Thursday, July 4, 2024

Worldwide Doyle 2024 and the Land of Mist

The Portsmouth History Center holds the Conan Doyle Collection. When the Sherlockian Richard Lancelyn Green died in 2004, he left his collection of 40,000 archives, 16,000 books and 3,000 objects to the City of Portsmouth after being helped by staff at the city’s Central Library when researching Conan Doyle. 

This year the Collection is hosting Worldwide Doyle 2024, a series of virtual webinars that have been conducted in various forms since 2021. You can access all the information about this year's series here.

There are four lectures this year on the schedule, each invited partly because they had visited the Richard Lancelyn Green Bequests' vast Conan Doyle Collection as part of conducting their research:

  • Professor Christine Ferguson - Towards the Centenary of The Land of Mist: Arthur Conan Doyle, Spiritualism, and Scandal in 1920s Britain.
  • Paul Chapman, Ross Davies and Mark Jones - The Adventure of the Imaginary Pedlar: Arthur Conan Doyle and the Army on Manoeuvres.
  • Mattias Bostrom - "Was Killing Sherlock Holmes a Stroke of Genius?": A Contemporary Perspective on Conan Doyle and His Creation in the Mid 1890s.
  • Douglas Kerr - 1909: Arthur Conan Doyle goes to the theatre.

The first lecture was held this week, presented by Professor Christine Ferguson from the University of Stirling in Scotland. Prof. Fergusion's research "focuses on the entwined histories of the literary gothic and the British occult revival in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century." When Christine's recording is made available on Youtube I'll post it here:


Christine spoke about ACD's book 'The Land of Mist'. Here is a description of the talk from the website:

First serialized in the Strand between 1925-26, Arthur Conan Doyle described The Land of Mist as his “big psychic novel” which would, he hoped, prompt wide-spread conversion to the modern spiritualist cause he had been publicly championing since 1916. My talk examines how the novel developed from and responded to various controversies in the early nineteenth-twenties British occult scene, including the Cottingley Fairy fiasco, the tabloid crusade against Thelemic sex magician Aleister Crowley, and Harry Houdini’s public attack on the authenticity of Jean Doyle’s mediumship. We will see how Doyle enlisted the capable male adventurer characters from Doyle’s popular Professor Challenger series to promote a sane, seemingly scientific, and scandal-free brand of Christian spiritualism in line with his increasingly conservative and enduringly nationalistic outlook, one often at odds with the cosmopolitan modernity that The Land of Mist depicts.

One interesting aspect of the talk was a mention of GK Chesterton's review of 'The Land of Mist' in the Illustrated London News, raised by the ACD Encyclopedia. Ed Petit from the The Rosenbach Museum & Library tracked down the review and shared it on the Sherlockian Facebook site 'The Stranger's Room'. The article was published in the Illustrated London News on 10 April 1926. An image of the article (thanks to Ed) is below, and I've placed a transcription of this most interesting article underneath. It's a delightful article with some Sherlockian pastiche opportunities discussed. Chesterton is also brutally treats ACD's Challenger character, but is highly complimentary of ACD himself.

