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In August 1901, the British edition of The Strand Magazine began publication of a nine-part serialisation entitled The Hound of the Baskervilles.  The following month, the serialisation commenced in the American edition of this same periodical.  In October 1901, the following statement appeared in the American version of a literary magazine called The Bookman:

Every one who read the opening chapters of the resuscitation of Sherlock Holmes in the September number of the Strand Magazine must have come to the conclusion that Dr. Doyle’s share in the collaboration was a very small one.  The Hound of the Baskervilles opens very dramatically, and promised to be a good tale.  But the Sherlock Holmes to whom we are introduced is a totally different personage from the Sherlock Holmes of The Study in Scarlet [sic], The Sign of Four, The Adventures and The Memoirs.  Of course all the little superficial tricks and mannerisms have been worked in, but there it ends.  In a brief note Dr. Doyle, whose name alone is at the head of the story, acknowledges the collaboration of Mr. Fletcher Robinson.  Of course the matter is one which concerns primarily only the two authors and their publishers: but we have very little hesitation in expressing our conviction that the story is almost entirely Mr. Robinson’s and that Dr. Doyle’s only important contribution to the partnership is the permission to use the character of Sherlock Holmes.

In May 1902, The Bookman (US), published a second article written by one of its joint-editors (Arthur Bartlett Maurice) in which these claims are repeated.  In 1959, the authorship controversy was reignited by Henry Baskerville when he reputedly remarked to a reporter that "A lot of the story was written by Fletcher Robinson."  In 2003, the controversy was extended still further when Rodger Garrick-Steele had a book published in which he claimed that Arthur Conan Doyle murdered Bertram Fletcher Robinson to prevent being exposed as a plagiarist (hereafter ACD and BFR respectively).  However, there is absolutely no evidence to corroborate any of these claims.  In fact, the evidence suggests that BFR benefited from his collaboration with ACD over The Hound of the Baskervilles and that the two men remained friends before, during and after its publication.  This evidence is as follows:

21 May 1901.  BFR had an article published in The Daily Express entitled ‘Truthful Jean’ on the War – The Yarns of M. Jean Carrere, the only French War Correspondent with our Army in South Africa.  In this article, BFR reviewed an autobiographical account of the Boer War entitled La Guerre Transvaal – En Pleine Epopée (The Transvaal War – At the Height of the Epic).  This book was written by Jean Carreres, a correspondent for the French newspaper, Le Matin. The book is generally critical of British foreign policy and attitudes, but it is complimentary about ACD, a point that is stressed by BFR in his article: 

"What a man!" cried the enthusiastic Frenchman; "and what a brave man!  How his merciful and thoughtful words consoled me after the foolish rodomontades [pretentious boastings] I had listened to!"  He ought to write a book on the war" -  M. Carrere was gifted with a spirit of prophecy - "I do not know if in his style and in the impression his adventures left on him he will be better or worse than Kipling; but I am certain that he will be more humane - more impartial...He loves and defends the English soldier but he understands the spirit of the Boer and it is in that the secret of justice lies."

25 May 1901. The following promotional announcement was made in Tit-Bits ahead of the publication of The Hound of the Baskervilles. This periodical was like The Strand Magazine, also published by George Newnes.  Significantly, this announcement also appeared before ACD and BFR had visited Dartmoor together (on or shortly after 26 May 1901), indicating that they had already settled the matter of authorship:

The Revival of Sherlock Holmes
Very many readers of The Strand Magazine have asked us over and over again if we could not induce Mr. Conan Doyle to give us some more stories of this wonderful character. Mr. Conan Doyle has been engaged on other work, but presently he will give us an important story to appear in the Strand, in which the great Sherlock Holmes is the principle character. It will appear in both the British and American editions. In America the play founded upon the career of the great detective has run for many months with enormous success. It is going to be produced in London in about three months, and at the same time the new Sherlock Holmes story will commence in the Strand. It will be published as a serial of from 30,000 to 50,000 words, and the plot is one of the most interesting and striking that have [sic] ever been put before us. We are sure that all those readers of the Strand who have written to us on the matter, and those who have not, will be very glad that Mr. Conan Doyle is going to give us some more about our old favourite [sic].

August 1901. The first of nine monthly instalments of The Hound of the Baskervilles appeared in the British edition of The Strand MagazineBFR’s contribution was fully acknowledged in a brief footnote on the first page of the first Chapter as follows:

This story owes its inception to my friend, Mr. Fletcher Robinson, who has helped me both in the general plot and in the local details. A.C.D.

