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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Discovering A Classic Anthology

Beyond Baker Street, where have you been most of my life?

This Sherlockian anthology edited by Michael Harrison, which Steve Doyle considers “a classic,” came out in 1976 in the wake of the Sherlockian wave created by Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. But, somehow, I missed it.

It recently came to me from Carolyn Senter among a number of Sherlockian books that belonged to her late husband and our good friend, R. Joel Senter, Jr. I consider an inheritance from Joel. 

 By coincidence, I’d only owned the book for about a day when I came across a reference to it in Commissionaire, Sonia Fetherston’s new biography of Julian Wolff. The reason is that the book is fulsomely dedicated to Wolff, who was then head of the Baker Street Irregulars and editor of The Baker Street Journal.

Even before I began reading Beyond Baker Street, I noticed something curious: pages 205-236 of the volume I have are printed upside down! S. Brent Morris says this is almost certainly a complete “signature,” in bookbinding terms, and when the worker gathered the signatures together this one was inadvertently inverted.

That novelty aside, the content of the anthology has something of the feel of such masterworks as Edgar W. Smith’s Profile by Gaslight and Vincent Starrett’s 221B: Studies in Sherlock Holmes, published more than a generation earlier. 

The quality of the essays by 25 American and British writers is not as uniformly interesting as in those early books, for my taste, but the best ones are very good indeed. John Gardner offers a masterful overview of the Victorian underworld, David Pearson has one of the best articles I’ve read on the question of Holmes’s religious faith, and Martin Gardner’s proof that ACD didn’t write the Canon is clever though rather mean-spirited.

My favorite essay, though, is Anthony Howlett’s piece on “The Impersonators: Sherlock Holmes on Stage and Screen.” His frank assessment – and the frankness is what makes it so enjoyable – lauds Basil Rathbone and Arthur Wontner, but surprisingly finds Peter Cushing “a rather lightweight and prissy Holmes” and his Hound “a feeble and disappointing production”!

Among the many illustrations that add to the enjoyment of the anthology are 13 delightful line drawings by Henry Lauritzen.

Now you must excuse me. I have to add a book to my library shelves.


  1. How I envy you, to get to see this book for the first time this year. After four decades of collecting, I am not sure there are any opportunities for me still out there for one of the cornerstone volumes, but one can always hope.

  2. I will always remember, and have often quoted, that when I told you I'm not a collector you said, "Well, you're a lucky man!"