The Red Headed League

Mr. Jabez Wilson

I had called upon my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, one day in the autumn of last year, and found him in deep conversation with a very stout, florid-faced, elderly gentleman, with fiery red hair. With an apology for my intrusion, I was about to withdraw, when Holmes pulled me abruptly into the room, and closed the door behind me.

“You could not possibly have come at a better time, my dear Watson,” he said cordially.

“I was afraid that you were engaged.”

“So I am. Very much so.”

“Then I can wait in the next room.”

Mr. Jabez Wilson

“Not at all. This gentleman, Mr. Wilson, has been my partner and helper in many of my most successful cases, and I have no doubt that he will be of the utmost use to me in yours also.”

The stout gentleman half rose from his chair, and gave a bob of greeting, with a quick little questioning glance from his small, fat-encircled eyes.

“Try the settee,” said Holmes, relapsing into his armchair and putting his fingertips together, as was his custom when in judicial moods. “I know, my dear Watson, that you share my love of all that is bizarre and outside the conventions and humdrum routine of every-day life. You have shown your relish for it by the enthusiasm which has prompted you to chronicle, and, if you will excuse my saying so, somewhat to embellish so many of my own little adventures.”

“Your cases have indeed been of the greatest interest to me,” I observed.

“You will remember that I remarked the other day, just before we went into the very simple problem presented by Miss Mary Sutherland, that for strange effects and extraordinary combinations we must go to life itself, which is always far more daring than any effort of the imagination.”

“A proposition which I took the liberty of doubting.”

“You did, Doctor, but none the less you must come round to my view, for otherwise I shall keep on piling fact upon fact on you, until your reason breaks down under them and acknowledges me to be right. Now, Mr. Jabez Wilson here has been good enough to call upon me this morning, and to begin a narrative which promises to be one of the most singular which I have listened to for some time. You have heard me remark that the strangest and most unique things are very often connected not with the larger but with the smaller crimes, and occasionally, indeed, where there is room for doubt whether any positive crime has been committed. As far as I have heard it is impossible for me to say whether the present case is an instance of crime or not, but the course of events is certainly among the most singular that I have ever listened to. Perhaps, Mr. Wilson, you would have the great kindness to recommence your narrative. I ask you, not merely because my friend Dr. Watson has not heard the opening part, but also because the peculiar nature of the story makes me anxious to have every possible detail from your lips. As a rule, when I have heard some slight indication of the course of events, I am able to guide myself by the thousands of other similar cases which occur to my memory. In the present instance I am forced to admit that the facts are, to the best of my belief, unique.”

The portly client puffed out his chest with an appearance of some little pride, and pulled a dirty and wrinkled newspaper from the inside pocket of his greatcoat. As he glanced down the advertisement column, with his head thrust forward, and the paper flattened out upon his knee, I took a good look at the man, and endeavoured, after the fashion of my companion, to read the indications which might be presented by his dress or appearance.

I did not gain very much, however, by my inspection. Our visitor bore every mark of being an average commonplace British tradesman, obese, pompous, and slow. He wore rather baggy gray shepherd’s check trousers, a not overclean black frockcoat, unbuttoned in the front, and a drab waistcoat with a heavy brassy Albert chain, and a square pierced bit of metal dangling down as an ornament. A frayed top hat and a faded brown overcoat with a wrinkled velvet collar lay upon a chair beside him. Altogether, look as I would, there was nothing remarkable about the man save his blazing red head, and the expression of extreme chagrin and discontent upon his features.

Sherlock Holmes’s quick eye took in my occupation, and he shook his head with a smile as he noticed my questioning glances. “Beyond the obvious facts that he has at some time done manual labour, that he takes snuff, that he is a Freemason, that he has been in China, and that he has done a considerable amount of writing lately, I can deduce nothing else.”

Mr. Jabez Wilson started up in his chair, with his forefinger upon the paper, but his eyes upon my companion.

“How, in the name of good fortune, did you know all that, Mr. Holmes?” he asked. “How did you know, for example, that I did manual labour? It’s as true as gospel, for I began as a ship’s carpenter.”

“Your hands, my dear sir. Your right hand is quite a size larger than your left. You have worked with it, and the muscles are more developed.”

“Well, the snuff, then, and the Freemasonry?”

“I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you how I read that, especially as, rather against the strict rules of your order, you use an arc-and-compass breastpin.”

“Ah, of course, I forgot that. But the writing?”

