The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles
The cover of the first edition
AuthorArthur Conan Doyle
IllustratorSidney Paget
Cover artistAlfred Garth Jones
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
SeriesSherlock Holmes
GenreDetective fiction, Gothic fiction
PublisherGeorge Newnes Ltd
Publication date
25 March 1902
Preceded byThe Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes 
Followed byThe Return of Sherlock Holmes 
TextThe Hound of the Baskervilles at Wikisource

The Hound of the Baskervilles is the third of the four crime novels by British writer Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes. Originally serialised in The Strand Magazine from August 1901 to April 1902, it is set largely in Dartmoor, Devon in England's West Country and follows Holmes and Watson investigating the legend of a fearsome, diabolical hound of supernatural origin. This was the first appearance of Holmes since his apparent death in "The Final Problem", and the success of The Hound of the Baskervilles led to the character's eventual revival.

One of the most famous stories ever written, in 2003, the book was listed as number 128 of 200 on the BBC's The Big Read poll of the UK's "best-loved novel". In 1999, a poll of "Sherlockians" ranked it as the best of the four Holmes novels.

Plot

From left: the titular hound; Holmes spotting a clue in the portrait; and the death of the hound.

In London, 1889, Dr James Mortimer asks for the aid of Sherlock Holmes, recounting the legend of a curse that has run in the Baskerville family since the time of the English Civil War, when Sir Hugo Baskerville kidnapped a farmer's daughter. When the girl escaped, Hugo made a deal with the devil and pursued her. Hugo's companions found the girl dead of fear and Hugo killed by a demonic hound, which is said to have haunted Dartmoor ever since, causing the premature death of many Baskerville heirs. Mortimer says that his friend Sir Charles Baskerville, who took the legend seriously, was found dead in the yew alley of his estate, Baskerville Hall, on Dartmoor. A locally noted philanthropist, Sir Charles had retired to his family estate in 1887 after some years in South Africa, where he had made a fortune through shrewd investments. His death was attributed to a heart attack, but his face had an expression of horror, and not far from his body were the footprints of a gigantic hound.

As the executor of Sir Charles's will, Mortimer fears for the new Baskerville baronet, Sir Henry Baskerville, the nephew of Sir Charles. Sir Charles had been the eldest of three Baskerville brothers; after Sir Henry, there were no further immediate heirs to the title and estate. Sir Charles's youngest brother, Rodger, who had led a scandalous life in England, had fled to Central America, where he had died of yellow fever in 1876, unmarried and childless. Though Holmes dismisses the curse as a fairy-tale, he agrees to meet Sir Henry who arrives from Canada, sceptical of the legend and eager to take possession of Baskerville Hall in spite of receiving an anonymous note warning him to stay away from the moor; Holmes also witnesses someone following Sir Henry. Mortimer reveals that Sir Henry had inherited a vast fortune from his late uncle – £740,000 (equivalent to £87,000,000 in 2021). Realising this provides a strong motive for anyone trying to do Sir Henry harm, Holmes asks Watson to go with Sir Henry and Mortimer, in order to protect the baronet and investigate who is following him.

Arriving in Dartmoor, Watson, Mortimer and Sir Henry learn that convicted murderer Selden has escaped from Dartmoor Prison and is hiding on the moor. They arrive at Baskerville Hall where a married couple, the Barrymores, are butler and housekeeper. Watson sends details of his investigations to Holmes, particularly on the neighbourhood residents. The Stapletons, brother and sister, stand out: Jack is overfriendly, particularly as he warns Watson about the Grimpen Mire, where horses can sink to their death, and curious about the newcomers, while Beryl is weary of the moor and attempts to warn Sir Henry of danger. Distant hound-like howls start troubling Watson and he witnesses Barrymore, who signals at night with a candle to someone on the moor. Sir Henry is drawn to Beryl despite her brother's initial attitude to any relationship and Frankland, an old and grumpy neighbour, likes to spy on others with his telescope and notes ancient tombs have been excavated by Mortimer. Watson and Sir Henry investigate the Barrymores and learn that Selden is Mrs Barrymore's brother, and that they have been taking food to him. During an unsuccessful attempt to catch Selden, Watson sees an unknown man standing on a tor. They learn from Barrymore that Frankland's estranged daughter Laura has unclear ties to Sir Charles.

