Remembering the Hound of the Baskervilles

Julian Symons was once an English Trotskyite wannabe, then war combattant, and then prolific crime story writer.  He also wrote a definitive criticque of the crime novel

Symons’s 1972 book Bloody Murder: From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel (published as Mortal Consequences in the US) is one of the best-known critical works in the field of crime fiction. Revised editions were published in 1985 and 1992. Symons highlighted the distinction between the classic puzzler mystery, associated with such writers as Agatha Christie and John Dickson Carr, and the more modern “crime novel,” which puts emphasis on psychology and motivation.

He also wrote the introduction for the Folio Edition of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” that came out in 1987. His introduction starts off this way

It was in December1893 that readers of The Strand Magazine read with delight but dismay, “The Adventure of the Final Problem”, the dismay springing from the fact that the story saw the apparent death of Sherlock Holmes. The sound of public protest was loud and did not, as Doylke had expected, fade away, but instead became of Wagnerian power. Newspapers, editorials, pleas from Conan Doyle’s mother and from friends, were joined to thousands of letters like one from ‘three ardent admirers’ in Baltimore urging the author ro ‘favour us with another one of your works on the famous detective Sherlock Holmes’. After several years Conan Doyle gave way and wrote “The Hound of the Baskervilles“, although he made it clear that this was an early adventure. Later, he accepted Holmes’s immortality , brought him back from the Reichenbach Falls, and published another novel and three collections of short stories.

Doyle apparently heard of the legend of a spectral hound from his friend, Fletcher Robinson. The two had met in South Africa during the Boer War.  According to Symons, The Hound of the Baskervilles is the most successful the Holmes novels. It is also my favorite. Why?  I think it is because of the hero – Sir Henry Baskerville.  A brave young man wanting to do the right thing with his inheritance.

The story starts off this way

Mr. Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the mornings, save upon those not infrequent occasions when he stayed up all night, was seated at the breakfast table.  I stood upon the hearthrug and picked up the stick that our visiitor had left behind him the neight before.

And so the adventure begins.

BTW, this particular edition includes illustrations by Edward Bawden.

Here is a sample from Dawdwn

Image result for Edward Bawden Hound

I rather like it!

Bawden was much admired by Edward Gorey, whose work you may have seen on TV. Gorey’s work looks like this

Image result for Edward Gorey

The charming creepiness of it all!


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