25 March 1902. The Hound of the Baskervilles was published as a novel by George Newnes, London. The book preceded by one month the publication of the final instalment of the serialisation printed in the British edition of The Strand Magazine.  This book edition includes a short  acknowledgement that reads:



 It was to your account of a West-

Country legend that this tale owes its incep-

tion.  For this and for your help in the

details all thanks.

Yours most truly,

                       A. CONAN  DOYLE.
                                    HINDHEAD, HASLEMERE.

Thereafter, BFR gave first edition copies of The Hound of the Baskervilles to Henry Baskerville, The Rev. Robert Duins Cooke and to his wife, Agnes Cooke.  Baskerville was coachman to the Robinson family for twenty years and drove BFR and ACD about Dartmoor during the early summer of 1901.  The Rev. Robert Duins Cooke was the Rector of St. Andrew’s Church in Ipplepen (1897-1939) and during early May 1901 (before ACD's visit), he assisted BFR in mapping-out the fictional locations for the story.  The following inscriptions, in BFR’s hand-writing, make it clear that he laid no claim to the authorship of the story:

To Rev. R D Cooke from the assistant plot producer, Bertram Fletcher Robinson

To Mrs. Cooke, with the kind regards of the assistant plot producer, Bertram Fletcher Robinson

To Harry Baskerville from B Fletcher Robinson with apologies for using the name!

15 April 1902. The Hound of the Baskervilles was published as a novel by McClure, Phillips and Company (New York). This, the first American edition of the book, includes a version of ACD’s acknowledgement letter to BFR.  This version was written, from dictation, on the 26 January 1902, by Major Charles Terry (ACD’s Secretary) and it therefore predates the acknowledgement published in the first British edition. This letter is now held by the Berg Collection in New York Public Library and it reads:



It was your account of a west country legend which first suggested the idea of this little tale to my mind.


For this, and for the help which you gave me in its evolution, all thanks.  Yours most truly, A. Conan Doyle.

31 October 1903.  ACD had a short Sherlock Holmes tale entitled The Adventure of the Norwood Builder published in Collier's Weekly Magazine.  In this story, an innocent person is incriminated for a murder through the use of a wax-mould to falsify their thumbprint.  ACD reportedly bought this idea from BFR for fifty pounds during their return voyage to England aboard the steamship Briton in July 1900.  It seems highly improbable that ACD would have risked using the idea should there have been any controversy between himself and BFR over the authorship of The Hound of the Baskervilles.   
January 1904. BFR, ACD and Max Pemberton were elected as members of a select twelve-man London-based criminological society referred to by its members as ‘Our Society’.
1904. During this year, Sir John Robinson's autobiography entitled Fifty Years on Fleet Street was published posthumously by McMillan & Company Limited of London.  It includes the following statement made in a foreword written by Frederick Moy Thomas, a friend and former employee of Sir John’s for over 25 years:

I am much indebted to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for leave to publish his striking letter to Sir John Robinson on the subject of America and the Americans [dated 3rd November 1894]… and to a number of Sir John’s relatives and friends for similar facilities or for valuable counsel or assistance.
Clearly, ACD had recently granted permission for his letter to be reproduced in Sir John’s autobiography.  This implies that ACD and the Robinson family were still on friendly terms some three years after publication of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

23 June 1904.  ACD had a ‘Letter to the Editor’ published in Vanity Fair under the heading of M.C.C. AbsolutismBFR had recently replaced Oliver Armstrong Fry as the editor of this periodical.  ACD, an avid cricketer and himself a member of the Marlyebone Cricket Club, begins this letter by writing:
Sir,—You were good enough to ask me for my opinion of the management of the M.C.C.  
Clearly, BFR had relied upon his friendship with ACD to persuade the latter to write upon this topic.  Again this nullifies the suggestion that there was any friction between BFR and ACD in respect to the authorship of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

7 July 1904.  BFR had an article entitled On Political Lies – A Growing Danger in British Politics, published in Vanity Fair.  In this article, BFR condemned the way in which the Radical political parties (especially The Liberal Party and the nascent Labour Party) were increasingly using misinformation to support their causes.  He cites lies being told about the Second Boer War, exaggerations about rising food prices and the falsification of data pertaining to the number of Chinese immigrants working the mines.  He exemplifies the matter with a case involving ACD:

In the last General Election, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was standing for a division of Edinburgh.  The honesty of his convictions and his hard hitting, straight-forward oratory won him the hearts even of political opponents.  He had made great progress in the centre of a Radical stronghold, and his election seemed certain.  On the day of the poll, however, the constituency was placarded with posters, stating in four-feet letters that Conan Doyle was a Roman Catholic, and that the Church of Scotland was in danger.

