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The Best of Sherlock Holmes
By Randall Stock, September 3, 2016
A page from Conan Doyle's manuscript of The Hound of the Baskervilles has been reported stolen, and readers are encouraged to contact the FBI with any information about it.
One of the rare privately-held pages from The Hound of the Baskervilles was stolen from a collector in Palm Beach, Florida. The theft included a large number of historical manuscripts. Although some of the stolen material has been recovered, many pieces remain missing, including the Hound page.
The approximately 12 x 8 inch sheet contains part of Sherlock Holmes's explanation of the mystery. It mentions Sir Charles Baskerville, Dr. Mortimer, the Grimpen Mire, and how Stapleton acquired the "savage hound." Written in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's typical clear handwriting, the page consisted of 33 lines of text from Chapter 15 of the novel.
Most of the original manuscript for the Hound is missing, though not due to theft. In 1902, the book's American publisher broke up the manuscript as part of a publicity campaign. The publisher sent single pages to booksellers, who typically displayed the sheets in their store windows to promote the newly released novel.
The census for The Hound of the Baskervilles manuscript notes that only 36 leaves from this story are known to still exist, and libraries and similar institutions hold 24 of them. The stolen leaf (H33 on the census) was one of a dozen privately held sheets from the Hound.
Conan Doyle's classic tale of Gothic horror and suspense became one of the first bestselling novels of the 20th century. Pages from the manuscript are extremely rare, with one page selling at auction in 2012 for $158,500. Two other pages sent to auction since then did not meet the reserve price and went unsold.
Charles Hamilton Autographs offered this leaf (H33) at auction in April 1967. Dr. David Light, an ophthalmologist, purchased the page from the auction and added it to what became an extensive collection of historical manuscripts, including scientific letters now held by Tulane. He died several years after the theft, but his son is continuing the recovery effort.
The Hound leaf and other items were stolen from a Florida storage facility in 2009. Some of the material has since been recovered with the assistance of the FBI, auction houses, dealers, and collectors. If you have any information about this Hound leaf, please contact Leslie Wilson of the FBI at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
This text reflects the entire leaf when it was sold in 1967. Since the thief could have cut off part of the page, be sure to check for any portion of the text below.
At this point in the story, Sherlock Holmes is explaining the details of the mystery to Dr. Watson:
to be of such intense interest to us. The fellow had evidently made inquiry and found that only two lives intervened between him and a valuable estate. When he went to Devonshire his plans were, I believe, exceedingly hazy, but that he meant mischief from the first is evident from the way in which he took his wife with him in the character of his sister. The idea of using her as a decoy was clearly already in his mind, though he may not have been certain how the details of his plot were to be arranged. He meant in the end to have the estate, and he was ready to use any tool or run any risk for that end. His first act was to establish himself as near to his ancestral home as he could, and his second was to cultivate a friendship with Sir Charles Baskerville and with the neighbours.
The baronet himself told him about the family hound, and so prepared the way for his own death. Stapleton, as I will continue to call him, knew that the old man's heart was weak and that a shock would kill him. So much he had learned from Dr. Mortimer. He had heard also that Sir Charles was superstitious and had taken this grim legend very seriously. His ingenious mind instantly suggested a way by which the baronet could be done to death, and yet it would be hardly possible to bring home the guilt to the real murderer.
Having conceived the idea he proceeded to carry it out with considerable finesse. An ordinary schemer would have been content to work with a savage hound. The use of artificial means to make the creature diabolical was a flash of genius upon his part. The dog he bought in London from Ross and Mangles, the dealers in Fulham Road. It was the strongest and most savage in their possession. He brought it down by the North Devon line and walked a great distance over the moor so as to get it home without exciting any remarks. He had already on his insect hunts learned to penetrate the Grimpen Mire, and so had found a safe hiding-place for the creature. Here he kennelled it and waited his chance.
Census of the Manuscript of The Hound of the Baskervilles
Census of Sherlock Holmes Manuscripts
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