Illustrated London News
10 April 1926
By G.K. Chesterton
SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE has just published a novel about Spiritualism ; it is called "The Land of Mist," and I for one find it intensely interesting. I do not agree with the mere disparagement of it that has been prevalent in the Press. It is not so neat and telling as one of the short stories about Sherlock Holmes ; nobody but a fool would expect it to be. Even Watson would not be such a fool as that. I have often wondered why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle does not now write up a story about Sherlock Holmes as a Spirtualist. It would be better till still we had a new and psychical repe­tition of "The Return of Sherlock Holmes" with the detective making his positively last bow as a gaunt and grisly spectre. It would be glorious to have Watson as a worried medium and Holmes as a rather irritable control. Perhaps Sherlock Holmes really did die when he fell over the precipice in the Alpine pass and all his after adven­tures were the actions of a revenant. 
Perhaps we might go over all the admirable tales, one by one, and tell them the other way round from "the other side." Perhaps the Hound of the Baskervilles really was a demon hound, and the character of a blameless naturalist, collecting butterflies, was blackened merely in order to find a fictitious natural explanation. Perhaps the treasure in "The Sign of Four" really was weighted with some cult curse of the 
Orient, and Mr. Sholto died by more than mortal agency. It would be great fun to go through the whole series and find out how the fairies stole the racehorse, or how the Musgrave family ghost killed the Musgrave family butler. But nobody could expect an exposition of psychical theory, whether in fiction or not, to have the curt and compact interest of a criminal mystery. Nobody can expect it to have the snap with which the handcuffs are locked on the struggling pur­loiner of the Romanoff Ruby or the Moon of Bengal. That sort of finality cannot be asked of stories about the infinite. And if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has found it difficult to tum his moral philosophy into a really good novel, he is not the first to fail in doing that. 
Instead of reviving Sherlock Holmes he has revived Dr. Challenger, as the distin­guished convert to Spiritualism. Dr. Chal­lenger was the hero of at least two other romances ; one about the discovery of a world still full of prehistoric monsters, and the other, I think, about some astronomical danger threatening the earth from a poison­ous atmosphere in space. Both these Chal­lenger stories would have been quite good stories if it had not been for Challenger. Challenger himself was a product of that unlucky and undignified tendency in the Teutonic and Imperialistic epoch; the blunder of supposing that really big men are bullies. It came from Prussia ; or rather, it came from hell via Prussia. But Sir Arthur was quite innocent in being in­fluenced by it; he was only one of many millions who were so influenced. In this story the bully begins by being a material­ist, and eventually becomes a Spiritualist ; but even before he becomes a Spiritualist he is a good deal less of a bully. He has been softened because his author has been softened; and his author has been softened because he has really got a religion. And that, at any rate, is a real argument for spiritualism. But when we come to the more formal arguments for Spiritualism, as operating in the case of Challenger, we find the whole question raised in a way that is certainly itself open to question. 
Challenger, who has come to scoff, remains to pray, or at any rate to praise, at the Spiritualistic seance; because, after a doubtful exhibition by the professional medium, his own daughter goes into a trance and tells her father something reassuring about two dead men to whom he once secretly ad­ministered a drug, of which he has always feared that they died. Up to this moment Dr. Challenger has appeared to be as hard as a rock in his denial and as headlong as a cataract in his disdain ; be will not hear a word, or the whisper of a word, of there being the remotest suggestion of anything to be said for Spiritualism. He is a fierce as a mad dog and as deaf as a post. He bites anybody's head off who mentions the possibility ; he sweeps it away unexamined with nothing but roaring, rending, deafen­ing contradiction. For Dr. Challenger is a Ration­alist, and one of those lucid scientific enquirers who have adopted an attitude of Agnosticism.
This does not seem an attitude quite worthy of a professional man. But Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has never been particularly flattering to his own pro­fession. There may be doctors as simple and silly as Dr. Watson. There may also be doctors as stupid and rabid as Dr. Challenger. But at least Dr. Chal­lenger's stubborn dogmas and strong unnatural antipathies ought to be a protection to him against a too ready acceptance of psychic marvels. A man of that extreme materialism has at least a long way to travel before he comes even within sight of the Land of Mist, let alone of the ultimate Land of Light. We should expect that he would have to be dragged every step of the way, that he would examine every step of the argument. And yet, when Dr. Challenger does receive his private revelation, he seems to me to take one wild and flying leap over half-a-dozen logical steps and land beyond the border-line to which he was being brought. He accepts more than the revelation reveals ; he is the fool who rushes in where the angels of the astral plane fear to tread.
If he is really certain that he inocu­lated his late patients secretly, so that nobody knew; if he is quite certain that they died before anybody knew; and if he is quite certain that he has heard certain words unmistakably referring to a cer­tain incident that nobody knew - why, then he may be justified in saying that there must be some channels of com­munication other than the senses - something capable of receiving and repeating truths other than the limited human mind, or (if you will) some power that can com­municate with the spirit by purely spiritual means. That he knows ; and that is all he knows; that he must admit, and that is all he need admit. Whether the new abnormal power is good or bad, whether the strange unexpected message is true or false, even whether the additional and unexplored faculty is inside him or out­side him, he need not in the least con­fess to knowing. All he need admit (who had a moment before recoiled in disgust from admitting anything) is that a know­ledge of his hidden thoughts exists some­where in something that can act outside him and without his consent. But when Dr. Challenger suddenly leaves off denying everything, he instantly begins accepting everything, and that beyond anything he is required to accept. These are his words : "Others may try to explain what has oc­curred by telepathy, by sub-conscious mind action, by what they will, but I cannot doubt - it is impossible to doubt - that a message has come to me from the dead."
Now, I should not have thought it was impossible to doubt it. I should not cer­tainly have thought it was impossible for so stubborn a doubter to doubt it, for so reckless a denier to doubt it. A mes­sage touching a secret need not come from the dead because it is about the dead. All we can say for certain about the secret message is that it came from somebody who knew the secret. All we know about the knowledge is that somewhere or other it is known. It need not necessarily be a dead man ; it might be a devil ; it might be a fairy ; it might be a dual personality or mysterious separ­ate mind of some other sort ; it might be all sorts of things. I do not blame a man for having a mystical and intuitional faith and saying so. But I do blame a man of science for first of all furiously deny­ing that any evidence can possibly exist ; and then, when he finds it does exist, blindly accepting it as proof of something that it does not prove. And I do not blame it the less because it does not only occur in the case of fictitious characters, but also in the case of real characters ; because it is not only found in an imaginary monster of a mad materialist, but in many a genuine and admirable Victorian agnostic ; because it is exemplified not only in an impossible person whom I dislike, but in a real person whom I respect and to whom I am grate­ful; because it is not only the story of Professor Challenger, but of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Adolphe de Gallo - a real-world Sherlock?

