His ideas came from the legend of Richard Cabell, which was the fundamental inspiration for the Baskerville tale of a hellish hound and a cursed country squire. Cabell's tomb can be seen in the Devon town of Buckfastleigh.
Squire Richard Cabell lived for hunting and was what in those days was described as a 'monstrously evil man'. He gained this reputation for, amongst other things, immorality and having sold his soul to the Devil. There was also a rumour that he had murdered his wife. On 5 July 1677, he died and was laid to rest in 'the sepulchre,' but that was only the beginning of the story. The night of his interment saw a phantom pack of hounds come baying across the moor to howl at his tomb. From that night onwards, he could be found leading the phantom pack across the moor, usually on the anniversary of his death. If the pack were not out hunting, they could be found ranging around his grave howling and shrieking. In an attempt to lay the soul to rest, the villagers built a large building around the tomb, and to be doubly sure a huge slab was placed .
Moreover, Devon's folklore includes tales of a fearsome supernatural dog known as the Yeth hound that Conan Doyle may have heard.
It has been claimed that Baskerville Hall is based on a property in North Wales, built in 1839 by one Thomas Mynors Baskerville. The house was formerly named Clyro Court and was renamed Baskerville Hall towards the end of the last century. Arthur Conan Doyle was apparently a family friend who often stayed there and may have been aware of a local legend of the hound of the Baskervilles.
In 1902, Doyle's original manuscript of the book was broken up into individual leaves as part of a promotional campaign by Doyle's American publisher - they were used as part of window displays by individual booksellers. Out of an estimated 185 leaves, only 36 are known to still exist, including all the leaves from Chapter 11, held by the New York Public Library. Other leaves are owned by university libraries and private collectors. A newly rediscovered example was sold at auction in 2012 for US$158,500.
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The novel utilises many traditional novelistic techniques which had been largely abandoned by the time of writing, such as letters, diary extracts, interpolated manuscripts, and the like, as seen in the works of Henry Fielding and, later, Wilkie Collins. It incorporates five plots: the ostensible 'curse' story; the two red-herring sub-plots concerning Selden and the other stranger living on the moor; the actual events occurring to Baskerville as narrated by Watson; and the hidden plot to be discovered by Holmes. Doyle wrote that the novel was originally conceived as a straight 'Victorian creeper' (as seen in the works of J. Sheridan Le Fanu), with the idea of introducing Holmes as the deus ex machina only arising later.
Publication of the Novel
The 'Hound of the Baskervilles' was first serialized in The Strand Magazine in 1901. It was well suited for this type of publication, as individual chapters end in cliffhangers. It was printed in the form of a novel the following year.
Sherlock Holmes – Sherlock Holmes is the famed 221B Baker Street detective with a keen eye, acute intelligence and a logical mind. He is observant and deduction personified, and although he takes a back seat to Watson for much of this particular adventure, we always feel his presence. In the end, it takes all of his crime-solving powers to identify an ingenious killer and save the life of his next intended victim, and solve the Baskerville mystery.
Dr John Watson – The novel's narrator, Watson is Holmes' stalwart assistant at Baker Street and the chronicler of his triumphs as a private investigator. He steps into Holmes' boots for a while, expressing his eagerness to impress his colleague by cracking this most baffling of cases before Holmes returns to the fray.
Sir Hugo Baskerville – The 17th-century Baskerville who spawned the legend of the family curse. It was because of his actions and his aristocratic excesses that he meets his end by a demonic hound, then letting the shadow of death to linger on the heads of other heir of his family.
Sir Charles Baskerville – The recently deceased owner of the Baskerville estates in Devon, Sir Charles was a superstitious bachelor in waning health. His enlightened plans to invest funds in the isolated district surrounding Baskerville Hall prompt his heir, Sir Henry, to want to move there and continue his uncle's good works.
Sir Henry Baskerville – The late Sir Charles's nephew and closest known relative, Henry Baskerville inherits the baronetcy.
Dr. James Mortimer – A physician and friend of the Baskervilles. He is the executor of Sir Charles's will. Dr. Mortimer continues to assist Holmes and Watson in their twin roles as investigators and bodyguards until the conclusion of the case.
Mr. Jack Stapleton – A bookish former schoolmaster, Stapleton chases butterflies on the moors and pursues antiquarian interests. This is an alias — he is the son of Rodger Baskerville, younger brother of Sir Charles Baskerville, and he is a literal and spiritual throwback to Sir Hugo Baskerville.
Miss Beryl Stapleton – Allegedly Stapleton's sister, this dusky beauty turns out to be his wife.
Mr. & Mrs. Barrymore – The long-standing domestic servants of the Baskervilles. Mrs Barrymore and her husband harbour a dark family secret which temporarily misleads Watson about what is happening out on the moors.
