|Author||Arthur Conan Doyle|
|Cover artist||Alfred Garth Jones|
|Genre||Detective fiction, Gothic fiction|
|Publisher||George Newnes Ltd|
|25 March 1902|
|Preceded by||The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes|
|Followed by||The Return of Sherlock Holmes|
|Text||The Hound of the Baskervilles at Wikisource|
The Hound of the Baskervilles is the third of the four crime novels by British writer Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes. Originally serialised in The Strand Magazine from August 1901 to April 1902, it is set in 1889 largely on Dartmoor in Devon in England's West Country and tells the story of Holmes and Watson investigating the case of the legend of a fearsome, diabolical hound of supernatural origin. This was the first appearance of Holmes since his apparent death in "The Final Problem", and the success of The Hound of the Baskervilles led to the character's eventual revival.
One of the most famous stories ever written, 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, a poll of "Sherlockians" ranked it as the best of the four Holmes novels.
In London, Dr James Mortimer asks for the aid of Sherlock Holmes. He recounts the legend of a curse that has run in the Baskerville family since the time of the English Civil War, when Sir Hugo Baskerville kidnapped a farmer's daughter. When the girl escaped, Hugo made a deal with the devil and pursued her. Hugo's companions found the girl dead of fear and Hugo killed by a demonic hound, which has haunted Dartmoor ever since, causing the premature death of many Baskerville heirs. Mortimer says that his friend Sir Charles Baskerville, who took the legend seriously, was found dead in the yew alley of his estate, Baskerville Hall, on Dartmoor. A locally noted philanthropist, Sir Charles had retired to his family estate in 1887 after some years in South Africa, where he had made a fortune through shrewd investments. His death was attributed to a heart attack, but his face had an expression of horror, and not far from his body were the footprints of a gigantic hound.
As the executor of Sir Charles's will, Mortimer fears for the new Baskerville baronet, Sir Henry Baskerville, the nephew of Sir Charles. Sir Charles had been the eldest of three Baskerville brothers; after Sir Henry, there were no further immediate heirs to the title and estate. Sir Charles's youngest brother, Rodger, who had led a scandalous life in England, had fled to Central America, where he had died of yellow fever in 1876, apparently unmarried and childless. Though he dismisses the curse as nonsense. Holmes agrees to meet Sir Henry, who is arriving soon from Canada, sceptical of the legend and eager to take possession of Baskerville Hall in spite of receiving an anonymous note warning him to stay away from the moor; Holmes also witnesses someone following Sir Henry. Later, Mortimer reveals that Sir Henry had inherited a vast fortune from his late uncle - £740,000 (equivalent to £87,016,345 in 2021). Realising this provides a strong motive for anyone trying to do Sir Henry harm, Holmes asks Watson to go with Sir Henry and Mortimer, in order to protect the baronet and investigate who is following him.
The trio arrive at Baskerville Hall where a married couple, the Barrymores, are butler and housekeeper. The estate is near the Grimpen Mire, where anyone can sink to their death. Meanwhile, convicted murderer Selden has escaped from Dartmoor Prison and is hiding on the moor. During their first night, Sir Henry and Watson hear the sound of a woman crying. In the daylight, they explore the neighbourhood and meet its residents; Watson sends details of his investigations to Holmes. Among the residents, the Stapletons, brother and sister, stand out: Jack is overfriendly and curious about the newcomers, while Beryl seems weary of the place and attempts to warn Sir Henry of danger. Distant howls start troubling Watson. He grows suspicious of Barrymore, who signals at night with a candle to someone on the moor. Sir Henry is drawn to Beryl despite her brother's attitude to any relationship. Meanwhile Frankland, an old and grumpy neighbour, likes to spy on others with his telescope and sees ancient tombs have been excavated by Mortimer. Watson and Sir Henry investigate the Barrymores and find that Selden is Mrs Barrymore's brother. During an unsuccessful attempt to catch Selden, Watson sees an unknown man standing on a tor. They learn from Barrymore that Frankland's estranged daughter Laura has unclear ties to Sir Charles.
