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Monday, December 31, 2012

A Study in Criticism

St. Bart's Hospital, where Holmes and Watson met
The approach of a new year always makes me think of A Study in Scarlet, for Holmes and Watson met on New Year's Day.

It is well known among Sherlockians that the appearance of STUD in Beeton's Christmas Annual of December 1887 made little splash. But 62 years later, Vincent Starrett rescued from obscurity a review which appeared in a publication called the Graphic on December 10, 1887. He republished the review in his Chicago Sunday Tribune column:

"A Study in Scarlet is the name of an anonymous story which is the chief attraction in Beeton's Christmas Annual. It is not at all a bad imitation, but it never would have been written but for Poe, Gaboriau and R.L. Stevenson. The hero of the tale is simply the hero of 'The Murder [sic] in the Rue Morgue.' Those who like detective stories and have not read the great originals will find the tale full of interest. It hangs together well and finishes ingeniously."

In reality, of course, the story was not anonymous. The name of the author was splashed across the cover. Other than that, what do you think of the review?

(The Starrett column is among dozens of his collected in Sherlock Alive, edited by Karen Murdoch. The book is available from the publisher, The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box.)

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