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Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Worst Man, But a Very Good Book


I’ve always liked “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.” (Don’t judge me.) I even wrote a rather boisterous toast to the villain for the Gaslight Gala in 2018, which you can read by clicking here. 

So, I’m grateful that the Baker Street Irregulars Manuscript Series made the original MS available in facsimile, along with a dozen essays and a short story, in a volume called The Worst Man in London. 

It’s always fascinating to see Arthur Conan Doyle’s precise handwriting on a Holmes manuscript, and so few changes. Plus, here are a few things I learned from the essays that I previously didn’t know or didn't think about, with the authors’ names in parenthesis: 

ACD, always interested in making money, had his later hand-written manuscripts bound in vellum to sell at auction. The manuscript of “Milverton” passed through the hands of William Randolph Hearst and Edgar W. Smith, among others, before incoming into the possession of Constantine Rossakis, one the editors of The Worst Man in London. (Randall Stock) 

The Milverton story has been adapted for the big and small screen eight times, sometimes very loosely. (Russell Merritt) 

Sherlock Holmes cares not so much about justice as about the social order. (Dana Cameron) 

Charles August Howell, the apparent inspiration for CAM, was a first-class rogue who moved comfortably among famous poets and artists, but he wasn’t much of a blackmailer. (Jonathan McCafferty) 

Sherlock Holmes as either sociopath or psychopath “has absolutely no basis in the Canon” (Monica Schmidt) 

“The Adventure of Charles August Milverton” didn’t really happen; it was “pure fiction” written by Watson’s literary agent, Arthur Conan Doyle. (Andrew G. Fusco) 

“[T]he crook is more important to the mystery than the detective” – because without a crime, there is nothing for the detective to do. (Otto Penzler) 

But wait a minute! That last one isn’t quite right. The Canon is loaded with stories in which there is no crime and therefore no crook. But Charles August Milverton is a crook of monumental proportions – the World Man in London. It was good to be creeped out by him again.

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