“What else can be indicated by that right cuff so very shiny for five inches, and the left one with the smooth patch near the elbow where you rest it upon the desk?”

“Well, but China?”

“The fish which you have tattooed immediately above your right wrist could only have been done in China. I have made a small study of tattoo marks and have even contributed to the literature of the subject. That trick of staining the fishes’ scales of a delicate pink is quite peculiar to China. When, in addition, I see a Chinese coin hanging from your watch-chain, the matter becomes even more simple.”

Mr. Jabez Wilson laughed heavily. “Well, I never!” said he, ” I thought at first that you had done something clever, but I see that there was nothing in it, after all.”

“I begin to think, Watson,” said Holmes, “that I make a mistake in explaining. ‘Omne ignotum pro magnifico,’ you know, and my poor little reputation, such as it is, will suffer shipwreck if I am so candid. Can you not find the advertisement, Mr. Wilson?”

“Yes, I have got it now,” he answered with his thick, red finger planted half-way down the column. “Here it is. This is what began it all. You just read it for yourself, sir.”

I took the paper from him and read as follows:–

“TO THE RED-HEADED LEAGUE. On account of the bequest of the late Ezekiah Hopkins, of Lebanon, Penn., U. S. A., there is now another vacancy open which entitles a member of the League to a salary of 4 pounds a week for purely nominal services. All red-headed men who are sound in body and mind, and above the age of twenty-one years, are eligible. Apply in person on Monday, at eleven o’clock, to Duncan Ross, at the offices of the League, 7, Pope’s-court, Fleet Street.”

“What on earth does this mean?” I ejaculated, after I had twice read over the extraordinary announcement.

Holmes chuckled, and wriggled in his chair, as was his habit when in high spirits. “It is a little off the beaten track, isn’t it?” said he. “And now, Mr. Wilson, off you go at scratch and tell us all about yourself, your household, and the effect which this advertisement had upon your fortunes. You will first make a note, Doctor, of the paper and the date.”

“It is The Morning Chronicle, of April 27, 1890. Just two months ago.”

“Very good. Now, Mr. Wilson?”

“Well, it is just as I have been telling you, Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” said Jabez Wilson, mopping his forehead, “I have a small pawnbroker’s business at Coburg-square, near the City. It’s not a very large affair, and of late years it has not done more than just give me a living. I used to be able to keep two assistants, but now I only keep one; and I would have a job to pay him but that he is willing to come for half wages so as to learn the business.”

“What is the name of this obliging youth?” asked Sherlock Holmes.

“His name is Vincent Spaulding, and he’s not such a youth, either. It’s hard to say his age. I should not wish a smarter assistant, Mr. Holmes; and I know very well that he could better himself and earn twice what I am able to give him. But, after all, if he is satisfied, why should I put ideas in his head?”

“Why, indeed? You seem most fortunate in having an employeé who comes under the full market price. It is not a common experience among employers in this age. I don’t know that your assistant is not as remarkable as your advertisement.”

“Oh, he has his faults, too,” said Mr. Wilson. “Never was such a fellow for photography. Snapping away with a camera when he ought to be improving his mind, and then diving down into the cellar like a rabbit into its hole to develop his pictures. That is his main fault, but on the whole he’s a good worker. There’s no vice in him.”

“He is still with you, I presume?”

“Yes, sir. He and a girl of fourteen, who does a bit of simple cooking and keeps the place clean — that’s all I have in the house, for I am a widower and never had any family. We live very quietly, sir, the three of us; and we keep a roof over our heads and pay our debts, if we do nothing more.

“The first thing that put us out was that advertisement. Spaulding, he came down into the office just this day eight weeks, with this very paper in his hand, and he says:–

” ‘I wish to the Lord, Mr. Wilson, that I was a red-headed man.’

” ‘Why that?’ I asks.

” ‘Why,’ says he, ‘here’s another vacancy on the League of the Red-headed Men. It’s worth quite a little fortune to any man who gets it, and I understand that there are more vacancies than there are men, so that the trustees are at their wits’ end what to do with the money. If my hair would only change colour, here’s a nice little crib all ready for me to step into.’

” ‘Why, what is it, then?’ I asked. You see, Mr. Holmes, I am a very stay-at-home man, and as my business came to me instead of my having to go to it, I was often weeks on end without putting my foot over the door-mat. In that way I didn’t know much of what was going on outside, and I was always glad of a bit of news.