 I stumbled across this article in an Australian newspaper, coincidentally while searching for Australian commentary on the 'death' of Sherlock Holmes in 1893.

I have transcribed the article below:

Evening News (Sydney)
Sat 19 Feb 1898

Sherlock Holmes

By the death of Adolph de Gallo, private detective, announced in the "Evening News" yesterday, London loses the most distinguished continental detective of his time.

An "Evening News" representative, who recently made the acquaintance of the deceased, writes: De Gallo was the Sherlock Holmes of real life. For twenty-five years he practised in London, playing an important part in a large proportion of the most sensational international cases of the last quarter of a century, and yet sedulously evading notoriety. 

It was one of his proudest boasts that never once did his name get into the papers. He would talk freely over his adventures on the continent and in London, but always first established the understanding that his communications were not for publication.

At the time of his death he was engaged upon the Dreyfus case, and it was largely due to his discoveries that events took the turn they did. The adventure he liked best to relate was that in which he arrested in a house off the Old Kent road the gang of foreigners who forged the plates for Russian rouble notes, twenty years ago. He enlisted the services of a woman known to them all in trapping them, and then protected his fair accomplice from being arrested on suspicion of confederacy. Two-thirds of his work within the past few years lay among West End victims of black-mailing, which, he said, was appallingly prevalent. Among his clients were many distinguished members of the aristocracy; and authors, actors, and artists constantly sought his services. At his house in Regent's Park there have been many callers since his death, some expressing the wish to see his body. Hundreds more of his grateful clients will read this obituary notice with unfeigned regret ; to say nothing of the foreign population of London, amongst whom he was well known and respected.

Hardly a month passed but Mr. de Gallo spent a week or more in different parts of the continent prosecuting his commissions. In late years he devoted much of his ingenuity to private clients in London. It mattered nothing to him whether he worked for or against the police and Scotland Yard never had a more efficient ally or a more subtle opponent.

His diary, faithfully kept all these years, reads like a romance, and affords convincing proof that truth is stranger than fiction. The names therein mentioned, if revealed, would astonish London. Yet the dead detective's name is quite unknown -save among his clientele — outside the police circles of the world.

A Hanoverian by birth, the late Mr. de Gallo served through the Franco-Prussian War, his rank being that of lieutenant-colonel ; he was a nobleman in his own country and owned a coronet. He is survived by a wife and family, his widow being the daughter of the late Henry Hart Davis, one of the architects of the Thames Embankment.
— London "Evening News" January 1.


Wow! What do we make of this? Is it a hoax? It sounds a little more Poirot (still two decades away) than Sherlock. But then again, the unpublished diaries have a hint of the Watson's Tin Box about them.

Was this man real? The above article is the only time his accomplishments made it to the Australian papers.

I can see that Adolph Georg H Voon GALLO married Barbara Eleanor DAVIS in 1869 in the registration indexes.

In the 1891 UK census shows Adolphe de Gallo living (possibly after a great hiatus?) in Rodney Place, London. In the family is wife Barbara E (same as above marriage record!). Adolphe de Gallo's occupation is "interpreter and private enquiry agent", born in Germany. Children were born in Germany, Bristol, and Kent.

de Gallo operated offices on Great Marlborough Street, where directories in the 1890s listed him as a 'interpreter & translator & private inquiry agent'. Regular advertisements in newspapers advertise his business:

London Evening Standard
Monday 09 August 1897
SECRET SERVICE DETECTIVE OFFICE, 39, Great Marlborough-street, London, W. for divorce and general detective work. Foreign languages spoken. References barristers, solicitors, and bankers. Advice free. - A. de Gallo.

London Evening Standard
Wednesday 16 July 1890
A. de GALLO's DETECTIVE OFFICES, for private inquiries of all classes, with secrecy and despatch. Male and female agents in England and Continent. Terms moderate. Consultations free. Communications by telegraph or letter attended to without delay. - Address 39, Great Marlborough-street, Regent-street, W.

