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B. Fletcher Robinson & Sherlock Holmes PDF Print E-mail
On the 11 July 1900, both Bertram Fletcher Robinson and Arthur Conan Doyle (hereafter BFR and ACD respectively) departed Cape Town for England aboard a steamship called Briton.  The pair shared a dining table and were photographed together shortly before the ship docked at Southampton on 28 July 1900.  ACD wrote in his autobiography that it was during this voyage that he 'cemented' his friendship with BFR.  This comment implies that the two men may have met earlier, perhaps as fellow members of the Reform Club in London?  ACD also recalled that during this voyage, a French Army officer called Major Roger Raoul Duval, accused the British of using dum-dum bullets during the Second Boer War campaign.  ACD reacted angrily to this allegation and BFR helped to reconcile the dispute.  On February 7 1949, BFR’s friend, Harold Michelmore, a Devon based solicitor, reported in a letter published in the Western Morning News that during that same voyage:

…Fletcher Robinson told Doyle the plot of the story which he intended writing about Dartmoor, and Conan Doyle was so intrigued by it that he asked Fletcher Robinson if he would object to their writing it together.

It may be interesting to recall that during the same voyage Fletcher Robinson asked Conan Doyle if it had occurred to him how easy it would be to implicate a man in a murder crime if you could obtain a finger-print of his in wax for reproduction in blood on a wall or some other obvious place near the seat of the crime. 


Conan Doyle was taken by the idea and asked Fletcher Robinson whether he intended to use it in his own literary work.  Fletcher Robinson replied: “not immediately,” and Conan Doyle offered him 50 pounds for the idea which Fletcher Robinson accepted, and Conan Doyle incorporated the idea in one of the Sherlock Holmes tales which he published shortly afterwards.

Hence, it appears that BFR and ACD agreed to co-author a Dartmoor-based story during their voyage aboard the Briton.  However, it is unlikely that 'the story' bore much resemblance to The Hound of the Baskervilles.  Perhaps 'the story' to which Michelmore referred was one of two other Dartmoor-linked stories that BFR wrote after the various versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles were printed (1901/02)?  The first of these was a fairy-tale entitled The Battle of Fingle’s Bridge that was published during May 1903 in Pearson’s Magazine (Vol. 15, pp. 530-536).  The second was a short-story entitled The Mystery of Thomas Hearne that features as the fifth chapter of his book entitled The Chronicles of Addington Peace (London: Harper & Brother, 1905).  ACD subsequently used BFR’s fingerprint idea in a Sherlock Holmes short story entitled The Adventure of the Norwood Builder that was first published in Collier’s Weekly Magazine (31 October 1903).

To view a dramatisation of The Norwood Builder by Richard Harris with Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and David Burke as Watson, please follow the links below as ordered:







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