” ‘Have you never heard of the League of the Red-headed Men?’ he asked, with his eyes open.

” ‘Never.’

” ‘Why, I wonder at that, for you are eligible yourself for one of the vacancies.’

” ‘And what are they worth?’ I asked.

” ‘Oh, merely a couple of hundred a year, but the work is slight, and it need not interfere very much with one’s other occupations.’

“Well, you can easily think that that made me prick up my ears, for the business has not been over-good for some years, and an extra couple of hundred would have been very handy.

| Next Page »

A Scandal in Bohemia

Then he stood before the fire

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise, but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen ; but, as a lover, he would have placed himself in a false position. He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. They were admirable things for the observer — excellent for drawing the veil from men’s motives and actions. But for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his mental results. Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.

I had seen little of Holmes lately. My marriage had drifted us away from each other. My own complete happiness, and the home-centred interests which rise up around the man who first finds himself master of his own establishment, were sufficient to absorb all my attention; while Holmes, who loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul, remained in our lodgings in Baker Street, buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature. He was still, as ever, deeply attracted by the study of crime, and occupied his immense faculties and extraordinary powers of observation in following out those clues, and clearing up those mysteries, which had been abandoned as hopeless by the official police. From time to time I heard some vague account of his doings : of his summons to Odessa in the case of the Trepoff murder, of his clearing up of the singular tragedy of the Atkinson brothers at Trincomalee, and finally of the mission which he had accomplished so delicately and successfully for the reigning family of Holland. Beyond these signs of his activity, however, which I merely shared with all the readers of the daily press, I knew little of my former friend and companion.

One night — it was on the 20th of March, 1888 — I was returning from a journey to a patient (for I had now returned to civil practice), when my way led me through Baker Street. As I passed the well-remembered door, which must always be associated in my mind with my wooing, and with the dark incidents of the Study in Scarlet, I was seized with a keen desire to see Holmes again, and to know how he was employing his extraordinary powers. His rooms were brilliantly lit, and, even as I looked up, I saw his tall, spare figure pass twice in a darksilhouette against the blind. He was pacing the room swiftly, eagerly, with his head sunk upon his chest and his hands clasped behind him. To me, who knew his every mood and habit, his attitude and manner told their own story. He was at work again. He had arisen out of his drug-created dreams and was hot upon the scent of some new problem. I rang the bell, and was shown up to the chamber which had formerly been in part my own.

Then he stood before the fire

His manner was not effusive. It seldom was; but he was glad, I think, to see me. With hardly a word spoken, but with a kindly eye, he waved me to an armchair, threw across his case of cigars, and indicated a spirit case and a gasogene in the corner. Then he stood before the fire, and looked me over in his singular introspective fashion.

“Wedlock suits you,” he remarked. “I think, Watson, that you have put on seven and a half pounds since I saw you.”

“Seven!” I answered.

“Indeed, I should have thought a little more. Just a trifle more, I fancy, Watson. And in practice again, I observe. You did not tell me that you intended to go into harness.”

“Then, how do you know?”

“I see it, I deduce it. How do I know that you have been getting yourself very wet lately, and that you have a most clumsy and careless servant girl?”

“My dear Holmes,” said I, “this is too much. You would certainly have been burned, had you lived a few centuries ago. It is true that I had a country walk on Thursday and came home in a dreadful mess; but as I have changed my clothes, I can’t imagine how you deduce it. As to Mary Jane, she is incorrigible, and my wife has given her notice; but there again I fail to see how you work it out.”

He chuckled to himself and rubbed his long nervous hands together.

“It is simplicity itself,” said he; “my eyes tell me that on the inside of your left shoe, just where the firelight strikes it, the leather is scored by six almost parallel cuts. Obviously they have been caused by someone who has very carelessly scraped round the edges of the sole in order to remove crusted mud from in . Hence, you see, my double deduction that you had been out in vile weather, and that you had a particularly malignant bot- slitting specimen of the London slavey. As to your practice, if a gentleman walks into my rooms smelling of iodoform, with a black mark of nitrate of silver upon his right fore-finger, and a bulge on the right side of his top-hat to show where he has secreted his stethoscope, I must be dull indeed, if I do not pronounce him to be an active member of the medical profession.”

I could not help laughing at the ease with which he explained his process of deduction. “When I hear you give your reasons,” I remarked, “the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled, until you explain your process. And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours.”