Watson investigates the man on the tor and discovers that it is Holmes, who explains that he came secretly to the moor to hide his direct involvement. Holmes explains that he is close to solving the mystery. He explains that Stapleton is the suspect and that Beryl is actually Stapleton's wife, abused and forced into posing as his sister so as to influence Sir Henry and expose him to the hound. The hound kills a man on the moor whom Holmes and Watson fear is Sir Henry, but turns out to be Selden; Barrymore had given him Sir Henry's discarded clothes. Holmes decides to use Baskerville as bait to catch Stapleton. While dining with Sir Henry and Watson, Holmes suddenly notices a portrait of Sir Hugo Baskerville and recognises a family resemblance to Stapleton. He tells Sir Henry to accept an invitation to Stapleton's house and walk back after dark, giving his enemy every chance to unleash the hound.

Holmes and Watson pretend to leave Dartmoor by train but instead hide near Stapleton's house with Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard. Despite thick fog, Holmes and Watson manage to kill the hound when it attacks Sir Henry. They find Beryl tied up in Stapleton's house, while Stapleton himself, in his flight from the scene, seemingly drowns in the mire. In London, following a visit from Sir Henry and Dr. Mortimer, who leave on a trip to help improve Sir Henry's nerves, Holmes explains to Watson that Stapleton was Sir Henry's cousin, Rodger Baskerville, the only son of his namesake father, and that he had been hoping to inherit the family estate. A physical and spiritual throwback to Sir Hugo Baskerville, he had intended to kill his relations with a vicious hound painted with phosphorus to appear sinister. He had promised Laura marriage and convinced her to lure Sir Charles out of his house at night, in order to frighten him to death with the animal; Holmes remarks to Watson that Stapleton was one of the most formidable foes they had ever encountered.

Origins and background

Baskerville Hall, formally Clyro Court, may have inspired The Hound of the Baskervilles.
The ruins of Fowelscombe House, a possible model for Baskerville Hall (2008).

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote this story shortly after returning to his home, Undershaw in Surrey, from South Africa, where he had worked as a volunteer physician at the Langman Field Hospital in Bloemfontein during the Second Boer War. He had not written about Sherlock Holmes in eight years, having killed off the character in the 1893 story "The Final Problem". Although The Hound of the Baskervilles is set before the latter events, two years later Conan Doyle brought Holmes back for good, explaining in "The Adventure of the Empty House" that Holmes had faked his own death. As a result, the character of Holmes occupies a liminal space between being alive and dead which further lends to the gothic elements of the novel.

He was assisted with the legend of the hound and local colour by a Daily Express journalist named Bertram Fletcher Robinson (1870–1907), with whom he explored Dartmoor in June, 1901; Robinson received a 13 royalty payment that amounted to over 500 pounds by the end of 1901.

Doyle may also have been inspired by his own earlier story (written and published in 1898) of a terrifying giant wolf, "The King of the Foxes".

Inspiration

His ideas came from the legend of Squire Richard Cabell of Brook Hall, in the parish of Buckfastleigh, Devon, which was the fundamental inspiration for the Baskerville tale of a hellish hound and a cursed country squire. Cabell's tomb survives in the town of Buckfastleigh.

Cabell lived for hunting, and was what in those days was described as a "monstrously evil man". He gained this reputation, amongst other things, for immorality and having sold his soul to the Devil. There was also a rumour that he had murdered his wife, Elizabeth Fowell, a daughter of Sir Edmund Fowell, 1st Baronet (1593–1674), of Fowelscombe. On 5 July 1677, he died and was buried in the sepulchre. The night of his interment saw a phantom pack of hounds come baying across the moor to howl at his tomb. From that night on, he could be found leading the phantom pack across the moor, usually on the anniversary of his death. If the pack were not out hunting, they could be found ranging around his grave howling and shrieking. To try to lay the soul to rest, the villagers built a large building around the tomb, and to be doubly sure a huge slab was placed over the top.

