Sunday, July 05, 2020

Fortnightly Book, July 5

When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four, they were well received but little more than that. Holmes may have been born in the novel but he was made in the short story. A new magazine, The Strand, started up in 1891, and Doyle sent in two submissions; the editor, Herbert Greenhough Smith, saw immediately that he had lucked out in getting the interest of such an excellent short-story writer so early in the game, and thus was begun the partnership that gives us Sherlock Holmes as more than an interesting character in a couple of novels. A deal was struck, and Doyle was paid a quite reasonable amount for one Holmes story a month for a year. They were extremely popular. These twelve stories were collected together in 1892 as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a ready-made bestseller. The Strand naturally renewed the offer, and Doyle continued for another year. These were serialized in the magazine as just a continuous series, entitled The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, but obviously they needed a different name when they were collected together at the end of 1893, so were given the title, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. This series, with its two collections, in a sense give us the Sherlock Holmes; they have always been the center of the Holmesian canon.

There is one quirk, though. If you count the stories in The Memoirs, you will usually find only eleven stories, despite the fact that twelve were serialized. The reason is "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box". This story has a weird publication history. It was not included in the first British edition, but was included in the first American edition; in later American editions it was suppressed. Then later British editions started including it again; but as it had by that point been included in American editions of His Last Bow, it continued to be left out of the American editions. In the meantime, when the story had been left out of the original British edition, a passage from it was put at the beginning of "The Adventure of the Resident Patient". In any case, as it happens my omnibus edition leaves the adventure out of The Memoirs and puts it with His Last Bow, so that's what I'll be going with.

As these are the classic Holmes stories, a number of them were adapted to radio -- far, far too many for me to listen to them all while also reading the stories, particularly given that my second summer class begins tomorrow (while my first continues). But I might do a few of those as well.