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Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Possessing A Treasury Indeed
Maybe I am a bit of a collector after all.
I've always maintained that my modest 300-400 Sherlock Holmes books constitute a library, not a collection. But recently I bought a vintage copy of A Treasury of Sherlock Holmes just because the dust jacket is in better shape that the one I already had. (I have two other editions of the book as well.) That sounds distressingly like collector behavior to me.
It's an interesting book to own, by the way -- a collection of Holmes stories chosen by Adrian Conan Doyle (1910-1970), the author's youngest son. In the introduction, he says he selected them on the basis of plot, characterstic, and atmosphere.
Certainly his own distinctive tastes were also a factor that led to some surprising decisions. For example, Adrian disdained "A Scandal in Bohemia," the first Holmes short story and one of the best known, as having "none of the essential elements." But he included "The Adventure of Mazarin Stone," which is widely thought to be the worst of all canonical Holmes adventures. Go figure.
The order of presentation is also strange, with "The Final Problem" coming third out of 27 short stories (there are also two novels), and "The Adventure of the Empty House" second last. At least "His Last Bow" is last!
In his introduction, Adrian is quite defensive of his father, again and again making the point that the author was "the real Sherlock Holmes." I'm not sure who would deny this.
Of Holmes scholars, on the other hand, he generally demonstrates contempt. (The exceptions are H.W. Bell and Vincent Starrett, great pioneers and giants on whom others stand.) Sherlockians, for their part have returned the favor, with most regarding the prickly Adrian as far from their favorite Conan Doyle.
What are your favorite canonical Holmes stories?