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Friday, January 13, 2012
The Apochryphal Sherlock Holmes
When I was a young lad holding my very own copy of Doubleday's The Complete Sherlock Holmes, I thrilled to the assurance on the cover that this volume contained "every story Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ever wrote about the most famous detective in fiction."
But I think it was not long after that I became aware that Sir Arthur actually wrote quite a bit about the Master that was not included between the covers of The Complete. For sure there were a couple of sketches -- "How Watson Learned the Trick" and "The Field Bazaar" -- and a couple of plays -- The Speckled Band (also known as The Stonor Case) and The Crown Diamond.
Good arguments could also be made for canonizing "The Lost Special" and "The Man with the Watches," in which Holmes does not appear by name but certainly by inference. There is also an outline for a never-written Holmes story called "(The Adventure of) the Tall Man."
For the sake of convenience (and also because I believe it to be true), in this blog post I will refer to everything mentioned in two previous paragraphs as "the core apochrypha."
My library is graced with three collections of Holmes apochrypha, each with their own strengths.
Sherlock Holmes: The Published Apocrypha, selected and edited by Jack Tracy and published by Houghton Mifflin in 1980, was the ground-breaker. Some of the works had never been published before. In addition to all of the core apochrypha, the volume includes James M. Barrie's "The Adventure of the Two Collaborators," William Gillette's two plays, and Arthur Whitaker's "The Case of the Man Who Was Wanted," once thought to be by Conan Doyle.
The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, collected and introduced by Peter Haining and published by Barnes & Noble in 1995, has the core apochrypha except for The Speckled Band play, various commentaries by Sir Arthur on the subject of Sherlock Holmes, a list of the author's favorite Holmes stories and how he arrived at the list, and a couple of mystery tales.
These are fine and useful books, but for me the gold standard is Leslie S. Klinger's The Apocrypha of Sherlock Holmes, the tenth volume in the Sherlock Holmes Reference Library from Gasogene Books. Richly annotated like the other nine, it includes all of the core apochrypha plus the play Angels of Darkness. The latter, based on A Study in Scarlet, lacks Sherlock Holmes but not Dr. Watson.
I'm glad I own all three books, for none of the three contains it all.
What's your favorite bit of Apochrypha from the hand of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?