“Quite so,” he answered, lighting a cigarette, and throwing himself down into an armchair. “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room.”

“Frequently.”

“How often?”

“Well, some hundreds of times.”

“Then how many are there?”

“How many! I don’t know.”

“Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed. By the way, since you are interested in these little problems, and since you are good enough to chronicle one or two of my trifling experiences, you may be interested in this.” He threw over a sheet of thick pink-tinted note-paper which had been lying open upon the table. “It came by the last post,” said he. “Read it aloud.”

The note was undated, and without either signature or address.

“There will call upon you to-night, at a quarter to eight o’clock ,” it said, “a gentleman who desires to consult you upon a matter of the very deepest moment. Your recent services to one of the Royal Houses of Europe have shown that you are one who may safely be trusted with matters which are of an importance which can hardly be exaggerated. This account of you we have from all quarters received. Be in your chamber then at that hour, and do not take it amiss if your visitor wear a mask.”

“This is indeed a mystery,” I remarked. “What do you imagine that it means?”

“I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. But the note itself. What do you deduce from it?”

I carefully examined the writing, and the paper upon which it was written.

“The man who wrote it was presumably well to do,” I remarked, endeavouring to imitate my companion’s processes. “Such paper could not be bought under half a crown a packet. It is peculiarly strong and stiff.”

“Peculiar — that is the very word,” said Holmes. “It is not an English paper at all. Hold it up to the light.”

I did so, and saw a large E with a small g, a P, and a large G with a small t woven into the texture of the paper.

“What do you make of that?” asked Holmes.

“The name of the maker, no doubt; or his monogram, rather.”

“Not at all. The G with the small t stands for “Gesellschaft,” which is the German for “Company” It is a customary contraction like our “Co.” P, of course, stands for “Papier.” Now for the Eg Let us glance at our Continental Gazetteer.” He took down a heavy brown volume from his shelves. “Eglow, Eglonitz — here we are, Egria. It is in a German-speaking country — in Bohemia, not far from Carlsbad. ‘Remarkable as being the scene of the death of Wallenstein, and for its numerous glass-factories and paper mills.’ Ha, ha, my boy, what do you make of that?” His eyes sparkled, and he sent up a great blue triumphant cloud from his cigarette.

“The paper was made in Bohemia,” I said.

“Precisely. And the man who wrote the note is a German. Do you note the peculiar construction of the sentence — ‘This ac- count of you we have from all quarters received.’ A Frenchman or Russian could not have written that. It is the German who is so uncourteous to his verbs. It only remains, therefore, to discover what is wanted by this German who writes upon Bohemian paper, and prefers wearing a mask to showing his face. And here he comes, if I am not mistaken, to resolve all our doubts.”

As he spoke there was the sharp sound of horses’ hoofs and grating wheels against the curb, followed by a sharp pull at the bell. Holmes whistled.

“A pair, by the sound,” said he. “Yes,” he continued, glancing out of the window. “A nice little brougham and a pair of beauties. A hundred and fifty guineas apiece. There’s money in this case, Watson, if there is nothing else.”

“I think that I had better go, Holmes.”

“Not a bit, Doctor. Stay where you are. I am lost without my Boswell. And this promises to be interesting. It would be a pity to miss it.”

“But your client –”

“Never mind him. I may want your help, and so may he. Here he comes. Sit down in that armchair, Doctor, and give us your best attention.”

A slow and heavy step, which had been heard upon the stairs and in the passage, paused immediately outside the door. Then there was a loud and authoritative tap.

“Come in!” said Holmes.

A man entered who could hardly have been less than six feet six inches in height, with the chest and limbs of a Hercules. His dress was rich with a richness which would, in England, be looked upon as akin to bad taste. Heavy bands of Astrakhan were slashed across the sleeves and fronts of his double-breasted coat, while the deep blue cloak which was thrown over his shoulders was lined with flame-coloured silk, and secured at the neck with a brooch which consisted of a single flaming beryl. Boots which extended half way up his calves, and which were trimmed at the tops with rich brown fur, completed the impression of barbaric opulence which was suggested by his whole appearance. He carried a broad-brimmed hat in his hand, while he wore across the upper part of his face, extending down past the cheek-bones, a black vizard mask, which he had apparently adjusted that very moment, for his hand was still raised to it as he entered. From the lower part of the face he appeared to be a man of strong character, with a thick, hanging lip, and a long straight chin suggestive of resolution pushed to the length of obstinacy.

