We all know about the nerds who post online corrections to errors or omissions in books, films, dramatisations and the like. Well back in 1987 , before the Internet made it all too easy, there were people like R. Lujer, who typed their complaints to—in this case—the publisher of Peter Haining’s The Television Sherlock Holmes. Haining, who was doubtless royally entertained by this particular letter, kept it in his Archive. Here it is in full.
Dear Mr Haining,
I received a copy of your book last Christmas and have thoroughly enjoyed dipping into it before embarking upon a more orthodox read, until I reached page 179 and “The Mystery of Watson’s Dog”. I remember the review by Nancy Banks Smith and thought at the time that she had resurrected a non-event. The real mystery is the TRAIN, not the dog.
Bulldogs experience, as a rule, shortish lives, the result of overweight front ends and convolutory respiratory passages. Trains, or more exactly steam locomotives, generally had working lives of 50 or more years. Even some of the G.W.R. “Bulldog” class of 1901, transformed into “Earls” in the 1930s, were still running in the 1960s. Surely Watson’s dog simply died an early, natural death; and he found it convenient or prudent (or both) not to secure a replacement.But what of the locomotive in “The Copper Beeches”?Continue reading →
The contribution of W.O.G. Lofts ( 1923 – 1997) to the history of boys’ fiction in the British periodical press is immense. ‘Bill’ Lofts, a mechanical engineer by training, but a fact-collector by inclination (why did he never enter BBC’s Mastermind ?), was also interested in detective stories. Sexton Blake and Sherlock Holmes were two creations on which his skills as an astonishingly assiduous researcher were exercised to great effect. Years spent among the riches of the British Museum Periodical Library at Colindale on projects which probably no-one else had either the energy or commitment to pursue produced what turned out to be invaluable guides to the more obscure purlieus of popular literature. One such study was The Adventures of Herlock Sholmes: a History and Bibliography, a pamphlet co-written in 1976 with the owner of the Dispatch Box Press, Jon Lellenberg, an expert in the history of Sherlock Holmes in parody and pastiche.
According to Lofts and Lellenberg, the story of the Herlock Sholmes parodies was also the story of their creator, Charles Hamilton (above) the most prolific writer in the English language, who as the mainstay of Amalgamated Press, is estimated to have written around 72 million words in his whole career , the equivalent of a thousand full-length novels. Using the pen name ‘Peter Todd’, which was the name of a pupil at Greyfriars School, which Hamilton had dreamed up for TheMagnet, Hamilton made Todd a contributor of Sherlock Holmes parodies to The Greyfriars Herald, the school’s own newspaper, which Amalgamated Press brought out as a separate publication.
Found in The London Mystery Magazine of April/May 1951 this amusing Sherlockian poem casting doubt on Watson's medical credentials…The author 'Sagittarius' was a journalist named Olga Katzin* who wrote several humorous and satirical books, some in rhyme. A short life is appended below. The London Mystery Magazine began in 1949 and went on into the mid 1950s. It gave its address as 221b Baker Street. Adrian Conan-Doyle (Arthur's son) 'not uncharacteristically' sued the magazine, but lost the case.
Illustrated by 'Figaro'
Holmes left one unsolved mystery,
The case of the strange M. D.;
Was he ever qualified?
Had he anything to hide?
And why was he always free?
Facts of his previous history
Researchers fail to trace,
But there’s something queer in his medical career,
For he never had a single case.
Nobody called Dr Watson
For medical advice;
If Sherlock in a hurry asked his company in Surrey,
Watson would be ready in a trice.
No one ever seemed to worry,
When he drove to Charing Cross,
Which strengthens the suspicion that as surgeon or physician
Watson was a total loss.
Found among the papers of Peter Haining this account by him of a meeting with the Hammer Horror film star Peter Cushing. Haining worked with Cushing on several books including Peter Cushing's Monster Movies (9 macabre short stories all linked to Cushing's film career) and The Sherlock Holmes Scrapbook both with forewords by Cushing. These contributions were written by Haining and then approved by Cushing (after much correspondence, some slightly rancorous- he appears to have been a perfectionist although all his communications end "God bless you, Peter Cushing")
Afternoon Tea with Sherlock Holmes
By Peter Haining
It was the perfect place to meet Sherlock Holmes: 'The English Tea Room' in Brown's Hotel, Albermarle Street in the heart of London's fashionable Mayfair district. Long associated with the great English tradition of taking afternoon tea - served with the hotel's own blend, home-made jams and clotted cream and tasty cakes and pastries the Nineteenth Century establishment is also steeped in literary tradition and has been patronised by among others Oscar Wilde, Rudyard Kipling and Agatha Christie who actually based her novel, At Bertram’s Hotel, on Brown's. Founded in 1837 by James Brown, a former valet to Lord Byron who referred to him as the 'gentleman's gentleman,' the hotel has become an oasis of elegance, comfort and fine cuisine in the heart of the bustling metropolis. Indeed, such is the timeless style of Brown's that it is not hard to imagine the great detective paying a visit and no surprise to me that Peter Cushing, associated with Holmes for much & his acting career and a man dedicated to his afternoon cup of tea, should have chosen it as his own haven whenever he was working in the vicinity of London on stage or in films and television. Continue reading →
This scrap of a letter, on paper watermarked 1824, was discovered a few years ago in a pile of autographs. It had been sent by the rather obscure W.B.MacDonagh, author of The Hermit in London to Charles Molloy Westmacott, editor of the notorious Age newspaper, and author of the London Spy, and proposed a meeting to discuss business.
Found - an interesting Sherlockian letter in a collection of papers of the late 'Evoe' - the comic writer, satirist, poet and one time editor of Punch known as E.V. Knox. It is from James Edward Holroyd* dated 23/4/1967 from 11 Heath Royal, Putney to Knox in Frognal, Hampstead. He brings attention to his (Holroyd's) letter published in that weeks New Statesman and recalls a Press Club Sherlock Holmes dinner when he had sat with 'Evoe' and Sir Sidney Roberts, another follower of what Sherlockians call 'the higher criticism.' He invites him to visit old Fleet Street haunts with him ('a glass of wine at El Vino'). The published letter reads:
Your readers may wish to be reminded of the enchanting theory, advanced by E.V. Knox, that Conan Doyle's famous story The Hound of the Baskervilles was originally written as a libretto. In support of his claim, he quoted the following stanza :
I stooped, panting, and pressed my pistol
To the dreadful, shimmering head,
But it was useless to press the trigger,
The giant hound was dead.
No wonder that on another occasion Holmes remarked : "Cut out the poetry, Watson".
Evoe's original piece A Ramble in Dartmoor published in Punch 21/1/1948 also quotes these lines of 'found poetry' from The Hound of the Baskervilles:
The night was clear and fine above us
The stars shone cold and bright,
While a half moon bathed the whole scene
In a soft uncertain light..
He concludes 'I can only hope that we may one-day discover the manuscript of the original poem, ballad, or libretto from which the story has been reduced down into workaday prose.'
*Editor of Seventeen Steps to 221B: A Sherlockian Collectionby English Writers and Baker Street By-Ways.