Laura Lyons – The attractive daughter of a local crank who disowned her when she married against his wishes. Subsequently abandoned by her husband, she turns to Stapleton and Sir Charles Baskerville for help, with fatal consequences for the latter.
Mr. Frankland - Laura's father. Frankland is a man who likes to sue, a sort of comic relief with a chip on his shoulder about every infringement on what he sees as his rights. Villainized due to his one-time harsh treatment of Laura, Frankland is for the most part a laughable jester in the context of this story.
Selden – A dangerous criminal hiding from the police on the moors. He happened to be Mrs. Barrymore's brother and she supplied him with food and clothes. Unfortunately he gets killed by the Hound as he was dressed in Sir Henry's cloth.
The Hound of the Baskervilles has been adapted for stage, radio, film, and television.
In 2007, Peepolykus Theatre Company premiered a new adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles at West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds. Adapted by John Nicholson and Steve Canny, the production involves only 3 actors and was praised by critics for its physical comedy. Following a UK tour, it transferred to the Duchess Theatre in London’s West End. The Daily Telegraph described it as a 'wonderfully delightful spoof', whilst The Sunday Times praised its 'mad hilarity that will make you feel quite sane'. This adaptation continues to be presented by both amateur and professional companies around the world.
Film and television adaptations
There have been over 20 film and television versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles.
- The 1941 movie The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp makes references to The Hound of the Baskervilles.
- In 1960 the Disney cartoonist Carl Barks made a parody of this story, The Hound of the Whiskervilles, starring Uncle Scrooge. A 1965 issue of Walt Disney's Comics and Stories (comic book) featured The Hound of Basketville, starring Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Gladstone Gander, and Pluto, as Sherlock Mouse, Doctor Goofy, Sir Gladstone Basketville, and the hound.
- Pierre Bayard's 2008 book Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong re-opens the case and, by careful re-examination of all the clues, clears the hound of all wrongdoing and argues that the actual murderer got away with the crime completely unsuspected by Holmes, countless readers of the book over the past century—and even, in a sense, the author himself.
- The Moor, a 1998 novel in Laurie R. King's series about Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell, uses the setting and various plot elements, with Holmes returning to Dartmoor on a later case.
- In 1997, Spike Milligan satirised the novel in his book, The Hound of the Baskervilles According to Spike Milligan, combining elements of the original novel with the Basil Rathbone serials.
- The hound of Baskerville also is a character in the anime\manga Hellsing
- In Richard L. Boyer's 1976 version of The Giant Rat of Sumatra, Stapleton reappears. It turns out that he did not sink into the mire, as Holmes and Watson had believed, but had escaped by another route, committing further crimes and vowing vengeance on Sherlock Holmes.
- "Facsimile of the 1st edition (1902)". S4ulanguages.com. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
- "BBC - The Big Read". BBC. April 2003, Retrieved 31 October 2012
- "The Best Sherlock Holmes Stories". Bestofsherlock.com. Retrieved 2014-06-23.
- Spiring, Paul (2007). "Hugo Baskerville & Squire Richard Cabell III". BFROnline. Retrieved 29 March 2009.
- "Cabell Tomb — Buckfastleigh". Devon Guide. 2007. Retrieved 29 March 2009.
- "Legendary Dartmoor". 22 November 2007. Retrieved 29 March 2009.
- "Mansion said to have inspired The Hound of the Baskervilles on sale for £3m". Wales Online.
- Stock, Randall (June 10, 2013). "The Hound of the Baskervilles: A Manuscript Census". bestofsherlock.com. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
- "DOYLE, Sir Arthur Conan (1859-1930). Autograph manuscript leaf from The Hound of the Baskervilles, first serialized in The Strand Magazine, August 1901-April 1902, published in book form by George Newnes, on 25 March 1902.". Christies. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
- "Publication of the Hound of the Baskervilles". History Today.
- "Licencing, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Peepolykus Theatre Company". Peepolykus.com. Retrieved 2014-10-28.
- Bees Saal Baad (1962 film)
- Hemendra Kumar Roy#Creative years
- Chatterjee, ed. board Gulzar, Govind Nihalani, Saibal (2003). Encyclopaedia of Hindi cinema. New Delhi: Encyclopaedia Britannica. p. 659. ISBN 978-81-7991-066-5.
- The episode is based on "The Adventure of the Dancing Men" also.
- Uncle Scrooge #29, Dell, 1960.
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- Read The Hound of the Baskervilles at Sir Arthur Conan Doyle–His Life, All His Works and More
- The Hound of the Baskervilles at Project Gutenberg
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (Part I) at BFRonline.biz.
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (Part II) at BFRonline.biz.
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (Conclusion) at BFRonline.biz.
- The Hound of the Baskervilles public domain audiobook at LibriVox