Watson investigates the man on the tor and discovers that it is Holmes, who explains that he came secretly to the moor to hide his direct involvement. Holmes explains that he is close to solving the mystery. He explains that Stapleton is the suspect and that Beryl is actually Stapleton's wife, abused and forced into posing as his sister so as to influence Sir Henry and expose him to the hound. The hound kills a man on the moor whom Holmes and Watson fear is Sir Henry, but turns out to be Selden. Barrymore had given him Sir Henry's discarded clothes. Holmes decides to use Baskerville as bait to catch Stapleton. While dining with Sir Henry and Watson, Holmes suddenly notices a portrait of Sir Hugo Baskerville and recognises a family resemblance to Stapleton. He tells Sir Henry to accept an invitation to Stapleton's house and walk back after dark, giving his enemy every chance to unleash the hound.
Holmes and Watson pretend to leave Dartmoor by train but instead hide near Stapleton's house with Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard. Despite thick fog, Holmes and Watson manage to kill the hound when it attacks Sir Henry. They find Beryl tied up in Stapleton's house, while Stapleton himself, in his flight from the scene, seemingly drowns in the mire. Back in London, following a visit from Sir Henry and Dr. Mortimer, who leave on a trip around the world to help improve Sir Henry's nerves, Holmes explains to Watson that Stapleton was none other than Sir Henry's cousin, Rodger Baskerville, the only son of his namesake father who had died in 1876, and who had been hoping to inherit the family estate. A physical and spiritual throwback to Sir Hugo Baskerville, he had intended to kill his relations with a vicious hound painted with phosphorus to appear sinister. He had promised Laura marriage and convinced her to lure Sir Charles out of his house at night, in order to frighten him with the animal; the superstitious Sir Charles suffered a heart attack. Holmes remarks to Watson that Stapleton had been one of the most formidable foes they had ever encountered.
Origins and background
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote this story shortly after returning to his home, Undershaw in Surrey, from South Africa, where he had worked as a volunteer physician at the Langman Field Hospital in Bloemfontein during the Second Boer War. He 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 brought Holmes back for good, explaining in "The Adventure of the Empty House" that Holmes had faked his own death. As a result, the character of Holmes occupies a liminal space between being alive and dead which further lends to the gothic elements of the novel.
He was assisted with the legend of the hound and local colour by a Daily Express journalist named Bertram Fletcher Robinson (1870–1907), with whom he explored Dartmoor in June, 1901; Robinson received a 1⁄3 royalty payment that amounted to over 500 pounds by the end of 1901.
Conan Doyle may also have been inspired by his own earlier story (written and published in 1898) of a terrifying giant wolf, "The King of the Foxes".
His ideas came from the legend of Squire Richard Cabell of Brook Hall, in the parish of Buckfastleigh, Devon, which was the fundamental inspiration for the Baskerville tale of a hellish hound and a cursed country squire. Cabell's tomb survives in the town of Buckfastleigh.
Cabell lived for hunting, and was what in those days was described as a "monstrously evil man". He gained this reputation, amongst other things, for immorality and having sold his soul to the Devil. There was also a rumour that he had murdered his wife, Elizabeth Fowell, a daughter of Sir Edmund Fowell, 1st Baronet (1593–1674), of Fowelscombe. On 5 July 1677, he died and was buried in the sepulchre. The night of his interment saw a phantom pack of hounds come baying across the moor to howl at his tomb. From that night on, 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. To try 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.
Weller (2002) believes that Baskerville Hall is based on one of three possible houses on or near Dartmoor: Fowelscombe in the parish of Ugborough, the seat of the Fowell Baronets; Hayford Hall, near Buckfastleigh (also owned by John King (d.1861) of Fowelscombe) and Brook Hall, in the parish of Buckfastleigh, about two miles east of Hayford, the actual home of Richard Cabell. It has also been claimed that Baskerville Hall is based on a property in Mid 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 19th 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.
Still other tales claim that Conan Doyle was inspired by a holiday in North Norfolk, where the tale of Black Shuck is well known. The pre-Gothic Cromer Hall, where Conan Doyle stayed, also closely resembles Doyle's vivid descriptions of Baskerville Hall.
James Lynam Molloy, a friend of Doyle's, and author of "Love's Old Sweet Song", married Florence Baskerville, daughter of Henry Baskerville of Crowsley Park, Oxfordshire. The gates to the park had statues of hell hounds, spears through their mouths. Above the lintel there was another statue of a hell hound.
The novel incorporates five plots: the ostensible 'curse' story, the two red-herring subplots 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. The structure of the novel starting and ending in the familiar setting in London is used to ‘delimit the uncanny world associated with the Gothic landscape of the moors’, with varying degrees of success. 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.