The 1881 census shows de Gallo with the occupation of 'Solicitor's Managing Clerk'.  Supporting de Gallo's death in 1898 is a cemetery cremation index entry for 3 Jan 1898 at Camden. Probate reveals an estate of only 13 pounds when it was settled in 1900, so he certainly didn't manage to accumulate the income that Sherlock did.

British newspapers do have mentions of de Gallo, but very few. Most are the same or similar articles announcing de Gallo's death, but one reports his cremation and interment of remains and provides a little more colour:

The Era (London)
Sat 08 Jan 1898
The remains of Adolphe De Gallo were taken to their last resting-place in Finchley Cemetery on Monday, and were followed thence by the two sons, Charles and Fritz, Sylvester Schaffer and his son. The deceased gentleman was a born detective, and established himself in London, at Great Marlborough-street, after the Franco-German War. in which he fought under the victorious Von Moltke. Foreign artists in London sought him to arrange dramatic and other contracts with English managers, and also Continental speculators; while our home artists found him a safe guide in dealing with the managers of St. Petersburg, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Buda-Pest, and many other cities. 
Paul Cinquevalli, the Schaffers, and other distinguished professionals have much to thank the late detective for. A year or two back he saved a leading English dramatist from the machinations of a man and woman in London, who were bent on ruining him, body and soul. The late Sir Augustus Harris possessed a high opinion of De Gallo's powers. 
Last January the deceased detective was taken ill. His lungs were attacked, and he terribly faded. Reviving a little in the summer he attended duty, and a few weeks back he was called in to aid the Dreyfus case. While engaged on this he was knocked down by a cab, came home, took to his bed, and never recovered the shock. He has left copious notes of many cases, and these may be judiciously used for dramatic and literary purposes, though, of course, excessive care wilt be imperative. Sylvester Schaffer placed a magnificent wreath on the coffin, and spoke with tears in his eyes of the old friend who had aided him in contracts representing thousands of pounds. De Gallo has left a widow and seven children, the eldest daughter being on the press. 

The only other newspaper mentions are several articles in 1890 describing a 'West End Scandal' in which de Gallo and others were charged with 'conspiring to defeat the due course of the law' (for which Sherlock was guilty) - and amazingly de Gallo was charged with trying to have people involved in a case moved to Australia (very canonical)! This was in fact the famous Cleveland Street scandal, (from Wiki:) "when a homosexual male brothel and house of assignation on Cleveland Street, London, was discovered by police. The government was accused of covering up the scandal to protect the names of aristocratic and other prominent patrons." - it is incredible reading, and de Gallo was charged with assisting to facilitate covering up the scandal :  

So what do we have here? A Sherlock Holmes detective in London who avoided public attention in the newspapers (no side-kick to document the cases?), and died in 1898. I need to know more about this man! Where are his papers? I wondered whether his death announcement in 1898 was a publicity stunt (similar to Sherlock's own faked death and hiatus) but cremation records support that he died - why can I not find a death registration though? And why doesn't de Gallo have a biography?

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Fran Zilio's presentation to the Sydney Passengers

The most recent Sydney Passengers meeting hosted Fran Zilio, who is the Manager, Archives, Library & Australian Polar at the South Australian Museum. 

I met Fran when I contacted the Museum as part of my research into the passing acquaintances of ACD (a plan to write a biography of every person mentioned in his book), seeking Museum records related to ACD's visit to Thomas Bellchambers (I recently posted the article here). Fran was incredibly helpful to me, and we had a flurry of e-mails back and forth.

Furthermore, I was stunned to learn that Fran and her colleagues had recently researched and created a display on Arthur Conan Doyle's visit to Adelaide. How, I wondered, did the Sherlockian world miss out on this? Well, they didn't have to, and I connect Fran with Bill Barnes at the Sydney Passengers who arranged for Fran to deliver a presentation at a meeting of the members, on 28 April 2024.

Virtual meetings of the Sydney Passengers are posted to Youtube, so the great news is that everyone can watch Fran's presentation here (permanent link

Fran and colleagues became interested in Doyle via reading about his visit to the Museum of South Australia in a book about the history of that museum:

Adelaide was the first true stop on Doyle's tour of Australia. This map from the ACD Encyclopedia :

The team at the South Australian Museum did an amazing amount of investigation and archival searching to piece together how ACD's time was spent in Adelaide. While Doyle referenced some activities in his memoirs (Wanderings of a Spiritualist), some were fairly non-specific and indirect. Other activities were (understandably) not mentioned at all.

I wanted to highlight an example of the impressive discoveries Fran and her group found. 

Doyle mentioned visiting a winery ; and the team eliminated possibilities, tracked down the visitors book for that year (!) held at the National Museum of Australia, and confirmed it was indeed Penfolds that Doyle visited.

