A few last words upon Dr. Conan Doyle's most recent work, "The Hound of the Baskervilles," which is now being issued as a book, after having run as a serial in England and in America.
There has been a grave controversy in several papers as to the literary ethics of resuscitating a character who is dead. "It is not art," was the verdict. But, of course, these critics could not have read the story, for Holmes is not resuscitated. The whole action occurs years before his death. There is no reason why Watson should not have whole portfolios full of reminiscences of the deceased detective.
At the same time. Dr. Conan Doyle fully intended at the time that he wrote the last of the "Memoir" series that he would do no more such stories, and the lapse of six years with many very tempting literary offers failed to shake his resolution. He believed himself, rightly or wrongly, that his inferior was obscuring his better work, and that he should not permit himself to be tempted by money to write what his literary conscience disapproved. That was his ideal; but ideals are difficult things to preserve.
His falling away from it was brought about in this fashion. With his friend Mr. Fletcher Robinson he found himself at Cromer, where a long Sunday was spent together in friendly chat.
Robinson is a Devonshire man, and he mentioned in conversation some old county legend which set Doyle's imagination on fire. The two men began building up a chain of events, and in a very few hours the plot of a sensational story was conceived, and it was agreed that Doyle should write it. When he came to working out the details, he found, however, that some masterful central figure was needed, some strong man who would influence the whole course of events, and his natural reflection was: "Why should I invent such a character when I have him already in the form of Holmes?"
So Sherlock Holmes came back into the Strand Magazine, and the public has shown that during an absence of six years they have not entirely lost interest in him. — J. E. Hodder Williams, "Arthur Conan Doyle," THE BOOKMAN [U.K.] (April 1902)
Category: Detective fiction
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