The Hound of the Baskervilles was first serialised 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 United Kingdom as a novel in March 1902 by George Newnes Ltd. It was published in the same year in the United States by McClure, Philips & Co.
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 in window displays by individual booksellers. Out of an estimated 185–190 leaves, only 37 are known still to 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.
The Hound of the Baskervilles has been adapted in various forms of media.
Film and television adaptations
Over 20 film and television versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles have been made.
Edith Meiser adapted the novel as six episodes of the radio series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The episodes aired in February and March 1932, with Richard Gordon as Sherlock Holmes and Leigh Lovell as Dr. Watson. Another dramatisation of the story aired in November and December 1936, with Gordon as Holmes and Harry West as Watson.
The story was also adapted by Meiser as six episodes of The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Watson. The episodes aired in January and February 1941.
A dramatisation of the novel by Felix Felton aired on the BBC Light Programme in 1958 as part of the 1952–1969 radio series, with Carleton Hobbs as Sherlock Holmes and Norman Shelley as Dr. Watson. A different production of The Hound of the Baskervilles, also adapted by Felton and starring Hobbs and Shelley with a different supporting cast, aired in 1961 on the BBC Home Service.
The Hound of the Baskervilles has been adapted for radio for the BBC by Bert Coules on two occasions. The first starred Roger Rees as Holmes, Crawford Logan as Watson and Matt Zimmerman as Sir Henry and was broadcast in 1988 on BBC Radio 4. Following its good reception, Coules proposed further radio adaptations, which eventually led to the 1989–1998 radio series of dramatisations of the entire canon, starring Clive Merrison as Holmes and Michael Williams as Watson. The second adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, featuring this pairing, was broadcast in 1998, and also featured Judi Dench as Mrs. Hudson and Donald Sinden as Sir Charles Baskerville.
The Hound of the Baskervilles was adapted as three episodes of the American radio series The Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, with John Patrick Lowrie as Holmes and Lawrence Albert as Watson. The episodes first aired in March 2008.
In 2014, L.A. Theatre Works released their production, starring Seamus Dever as Holmes, Geoffrey Arend as Watson, James Marsters as Sir Henry, Sarah Drew as Beryl Stapleton, Wilson Bethel as Stapleton, Henri Lubatti as Dr. Mortimer, Christopher Neame as Sir Charles and Frankland, Moira Quirk as Mrs. Hudson & Mrs. Barrymore, and Darren Richardson as Barrymore.
In 2020, Lions Den Theatre released a new adaptation of the novel written and directed by Keith Morrison on the company's YouTube channel. An early version of the play was performed in various locations around Nova Scotia in 2018.
In 2022, The Hound of the Baskervilles was adapted and conducted as a "concert drama" by Neil Brand, with the music directed by Timothy Brock, and performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Mark Gatiss and Sanjeev Bhaskar played Holmes and Watson, respectively. The production was recorded at the Barbican Hall on December 20, and was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on January 22, 2023.
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 Steven Canny, the production involves only three actors and was praised by critics for its physical comedy. Following a U.K. 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.
Stage performances have also been performed in the U.K. in dramatisations by Joan Knight, Claire Malcolmson, Harry Meacher, and Roger Sansom, among others. Meacher's version has been produced three times, each time with himself the actor playing Holmes.
Ken Ludwig authored an adaptation entitled Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery which premiered as a co-production at Arena Stage (Washington, D.C.) in January 2015 and McCarter Theatre Center in March 2015.
In 2021 an adaption for the stage by Steven Canny and John Nicholson for Peepolykus, directed by Tim Jackson & Lotte Wakeman toured the UK produced by Original Theatre Company and Bolton's Octagon Theatre. It was a continuation the adaptation that was directed by Lotte Wakeman for English Theatre, Frankfurt, Jermyn St Theatre and Octagon, Bolton.
The Hound of the Baskervilles is utilised in the final case in The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures in which the protagonist teams up with Herlock Sholmes (Sherlock Holmes in the original Japanese version) to investigate mysteries based on various entries in the Holmes chronology. In particular, the manuscript of The Hound of the Baskervilles is a key part of the case.
Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles is a casual game by Frogwares. It departs from the original plot by introducing clear supernatural elements. Despite its non-canonical plot, it received good reviews.
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