The Hound of the Baskervilles

By the early 1890’s Arthur Conan Doyle had grown tired of Sherlock Holmes and decided, therefore, to end the life of his detective creation once and for all. He, therefore sent him plunging into a watery grave in the company of his arch nemesis Professor Moriarty.

Having done the deed, Conan Doyle began devoting his attentions to, what he felt, were more serious pursuits.

A HUGE PUBLIC OUTCRY

But, as you will see in this video, it wasn’t long before Conan Doyle and his publishers, The Strand Magazine, were subjected to a ferocious backlash from the Victorian public, who were both furious and distraught at the loss of their hero.

WATCH THE VIDEO

Employees of the City of London banks were seen walking around the streets wearing black arm bands to mourn the death of Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle was bombarded with letters from angry readers, one of which, from a disgruntled female reader, scolded him with the opening salvo “you brute, how could you do such a thing?”

20,000 readers demonstrated their dissatisfaction by cancelling their subscriptions to The Strand Magazine. “I was amazed at the concern expressed by the public” Conan Doyle later wrote. But, as far as he was concerned he had most certainly done the right thing and expressed his determination to leave Holmes dead, even, he said later, if “it meant burying my bank account along with him.”

CONAN DOYLE’S INTEREST IN THE OCCULT

Over the next few years Conan Doyle’s interest in the supernatural began to increase and it was this interest in the occult that, in 1901, gave him the idea for his most legendary and most read story of all The Hound of the Baskervilles. Having conceived the idea for this new chiller of a story, he decided that he needed a hero. Not wanting to create a new character he opted to use Sherlock Holmes, albeit, he would make it an adventure that occurred before Holmes’s watery demise, so as not to get the public’s hopes up that the great detective might, somehow, still be alive!

A MASSIVE SUCCESS

The Hound of the Baskervilles, proved to be an international sensation and The Strand Magazine’s circulation rose by a remarkable 30,000 copies, more than making up for the previous loss of readers.

A poster advertising Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes in the Hound of the Baskervilles.
The Hound of the Baskervilles Movie Poster

COULD HOLMES LIVE AGAIN?

Indeed, so successful was the story, that it was suggested that he might give some thought to bringing Holmes back from the dead. It was pointed out to him that, in sending Holmes plunging into the roaring depths of the Reichenbach Falls, he had, in fact, provided him with a death that didn’t actually need, or have, a body.

Thus was the germ of an idea sown in Conan Doyle’s mind, and he began pondering a way to give Sherlock Holmes and his faithful side kick, Dr John H. Watson, a new lease of life.

BASIL RATHBONE IN
THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES

To many the quintessential Sherlock Holmes is Basil Rathbone and, to end this look at the story and its genesis, you can watch him giving his performance in Sherlock Holmes’s most performed adventure The Hound of the Baskervilles.