Moreover, Devon's folklore includes tales of a fearsome supernatural dog known as the Yeth hound that Conan Doyle may have heard.

Weller (2002) believes that Baskerville Hall is based on one of three possible houses on or near Dartmoor: Fowelscombe in the parish of Ugborough, the seat of the Fowell Baronets; Hayford Hall, near Buckfastleigh (also owned by John King (d.1861) of Fowelscombe) and Brook Hall, in the parish of Buckfastleigh, about two miles east of Hayford, the actual home of Richard Cabell. It has also been claimed that Baskerville Hall is based on a property in Mid Wales, built in 1839 by one Thomas Mynors Baskerville. The house was formerly named Clyro Court and was renamed Baskerville Hall towards the end of the 19th century. Arthur Conan Doyle was apparently a family friend who often stayed there and may have been aware of a local legend of the hound of the Baskervilles.

Still other tales claim that Conan Doyle was inspired by a holiday in North Norfolk, where the tale of Black Shuck is well known. The pre-Gothic Cromer Hall, where Conan Doyle stayed, also closely resembles Doyle's vivid descriptions of Baskerville Hall.

James Lynam Molloy, a friend of Doyle's, and author of "Love's Old Sweet Song", married Florence Baskerville, daughter of Henry Baskerville of Crowsley Park, Oxfordshire. The gates to the park had statues of hell hounds, spears through their mouths. Above the lintel there was another statue of a hell hound.

Technique

The novel incorporates five plots: the ostensible 'curse' story, the two red-herring subplots concerning Selden and the other stranger living on the moor, the actual events occurring to Baskerville as narrated by Watson, and the hidden plot to be discovered by Holmes. The structure of the novel starting and ending in the familiar setting in London is used to ‘delimit the uncanny world associated with the Gothic landscape of the moors', with varying degrees of success. Doyle wrote that the novel was originally conceived as a straight 'Victorian creeper' (as seen in the works of J. Sheridan Le Fanu), with the idea of introducing Holmes as the deus ex machina only arising later.

Publication

The Hound of the Baskervilles was first serialised in The Strand Magazine in 1901. It was well-suited for this type of publication, as individual chapters end in cliffhangers. It was printed in the United Kingdom as a novel in March 1902 by George Newnes Ltd. It was published in the same year in the United States by McClure, Philips & Co.

Original manuscript

In 1902, Doyle's original manuscript of the book was broken up into individual leaves as part of a promotional campaign by Doyle's American publisher – they were used in window displays by individual booksellers. Out of an estimated 185–190 leaves, only 37 are known still to exist, including all the leaves from Chapter 11, held by the New York Public Library. Other leaves are owned by university libraries and private collectors.

A newly rediscovered example was sold at auction in 2012 for US$158,500.

Adaptations

The Hound of the Baskervilles has been adapted in various forms of media.

Film and television adaptations

Over 20 film and television versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles have been made.