“You had my note?” he asked with a deep harsh voice and a strongly marked German accent. “I told you that I would call.” He looked from one to the other of us, as if uncertain which to address.

“Pray take a seat,” said Holmes. “This is my friend and colleague, Dr. Watson, who is occasionally good enough to help me in my cases. Whom have I the honour to address?”

“You may address me as the Count Von Kramm, a Bohemian nobleman. I understand that this gentleman, your friend, is a man of honour and discretion, whom I may trust with a matter of the most extreme importance. If not, I should much prefer to communicate with you alone.”

I rose to go, but Holmes caught me by the wrist and pushed me back into my chair. “It is both, or none,” said he. “You may say before this gentleman anything which you may say to me.”

The Count shrugged his broad shoulders. “Then I must begin,” said he, “by binding you both to absolute secrecy for two years, at the end of that time the matter will be of no importance. At present it is not too much to say that it is of such weight that it may have an influence upon European history.”

“I promise,” said Holmes.

“And I.”

“You will excuse this mask,” continued our strange visitor. “The august person who employs me wishes his agent to be unknown to you, and I may confess at once that the title by which I have just called myself is not exactly my own.”

“I was aware of it,” said Holmes dryly.

“The circumstances are of great delicacy, and every precaution has to be taken to quench what might grow to be an immense scandal and seriously compromise one of the reigning families of Europe. To speak plainly, the matter implicates the great House of Ormstein, hereditary kings of Bohemia.”

Next Page »

Preface of The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

I fear that Mr. Sherlock Holmes may become like one of those popular tenors who, having outlived their time, are still tempted to make repeated farewell bows to their indulgent audiences. This must cease and he must go the way of all flesh, material or imaginary. One likes to think that there is some fantastic limbo for the children of imagination, some strange, impossible place where the beaux of Fielding may still make love to the belles of Richardson, where Scott’s heroes still may strut, Dickens’s delightful Cockneys still raise a laugh, and Thackeray’s worldlings continue to carry on their reprehensible careers. Perhaps in some humble corner of such a Valhalla, Sherlock and his Watson may for a time find a place, while some more astute sleuth with some even less astute comrade may fill the stage which they have vacated.

His career has been a long one — though it is possible to exaggerate it; decrepit gentlemen who approach me and declare that his adventures formed the reading of their boyhood do not meet the response from me which they seem to expect. One is not anxious to have one’s personal dates handled so unkindly. As a matter of cold fact, Holmes made his debut in A Study in Scarlet and in The Sign of Four, two small booklets which appeared between 1887 and 1889. It was in 1891 that “A Scandal in Bohemia,” the first of the long series of short stories, appeared in The Strand Magazine. The public seemed appreciative and desirous of more, so that from that date, thirty-nine years ago, they have been produced in a broken series which now contains no fewer than fifty-six stories, republished in The Adventures, The Memoirs, The Return, and His Last Bow. and there remain these twelve published during the last few years which are here produced under the title of The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes. He began his adventures in the very heart of the later Victorian era, carried it through the all-too-short reign of Edward, and has managed to hold his own little niche even in these feverish days. Thus it would be true to say that those who first read of him, as young men, have lived to see their own grown-up children following the same adventures in the same magazine. It is a striking example of the patience and loyalty of the British public.

I had fully determined at the conclusion of The Memoirs to bring Holmes to an end, as I felt that my literary energies should not be directed too much into one channel. That pale, clear-cut face and loose-limbed figure were taking up an undue share of my imagination. I did the deed, but fortunately no coroner had pronounced upon the remains, and so, after a long interval, it was not difficult for me to respond to the flattering demand and to explain my rash act away. I have never regretted it, for I have not in actual practice found that these lighter sketches have prevented me from exploring and finding my limitations in such varied branches of literature as history, poetry, historical novels, psychic research, and the drama. Had Holmes never existed I could not have done more, though he may perhaps have stood a little in the way of the recognition of my more serious literary work.

And so, reader, farewell to Sherlock Holmes! I thank you for your past constancy, and can but hope that some return has been made in the shape of that distraction from the worries of life and stimulating change of thought which can only be found in the fairy kingdom of romance.

ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes is the last collection of 12 short stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1927. It contains stories published between 1921 and 1927.

Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

His Last Bow

His Last Bow is a collection of eight short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes and written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Published in 1917, it contains the stories published between 1908 and 1917.