They found that both Doyle and Major Wood were made honorary members of the Adelaide Club, and that this was likely where Doyle had dinner with a group of doctors.

While it is NOT mentioned in Wanderings, Fran and team also discovered that Doyle lunched at Government House with the Governor

What a spectacular presentation, and a wonderful piece of Doylean research !!!!

Friday, June 7, 2024

Upcoming Sotheby's auction of the library of Rodney Swatko

It was recently announced that the library of Rodney Swatko would be auctioned at Sotheby's. The major item that received attention in the news was the manuscript copy of 'The Sign of The Four' - one of Doyle's four Sherlock Holmes novels. See for example this article in the Smithsonian Magazine.

The full auction list has now been posted by Sotheby's; 

Some information on Swatko from the Sotheby's site.

"Rodney Swantko (1940–2022) was born in Indiana and became a specialist in oral and maxillofacial surgery. He conducted his book collecting almost entirely by telephone bidding at major auctions and maintained a low profile in the book world, although he was a generous benefactor to both the Lilly Library at his alma mater, Indiana University, and the Newberry Library, Chicago. While undoubtedly part of the fabric of the book-collecting world, Swantko remained very private about this collection. Many people were familiar with some of what he had, but no one really knew all of what he had."

Let's take a look - it's a small list of exceptional items. It will be interesting to discover whether any of the people who purchase these items allow themself to be known to the public!

The complete autograph manuscript signed three times ("A. Conan Doyle") of The Sign of the Four, the second Sherlock Holmes novel, 1890

What a beauty! The earliest known Sherlock manuscript. I love the inlaid letter where Doyle points out an inconsistency in the story that needs to be repaired ; and another debating on the title between 'The Story of the Sholtos' and 'The SIgn of Four'. The manuscript was handed to Stoddart (editor of Lippincott's who commissioned the story). The first page of the manuscript went missing and Doyle provided a replacement - that first page is now held by the University of California San Diego.

Official description:

161 leaves of ledger-ruled paper (324 x 200 mm), comprising an original covering title-sheet and 160 text leaves, foliated [4], 5–160 in several hands, written on rectos only in brown-black ink in a clear, confident hand with only occasional, and usually minor, autograph revisions, emendations, and deletions, Bush Villa, Southsea, [September 1889], the first text leaf an autograph fair copy supplied by Doyle (see below) with Conan Doyle's card mounted at top and inscribed in his hand "With kind remembrances," verso of leaf 122 with a pencil sketch apparently by Doyle; with additional editorial annotations, mostly in pencil, regularizing the author's punctuation and other incidentals to American conventions and Americanizing British spellings (e.g., cucaine, grey, neighbourhood, coloured, demeanour, endeavoured, harbour, odour, splendour); occasional light finger-soiling and a few short marginal tears at front and rear, supplied fair-copy leaf with clean tear at edge of mounted card, withal in remarkable condition considering the manuscript served as the printer's copytext. Red skiver gilt by Stikeman, marbled endpapers, red edges; extremities quite rubbed, front free endpaper loose.

Accompanied by 4 important autograph letters signed by Conan Doyle ("A. Conan Doyle") to Joseph Marshall Stoddart, editor of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, relating to the composition of The Sign of the Four and its first publication in that periodical: all Bush Villa, Southsea,... the letters all inlaid to size and bound, on guards at the front of the volume with a typographic title-page printed in red and black bound at front and with a mounted albumen photograph portrait of Conan Doyle (145 x 98 mm) serving as frontispiece; the letters, title-page, and photograph all evidently later additions to the binding 

Sidney Paget's original illustration of "The Death of Sherlock Holmes"

Wow. This is a truly iconic Paget illustration of the tussle with Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. This was owned by Adrian Conan Doyle and was part of the 1951 Sherlock exhibition in London. 

"Original pen and ink and wash drawing heightened with white of The Death of Sherlock Holmes (269 x 186 mm), an illustration for the story "The Adventure of the Final Problem," signed and dated lower left "Sidney Paget | 1893," the drawing done on two sections of paper (the lower portion 95 mm height), mounted on board, with a clear but close, even horizontal separation between them, the lower margin evidently bearing a sizing instruction, "5 inche." Matted, framed, and glazed."

The Hound of the Baskervilles; perhaps the best-loved crime story

A first edition of Hound of the Baskervilles.

Vincent Starrett | The Unique Hamlet: "one of the rarest pieces of Sherlockiana"

I have to be honest, I don't love pastiches. This early pastiche was produced in a small print run, and is considered to be one of the rarest and most sought-after Sherlockian items. More information on this item at the ACD Encyclopedia.