This Radical lie – for Sir Arthur does not happen to be a Roman catholic – caused the desired consternation.  The worthy Scotsmen read, exclaimed in horror, and hurried to the polls to avert this terrible danger.  An honourable method of winning an election surely!

Following publication of the above article, several supportive ‘Letters to the Editor’ were forwarded to Vanity FairBFR's reference to the integrity of ACD is particularly relevant, having been written over three years after the publication of The Hound of the BaskervillesBFR clearly retained a high regard for ACD and was evidently satisfied with the outcome of their literary collaboration during 1901.

August 1904.  BFR had the first of a series of six detective short-stories collectively entitled The Chronicles of Addington Peace, published in Pearson’s The Lady’s Home Magazine (later retitled as Home Magazine of Fiction and then The Novel Magazine).  Pearson’s by-lined this first part of the serialisation as follows:

Joint author with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his Best Sherlock Holmes Story The Hound of the Baskervilles.
ACD is not recorded as having objected to this declaration suggesting that he wished to assist BFR in any way possible and remained his friend.

1905.  BFR had his eight Addington Peace short stories published in a book entitled The Chronicles of Addington Peace (Harper & Brother, London).  This book was included in Queen’s Quorum, a listing created primarily by Frederic Dannay, one half of the ‘Ellery Queen’ twosome, of the 106 (later 125) most significant short detective/crime stories.  Hence, it appears that BFR did derive some benefit from the publicity which linked him to both ACD and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

26 November 1905. Californian born Journalist called H. J. W. Dam published an article entitled Arthur Conan Doyle – An Appreciation of the Author of ‘Sir Nigel’, the Great Romance Which Begins Next Sunday [3 December 1905], in the Sunday Magazine supplement of The New York Tribune. This extended article provides an account of  BFR’s reflections about his trip to Dartmoor with ACD and Henry Baskerville in 1901.  This article does not record any objection by BFR to the omission of his name from the front-cover of the book:

One of the most interesting weeks that I have ever spent was with Doyle on Dartmoor. He made the journey in my company shortly after I told him, and he had accepted from me, a plot which eventuated in the ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’. Dartmoor, the great wilderness of bog and rock that cuts Devonshire at this point, appealed to his imagination. He listened eagerly to my stories of ghost hounds, of the headless riders and of the devils that lurk in the hollows – legends upon which I have been reared, for my home lay on the boarders of the moor. How well he turned to account his impressions will be remembered by all readers of ‘The Hound’.
Two incidents come especially to my recollection. In the centre of the moor lies the famous convict prison of Princetown. In the great granite buildings, swept by the rains and clouded in the mists, are lodged over a thousand criminals, convicted on the more serious offences. A tiny village clusters at the foot of the slope on which they stand, and a comfortable old-fashioned inn affords accommodation to travellers.
The morning after our arrival Doyle and I were sitting in the smoking-room when a cherry-cheeked maid opened the door and announced ‘Visitors to see you, gentlemen’. In marched four men, who solemnly sat down and began to talk about the weather, the fishing in the moor streams and other general subjects. Who they might be I had not the slightest idea. As they left I followed them into the hall of the inn. On the table were their four cards. The governor of the prison, the deputy governor, the chaplain and the doctor had come, as a pencil note explained, ‘to call on Mr. Sherlock Holmes.’
One morning I took Doyle to see the mighty bog, a thousand acres of quaking slime, at any part of which a horse and rider might disappear, which figured so prominently in The Hound. He was amused at the story I told him of the moor man who on one occasion saw a hat near the edge of the morass and poked at it with a long pole he carried. ‘You leave my hat alone!’ came a voice from beneath it. ‘Whoi’! Be there a man under ‘at?’ cried the startled rustic. ‘Yes, you fool, and a horse under the man.’
From the bog we tramped eastward to the stone fort of Grimspound, which the savages of the Stone Age in Britain, the aborigines who were earlier settlers than Saxons or Danes or Norsemen, raised with enormous labour to act as a haven of refuge from marauding tribes to the South. The good preservation in which the Grimspound fort still remains is marvellous. The twenty-feet slabs of granite – how they were ever hauled to their places is a mystery to historian and engineer – still encircle the stone huts where the tribe lived. Into one of these Doyle and I walked, and sitting down on the stone which probably served the three thousand year-old chief as a bed we talked of the races of the past. It was one of the loneliest spots in Great Britain. No road came within a long distance of the place. Strange legends of lights and figures are told concerning it. Add thereto that it was a gloomy day overcast with heavy cloud.
Suddenly we heard a boot strike against a stone without and rose together. It was only a lonely tourist on a walking excursion, but at sight of our heads suddenly emerging from the hut he let out a yell and bolted. Our subsequent disappearance was due to the fact that we both sat down and rocked with laughter, and as he did not return I have small doubt Mr. Doyle and I added yet another proof of the supernatural to tellers of ghost stories concerning Dartmoor.
During 1906, the publisher P. F. Collier & Sons of New York published the first in a series of three anthologies entitled Great Short Stories, Volume 1 (1): Detective Stories (edited by William Patten).  It features twelve stories written by Broughton Brandenburg (1), ACD (2), Anna Katherine Green (1), Edgar Allen Poe (3) and Robert Louis Stevenson (4).  The twelfth and final story is The Vanished Millionaire by BFR and it is preceded by the following preamble:

Fletcher Robinson is a London Journalist, the editor of "Vanity Fair," and author of a dozen detective stories in which are recorded the startling adventures of Mr. Addington Peace of Scotland Yard.  He collaborated with Conan Doyle in "The Hound of the Baskervilles."  When some of these stories appeared in the American magazines, for an unexplained reason (presumably editorial) the name of the hero was changed to Inspector Hartley.

This statement is important for two reasons.  Firstly, it reveals that ACD and BFR were content to allow their work to be published within the same anthology.  This weakens any contention that the two men were in conflict over the authorship of The Hound of the Baskervilles.  Secondly, ACD made no recorded objection to the reference about BFR's involvement with this story.  This might suggest that  he was happy to allow the editor to promote BFR's story through the association with his name. 
18 October 1906.  BFR and ACD appear to have attended a meeting of ‘Our Society’ at the home of Max Pemberton.  Their host presented a paper entitled An Attempt to Blackmail Me.

20 October 1906. BFR and ACD played a round of golf together at Hindhead in Surrey. This event is recorded within the personal diary of ACD's brother, Innes Doyle, who also played (later Brigadier-General Doyle).

24 January 1907. The following floral tributes were sent to BFR’s funeral St. Andrew’s Church in Ipplepen, Devon:

In loving memory of an old and valued friend from Arthur Conan Doyle
From ‘Our Society,’ with deepest regrets from fellow members

[These fellow members included both ACD and Max Pemberton].

May 1907. Shortly before his death, BFR wrote an article entitled People Much Talked About in London that was subsequently published posthumously in the American edition of Munsey’s Magazine (Vol. XXXVII, No. II).  In this item BFR wrote:

In Pall Mall, too, it is likely that we shall meet some of the more famous of English literary men bound for that most exclusive of clubs — the Athenaeum. Here comes that kindly giant, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, prince of detectives. He is of a fine British type, a clear-headed, sport-loving, big-hearted patriot.

A mention of the Athenaeum Club reminds me of a story Sir Arthur told me of his first visit, after election, [8th March 1901], to that home of the respectabilities. He walked up to the hall-porter and, desiring to introduce himself to that important person’s notice, asked if there were any letters for Conan Doyle. Now the Athenaeum is a favorite resort of the clerical dignitaries, and the hall-porter, who had small acquaintance with literature, replied ‘No, canon, there are no letters for you.’

Sir Arthur did not care to explain, and for some weeks he suffered much from the disapproving eye of the hall-porter. The suit of tweeds affected by the great novelist shocked that functionary deeply, and when one day Sir Arthur appeared in a long racing-coat, the spectacle had such an effect upon him that Doyle had to rush to the desk and explain that he was not a dignitary of the church, but a writer of tales to whom some latitude in dress might be allowed.

Sir Arthur is an earnest supporter of the rifle-club movement. He has erected targets for a miniature rifle-range at his house on the moors at Hindhead [founded in late 1900]. There you may observe groom and carpenter, mason and village blacksmith competing against one another on a Saturday afternoon in the same fashion as their forebears did with ‘The Long’ bow, winning Creçy and Agincourt thereby. Among them the novelist may be seen at his best, shooting with them, cheering them on with kindly words or awarding prizes, chiefly out of his own pocket.

June 1929.  ACD wrote the following comments in a preface to a collection of four Sherlock Holmes novellas entitled The Complete Sherlock Holmes Long Stories that was  published on 14 September 1929 by John Murray of London:

Then came The Hound of the Baskervilles. It arose from a remark by that fine fellow, whose premature death was a loss to the world, Fletcher Robinson, that there was a spectral dog near his home on Dartmoor. That remark was the inception of the book, but I should add that the plot and every word of the actual narrative are my own.


By Paul Spiring © 2007.

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