His Last Bow
Buy this on Amazon

Table of Contents

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of 11 short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, published in 1894.

The stories are as follows:

Trivia:

When first published in the Strand Edition in 1894, the Memoirs contained one additional story viz. The Cardboard Box. The London edition however did not contain this story.

It is believed that the story was removed on request by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as it included adultery and was considered unsuitable for young readers. The US edition went on to publish a revised edition soon after this which excluded The Cardboard Box.

However, the same was republished when it was added to His Last Bow.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of 12 stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle illustrated by Sidney Paget.

They were originally published in the Strand Magazine from July 1891 to June 1892. The book was published on October 14, 1892 by George Newnes Ltd and on October 15 in a U.S. edition by Harper. The initial combined print run was 14,500 copies.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The 12 adventures are:

  1. A Scandal in Bohemia
  2. The Red-headed League
  3. A Case of Mistaken Identity
  4. The Boscombe Valley Mystery
  5. The Five Orange Pips
  6. The Man with the Twisted Lip
  7. The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
  8. The Adventure of the Speckled Band
  9. The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
  10. The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
  11. The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
  12. The Adventure of the Copper Beeches

[Image source: Wikipedia]

The Return of Sherlock Holmes

The Return Of Sherlock Holmes

The Return of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of 13 Sherlock Holmes short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, published in 1903-1904.

The Return Of Sherlock Holmes

This is also the first collection after Sherlock Holmes death in The Final Problem. Faced by public demand, Doyle revived his favorite detective. The very first story in this collection explains his return.

The stories are:

[Image source: Wikipedia]

Biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Oil painting of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is the creator Sherlock Holmes, the best-known detective in literature and the embodiment of scientific thinking. Doyle himself was not a good example of rational personality: he believed in fairies and was interested in occultism. Sherlock Holmes stories have been translated into more than fifty languages, and made into plays, films, radio and television series, a musical comedy, a ballet, cartoons, comic books, and advertisement. By 1920 Doyle was one of the most highly paid writers in the world.

Oil painting of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Oil painting of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Doyle was born on May 22, 1859 at Picardy Place, Edinburgh, as the son of Charles Altamont Doyle, a civil servant in the Edinburgh Office of Works, and Mary (Foley) Doyle. Both of Doyle’s parents were Roman Catholics. His father suffered from epilepsy and alcoholism and was eventually institutionalized. Charles Altamont died in an asylum in 1893. In the same year Doyle decided to finish permanently the adventures of his master detective. Because of financial problems, Doyle’s mother kept a boarding house. Dr. Tsukasa Kobayashi has suspected in an article, that Doyle’s mother had a long affair with Bryan Charles Waller, a lodger and a student of pathology, who had a deep impact to Conan Doyle.

Doyle was educated in Jesuit schools. He studied at Edinburgh University and in 1884 he married Louise Hawkins. Doyle qualified as doctor in 1885. After graduation Doyle practiced medicine as an eye specialist at Southsea near Porsmouth in Hampshire until 1891 when he became a full time writer.

First story about Holmes, A STUDY IN SCARLET, was published in 1887 in ‘Beeton Christmas Annual.’. The novel was written in three weeks in 1886. It introduced the detective and his associate and friend, Dr. Watson, and made famous Holmes’s address at Mrs. Hudson’s house, 221B Baker Street, London. Their major opponent was the malevolent Moriarty, the classic evil genius who was a kind of doppelgänger of Holmes. Also the beautiful opera singer Irene Adler caused much trouble to Holmes.

The second Sherlock Holmes story, THE SIGN OF FOUR, was written for the Lippincott’s Magazine in 1890. The story collects a colorful group of people together, among them Jonathan Small who has a wooden leg and a dwarf from Tonga islands. In the Strand Magazine started to appear ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.’

In 1893 Doyle was so wearied of his famous detective that he devised his death in the Final Problem (published in the Strand). In the story Holmes meets Moriarty at the fall of the Reichenbach in Switzerland and disappears. Watson finds a letter from Homes, stating “I have already explained to you, however, that my career had in any case reached its crisis, and that no possible conclusion to it could be more congenial to me than this.”

In THE HOUND OF BASKERVILLES (1902) Doyle narrated an early case of the dead detective. The murder weapon in the story is an animal.

