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The Hound of the Baskervilles ()


Brothers Judd Top 100 of the 20th Century: Novels

I'd be happy to argue the point, but it seems to me that the four greatest fictional characters of all time (excluding Don Quijote, who's in a league of his own) are : Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, and Tarzan.  There are certainly no other characters who are so familiar, so often revived in plays, movies, song, television, and books, nor so often parodied and imitated as they.  Take a look at your TV Guide and there'll be a movie featuring at least one of the four on the air at some point this week.  They are all still just as popular as the day their authors introduced them.  The reason for this is, first of all that they are simply brilliant creations, but secondly that they each in their own way tap into very powerful human fears and aspirations.  Frankenstein's monster and Dracula represent victory over mortality.  Tarzan represents victory over Nature.  Sherlock Holmes represents the ultimate and inevitable triumph of reason over the mysteries of human behavior.

Of this quartet, it is Holmes, because he is the most realistic character and because his victory seems closest to our grasp, who resonates most deeply with us.  Realistically, none of us expect to gain eternal life nor to be plopped down in the jungle unexpectedly, but there's a sense in Holmes that, for all his genius, he is really just using the brain power that all of us share better than the rest of us do.  As he tells Watson here, after one of his those classic moments where the good Doctor is stunned by one of Holmes's analyses :

    The world is full of obvious things, which nobody by any chance ever observes.

Nobody that is except the world's greatest detective.  But the idea that things are just waiting to be observed, and the simplicity of Holmes observations, serves to foster the illusion that the mysterious will yield to our intellect should we merely apply rigorous reason.  For all his foibles and quirks, it is this that makes Sherlock Holmes an aspirational figure.

Holmes and Watson are so familiar to us as to need no further exposition.  Suffice it to say that this quintessential novel features many of the elements that made the series immortal : inexplicable doings at stately manor houses, chases across the moors, pea soup fogs, beautiful damsels in distress, and the like.  And if the villain is not the equal of Dr. Moriarity (then again, who is ?), surely this tantalizing intoduction to the mystery is as enticing as any ever committed to paper :

                            "On the night of Sir Charles's death Barrymore the butler who made the
                            discovery, sent Perkins the groom on horseback to me, and as I was
                            sitting up late I was able to reach Baskerville Hall within an hour of the
                            event. I checked and corroborated all the facts which were mentioned at
                            the inquest. I followed the footsteps down the yew alley, I saw the spot at
                            the moor-gate where he seemed to have waited, I remarked the change in
                            the shape of the prints after that point, I noted that there were no other
                            footsteps save those of Barrymore on the soft gravel, and finally I
                            carefully examined the body, which had not been touched until my
                            arrival. Sir Charles lay on his face, his arms out, his fingers dug into the
                            ground, and his features convulsed with some strong emotion to such an
                            extent that I could hardly have sworn to his identity. TheFe was certainly
                            no physical injury of any kind. But one false statement was made by
                            Barrymore at the inquest. He said that there were no traces upon the
                            ground round the body. He did not observe any. But I did -- some little
                            distance off, but fresh and clear."

                            "Footprints?"

                            "Footprints. "

                            "A man's or a woman's?"

                            Dr. Mortimer looked strangely at us for an instant, and his voice sank
                            almost to a whisper as he answered:

                            "Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!"

The reader, if he exists, who doesn't yearn to discover the secret of this gigantic hound may as well give up reading.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A+)

  

Websites:

Book-related and General Links:
    -Arthur Conan Doyle (kirjasto)
    -ARCHIVES : "conan doyle" (NY Review of Books)
    -ETEXTS : Online Literature Library - Arthur Conan Doyle
    -ETEXTS : Arthur Conan Doyle (Master Texts)
    -ETEXT : The Hound of the Baskervilles
    -The Arthur Conan Doyle Society
    -Arthur Conan Doyle (spartacus)
    -The Chronicles  of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
    -The San Antonio College LitWeb Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Page
    -The UnMuseum : Arthur Conan Doyle
    -Sherlockian Net
    -The Sherlockian Holmepage
    -Sherlock Holmes Page (Free Markets)
    -Sherlock Holmes on the Web (Yoxley Old Place)
    -221b Baker Street
    -A post-colonial canonical and cultural revision of Conan Doyle's Holmes narratives
    -Literary Research Guide: Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 - 1930)
    -WEBRING : Always Two: The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Master Web-Ring Home
    -ARTICLE : Origins of Sherlock Holmes novel in question (THE ARTS REPORT - CBC Radio)
    -ARTICLE :  A SHERLOCKIAN BREAKFAST MARKS HOLMES'S 100th (HERBERT MITGANG, NY Times, January 17, 1987)
    -ARTICLE : Holmes Fans Mark Birthday (ROBERTA HERSHENSON, NY Times, February 13, 1994)
    -ESSAY : The War of the Baskervilles : The world's best known detective story is 100 years old this summer. And so is the dark controversy about who actually wrote it. (Guy Saville,  11 July 2001, Independent uk)
    -ESSAY :   Not so elementary, my dear Watson : The centenary of The Hound of the Baskervilles is a suitable moment to celebrate 100 years of murder mysteries (MARCEL BERLINS, JUNE 30 2001, Times of London)
    -ESSAY : THE SAINTED SLEUTH, STILL ON THE CASE (Anthony Burgess, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY : Sherlock Holmes Inc. (PAUL HOFMANN, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY : Arthur Conan Doyle, Spiritualism, and Fairies (Donald E. Simanek)
    -ESSAY : The Man Who Hated Sherlock Holmes (Algis Valiunas, Weekly Standard)
    -ESSAY: Zen in the Art of Sherlock Holmes Can fiction's greatest detective unravel life's greatest mysteries (Stephen Kendrick, Utne Reader)
    -REVIEW : Nov 4, 1999 Christopher Hitchens: The Case of Arthur Conan Doyle, NY Review of Books
               Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle by Daniel Stashower
               Holy Clues: The Gospel According to Sherlock Holmes by Stephen Kendrick
    -REVIEW : of TELLER OF TALES The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle. By Daniel Stashower (David Walton, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: Teller of Tales, The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle by Daniel Stashower (D J Taylor, London Times)
    -REVIEW : Feb 6, 1997 Steve Jones: Crooked Bones, NY Review of Books
               Unraveling Piltdown: The Science Fraud of the Century and Its Solution
               by John Evangelist Walsh

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