Year Title Country Director Holmes Watson
1914 Der Hund von Baskerville – 1 Teil  Germany Rudolf Meinert Alwin Neuß
1914 Der Hund von Baskerville – 2 Teil – Das einsame Haus
1914 Der Hund von Baskerville – 3 Teil – Das unheimliche Zimmer Richard Oswald
1915 Der Hund von Baskerville – 4 Teil
1920 Das dunkle Schloß  Germany Willy Zeyn Eugen Burg
1920 Das Haus ohne Fenster Erich Kaiser-Titz
1920 Dr. MacDonalds Sanatorium
1921 The Hound of the Baskervilles  United Kingdom Maurice Elvey Eille Norwood Hubert Willis
1929 Der Hund von Baskerville  Germany Richard Oswald Carlyle Blackwell George Seroff
1932 The Hound of the Baskervilles  United Kingdom Gareth Gundrey Robert Rendel Frederick Lloyd
1937 The Hound of the Baskervilles  Germany Carl Lamac Bruno Güttner Fritz Odemar
1939 The Hound of the Baskervilles  United States Sidney Lanfield Basil Rathbone Nigel Bruce
1951 Jighansa  India Ajoy Kar Sishir Batabyal
as Detective Smarajit Sen
?
1955 Der Hund von Baskerville  West Germany Fritz Umgelter Wolf Ackva Arnulf Schröder
1959 The Hound of the Baskervilles  United Kingdom Terence Fisher Peter Cushing André Morell
1962 Bees Saal Baad(based on H. K. Roy's Nishachari Bibhishika,
the Bengali adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles)
 India Biren Nag Asit Sen
as Detective Gopichand
1968 Sherlock Holmes – "The Hound of the Baskervilles"  United Kingdom Graham Evans Peter Cushing Nigel Stock
1968 Sherlock Holmes – "L'ultimo dei Baskerville"  Italy Guglielmo Morandi Nando Gazzolo Gianni Bonagura
1971 The Hound of the Baskervilles (Собака Баскервилей)  Soviet Union A.F. Zinovieva Nikolay Volkov Lev Krugliy
1972 The Hound of the Baskervilles  United States Barry Crane Stewart Granger Bernard Fox
1978 The Hound of the Baskervilles  United Kingdom Paul Morrissey Peter Cook Dudley Moore
1981 The Hound of the Baskervilles (Собака Баскервилей)  Soviet Union Igor Maslennikov Vasilij Livanov Vitali Solomin
1982 The Hound of the Baskervilles  United Kingdom Peter Duguid Tom Baker Terence Rigby
1983 The Hound of the Baskervilles  United Kingdom Douglas Hickox Ian Richardson Donald Churchill
1983 Sherlock Holmes and the Baskerville Curse  Australia Ian McKenzie & Alex Nicholas Peter O'Toole (voice) Earle Cross (voice)
1988 The Return of Sherlock Holmes – "The Hound of the Baskervilles"  United Kingdom Brian Mills Jeremy Brett Edward Hardwicke
1995 Wishbone – "The Slobbery Hound"  United States Fred Holmes "Wishbone"
(Soccer the Dog, voice of Larry Brantley)
Ric Speigel
1999 Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century – "The Hounds of the Baskervilles"  United States
 United Kingdom
Robert Brousseau, Scott Heming Jason Gray-Stanford John Payne
2000 The Hound of the Baskervilles  Canada Rodney Gibbons Matt Frewer Kenneth Welsh
2002 The Hound of the Baskervilles  United Kingdom David Attwood Richard Roxburgh Ian Hart
2012 Sherlock – "The Hounds of Baskerville"  United Kingdom Paul McGuigan Benedict Cumberbatch Martin Freeman
2015 The Adventure of Henry Baskerville and a Dog[citation needed]
(Basukāviru kun to inu no bōken, バスカーヴィル君と犬の冒険)
 Japan Michiyo Morita Kōichi Yamadera (voice) Wataru Takagi (voice)
2015 Sherloch – "The Cat of the Baskervilles"
(Шерлох – "Кішка Баскервілів")
 Ukraine Kyrylo Bin Evgen Koshevyy Yuriy Krapov
2014 Elementary – "The Hound of the Cancer Cells"  United States Michael Slovis Jonny Lee Miller Lucy Liu
2016 Elementary – "Hounded" Robert Hewitt Wolfe

Audio

Edith Meiser adapted the novel as six episodes of the radio series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The episodes aired in February and March 1932, with Richard Gordon as Sherlock Holmes and Leigh Lovell as Dr. Watson. Another dramatisation of the story aired in November and December 1936, with Gordon as Holmes and Harry West as Watson.

The story was also adapted by Meiser as six episodes of The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Watson. The episodes aired in January and February 1941.

A dramatisation of the novel by Felix Felton aired on the BBC Light Programme in 1958 as part of the 1952–1969 radio series, with Carleton Hobbs as Sherlock Holmes and Norman Shelley as Dr. Watson. A different production of The Hound of the Baskervilles, also adapted by Felton and starring Hobbs and Shelley with a different supporting cast, aired in 1961 on the BBC Home Service.

The novel was adapted as an episode of CBS Radio Mystery Theater. The episode, which aired in 1977, starred Kevin McCarthy as Holmes and Lloyd Battista as Watson.