"This early pastiche of a Sherlock Holmes detective story is widely considered one of the preeminent imitations of Arthur Conan Doyle of the many in existence. It follows Holmes as he solves the case of a missing 1602 edition of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Published as a Christmas book in 1920, it was intended to have a print run of 200 copies, half with "For the friends of Vincent Starrett" to the title, and half with "For the friends of Walter M. Hill." However, due to a printing error, only ten copies were printed with the name of the author. Here Starrett has inscribed this scarce copy: "Dear MacKay—Warmest greetings at Christmas! Dec. 1920."

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, a large paper dedication copy of this pinnacle of Sherlockiana

Two copies of 'The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes'. One of them was one of three copies privately bound by Starrett - absolutely beautiful:

The full page inscription by Starrett as follows: "Before The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes was officially published in October 1933, I was inspired to ask the publisher for three sets of the unbound sheets untrimmed and uncut, intending to have them appropriately bound for three favored Sherlockians of my acquaintance. Nothing, alas, came of this commendable gesture, and the sheets remained in my possession for a quarter of a century, gathering a little dust (I fear) on my shelves. Now, at long last, through the generosity of a friend, I have been enabled to fulfill my original intention. This, then, is one of three (only) large paper copies of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, especially bound for the author (aet. 72) in February 1959. This first copy is signed in friendship for Lloyd Springer, for whom the game is always afoot. Vincent Starrett".


Friday, May 24, 2024

The Company Canon

I recently got hold of a (complete) set of seven Sherlock Holmes publications titled the 'The Company Canon' published by the Franco-Midland Hardware Company. Each of these books contains a single Sherlock Holmes story, with annotations created by Philip Weller. All seven books were published in 1994 and 1995, are spiral-bound, and each has a differently-colored card cover. They are quite attractive, but what I was not prepared for based on the photos I'd seen is how small they are (4 inches by 6 inches) - see the standard-sized iPhone placed next to the seven books to give a sense of scale!


The seven stories that were annotated are (not in order, which I cannot determine):
  • The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb (236 annotations)
  • The Adventure of the Devil's Foot (123 annotations)
  • The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax (127 annotations)
  • The Adventure of the Dancing Men (212 annotations)
  • The Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk (301 annotations)
  • The Problem of Thor Bridge (138 annotations)
  • The Adventure of the Empty House (191 annotations)
The various newsletters of the FMHC I own do not really provide any articles with a context for the creation of the series. There are brief pieces stating 'Company Canon' issues are available for sale, but I can't find any announcement of the series. The books do have a 'General Introduction' :

"The Company Canon is a collection of singular case Holmesian texts, produced in a convenient working format for scholars by The Franco-Midland Hardware Company, The International Sherlock Holmes Study Group. The basic texts used are those of The Strand Magazine, this having been the form in which the majority of the cases were first published. Variations between those texts and other important editions of the Holmesian Canon are noted, including the manuscript version, if available, and the datings assigned by the major Holmesian chronologists are listed. Space is provided for the inclusion of additional annotations.

The cover displays the crest of the Franco-Midland Hardware Company, and the Contents are listed. I'm showing Engineer's Thumb as an example. The story is not short, and the Contents show the story occupies about 33 pages,. The annotations occupy about 20 pages. Some annotations relate to differences in formatting between editions, while others provide historical context, geographical context, or meanings. Weller encouraged textual study and in these volumes he provided a 'Additional Annotations' section to allow the owner to jot down other annotations (see my post on his Geographica Baskervillia for another example of this approach). Finally, the inside of the back cover provides the dates determined by eleven Sherlockian chronologies - very handy indeed.

It's a shame (as always) that the series from Weller wasn't continued beyond these seven editions, but they provide a useful complement to the Baring-Gould and both Klinger annotations, among others. They also look great!!

As a side-note, this is not the only annotation of a Conan Doyle story published by Weller. Doyle's story 'The Winning Shot' was also published in 1995 by 'Sherlock Publications. This publication contains further detailed analysis of the story including discussion of the Dartmoor connection and maps of the area.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The Baker Street Cinematograph

I purchased a copy of David Stuart Davies book 'Holmes of the Movies" published in 1977. 

That's not much of a blog post on it's own, but one of my 'favorite things' is finding an item inlaid into a book. In this case, I found a single sheet of paper printed. on both sides, and dated 1977 (the same year the book was published). The document was created by Jon Lellenberg for the National Film Society in Washington, D.C., for 5 November 1977. The document concludes with a description of the Baker Street Cinematograph, a Sherlockian group I've not heard of. 

Given the topic, author, and timing, I feel this is worth transcribing and sharing - though I should say the single-sentence review of the DSD book is fairly brutal !!