He was knighted (“Sir Arthur”) in 1902 for his work in Boer War propaganda (particularly the pamphlet The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct) — and, some said, because of the publication of THE HOUND OF BASKERVILLES.

Owing to public demand Doyle resurrected his popular hero in The Empty House (1903).

“I moved my head to look at the cabinet behind me. When I turned again Sherlock Holmes was standing smiling at me across my study table. I rose to my feet, stared at him for some seconds in utter amazement, and then it appears that I must have fainted for the first and last time in my life.”

—(from ‘The Empty House’)

In these later stories Holmes stops using cocaine. Sherlock Holmes short stories were collected in five books. They first appeared in 1892 under the title THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. The later were THE MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1894), THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1904), HIS LAST BOW (1917), and THE CASEBOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1927).

During the South African war (1899-1902) Doyle served for a few months as senior physician at a field hospital, and wrote THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA, in which he took the imperialistic view. In 1900 and 1906 he ran unsuccessfully for Parliament. Doyle was knighted in 1902. Fourteen months after his wife died, Conan Doyle married in 1907 his second wife, Jean Leckie. He dedicated himself in spiritualistic studies after the death of his son Kingsley from wounds incurred in World War I. An example of these is THE COMING OF FAIRIES, in which he supported the existence of “little people” and spent more than a million dollars on their cause. He also became president of several important spiritualist organizations.

Conan Doyle’s other publications include plays, verse, memoirs, short stories, and several historical novels and supernatural and speculative fiction. His stories of Professor George Edward Challenger in THE LOST WORLD and other adventures blended science fact with fantastic romance, and were very popular. The model for the professor was William Rutherford, Doyle’s teacher from Edinburgh. Doyle’s practice, and other experiences, seven months in the Arctic as ship’s doctor on a whaler, and three on a steamer bound to the West Coast of Africa, provided material for his writings.

Doyle died on July 7, 1930 from heart disease at his home, Windlesham, Sussex.

“My contention is that Sherlock Holmes is literature on a humble but not ignoble level, whereas the mystery writers most in vogue now are not. The old stories are literature, not because of the conjuring tricks and the puzzles, not because of the lively melodrama, which they have in common with many other detective stories, but the virtue of imagination and style. They are fairy-tales, as Conan Doyle intimated in his preface to his last collection, and they are among the most amusing of fairy-tales and not among the least distinguished.”

—(Edmund Wilson in Classics and Commercials, 1950)

Selected works:

  • A STUDY IN SCARLET, 1887
  • THE MYSTERY OF CLOOMBER, 1889
  • MICAH CLARCE, 1889
  • THE FIRM OF GIRDLESTONE, 1889
  • THE CAPTAIN OF THE POLESTAR AND OTHER TALES, 1890
  • THE SIGN OF FOUR, 1890
  • THE WHITE COMPANY, 1891
  • THE DOINGS OF RAFLES HAW, 1891
  • BEYOND THE CITY, 1892
  • THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, 1892
  • THE REFUGEES, 1893
  • JANE ANNIE, 1893 (with J.M. Barrie)
  • MYSTERIES AND ADVENTURES, 1893
  • THE GREAT SHADOW, 1893
  • THE PARASITE, 1894
  • THE MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, 1894
  • MY FRIEND THE MURDERER, 1894
  • ROUND THE RED LAMP, 1894
  • THE SURGEON OF GASTER FELL, 1895
  • THE STARK MUNRO LETTERS, 1895
  • RODNEY STONE, 1896
  • UNCLE BERNAC, 1896
  • THE EXPLOITS OF BRIGADIER GERALD, 1896
  • THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO, 1898
  • SONGS OF ACTION, 1898
  • A DUET: WITH AN OCCASIONAL CHORUS, 1899
  • THE MAN FROM ARCHANGEL, 1899
  • THE GREEN FLAG, 1900
  • THE GREAT BOER WAR, 1900
  • THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA: ITS CAUSE AND CONDUCT, 1902
  • THE HOUND OF BASKERVILLES, 1902
  • THE ADVENTURES OF GERALD, 1903
  • THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, 1904
  • SIR NIGEL, 1906
  • BRIGADIER GERALD, 1906
  • THE STORY OF MR. GEORGE EDALJI, 1907
  • THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR, 1907
  • WATERLOO, 1907 (with W. Gillette)
  • ROUND THE FIRE STORIES, 1908
  • THE CROXLEY MASTER, 1909
  • THE CRIME OF THE CONGO, 1909
  • THE LAST GALLEY, 1910
  • ONE CROWDED HOUR, 1911
  • SONGS OF THE ROAD, 1911
  • THE LOST WORLD, 1912
  • THE CASE OF OSCAR SLATER, 1912
  • THE SPECKLED BAND, 1912
  • THE POISON BELT, 1913
  • GREAT BRITAIN AND THE NEXT WAR, 1914
  • TO ARMS!, 1914
  • THE GERMAN WAR, 1914
  • WESTERN WANDERINGS, 1915
  • THE VALLEY OF FEAR, 1915
  • A VISIT TO THREE FRONTS, 1916
  • THE ORIGIN AND OUTBREAK OF THE WAR, 1916
  • HIS LAST BOW, 1917
  • DANGER! AND OTHER STORIES, 1918
  • THE DEALINGS OF CAPTAIN SHARKEY, 1918
  • THE NEW REVELATION, 1918
  • THE VITAL MESSAGE, 1919
  • OUR REPLY TO THE CLERIC, 1920
  • A PUBLIC DEBATE ON THE TRUTH OF SPIRITUALISM, 1920 (with Joseph McCabe)
  • THE GODS CAME THROUGH, 1920
  • SPIRITUALISM AND RATIONALISM, 1920
  • THE WANDERINGS OF A SPIRITUALIST, 1921
  • THE EVIDENCE FOR FAIRIES, 1921
  • FAIRIES PHOTOGRAPHED, 1921
  • OUR AMERICAN ADVENTURE, 1921
  • THE POEMS OF ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE, 1922
  • THE COMING OF THE FAIRIES, 1922 (with others)
  • THE CASE FOR SPIRIT PHOTOGRAPHY, 1922
  • OUR SECOND AMERICAN ADVENTURE, 1923
  • THE LAST OF THE LEGIONS AND OTHER TALES OF LONG AGO, 1923
  • THE THREE OF THEM, 1923
  • TALES OF TERROR AND MYSTERY, 1923
  • TALES OF THE RING AND CAMP, 1923
  • THROUGH THE MAGIC DOOR, 1923
  • TALES OF PIRATES AND BLUE WATERS, 1924
  • TALES OF ADVENTURE AND MEDICAL LIFE, 1924
  • TALES OF TWILIGHT AND THE UNSEEN, 1924
  • MEMORIES AND ADVENTURES, 1924
  • THE SPIRITUALISTS’ READER, 1924
  • translation: THE MYSTERY OF JOAN OF ARC, 1924 (by D. Leon and J. Murray)
  • PSYCHIC EXPERIENCES, 1925
  • THE EARLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH AND MODERN SPIRITUALISM, 1925
  • TALES OF LONG AGO, 1925
  • IT’S TIME SOMETHING HAPPENED, 1925
  • EXILE, 1925
  • THE LAND OF THE MIST, 1926
  • THE HISTORY OF SPIRITUALISM, 1926 (2 vols.)
  • PHENEAS SPEAKS, 1927
  • THE CASEBOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, 1927
  • THE COMPLETE SHERLOCK HOLMES, 1927
  • THE BRITISH CAMPAIGN IN FRANCE AND FLANDERS, 1928 (6 vols.)
  • WHAT DOES SPIRITUALISM ACTUALLY TEACH AND STAND FOR, 1929
  • THE MARACOT DEEP AND OTHER STORIES, 1929
  • THE CONAN DOYLE STORIES, 1929
  • AN OPEN LETTER TO THOSE OF MY GENERATION, 1929
  • OUR AFRICAN WINTER, 1929
  • THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, 1929
  • WORKS, 1930 (24 vols.)
  • THE EDGE OF THE UNKNOWN, 1930
  • THE CONAN DOYLE HISTORICAL ROMANCES, 1931 (2 vols.)
  • COMPLETE PROFESSOR CHALLENGER STORIES, 1952
  • THE CROWN DIAMOND, 1958
  • STRANGE STUDIES FROM LIFE, 1963
  • THE ANNOTATED SHERLOCK HOLMES, 1967
  • ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE ON SHERLOCK HOLMES, 1981
  • UNCOLLECTED STORIES, 1982
  • ESSAYS ON PHOTOGRAPHY, 1982
  • LETTERS TO THE PRESS, 1986
  • THE SHERLOCK HOLMES LETTERS, 1986