The Hound of the Baskervilles has been adapted for radio for the BBC by Bert Coules on two occasions. The first starred Roger Rees as Holmes, Crawford Logan as Watson and Matt Zimmerman as Sir Henry and was broadcast in 1988 on BBC Radio 4. Following its good reception, Coules proposed further radio adaptations, which eventually led to the 1989–1998 radio series of dramatisations of the entire canon, starring Clive Merrison as Holmes and Michael Williams as Watson. The second adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, featuring this pairing, was broadcast in 1998, and also featured Judi Dench as Mrs. Hudson and Donald Sinden as Sir Charles Baskerville.

Clive Nolan and Oliver Wakeman adapted The Hound of the Baskervilles as a progressive rock album in 2002, with narration by Robert Powell.

The Hound of the Baskervilles was adapted as three episodes of the American radio series The Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, with John Patrick Lowrie as Holmes and Lawrence Albert as Watson. The episodes first aired in March 2008.

In 2011, Big Finish Productions released their adaptation of the book as part of their second series of Holmes dramas. Holmes was played by Nicholas Briggs, and Watson was played by Richard Earl.

In 2014, L.A. Theatre Works released their production, starring Seamus Dever as Holmes, Geoffrey Arend as Watson, James Marsters as Sir Henry, Sarah Drew as Beryl Stapleton, Wilson Bethel as Stapleton, Henri Lubatti as Dr. Mortimer, Christopher Neame as Sir Charles and Frankland, Moira Quirk as Mrs. Hudson & Mrs. Barrymore, and Darren Richardson as Barrymore.

In 2020, Lions Den Theatre released a new adaptation of the novel written and directed by Keith Morrison on the company's YouTube channel. An early version of the play was performed in various locations around Nova Scotia in 2018.

In 2021, Audible released a dramatisation by George Mann and Cavan Scott, starring Colin Salmon as Holmes and Stephen Fry as Watson.

In 2022, The Hound of the Baskervilles was adapted and conducted as a "concert drama" by Neil Brand, with the music directed by Timothy Brock, and performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Mark Gatiss and Sanjeev Bhaskar played Holmes and Watson, respectively. The production was recorded at the Barbican Hall on December 20, and was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on January 22, 2023. A filmed recording of the reading was broadcast for BBC Four on 25 December, 2023.

Stage

In 2007, Peepolykus Theatre Company premiered a new adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles at West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds. Adapted by John Nicholson and Steven Canny, the production involves only three actors and was praised by critics for its physical comedy. Following a U.K. tour, it transferred to the Duchess Theatre in London's West End. The Daily Telegraph described it as a ‘wonderfully delightful spoof’, whilst The Sunday Times praised its ‘mad hilarity that will make you feel quite sane’. This adaptation continues to be presented by both amateur and professional companies around the world.

Stage performances have also been performed in the U.K. in dramatisations by Joan Knight, Claire Malcolmson, Harry Meacher, and Roger Sansom, among others. Meacher's version has been produced three times, each time with himself the actor playing Holmes.

Ken Ludwig authored an adaptation entitled Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery which premiered as a co-production at Arena Stage (Washington, D.C.) in January 2015 and McCarter Theatre Center in March 2015.

In 2021 an adaption for the stage by Steven Canny and John Nicholson for Peepolykus, directed by Tim Jackson & Lotte Wakeman toured the UK produced by Original Theatre Company and Bolton's Octagon Theatre. It was a continuation the adaptation that was directed by Lotte Wakeman for English Theatre, Frankfurt, Jermyn St Theatre and Octagon, Bolton.

Video games

The Hound of the Baskervilles is utilised in the final case in The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures in which the protagonist teams up with Herlock Sholmes (Sherlock Holmes in the original Japanese version) to investigate mysteries based on various entries in the Holmes chronology. In particular, the manuscript of The Hound of the Baskervilles is a key part of the case.

Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles is a casual game by Frogwares. It departs from the original plot by introducing clear supernatural elements. Despite its non-canonical plot, it received good reviews.

See also


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