What do you think of Lellenberg's list?

Jon L. Lellenberg, National Film Society, Washington, D.C., November 5, 1977

  • Michael Pointer, The Sherlock Holmes File, Clarkson, N. Potter Inc., 1975. Highly recommended ; worth its price as a portrait gallery alone.
  • Robert Pohle & Douglas Hart, Sherlock Holmes on the Screen, A.S. Barnes & Company, 1977. A first-rate survey of Sherlock Holmes films.
  • David Stuart Davies, Holmes of the Movies, Clarkson, N. Potter Inc., 1977. Very superficial and error-ridden account of the subject.
  • Ron Haydock, Deerstalker, Scarecrow Press, forthcoming 1978. Bibliographical survey of Holmes on film and television, of unknown quality.
  • Chris Steinbrunner, The Cinema of Sherlock Holmes, Citadel Press, forthcoming 1978. A recommended study of Sherlock Holmes films.
Landmarks of Sherlock Holmes Films
1. SHERLOCK HOLMES BAFFLED, unknown cast. 1900, American Mutoscope and Biograph Company (US). The earliest known Sherlock Holmes film.
2. THE SPECKLED BAND, Georges Treville, 1912, Franco-British Film Company (US/Fr). First of a series of eight, Sherlock Holmes films became a big business at this time.
3. A STUDY IN SCARLET, James Bragington. 1914, Samuelson Film Mfg. Co. (UK). The first feature Sherlock Holmes Film. Followed by H.A. Saintsbury in The Valley of Fear (1916), the first time Holmes was portrayed on film by a first-rank actor.
4. SHERLOCK HOLMES, William Gillette. 1916, Essanay (US). The film version of the great stage play, starring the actor who molded the public image of Sherlock Holmes.
5. SHERLOCK HOLMES, John Barrymore. 1922, Goldwyn Pictures (US). Gustav von Seyffertitiz (Moriarty), Roland Young (Watson). The first Holmes film made on an "A" budget.
6. THE SIGN OF FOUR, Eille Norwood. 1923, Stoll Pictures Productions (UK). The culmination of a series of forty-seven Holmes films, the first to update Holmes into contemporary times.
7. THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, Clive Brook. 1929, Paramount (US). The first Holmes film in sound, made the same year as the last silent Holmes film. Followed by Brook in Sherlock Holmes (Fox, 1932), with Ernest Torrance as Moriarty.
8. THE SPECKLED BAND, Raymond Massay. 1931, British & Dominion Studios (UK). Lyn Harding (Grimesby Rylott). Photgrapher by Freddie Young. The first British Holmes film in sound, the film version of the stage play.
9. THE SLEEPING CARDINAL, Arthur Wontner. 1931, Twickenham Film Studios (UK). Wontner is perhaps the best Sherlock Holmes on film. Followed by The Missing Rembrandt (1932), The Sign of Four (1932), The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes (1935), and Silver Blaze (1937). 
10. THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, Basil Rathbone. 1939, Twentieth Century Fox (US). Nigel Bruce (Watson). The most famous Sherlock Holmes on film, in a splendid return to period format. Followed by The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939) and the series of twelve Universal films (1942-1946).
11. THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, Peter Cushing. 1959, Hammer Films (UK). Andre Morrell (Watson), Christopher Lee (Sir Henry). The first Sherlock Holmes film in color. Cushing would later star as Holmes in a BBC television series in the late 1960s.
12. A STUDY IN TERROR, John Neville. 1965, Compton-Cameo Films (UK). Donald Houstin (Watson), Robert Morley (Mycroft Holmes). The last major Holmes film to be made for the sake of the adventure.
13. THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, Robert Stephens. 1970, Mirisch Productions (US/UK). Colin Blakeley (Watson), Christopher Lee (Mycroft Holmes). Directed by Billy Wilder. The first film to tamper with Holmes's image, the release version is only two-thirds of the completed film.
14. THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, George C. Scott. 1971, Universal (US). Joanne Woodward (Watson). A film about the desire to be Sherlock Holmes, rather than about Holmes himself.
15. THE SEVEN-PERCENT SOLUTION, Nicol Williamson. 1976, Universal (US). Robert Duvall (Watson), Laurence Olivier (Moriarty), Alan Arkin (Sigmund Freud). The film version of the bestselling novel.

Forthcoming: LIMEHOUSE (based upon The Return of Moriarty by John Gardner) with Donald Sutherland; THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (the tenth film version!) with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore ; SHERLOCK HOLMES AND SAUCY JACK. 

Holmes on Television

The first appearance of Sherlock Holmes on television was in 1937, in a U.S. live broadcast of The Three Garridebs ; the first series began in 1951 with Alan Wheatley, on BBC in Great Britain. Since that time Holmes has been played on television by Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Ronald Howard, Douglas Wilmer, Peter Cushing, John Cleese, Christopher Plummer, and others. The first feature Sherlock Holmes film made for television appeared in 1972, The Hound of the Baskervilles with Stewart Granger ; followed in 1976 by The Return of the World's Greatest Detective with Larry Hagman, and Sherlock Holmes in New York with Roger Moore as Holmes and John Huston as Moriarty. There will be more.

The Baker Street Cinematograph

is an organization established to perform four functions in the area of Sherlock Holmes films: (1) to assist in the preservation of rare Holmes films threatened with destruction due to age and neglect ; (2) to collect and preserve related filmic materials for research and scholarly purposes ; (3) to assist in making Holmes films available for viewing by Sherlockians and scion societies of the Baker Street Irregulars ; and (4) to sponsor an annual showing of rare Sherlock Holmes films during the Baker Street Irregulars weekend in New York every January. For information write to Richard L. Katz, The American Film Institute, 501 North Doheny Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90068, or Chris Steinbrunner, WOR-TV, 1440 Broadway, New York, NY 10018. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The first year of the blog - reviewed

Well, it's been ONE YEAR since the first post on my Sherlockian blog ( At the time I knew it was a little risky to start a blog that awkwardly sat around without posts, and I've tried to keep a good level of activity. Looking at my blog activity, I see I've made 60 posts in 12 months! Some of these posts were short notes or observations, others were drafts of Sherlockian articles I was working on. These article drafts are useful for me to post because they are usually longer than the edited-for-space-or-readability article that is ultimately published. Perhaps best of all I find that ideas I post on the blog are 'markers' I can return to when thinking about concepts to develop into an article or talk.

Looking at my first post on the blog, these were the topics I planned to post on:

1. Posts on Sherlockian books, new and old - including tracing original owners.

2. Books published by the 'Baker Street Irregulars' (because I'm trying to collect all BSI publications)

3. I hope to interview people. This hasn't really eventuated.

4. Report on new Sherlockian publications or events I attend.

Point 3 never really took off because I discovered other blogs already doing interviews in a way that was far better than anything I'd thought of. I did recently interview someone for an article I'm writing and I do have a list of people. I'd like to speak to on specific topics.

What has been 'popular'? Here are the five most viewed blog posts.

1. March 2024: The Arthur Conan Doyle Collection at the Toronto Public Library
Most visited, and one of my most recent posts. Describes my visit to the collection while in Toronto, with highlights from the collection including a Beeton's first edition. 

2. August 2023: The Sherlockian podcast world
This could do with a companion piece on Sherlock drama/pastiche postcast series.

3. June 2023: Sherlockian glimpses in London
This is a compilation of sites I visited in London related to the world of Sherlock. I'd like to do the same thing for the Doylean world on a future visit to London.

4. May 2023: Why Does Glen Miranker Collect Books?
This is actually the first post (after the introductory post) that I made. I recorded Glen's presentation to the Red Circle, and continue to record and post scion presentations.

5. September 2023: My fascination with Calabash Press
This fits into the 'book collecting' category - I've been collecting every book published by Calabash press. More importantly, this post lists all books published by Calabash Press.

I've also reflected on my personal favorite posts: 

1. The dancing miners and their photographer
A blog post studying one of the first Sherlockian photographs - taken in Australia - and identifying the location and photographer.

2. Donald Girard Jewell’s Sherlock Holmes Natural History Series
Describing Jewelll's book series that I'd finally managed to bring together.

3. A book is more than just a book. Gisela Susanne Seligmann (1929-?)
Where I identify the backstory of the owner of a cope of The White Company.

A book review, with backstory on the ACD connection to the Cottingley Fairies.

A filming (by me) of a wonderful performance of a new short play written by Ray Betzner and performed at the 2024 William Gillette luncheon.

So there it is. Just like ACD"s list of his twelve best stories, it's true that my favorite posts are a little different from those that are widely read. I'm incredibly thankful that ANYONE reads these posts, and I'm also satisfied that I've managed to continue posting. I don't think I expected to post on Scion meetings as much as I have - and writing these reviews and linking them to presentation recordings is a nice way of capturing the context for these recorded presentations.

My current priority is to write a set of Sherlockian articles I've sketched out, and I'll be posting drafts of these articles in the next few months. 

Conclusion: this blog was totally worth it! 

Worldwide Doyle 2024 and the Land of Mist

The Portsmouth History Center holds the Conan Doyle Collection. When the Sherlockian Richard Lancelyn Green died in 2004, he left his collec...